Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Other Dogs? (Explained!)

Golden Retrievers are among the most popular dog breeds for various reasons, including their intelligence. How intelligent are they, though? And are they smarter than other dogs? 

Golden Retrievers are smarter than many other dogs as they place fourth in the list of the top ten smartest dog breeds. Golden Retrievers are highly trainable, and they can learn to respond to over 200 commands, which makes them great as both service and family dogs. 

Since there are many types of dogs, it helps to compare Golden Retrievers to specific dog breeds when questioning their intelligence. This article will describe how intelligent Golden Retrievers are, compare them to other breeds, and discuss if the breed matters when it comes to intelligence. 

A smart golden retriever wearing glasses and sitting at a desk.

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How Smart Are Golden Retrievers?

Dr. Stanley Coren, a renowned canine intelligence researcher, placed Golden Retrievers as number four in his list of the smartest dog breeds in the world.

Golden Retrievers are popular for their friendly demeanor and make great companion dogs. They’re also incredibly intelligent. Because of their smarts, Goldens are used as search and rescue dogs and are popular to train as service dogs. They’re often trained for those positions because they can learn over 200 commands, are reliable, and are easily trainable!

Now that we know how smart Golden Retrievers are let’s compare their intelligence to some other popular dog breeds. Are they the most intelligent dog? Let’s find out. 

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than German Shepherds?

German Shepherds are a modern dog breed that only dates back to 1899. They are a medium to large-sized dog and have a wolf-like appearance. They’re considered to be the second most popular dog breed in the United States. 

Golden Retrievers are almost identical to German Shepherds in terms of popularity (listed as the 3rd most popular dog), but are they equal in terms of intelligence? Not surprisingly, the two dogs are similar in intelligence, as well as popularity. German Shepherds rank third in Dr. Stanley Coren’s list. They stand just above Golden Retrievers in intelligence for several reasons. 

German Shepherds are trained for many positions, including police dogs, military dogs, service dogs, and therapy dogs. They are talented at sniffing out drugs and bombs, which makes them useful for servicing the police and military. Furthermore, German Shepherds are the only breed of dog that was specifically bred for intelligence. 

As well as having those talents, German Shepherds are considered the easiest to train by many dog owners and experts. They are very obedient and can learn new things with one try. They’re one of the few breeds who can do that. 

I don’t know about smarter, but I know from watching this video which breed is the faster and less messy eater!

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Labradors? 

Labrador Retrievers, often called labradors or labs, are a medium to large-sized breed and have all black, chocolate, or yellow coats. Labradors are known for their loyalty, playfulness, and obedience. They’re listed as the most popular dog in the U.S. 

Both Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are easy to train and are popular companion dogs. However, they do not rank the same in intelligence.

Although they are still fairly similar in terms of intelligence, Golden Retrievers are ranked fourth in Dr. Stanley Coren’s list of smartest dogs while Labradors are ranked seventh. 

Even though they are ranked as seventh, Labrador Retrievers are still brilliant dogs. Labradors are used as therapy, military, and police dogs. They are also trained for search and rescue operations.

They have an incredibly advanced sense of smell, which makes them great for finding narcotics in the police service. Lastly, Labradors have a unique talent for self-training. They are so intelligent that they observe and can even copy some human behaviors. 

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Poodles?

Poodles come in three sizes listed as standard, miniature, and toy. They are a small-medium sized dogs and are known for their consistent achievements in competitions. Poodles were listed as the sixth most popular dog to own. 

Poodles are one of the most popular breeds due to their fluffy appearance and love for human interaction. It may come as a surprise to many that Poodles are extremely intelligent, and are more intelligent than Golden Retrievers. 

Poodles were trained and used in World War II because of their incredible intelligence. They were trained to bring supplies to soldiers on the battlefield!

Furthermore, Poodles are one of the easiest breeds to train and have incredible problem-solving abilities. For this reason, they are usually the top pick for circuses, shows, and competitions. 

In regards to Dr. Stanley Coren’s list of smartest dog breeds, Poodles come in second. This ranking alone suggests the amazing intelligence of the breed.

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Huskies? 

Huskies are medium to large-sized sled dogs. They have a wolf-like appearance and are known for their speed and agility. Huskies were listed as the 16th most popular dog to own overall. 

According to Dr. Stanley Coren, Huskies are just of average intelligence. They rank 74th in the list of 138 dog breeds. While other dogs listed in the top ten only need five repetitions or less to learn a new command, Huskies need around 25 to 40 repetitions. 

Hilarious!!! This is the true test of smarts between a Husky and a Golden Retriever

Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!

Furthermore, Huskies only respond to learned commands correctly 50% of the time. Golden Retrievers and other dogs in the top ten list respond correctly to commands 95% of the time. 

According to several Husky owners, they were able to teach their dogs a variety of commands reasonably well. Although, while they are indeed intelligent, they’re equally stubborn, which can make teaching commands difficult. 

Are Golden Retrievers Smarter Than Border Collies? 

Border Collies are medium-sized herding dogs. They have thick coats that come in a variety of colors. Border Collies have been listed as the 33rd most popular dog in the U.S. 

When it comes to intelligence, Border Collies are considered the smartest dog breed by many experts, including Dr. Coren. They can learn commands incredibly fast and are very talented when it comes to agility sports. 

Agility sports are a good way to measure intelligence because they require correct responses to certain commands, quick thinking, good reflexes, and speed. This is because they were meant for herding sheep and other animals, and have great speed and concentration. 

So when it comes to comparing Border Collies to Golden Retrievers, the statistics show that Border Collies are indeed more intelligent. Although, this doesn’t mean that Goldens don’t have the potential to perform all the commands that Border Collies do, it’s just that Border Collies are just a little quicker to learn a new command than a Golden.

Top 10 List of the World’s Smartest Dogs

Because I’m sure you’re curious, here’s Dr. Coren’s list of the world’s top 10 smartest dogs.

RankWorld’s Smartest Dogs – Top 10
#1Border Collie
#3German Shepherd
#4Golden Retriever
#5Doberman Pinscher
#6Shetland Sheepdog
#7Labrador Retriever
#10Austrian Cattle Dog
Dr. Stanley Coren source

So at number 4, a Golden Retriever is smarter than most other dogs but is not the smartest dog there is. But #4 isn’t too shabby. A Golden Retrievers smarts make them very easy to train so let’s look more into the trainability of a Golden Retriever. 

The top 5 smartest dogs

How Do We Know That Golden Retrievers Are Smart?

There are a few ways that experts can test how intelligent an animal is. First, you can test how smart dogs are by studying how they respond to training and commands. Second, there have been tests that have been developed for the use of testing intelligence in dogs. These tests include learning, memory, and problem-solving challenges. 

If you’re interested in testing your own pet’s intelligence, you can do a few things at home. The first thing you can do is take a towel and put it over your dog’s head. This will test their problem-solving skills. The task is to see how long it will take for your dog to figure out how to remove the towel. The faster he removes it, the more intelligence it shows.

Another test you can do is take three cups and place them upside down, placing a treat under one of the cups. Distract your dog for a few moments, then see if they remember where the treat was. This small test sees if they have both good memory and problem solving skills. 

Are Golden Retrievers Easy to Train? 

One of the easiest ways to test a dog’s intelligence is trainability, and Golden Retrievers are one of the easiest dog breeds to train. Some factors that will show the dog’s intelligence is how quickly they learn a command, how easily they are distracted when learning, and how well they repeat the behavior and follow commands. Let’s dive into more information on training. 

You Can Start Training Golden Retrievers When They Are Puppies

Since Golden Retrievers are very intelligent when it comes to learning new things, you can start training them as soon as you bring them home. If you make sure not to use physically adverse techniques to punish them, it doesn’t matter when you start training them. 

Golden Retrievers will observe your behavior, so it’s good to be aware of training opportunities as early as possible. Start with obedience training to build a good foundation for your dog. Even though Retrievers are born with good temperaments, every dog is different. If you start obedience training early, you will have yourself one of the best-trained dogs in your neighborhood. 

Golden Retrievers Can Learn a Variety of Commands

Since they’re so smart in terms of learning commands, there is a lot of potential when you start to train. Golden Retrievers can be obedience-trained and leash-trained as well as taught simple commands like sit and stay very quickly. You’ll find that Retrievers will learn simple commands easily, and you’ll soon have to find more commands to teach them. 

Furthermore, you can teach them advanced tricks and procedures like high fiving, salutes, army crawling, waving goodbye, and many more. Since Retrievers are trained for things like search and rescue, your dog will be able to learn just about any trick you can think of. 

If you have a Golden Retriever yourself, or are thinking of getting one, you’ll want to take a look at Brain Training for Dogs. This affordable online video program will show you how to train your dog by playing fun games to teach him obedience as well as learn a lot of entertaining tricks.

Training can seem complicated, and since there are so many commands that a Golden Retriever can learn, it’s hard to know where to start. This course will help give you the most out of your pet and their abilities. 

If you’d rather learn from a book, consider a training guide like this one: Golden Retriever: Expert Golden Retriever Training (Amazon). The opportunities are endless when it comes to teaching a Golden Retriever tricks. 

Make Sure to Train Them for a Leash Early

One of the most important things to teach a Golden Retriever first is leash training. If you don’t do this early, they’ll object to the leash later on. This would make going to the park and going on walks difficult since so many places require leashes. 

Additionally, it’s also much easier to leash train a puppy than it is an adult dog. Big dogs have more strength, can pull hard, and will start to walk you, instead of the other way around! 

Leash training can be tough sometimes, especially if your dog has a lot of energy. If you want a few tips and tricks from a dog expert, watch this video from the dog whisperer himself, Cesar Millan:

Leash training with Cesar Millan

Golden Retrievers Are Obedient and Eager to Please 

Golden Retrievers are known for having the highest obedience-command trainability by experts. Your dog will be eager to please and learn new commands. This makes training very easy and exciting since it won’t require a lot of work to train them. 

Just to prove a point, the first three winners of the obedience competition run by the American Kennel Club were Golden Retrievers. Their desire to please their owners makes them very easy to train and makes the process fun and exciting for the whole family.

It’s been said that even the least intelligent Golden Retriever will be a breeze to train. They are so eager to please that they’ll try to do anything you ask of them. Furthermore, they aren’t the type of dog who tries to figure out what is going on, so they’ll simply obey your command exactly how you want them to. 

Does Breed Really Matter When It Comes to Intelligence? 

Although Dr. Stanley Coren and other experts believe that breed does matter when it comes to intelligence, it’s worth questioning if other types of dog breeds can be as smart as the top ten dogs. 

Certain Breeds Have Specific Instinctive Intelligence 

The first thing that is different in each breed is instinctive intelligence. This intelligence can be explained based on what they were bred for. For instance, German Shepherds were bred for herding animals, while Golden Retrievers were bred for fetching. Since certain breeds can be born with specific skills, breed does matter when it comes to intelligence pertaining to certain skills. 

Different Dogs Have Different Adaptive Intelligence 

Adaptive intelligence is what the dog can learn from the environment and what it can teach itself. This kind of intelligence is a little less dependent on the breed than instinctive intelligence. Adaptive intelligence is relatively the same among a given breed of dog. 

The reason why this intelligence is less dependent on the breed is that you can still find Golden Retrievers that make the same mistakes over and over again when most Retrievers learn quickly. In summary, adaptive intelligence is on average the same among one breed, but that doesn’t mean that every dog will be the same as another dog of the same breed. 

So in other words, dogs of the same breed will have different levels of intelligence amongst themselves. They are not all as equally intelligent. You will find Goldens that are smarter or less smart when compared to another Golden.

Different Breeds Have Different Working and Obedience Intelligence

Working and obedience intelligence is how well a dog can learn when humans teach them commands. When it comes to this type of intelligence, statistics show that there are observable differences between breeds and how well they learn and obey commands.

In a study conducted by Dr. Coren, a surprisingly large number of judges agreed on what breeds had higher working and obedience intelligence. 199 judges took part in this study, and Dr. Coren was able to make his list of the top ten most intelligent breeds by his data collected since there was so much consensus with the judges. 

Why Dr. Stanley Coren Believes That Breed Matters

In his book, The Intelligence of Dogs (Amazon), Dr. Coren discusses the importance of breeds when it comes to intelligence. He mentions that a lot of dog owners believe that any dog can be well-trained. However, this will also depend on the consistency of the trainer.

As mentioned before, there are different types of intelligence that certain dogs are born with. If a dog isn’t born with an aptitude for running long distances, no matter how much training they do, they won’t be able to learn something they weren’t meant to do. 

A few other things that are very different from breed to breed is their willingness to work and their temperament. These two factors will make a world of difference when it’s time to train. In summary, Dr. Coren believes that breed makes a big difference regarding the intelligence of the dog. 

It’s worth noting that many dogs can be trained and enjoyed as companions even if they aren’t high in intelligence. Different people want different types of dogs, so make sure to research the personalities, talents and skills of any dog you’re interested in. 


Golden Retrievers are listed as one of the most intelligent breeds there is. They come in fourth in the list of the top ten most intelligent breeds. It’s safe to say that Retrievers are smarter than most other dogs, excluding Border Collies, Poodles, and German Shepherds. 

Golden Retrievers have very high obedience-command trainability and are bred for fetching. They are also used as search and rescue, therapy, police and military dogs because of their ability to learn over 200 commands.

Their overall trainability makes Golden Retrievers a great dog for families since they can learn unique tricks. You can also benefit by starting to train them as early as possible.

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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