Golden Retriever

One of the most popular breeds among families in the United States, Golden Retrievers are known for their wonderful personalities and overall versatility. The excel as working dogs in many areas from retrieving for hunters to drug sniffing dogs, and as assistance dogs. However, they also make excellent pets and happy to be your family's constant companion. In fact, they do best in a situation where they can live inside, alongside their favorite humans. These intelligent dogs get along with children and other pets. Their intelligence makes them easy to train and they are happy living in a variety of situations, but as with most intelligent, active, working-type dogs, they benefit from a fair amount of exercise.

Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever Original image by user Sarah Rose on Flickr. CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.
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Golden Retrievers are not only known for their intelligence, trainability, and delightful personalities, but also for their striking good looks. Their beautiful coats come in a variety of shades and it's difficult to ignore the beauty of these golden hues. Their coats have a wonderful soft texture - perfect for petting. That's definitely a good thing because these friendly dogs enjoy all of the attention and affection that they can get. However, those gorgeous coats do require a good bit of grooming. Overall, Golden Retrievers make excellent pets, and there are very good reasons why they make the list of most popular dog breeds.

Key Breed Stats

Alternative names: The Golden Retriever breed is also commonly known by the names Yellow Retriever, Golden Flat Coat.

Popularity: Very popular

Life expectancy: 10 - 13 years

Breed group: Sporting Dogs (AKC)

Size: Medium

Male Female
Height 22 - 24 in 20 - 22 in
Weight 64 - 75 lbs 53 - 64 lbs

Coat:

Colors: Red, Golden, Yellow

Key Breed Facts

Shedding: Very heavy shedder

Grooming requirements: High

Good with children: Definitely

Good with other pets: Definitely

Intelligence / Trainability: Very high

Exercise needs: Very high

Tolerates being alone: Not really

Hunting drive: Average

Suited as Guard dog: Average

Sensitivity: Extremely sensitive

Good for novice owners: Average

Hypoallergenic breed: No

Drooling: High

Barking: Average

General health: Below average

Cost to keep: High

History

Golden Retrievers have a somewhat confusing history - for many years a legend surrounded the breed. It was thought that they were descendants of Russian sheepdogs that were bought from a circus. This history was found to be untrue, and it is known that the breed actually originated in Scotland.

Golden Retrievers have a noble history befitting their aristocratic good looks. They were originally bred at an estate in the Scottish highlands, owned by Sir Dudley Majoribanks, or later, Lord Tweedmouth. Tweedmouth was an avid hunter, particularly waterfowl, and sought to perfect a breed with excellent retrieving capabilities that was also loyal and attentive. At the time, most of the nobility hunted with setters and spaniels, who were excellent for retrieving in water, but not necessarily on land. Tweedmouth hoped to breed a dog equally talented at both. Additionally, Tweedmouth sought to produce a retriever that was equally at home hunting in the field and curled up by the fire with his family.

Tweedmouth kept breeding records from 1835 to 1890, and 1868 he bred 'Nous' a yellow-coloured retriever from an unregistered little of black, wavy-coated retrievers with 'Belle', a Tweed Water Spaniel. Belle's had four pups and they laid the foundation for a breeding program that included the Irish Setter, the sandy-coloured Bloodhound, the St. John's water dog, and other wavy-coated black retrievers. Over time and through line-breeding, Tweedmouth developed a talented retriever with a soft mouth and a gentle temperament.

Golden Retrievers were accepted by The Kennel Club of England on 1903 as Flat Coats - Golden, and in 1911 as the Golden and Yellow Retriever. In 1925, the were recognized by the AKC in the United States.

Appearance

Golden Retrievers are attractive, sturdy dogs known for their beautiful coats and their inviting, companionable expression.
Typical characteristics are:


  • Broad head with medium-large eyes, friendly, intelligent expression, short, folded ear, and a brownish-black nose.

  • Well-balanced and muscular body.

  • A thick, muscular tail that is carried level with the body.

  • Water-repellant double coat and good undercoat.

  • Colors: various shades of rich gold from light to dark.

Temperament

Intelligence/Trainability

Golden Retrievers are well-known for their intelligence and trainability. They are fairly easy to train and are suitable for a first-time dog owner, though assistance with a professional trainer may benefit a new owner. They excel in various disciplines but make excellent hunting dogs, and assistance/therapy dogs.

As with all intelligent breeds, Goldens require an outlet for their energy and intelligence. In short, they do best with a job, even if that job is simply chasing a ball or accompanying you on walks.

Activity

Because they were originally bred as working dogs, Golden Retrievers are high-energy dogs that require a fair amount of exercise. 20-30 minutes of vigorous exercise twice per day is enough to keep your Golden healthy and happy. As retrievers, they are considered to be "mouthy" and will enjoy carrying things and activities and play that involve fetching.

Keep in mind that Golden Retriever puppies grow very fast from 4 to 7 months of age. Because of this, they are susceptible to certain bone disorders. Keep your puppy on soft surfaces like grass and keep play on hard surfaces to a bare minimum until your puppy is at least two years old.

Independence

Goldens were bred for companionship as well as hunting ability, and they require attention from their owners. They are happiest if they can spend all of their time alongside their family. They will not thrive in situations where they must spend long periods of time on their own.

Protective

Goldens, though loyal and loving to their own family are not known for being protective. They are "stranger-friendly" dogs and will happily greet new people. However, keep in mind that every puppy requires proper socialization to new people and animals.

Living Conditions

Because Golden Retrievers are large, active dogs, they do best in a situation with a large fenced in yard with room to run and play. However, they can live in a variety of situations as long as the owner makes sure they get enough daily exercise. Wherever they live, Goldens will want to be close to their owners as much as possible.

Children and Other Pets

Golden Retrievers are excellent family dogs and do especially well with children. While the noise and commotion of kids may upset some dogs, Goldens are happy to be a part of a busy, noisy household. They are large, playful dogs, so caution should be taken around small children (under the age of 6) as they could easily knock over a child while playing.


  • Young children may unintentionally invade the personal space of your dog and are unable to interpret the warning signals of your dog.

  • Dogs consider the family as a pack, and may consider the younger children as subordinates and may try to correct them.

  • Young children are very time-consuming. They may take away from the time you have to spend with your dog and he may become bored or frustrated.

Keep in mind that all children should be taught how to interact correctly with ANY dog and should never be left unsupervised.

Goldens are generally happy in the company of other dogs and do well with other pets. They have a low prey drive, so with proper socialization and introduction, they are good candidates for living with other small, furry animals.

Health

The average life expectancy of a Golden Retriever is between 10 - 13 years. Like all breeds, the Golden Retriever is prone to certain hereditary health conditions. A responsible breeder will only breed with dogs that have been cleared for these conditions. A Golden Retriever is prone to these diseases:
  • Osteosarcoma (hereditary)
  • Hemangiosarcoma (hereditary)
  • Hypothyroidism (hereditary)
  • Epilepsy (hereditary)
  • Gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV) (hereditary)
  • Von Willebrand's Disease (VWD) (hereditary)
  • Allergies (hereditary)
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) (hereditary)
  • Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (hereditary)
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) (hereditary) : Progressive retinal atrophy refers to a group of inherited degenerative eye disorders, which lead to loss of vision. PRA affects both eyes simultaneously and is not painful More info»
  • Cataracts (hereditary)
  • Elbow Dysplasia (hereditary)
  • Canine Hip Dysplasia (hereditary) : Canine hip dysplasia (CHD) is a very common genetic orthopedic trait, which is affected by environmental and dietary factors. Canine hip dysplasia occurs when there is an abnormality in the development of the hip joint. More info»

Grooming

Golden Retrievers have a dense, water-repellent outer coat and a thick undercoat in a variety of textures (wavy and straight). That's a lot of hair, so if you plan on owning a Golden, know that dog hair will be a part of your life. Goldens are moderate shedders during the winter and summer months and heavy shedders during the spring and fall. Not only does this mean that you will have dog hair on your furniture and clothes, but Golden owners are responsible for quite a bit of grooming.

The bare minimum for brushing a Golden Retriever's coat is once a week, but daily brushing is recommended. A monthly bath using pH balanced shampoo for dogs will help your dog look and smell clean.

Teeth brushing two or three times per week (daily is best) helps prevent tartar build up and teeth problems.

Nail trimming is an important part of grooming if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. Once or twice a month should suffice. Trimming a dog's nails too close can cause bleeding and pain, so it is important to trim carefully or seek the help of a vet or groomer.

Golden Retrievers have fold over ears, which provide a place for bacteria and fungus to grow. Therefore, they can be prone to ear infections. A Golden's ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad smell and the outer ear should be cleaned with a cotton ball and an ear cleaner designed specifically for dogs. Additionally, any time they get wet, ears should be checked and cleaned.

All puppies and dogs should be groomed regularly (preferably weekly) and have their paws, ears, and mouth handled and examined frequently so that they become comfortable with the process. This way, you will quickly become aware of any problems that arise and your dog will be easy to handle for the vet, groomer, and any treatments that are required throughout its lifetime.

Feeding

Golden Retrievers are large, generally high-energy dogs, so they will require a fair amount to eat. 2-3 cups of high-quality, dry dog food fed in two daily meals is a good starting point, but other factors need to be taken into consideration. Higher quality dog foods may require less food, as more of the food is digested properly. In addition, higher energy dogs will require more food, while more sedentary dogs may require less. Goldens are prone to obesity, so special attention should be paid to ensure that your dog doesn't become overweight, which can cause health issues in both the short and long-term.

Puppies have special feeding requirements. Use food specifically designed for large breed puppies. Adult dog food contains too much calcium, which will increase the risk for hip and elbow dysplasia. Don’t overfeed your puppy, as overweight puppies also have an increased risk for dysplasia. Puppies need to be fed 3 to 4 times a day. This might seem like a hassle, but it will help when it comes to housebreaking. A puppy’s digestive system works very fast. Five to 30 minutes after his meal, he will need to go out to do his business.

Just like any other breed, they need to have free access to fresh, clean water at all times.

Older dogs, like puppies, might need a diet adapted to their needs. In some cases, it is advisable to feed them smaller portions 3 to 4 times a day.

When changing your dog’s diet, it’s recommended to do it gradually over a period of a few days to avoid stomach problems.

Avoid exercise 1 hour before and after the meal, to reduce the risk of gastric torsion (bloat).