The Golden Retriever – golden coat, golden smile, golden heart.
This dog loves to love. Their sweet disposition and social nature help them maintain their spot as one of America’s favourite family dogs. Simultaneously, their athletic prowess and natural aptitude for hunting warrant their spot at the sportsman’s side.
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- For novice owners
- Apartment living
- Exercise needs
- Family friendly
- Stranger friendly
- Dog friendly
- Overall health
- Amount of shedding
- Grooming needs
- Ease of training
- Prey drive
- Watchdog ability
are one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S!
Golden Retriever history: Where do Golden Retrievers come from?
Unlike many other modern breeds, the Golden Retriever’s history is surprisingly well recorded. From 1835 to 1890, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, later known as Lord Tweedmouth, documented his pursuit for the ideal Scottish hunting dog. In 1865, Marjoribanks obtained ‘Nous’, the sole yellow pup from a litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers. He later acquired ‘Belle’, a Tweed Water Spaniel and bred her with Nous. The four resulting pups became the foundation of today’s Golden Retriever.
Marjoribanks enhanced his programme by incorporating additional Wavy-Coat Retrievers for their inherent hunting instincts, Tweed Water Spaniels for their biddability, sweet disposition and innate love of water, Irish Setters for their pigment and upland hunting capabilities, and a sandy coloured Bloodhound, to improve the tracking abilities of his new retriever.
The first Golden Retriever was registered with the Kennel Club of England in 1903 as a yellow subset of the Flat-Coated Retriever. After notable success in both field and bench competitions, the Golden Retriever was rightly recognised as their own breed and the Golden Retriever Club of England was established. The American Kennel Club followed suit, recognising the Golden Retriever in 1932, 21 years later.
Golden Retrievers are a large, powerful breed of sporting dog, with a broad head, deep chest and dense double coat with trademark feathering. They have strong, wide muzzles, dark eyes and soft, hanging ears. Their expression is invariably confident, eager and kind.
Golden Retriever size; How big do Golden Retrievers get?
Weight and Height
Females: 55-65 lbs, 25-29 kg; 20-22 in, 51-56 cm
Males: 65-75 lbs, 29-34 kg; 22-24 in, 56-61 cm
If you’d like to view the full-length AKC breed standard for the Golden Retriever, click here.
Golden Retriever Temperament
The Golden Retriever temperament is iconic. Well-bred Goldens are known for being confident, social and kind.
Especially eager-to-please, Golden Retrievers are renowned for their great trainability. Few breeds are used as extensively, and in such varied working roles as the Golden Retriever. Widely considered to be sensitive animals, fair, force-free methods of training such as positive reinforcement are advised. As true chowhounds, Golden Retrievers are often a breeze to motivate.
If raised with children, Golden Retrievers can be outstanding family dogs. They are wonderfully affectionate with people and are especially patient with children. Young Goldens can be boisterous, however, and may accidentally knock over young toddlers. Supervision around children is always recommended, regardless of breed.
Golden Retrievers are not naturally suspicious, and can, therefore, make disappointing watchdogs. Some may give a bark or two to let you know someone’s arrived but don’t expect your Golden to protect your home or family.
Golden Retrievers tend to get along well with other animals, including dogs and the family cat. However, Goldens can be overly eager to make new friends, even if the other party isn’t game. Ensure introductions occur carefully to prevent unintended scuffles.
All dog owners are urged to socialise and expose their pups to a number of people, sounds, children, animals and other scenarios while they’re young, curious and impressionable. Ensure their experiences are safe and positive, to prevent your dog developing negative associations later on.
Energy and exercise needs
Golden Retrievers are a medium-to-high energy breed, requiring vigorous daily exercise. A brisk daily walk of an hour or more, as well as the opportunity to run off-leash and burn off any excess energy, is recommended for adults. In addition, Golden Retrievers require regular mental stimulation.
More exercise may be needed for younger adults, as they’re known to be energetic and destructive when understimulated. Hard exercise should be avoided in young Goldens, however, until they have finished growing, in order to prevent structural issues further down the line.
Without enough physical and mental stimulation, Golden Retrievers have a tendency to develop behavioural issues and find their own ways to amuse themselves – usually in ways you wouldn’t end appreciating, like digging, barking, and destructive chewing.
The Golden Retriever coat is relatively long, dense and double-layered. The outer coat should be straight or wavy, and water-resistant, while the under coat is soft, acting as protection against extreme temperatures.
Golden Retriever Colours
As the name suggests, Golden Retrievers are available in many shades of gold ranging from cream to mahogany. Some colours are more prominent in certain bloodlines due to minor differences Golden Retriever breed standards around the world.
How to care for a Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are medium-to-heavy shedders. You will regularly find dog hair on your clothes and furniture, particularly during Spring and Autumn/Fall, where they ‘blow’ their undercoats, shedding even more than usual. To minimise the impact of shedding, groom every other day with a slicker brush or undercoat rake to catch the hairs before they fall, and prevent clumping. Up this to daily when the shedding becomes more intense.
Avoid bathing too often with harsh shampoos. Instead, opt for gentle dog-specific shampoos to preserve natural protective oils on the skin.
Inspect ears, nails and teeth as part of your regular grooming routine, maintaining as needed.
Golden Retriever health problems
While generally a healthy breed, Golden Retrievers are known to suffer from a few conditions, including:
- Allergies – both environmental and diet-related.
- An assortment of eye conditions including Corneal Dystrophy, Retinal Dysplasia, Atrophy, Glaucoma and Cataracts. Many of these are heritable, and thus avoidable if only screened and cleared Golden Retrievers are bred from.
- Cancer. Particularly hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma. Mast cell tumours are not uncommon in the breed.
- Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
- Luxating Patella – periodic dislocation of the knee.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) – A painful condition which causes stiffening of the joints, due to incorrect cartilage growth.
- Subvalvular aortic stenosis. This serious, hereditary condition affects a small percentage of Golden Retrievers and can result in heart failure and sudden death.
- Bloat, or Gastric Dilatation-volvulus (GDV). This deadly condition can appear suddenly, particularly in large, deep-chested dog breeds. To prevent bloat, feed your dog 2+ times per day, as opposed to than one large serving, and avoid physical activity for at least an hour after each meal.
Many diseases faced by Golden Retrievers are inherited, and therefore avoidable. By choosing a good breeder, who conducts relevant screenings and health clearances, and only breeds physically and temperamentally sound Goldens, you are dramatically improving your chances of having a strong, happy, healthy Golden Retriever of your own.
Golden Retriever lifespan
On average, Golden Retrievers live 10-13 years.
One of the hallmarks of the Golden Retriever is its soft mouth, a feature in many sporting breeds, which allows them to retrieve downed fowl without damaging the carcass by the time they’ve returned to the hunter. As another throwback to their hunting ancestry, many Golden Retrievers love playing fetch and carrying random objects in their mouths. On the other hand, they are known to exhibit destructive chewing when understimulated.
Many Golden Retrievers love rolling around in dirt, mud and other interesting scents – the smellier the better!
Golden Retrievers love swimming! It’s not unheard of for a Golden to pull a disappearing act, only to be found again in the nearest body of water. To prevent this, ensure you have good fencing and a solid recall cue.
Goldens are known to be gluttons, so hide the treats, and watch your plate!
Different types of Golden Retrievers
During World War II, acquiring dogs from across the Atlantic became increasingly challenging. Dog shows were limited in much of the world and were suspended entirely in Great Britain. As a result, the number of Golden Retrievers being sent to North America from Great Britain dropped significantly. Being forced to make do with what they had, North American breeders continued their programmes with limited British influence. After the war, importation and conformation events resumed, but new trends began to develop in each country to suit the slightly inconsistent breed standards. Soon, local dogs and their offspring were proving to be more successful in conformation events than those from freshly imported Goldens, and aesthetic differences between the bloodlines became more and more prominent.
American Golden Retriever
American Goldens appear to be lighter boned, with straighter, more abundant coats. For colour, the American Golden Retriever breed standard specifies:
“Rich, lustrous golden of various shades…Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable.”
Medium-to-dark Goldens are highly favoured while light coloured Goldens are generally penalised, and therefore, rarely bred from.
English Golden Retriever
Despite the name, this Golden Retriever is the type most often found not only in Great Britain but Europe, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa too.
Overall these Goldens appear to be heavier boned with broader skulls and wider muzzles. Their coats are often wavier. For colour, the British Golden Retriever breed standard specifies:
“Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany. A few white hairs on chest only permissible.”
As a result, British Golden Retrievers are generally (but not always) lighter than their American counterparts.
Candian Golden Retriever
Canadian Goldens can show combinations from both regions. Western and Midwestern Canada seems to favour American-style Golden Retrievers, while Eastern Canada shows heavier influence from British bloodlines. The Canadian breed standard has no specification for shade.
Since all Goldens come from the same stock, the prior paragraphs merely illustrate the physical differences between different types of Golden Retrievers. There is no evidence to suggest that one type is in any way superior to another.
There is an emerging trend suggesting that very light coloured Goldens, also referred to as White Golden Retrievers or English Cream Golden Retrievers are somehow different from any other Golden. As with many marketing ploys surround dog breeds, and designer-mixes, claims that English Cream Golden Retrievers are somehow stronger, healthier, or even rare, is entirely untrue. Beware of breeders who base their practices on breeding a specific colour, charge extra for particular colours, or claim that their puppies are anything more than a regular, lovable Golden.
Interesting Golden Retriever facts
- Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S!!
- Vastly different shades of Golden Retriever can be born into the same litter, from very light cream to rich mahogany.
- The first, second and third ever AKC Obedience Champions were Golden Retrievers.
- In 1994, Stanley Coren, a professor of canine psychology at the University of British Columbia published a book in which he explored the intelligence of different dog breeds. Through his own metrics, he found the Golden Retriever to be the 3rd brightest of all breeds evaluated – one step behind the German Shepherd, and one place ahead of the Doberman Pinscher.
- There are endless stories of Golden Retriever heroism and compassion, including the story of Sadie, who, in 2015, protected her owner from a violent home invader, or Yogi who frantically alerted neighbours to his immobilised owner after he suffered a mountain bike accident.
Buying a Golden Retriever from a breeder
If you’d like to get a purebred Golden Retriever as a puppy, be sure to look only at reputable breeders who care for the welfare of the puppies they breed. You can determine whether a breeder is reputable by observing whether they go through the effort of health testing their breeding stock for hereditary conditions like those above, and only breed dogs who are physically healthy, and emotionally sound. They should be involved in particular avenues with their dogs – be it conformation, gundog trials, obedience, service, therapy, or any other activity that showcases their dogs’ temperament and suitability for work and breeding.
Often puppies from reputable breeders cost more money upfront due to the breeder’s high expenses. However, poorly bred dogs from breeders who do not conduct health screening can have hidden costs in the form of silent (at the time of purchase) health and mental conditions that should never have been allowed to be passed on. This can be heartbreaking, and terribly expensive to deal with as an owner, on top of causing unnecessary suffering and a shortened lifespan for the dog.
Golden Retriever Rescue
As one of the most popular breeds around, Golden Retrievers and Golden-mixes are not hard to find in rescues and shelters. If you would like to adopt a Golden in need of a new home, search for Golden Retriever rescue organisations in your area, or get in touch with the Golden Retriever Club of America’s rescue committee. Alternatively, you could take a look pet-rehoming websites like Petfinder.
References and recommended reading:
- Coren, S. (1994). The intelligence of dogs: Canine consciousness and capabilities. New York: Free Press.
- Cassidy, K. M. (2008, February 1). Weight and Lifespan. Retrieved from http://users.pullman.com/lostriver/weight_and_lifespan.htm
- OFFA. Hip Dysplasia by Breed. Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. Retrieved from http://www.offa.org/stats_hip.html
- Cellania. (2011, June 14). 10 Stories of Lifesaving Dogs. Retrieved from http://mentalfloss.com/article/27966/10-stories-lifesaving-dogs
- Ann, D. (2015, May 18). Heroic Golden Retriever Saves Owner From Violent Home Invasion. Retrieved from http://www.inquisitr.com/2097989/heroic-golden-retriever-saves-owner-from-violent-home-invasion/
- AKC – The Dog’s Champion. American Kennel Club. Retrieved from http://www.akc.org
- GRCA. Golden Retriever Club of America. Retrieved from http://www.gsdca.org/