Breed Group: Sporting Group
The Golden Retriever's origin starts in Scotland in the mid-1800s. Wildfowl hunting was a popular sport for the Scottish elite, but existing breeds weren't so effective at retrieving game from both land and water. In addition, gun improvements allowed game to be downed at greater distances, but that lead to more being lost. Thus, the need for a better retriever arose.
The first Lord Tweedmouth Dudley Marjoribanks developed the breed by crossing his yellow colored retriever named "Nous" with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel. Their litter was then crossed with Irish Setter, light-colored Bloodhound, Newfoundland and Wavy-Coated Retriever. For 50 years, Tweedmouth kept detailed records of breedings to create the ideal gundog for rainy climates and rugged terrain. He wanted a more powerful retriever that was still gentle and trainable. Thus arose the Golden Retriever.
The first Golden was showed in Britain in 1908, which is around the same time that the breed arrived in Canada and then the U.S. It was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1925 as the 78th breed. The breed's popularity began to rise in the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford was in office with his Golden named Liberty. It continued to increase as Goldens were featured in television and movies, such as Air Bud and Full House. Today, the AKC ranks the Golden Retriever as the third most popular breed in the U.S.
Height: 23-24 inches (male), 21.5-22.5 inches (female)
Weight: 65-75 pounds (male), 55-65 pounds (female)
Coat colors: Light golden (blonde or cream), yellow and dark golden (reddish gold)
The Golden Retriever is a medium-to-large sized dog with a symmetrical, sturdy, muscular build. It has a broad head with friendly and intelligent eyes, medium-short floppy ears that fall close to their cheeks and a straight muzzle. Goldens do not have overly long legs and move with a smooth and powerful gait, carrying their feathery tail
with a "merry action" (according to breed fanciers). Golden Retrievers have double-coats with a wavy or straight dense, water-repellant topcoat and a substantial but soft undercoat. They have distinct feathering on their body, which is mild on their back and front legs while heavier on their thighs, tails and neck (which looks like a mane). Their coat color ranges from light golden (blonde or cream) to yellow to dark golden (reddish gold).
There are three variations of Goldens based on region: British, American and Canadian.
British Goldens are more muscular and heavier, with broader heads and more muscular front legs and adjoining parts. They have thick coats that are typically lighter colored than their American counterparts. Males stand between 22 and 24 inches at the withers, while females are 20 to 22 inches. Their eyes
are round and dark.
American Goldens are lankier and less muscular. Males typically standing 23 to 24 inches tall at the withers and females at 21.5 to 22.5 inches. They have darker colored coats with moderate feathering and slanted or triangular eyes.
Canadian Goldens tend to be taller
than the British variation, with males standing between 23 and 24 inches tall at the withers and females between 21.5 and 22.5 inches. They tend to have a thinner, darker coat and slanted or triangular eyes.
Golden Retrievers have double-coats with a wavy or straight dense, water-repellant topcoat and a substantial but soft undercoat. Their undercoat keeps them warm in the winter and sheds in fall and spring to keep them cool
in the summer.
Shedding: moderate amounts year round; more heavily twice a year, typically fall and spring.
Brush: once or twice a week, increase to daily during heavy shedding (without regular brushing, a Golden's undercoat can mat and cause issues).
Bathe: once a month or every six weeks (once a week at most, as over-bathing strips the coat of natural oils and leaves the skin dry); bathe after swimming or playing in the mud.
Shave: not recommended.
Trim nails: once a month.
Brush teeth: daily is ideal, two to three times per week is more realistic.
Clean ears: once a week; thoroughly dry out after baths or swimming (Golden Retrievers are prone to ear infections because they have floppy ears that cover the canals).
Temperament & Personality
Golden Retrievers are friendly, energetic, excitable, eager to please, devoted, sensitive, reliable, intelligent, confident and trainable dogs. They are kind and amicable to both friend and stranger and often retain many puppy-like characteristics into adulthood. Despite their excitability, they make great family dogs given their loving, patient, gentle and trustworthy nature. They are also great with other dogs, cats
and most other animals, and are easily socialized and often submissive. Because of their hunting origins, Goldens tend to love carrying things in their mouths as well as water and swimming.
Recommended: at least 45 minutes of daily exercise.
Goldens, like most sporting breeds, require a lot of activity due to their energy levels. If not properly exercised, a Golden can become bored
and engage in undesirable behaviors (like mouthiness, destructiveness, overexcitement, etc.). A couple hours of daily physical exercise, such as walks or a run, is recommended for adults. Playtime, such as fetch, can supplement walks or runs but should not be a substitute for them as that can lead to ball obsession. Goldens do really well outdoors and can get the necessary exercise through swimming
sessions or long hikes.
Pro Tip: Consult your vet before starting any higher impact exercise to make sure it won't put too much stress on your Golden's bones and joints.
- Walks (one long or multiple shorter)
- Scent trails
- Dock diving
- Agility training / exercises
- Obedience training / exercises
- Treat scavenger hunts
- Hide and seek
Goldens are highly trainable because they are intelligent, hard-working, focused and eager to please. They are worriers and known to be sensitive to emotions, so their sensitivity should be taken into account when training. Calm yet assertive positive reward-based training will help your Golden excel and gain confidence. Their trainability and demeanor make them a popular choice for service and guide dogs
, as well as search and rescue dogs. It's recommended that Goldens be socialized early and attend puppy training classes. Exposure between the ages of seven weeks and four months will help a Golden become well-adjusted and well-mannered. Lack of training may result in an overly excited dog that can overwhelm others, especially children. In addition, obedience training will strengthen the bond and relationship
between Golden and owner, as they desperately want to please their humans.
- Begin early, between 8 to 12 weeks old.
- Choose to train in a place where there will be little distractions.
- Start simple, beginning with sit, stay and down.
- Use treats or attention (pats, verbal encouragement, etc.) to reward good behavior.
- Take a Golden's sensitive nature into account by using calm yet assertive positive reinforcement methods.
Average life span: 10-12 years
Golden Retrievers are generally healthy dogs, though their rise in popularity has caused a propensity for genetic problems due to breeding. Some health issues that are commonly associated with the breed include:
- Elbow dysplasia
- Hip dysplasia
- Eye conditions (juvenile cataracts, pigmentary uveitis, and progressive retinal atrophy)
- Certain heart diseases (subvalvular aortic stenosis)
- Ear infections
- Skin allergies and infections
- Cancer (most commonly, hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessel walls), osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and lymphosarcoma (blood cancer))
Suggested tests: hip, elbow, cardiac, eye, Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis 10 (NCL10).
Responsible breeders will screen for many of these conditions, including elbow and hip dysplasia, eye conditions (such as juvenile cataracts, pigmentary uveitis, and progressive retinal atrophy) and certain heart diseases (such as subvalvular aortic stenosis).
Pro Tip: Know the signs of these issues so you can recognize them early on and seek treatment as soon as possible.