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Golden Retriever Colors: Standard And Non-Standard

Is it true that the Golden Retriever comes in more colors than just gold? Yes, it is. There are three golden shades to choose from. Plus cream and red Golden Retrievers are becoming more popular, but the AKC doesn't recognize these colors as standard. Keep reading to find out more.

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Last Updated: August 14, 2023 | 4 min read

Two golden retriever dogs sitting on a road in hats at sunset autumn spring

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds worldwide. Since the first Golden Retriever was registered by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1925, they have consistently been in America’s top five most popular dog breeds. Goldens represent everything we adore about dogs. They are intelligent, friendly, devoted, sweet, comical, fun, and more. Not only are they family-friendly companions, but they are also obedient workers who excel in therapy and assistance work.

Golden Retrievers are also loved for their pretty appearance, mainly due to their luscious golden locks. Many people think that Golden Retrievers are just golden, but there’s more to it than that. The AKC recognizes the three most common Golden Retriever colors as Golden, Dark Gold, and Light Gold, and only these colors can compete in the show ring. But there are also two non-standard colors, Red and Cream, that are equally beautiful colors to discover, and they are becoming popular and desirable.

The color of a dog’s coat is more important than some people think. It can give you an insight into their potential health and genetics and prevent owners from entering their dogs into shows. We look at everything you need to know about the most famous golden jacket in the canine kingdom. Let’s jump straight in.

Golden Retriever Breed Standard

The Golden Retriever breed standard lists all Golden Retrievers’ desirable appearance and personality criteria. These guidelines are not critical if you don’t intend to show your dog in conformation events. But it gives you an idea about what is expected and, therefore, healthy in the breed. Let’s take a look at what the breed standard says about coat color:

Color: Rich, lustrous golden of various shades. Feathering may be lighter than rest of coat. With the exception of graying or whitening of face or body due to age, any white marking, other than a few white hairs on the chest, should be penalized according to its extent. Allowable light shadings are not to be confused with white markings. Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable. Some latitude should be given to the light puppy whose coloring shows promise of deepening with maturity. Any noticeable area of black or other off-color hair is a serious fault.

American Kennel Club

Standard Golden Retriever Colors

Although three standard colors are listed in the breed standard, Golden Retrievers are technically three different shades of one color, gold. All Goldens should have brown colored eyes, and according to the breed standard, the darker, the better. Let’s take a look at the three coat colors.

Dark Golden

Golden Retriever-Irish Setter Mix Training

Dark Golden Retrievers might have darker coats than their lighter siblings but should still resemble a golden hue. Being too dark is undesirable in the show ring. If they have any amber or red coloring, they fall into the red Golden Retriever group, which is not a standard color. Often darker Goldens are born much lighter, and their coat darkens over time.

Golden

Golden Retriever Laying in Grass

The gold standard for Golden Retrievers is, well, golden. This is the middle-of-the-road gold shade – not too light or dark. Gold is the most common color for Golden Retrievers, with bright, cheerful honey hues.

Light Golden

Golden Retriever Face smiling

Light Golden is the second most common shade for Golden Retrievers. The breed standard states that it is undesirable if their coat is too pale, so they need a little gold color to be accepted into the light golden club.

Non-Standard Golden Retriever Colors

Some Golden Retrievers are born with a coat that doesn’t fit into the standard coat colors. They are becoming more common thanks to their popular alternative colors. Let’s take a look at the two remaining Golden coat colors.

Cream

Golden Retrievers who are more cream than light gold fall into this category. They are becoming a popular coat color for those uninterested in showing their dog in competitions. They are often called “English Creams” because they are more common in England than in America. Be wary of breeders advertising cream Retrievers as rare “platinum” or “white” for an increased price. Not only do these colors not exist, but they sometimes breed cream-colored relatives, which increases the risk of genetic health problems. Plus, remember that many cream pups darken over time too.

Red

Red Golden Retrievers are the rarest coat color. There are many shades of red in this category, including mahogany, dark brown, amber, and anything in between that isn’t gold. Red Goldens are often confused for Irish Setters, and canine historians believe that the red gene came from the Irish Setter bloodline when they were bred together in the 19th century.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do Golden Retriever Puppies Change Color?

They maintain their sweet looks and gorgeous hair from puppyhood to their senior years. But the shade of their golden locks can change over time. Some puppies lighten, whereas some become darker. Although you cannot predict what color they will be when they’re older, the color of their parents is sometimes a good indication.

What Is The Best Golden Retriever Color?

There isn’t a “best” Golden Retriever color because it depends on personal preference. Some owners prefer a deeper golden color, whereas some favor lighter golden hues. And others like the rarer non-standard colors. If you’re looking for a family companion rather than a show competitor, the color of your pup doesn’t matter as long as they are healthy, happy, and well-balanced.

Which Golden Retriever Color Costs More?

No coat color should cost more than another. If they do, that is a sign that the breeder is irresponsible and only interested in profit over breed health. The average puppy price of a Golden Retriever from a responsible breeder costs between $900 and $1,300.

Final Thoughts

The Golden Retriever is one of the most loved dog breeds on the planet. They have an extraordinary personality but are also incredibly gorgeous, thanks to their beautiful coat. They come in many golden hues, ranging from light golden to dark golden. And they also come in cream and red, but these are not standard colors. Whatever shade of gold you prefer, be sure to work with a reputable breeder who strives for health over coat color.

Senior golden retriever portrait on black background

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