The golden retriever, or Golden, is a popular member of the American Kennel Club’s Sporting Group, and he’s currently ranked at number three in the A.K.C.’s chart.
Similar to the Labrador, Goldens are gundogs that are bred to work in the hunting field, retrieving shot water and game birds. However, the breed also makes a great family pet. The trustworthy golden is always eager-to-please and is also highly trainable.
These pups just never seem to grow out of their puppyhood, remaining happy, playful, and sanguine right through to their senior years. Goldens love kids, other dogs, and even the family cat!
If you want a feisty guard dog that will protect your property from intruders, you had better look elsewhere. The golden retriever is a great big softy who is more likely to roll over on his back for a tummy rub than to chase a burglar!
Before deciding to welcome a golden retriever into your household, you’ll need to find out more about the breed. So, we’ve put together this guide to answer all your questions about the noble golden retriever.
The golden retriever breed was created during the Victorian era. It’s thought that today’s Golden is a mixture of several breeds, including a yellow retriever, flat-coated retriever, red setter, and Tweed water spaniel.
Dogs that closely resemble golden retrievers can be seen in old paintings and studbooks from the era. These dogs were bred on the Guisachan estate by Lord Tweedmouth, a Scottish landowner.
The breed was finally classified in 1911 by the English Kennel Club as “Retrievers.” The name yellow or golden retriever was first recognized in 1920. The American Kennel Club first registered the golden retriever in 1932.
The modern golden retriever is a member of the Sporting Group.
Goldens have established themselves as hunting dogs, working dogs, and much-loved companions and family pets, and work in many different fields, including:
- Search and rescue
- Arson detection
- Drug detection
- Assistance work for disabled people
Goldens also enjoy action sports, including agility, dock diving, and flyball. The main reason for the golden retriever’s enduring popularity is the breed’s wonderful temperament and personality.
The Golden’s character is gentle, kind, and he’s always eager to please his owner. Golden retrievers are affection seekers and are very much people oriented. A well-bred Golden will have all these character traits. However, in recent years unregulated breeding has led to some golden retrievers appearing with introverted, aggressive characteristics that can be directed toward other dogs and people.
Such is the enthusiasm of the golden retriever that jumping up at people can be a problem. That’s a real issue if you have small kids in your household, so early obedience training and socialization are essential if you want to have a mannerly dog in your home.
Goldens are highly trainable, adapting well to essential obedience work.
Some golden retrievers can become unruly if they’re left unattended for long periods. Barking, digging, chewing, and stealing food are all behaviors that can be exhibited by an isolated Golden who has not had enough exercise or mental stimulation.
Although Goldens are generally healthy dogs with an average lifespan of between ten and 13 years, the breed is prone to a few genetic health conditions of which potential owners should be aware, including:
- Mast cell tumors
- Bone cancer
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Eye problems
- Subaortic stenosis
Hemangiosarcoma: Hemangiosarcoma (H.A.S.) is a form of cancer that develops in the endothelial cells that usually create blood vessels. The cause of the disease is unknown. However, sunlight can cause the condition to develop on the inner thighs, belly skin, eyelid membranes, and eyelids of pale-skinned dogs such as golden retrievers.
Lymphosarcoma: Lymphosarcoma is the third most common canine cancer. The condition affects the lymphoid tissue and the lymphocytes (a specific type of blood cell). Areas of the body that can be affected include the lymph nodes, liver, spleen, bone marrow, and gastrointestinal tract.
Hip dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition that develops when the thigh bone head does not sit properly in the hip socket joint. Eventually, hip dysplasia leads to chronic, painful arthritis, which requires expensive surgical treatment to correct.
Elbow dysplasia:Elbow dysplasia is another genetic condition where the elbow joint is deformed or doesn’t develop properly. The disease ultimately causes osteoarthritis.
Subaortic stenosis: Subaortic stenosis is a condition that causes a narrowing of the aortic heart valve. The aortic valve is the valve that allows blood to leave the dog’s heart en route to the rest of the body. Aortic stenosis causes the valve to narrow, forcing the heart to work much harder than it usually does to push blood out through the valve. The condition ultimately leads to failure of the heart muscle and other associated problems.
Other conditions: Unfortunately, golden retrievers are vulnerable to several other non-inherited conditions, including:
- Ear infections
- Skin conditions
So, if you take on a golden retriever, you should be prepared for quite a few veterinary visits during your dog’s lifetime!
Many of the health conditions that affect golden retrievers are genetic. For that reason, you should ask your puppy’s breeder to show you written certification that proves the pup’s parents are free from the conditions listed above.
You can check the health screening records of your puppy’s relatives by searching the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) database. Also, the Golden Retriever Club of America insists that every dog registered on CHIC has hip and elbow evaluations carried out by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (PennHP). In addition, an O.F.A. cardiology examination and an eye clearance check from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation are required.
All test results must be included in the CHIC database. So, you can check the scores received by your puppy’s parents and grandparents. If you don’t understand what the scoring system means for your puppy, your vet will be able to explain everything to you.
Golden retrievers need plenty of exercise; ideally, two hour-long walks per day. Goldens are water dogs, and they love swimming, so you might want to take your dog to your local beach or lake for a fun playdate.
Goldens love most dog sports, including dock diving, agility, and obedience, and that’s a great way of burning off your dog’s excess energy. Your kids will enjoy hours of fun, throwing tennis balls for your golden retriever to fetch. Also, you can entertain your dog by teaching him tricks.
That said, it’s important not to overdo the exercise during the first two years of your puppy’ life. Golden’s growth plates are still forming during that period, and too much exercise can damage them. So, avoid activities that involve jumping for the first couple of years of your dog’s life.
One of the things owners love most about their Golden is his intelligence and willingness to learn and to please.
Capitalize on your Golden’s smart nature by introducing him to many different situations and people during his puppyhood. When your puppy is old enough and has received all his vaccinations, take him to puppy classes.
Also, you might want to check out the American Kennel Club’s S.T.A.R. Puppy Program.
Goldens are also fast learners when it comes to crate training as a puppy.
Size & Living Conditions
Golden retrievers are big dogs! Male Goldens can stand from 23 to 24 inches in height at the shoulder, weighing in at between 65 and 75 pounds. Females are slightly smaller, standing 12.5 to 22.5 inches tall and weighing 55 to 65 pounds.
Can they live outside?
Goldens are very much people-oriented. If you want a dog that will happily live outside in your yard, a golden retriever is not the right choice for you.
A lonely, frustrated golden retriever will quickly begin barking, digging up your yard, and generally becoming destructive. In short; a Golden needs to live indoors with his human family.
The first thing to note about feeding your golden retriever puppy is that puppies need to eat more often than adult dogs.
So, an adult golden retriever should be fed once or twice per day, but a puppy may need three or more small feeds per day.
It’s a good idea to ask your puppy’s breeder what kind of food the puppy is used to having. Keep the pup on that brand for his first six months, and then change to high-quality, adult food that’s formulated for large breeds.
Treats will be appreciated by your Golden, and they can be a very useful training aid too. However, be careful not to overfeed your dog, as golden retrievers can quickly become overweight if they get too much food and too little exercise.
Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines on how much to feed your dog, and if you are in any doubt, have a chat with your vet.
Coat & Grooming
The golden retriever comes in various shades of gold, ranging from deep red to almost white. Goldens have a thick, water-repellent double coat, and they’re very heavy shedders.
You’ll need to brush a golden retriever daily to keep his coat in good condition and to prevent your home from becoming upholstered in dog hair!
If you have pet hair allergy sufferers in your household or you’re a very house-proud person who hates a mess, a golden retriever would not be a good choice of dog for you.
Golden retrievers are water-loving dogs. When your Golden has enjoyed a dip, you’ll need to give him a rinse with clean, fresh water to get rid of all lake muck, sea salt, and chlorine from his coat. That’s because Goldens can be prone to skin problems, so you’ll need to keep your dog’s skin as clean as possible.
So, now you’ve learned more about the lovable, noble golden retriever, let’s recheck the main points so that you can see if a Golden would be the perfect pet for you and your family:
- If you have a small place or live in an apartment, don’t get a golden retriever. These are big dogs that need plenty of space, including an outside area where they can play.
- The golden retriever has a beautiful, wavy coat. Unfortunately, he’s also a very heavy shedder, so you’ll need to have plenty of time to groom your dog every day, and you won’t need to mind the mess!
- A golden retriever is not a good choice if you have pet allergy sufferers in your household.
- Golden retrievers love everyone, including little kids and other dogs. However, that could be a potential issue if you have small children who could get knocked off their feet by a lively, unruly Golden.
- If you don’t enjoy spending time outdoors, walking, jogging, or cycling, don’t get a golden retriever. Goldens are a working breed, and they do need lots of exercise.
- If you and your family fancy trying canine sports such as dock diving, agility, or obedience, the golden retriever could be an ideal choice.
- Golden retrievers don’t appreciate being separated from their human family for long periods. For that reason, your Golden would not be happy living outside. Separation anxiety could lead to excessive barking and destructive behavior.
So, a Golden retriever would make the perfect family pet if you have a large house with a back garden, and your family enjoys an active, outdoorsy lifestyle. Goldens love kids and other animals too, so a busy household with many occupants of different ages and species would be fine for a golden retriever!
Buying a Golden Retriever Puppy
Golden retrievers usually have litters of up to eight puppies. Most Golden breeders keep their puppies until they’re at least eight weeks of age. That allows the pups time to begin the socialization process and gives the breeder chance to get to know each puppy’s personality, enabling the breeder to place each puppy in the perfect home.
A good place to begin your search for a golden retriever puppy is on the Golden Retriever Club of America’s website. Find a breeder who has signed up to the Club’s code of ethics, which forbids the sale of puppies through outside agencies, auctions, and pet stores.
Essentially, you need to find a breeder who can provide you with written proof that he has had his breeding dogs health-screened by the appropriate canine health organizations. Also, your puppy’s breeder should give you a written assurance that he will take the Golden back at any point in its life if you’re unable to keep the dog.
Another good place to look for golden retriever breeders is on the American Kennel Club’s breed page on their website.
Purebred Puppy Costs
A well-bred purebred golden retriever bought from a reputable dealer can cost from $500 to $3,000.
The price can vary, depending on where you live and the achievements of the puppy’s parents.
If a golden retriever puppy is offered for a very bargain basement price, beware! The likelihood is that the puppy has come from a backyard breeder or a puppy mill.
Puppy mills or farms produce as many puppies as they can in as short a timescale as possible. The whole idea is to make a lot of money very quickly. Unfortunately, the mills’ breeding dogs suffer as a result, living in deplorable conditions.
Puppy mills don’t bother to have their breeding animals health-screened because the costs associated with veterinary testing reduces the breeder’s bottom line. Consequently, puppies from mills often come with inherited health problems and are often unvaccinated or dewormed too.
You should steer clear of small pet stores too, as these enterprises often buy their puppies from mills.
Unfortunately, many golden retrievers are languishing in shelters and rescue centers right across the U.S. If you’re happy to give a forever home to an adult golden retriever, you might want to consider searching one of these for your perfect pup.
You could ask around at golden retriever clubs in your area too for contacts who might be able to help you find your ideal pet. Also, the Petfinder website is a good source of rescue center information.
A word of caution; many dogs in shelters do not come with a history, so it’s potluck as to what you’re getting. You may discover that the golden retriever you decide to take home turns out to have lots of health problems or could even have an unsound temperament.
For that reason, it’s worth asking the shelter if you can take the dog home on a short trial arrangement for a few weeks to see if he settles in well with your family. “Try-before-you-buy” arrangements like this can work exceptionally well for both parties. If the golden retriever you chose doesn’t fit your family for any reason, you can return the dog to the shelter who can then find a more suitable home for him.
All About Goldens From Our Readers
Below are some excerpts of readers that wrote to the founder of LoveYourDog, Janet Wall in the past about their Golden Retrievers. We wanted to keep the integrity of this page, since so much heart and soul was put into these thoughts by the kids that provided them!
“My name is Katie and I am 13 years old. I began doing agility with my Golden Retriever, four-year-old Dusty Snickerdoodle, when I was 11. My parents gave me my own dog when I was 9, and I chose a Golden Retriever. I knew that I wanted to do a competitive dog sport with Dusty, but couldn’t find the right one. I discovered agility on Animal Planet. It is perfect for Dusty: He is fast, strong, and lives to please me. I knew that this was the sport for us.
I have been Dusty’s only trainer and handler for his whole life. I began his early agility training in the backyard when he was around 6 months old. I used anything I could find to make jumps and tiny obstacles. Using lots of food and hugs, I trained Dusty to go over the jumps happily. By the time he was a year old, he could run short jump sequences off-leash. I enrolled him in a group agility class shortly after his first birthday.
With the help of our trainer, as well as more food and hugs, I taught Dusty to soar over jumps, race through tunnels, climb over the A-frame, zoom across the dog walk, and snake through the weave poles. He loved to do those obstacles, but he hated the teeter-totter. Our trainer and I tried everything: putting food at the end, pushing him up, helping him tip the board, racing ahead, calling him over. Nothing seemed to help. He would leap onto the miniature teeter in my backyard, but the big teeter at class scared him to death. Since the teeter and dog walk look similar to a dog, he started avoiding the dog walk as well. Finally, I discovered his love of whipped cream and squirt cheese. I would squirt piles of whipped cream and cheese up the teeter, and he happily licked it up. While he is still slow on the teeter, he always does it and he races across the dog walk like he used to.
Dusty learned to run longer courses while on the leash. A few months after we began training, we entered a special show called a show-and-go in which we were allowed to use a leash. Although he was still having a teeter problem and I had to push him up the teeter, we both had a lot of fun. I started running him on a lighter leash, and finally off-leash. It was a slow process. We entered the more advanced class at our training center, and I began to hope that our trainer would allow us to compete soon.
Dusty’s first competition was in February 2002, a year after we’d begun training. He was doing very well at lessons, but in the show he ran off the course to “visit” people quite a few times. Most Golden Retrievers go “visiting” at their first show, but Dusty continued to visit at our second show. And third. And fourth. He still goes “visiting” occasionally if I do not stay right next to him.
Our first clean run (a perfect run) was in June 2002. He got a first place, and I was so happy! At the next show, all four of his runs were perfect. On July 28, 2002 (Dusty’s third birthday), we got our Novice Agility title.
Dusty and I have always competed against adults, and we have done very well. He has won 14 blue ribbons and we have the following titles: AKC Open Agility and Agility Excellent Jumper; USDAA Agility Dog; NADAC Novice Agility and Novice Jumper; ASCA Regular Standard Novice and Jumpers Standard Novice.
Agility has been great for Dusty and me. It has made our relationship much stronger and taught me how to be a good dog trainer. My goal is for Dusty and me to be the first junior handler and Golden Retriever team to earn the USDAA and AKC champion titles. We are always working on running faster and being more accurate. I would recommend doing agility to anyone with a dog. It is a lot of fun to train your dog to run the course. Competing is thrilling, although I always get nervous. There is nothing like the connection that I feel with Dusty on the agility course. Dusty is a real agility dog.” Katie, age 13
“I love to swim, play fetch, and go for walks with my dog, Koa (Golden Retriever). He is getting old, but still as fun as when he was a puppy! My dog loves to go to the Colorado river with me and my sister!” Anonymous, age 13, California USA
“My dog is called Muska. My mom named him that because he was such a mush. He’s 11 years old and his breed is a Golden Retriever. I love him very much. He’s my best friend. He’s special to me because he loves me and I love him.” Ben, Age 8, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong, Asia
“I have a Golden Retriever, his name is Shine, and a Cocker Spaniel, his name is Shadow. They can do a lot of things like sit, stay here, jump over a fence. Also they are beautiful and intelligent dogs.” Juliana, age 14, Caracas Venezuela
“Max (Golden Retriever) is 9 months old. He likes to be in the house. He is getting big, but still likes to get on my dad’s lap. His favorite game is tug of war.” Jayden, Age 7, South Dakota USA
“I have a Golden Retriever puppy named Penny. She knows how to sit, stay (for a long time), lay down, and my “Get up against the wall”. That is my favorite trick!! All I did to teach her that was to put a treat
on the wall and when she jumped up to get it, I told her “UP AGAINST THE WALL, YOU’RE BUSTED!” Then I search her for a gun or drugs. She has always come clean.” Lacey, age 15, Louisiana USA
“My dog, Goldie (Golden Retriever) is great, because she accompanies mewhen I’m alone, and knows when to sit quietly, and who to bark at. I wouldn’t exchange her for any dog in the world.”
Dianne, Age 10, Subang Jaya/Selangor/Malaysia
“I love my dog, Mr. Bear. He’s a Golden Retriever. He is a big baby and loves to be rubbed. I love him a lot.” Zachary, Age 8, Tennessee USA
“Molly (Golden Retriever) is so lovable. She does not bark. She loves to beg for food. She hates uncooked carrots and lettuce. She also love Christmas presents.” Rachel, Age 16, Kansas USA
“We play hide and seek with our two dogs, a Golden Retriever and a Cocker Spaniel, in a field of alfalfa.The grass and alfalfa get really high and I hide in it while my mom holds them where they can’t see me.Then she tells them to find me and they run and jump all over in the field until they find me. Many times they jump right on top of me to find me. It’s great fun.” Keri, age 8, Nebraska, USA
“I have an 8 week old Golden Retriever named Max. He can already beg, heel, sit, and get my dad’s newspaper. AND he plays for my basketball team, my football, and my soccer!” Jake, Age 13, Texas USA
“My dog’s name is Rusty (Golden Retriever) and he’s a sweetie…he was named after his color. Whenever someone’s outside or someone comes to the door, he barks a lot, but he’s so friendly he would never bite anyone! He loves dog biscuits, being petted, chasing after little lights, playing and chewing on his ball, and being lazy.” Mitchell, South Dakota USA
“I have a dog named Cookie. She is a Golden Retriever. She has a lot of energy and I love her a lot. I love to play with her and teach her to do agility.” Jaimee, Age 13, Manitoba, Canada
“My dog is a golden retriever, and he is VERY playful. Instead of guarding the house, he would ask any stranger to play with him! As he is rather big, many people in the neighborhood are terrified of him!” Victoria, age 12+, Singapore
“I have two Golden Retriever puppies. Their names are Doo and Clay. When I first bought them, they were 10 weeks old and I could hold them both in my lap. Now they are 18 weeks old and they both fight over trying to sit in my lap. They are so cute. Their favorite thing to do is wrestle together. They look like little teddy bears rolling around in the grass.” Dana, Age 14, South Carolina USA
“My dog is a Golden Retriever. He is so adorable. He is almost 10 years old. He has arthritis, but he always is running around with me. We got him when I was born.” Elizabeth, Age 10, Pennsylvania USA
“When I get our new house I am going to get a new puppy but he’ll be a big dog pretty soon. He will still be a puppy for a long time. He will be a Golden Retriever puppy. Pretty soon he will be a Golden Retriever dog.” Samantha, Age 7, Texas USA
“My dog is a Golden Retriever. She is the best dog in the world. She looks like an Irish Setter. She’s so funny sometimes.” Kelsey, Age 9, Grosse Ile, Michigan USA
“My dog, Jodie, is my best friend. She is a little silly sometimes, like when people pretend to attack me. She bites me! She is a Golden Retriever. Let me tell you, people mistake her as an Irish Setter! Jodie is the best (she likes me a ton too)! I wish she would never die.” Michelle, age 9, Missouri USA
“I love my dog, Sunny (Golden Retriever) because he is very cute and he helps me by protecting me always. He loves to play games and is very good and loves the world!” Jodie, Age 12, Tilbury Ontario, Canada
Famous Golden Retrievers
- Shadow, from Homeward Bound and Homeward Bound II
- Liberty, the dog of U.S. President, Gerald Ford
- Speedy, from the Drew Carey Show
- Sun Dance, in Adam Sandler’s movie, Click
- Duke, from Bush’s Baked Bean commercials
- Comet, the Golden from the TV show Full House
- Buddy, in Air Bud and all the Air Bud sequels
- Brandon, the Golden of Punky Brewster
So, if you want a canine companion who gets along well with everyone, including kids and other pets, a golden retriever could be the right choice for you.
Golden retrievers need plenty of exercise and will joyfully join you on hiking trips, beach outings, and bike rides. If you have aspirations to get into competitions, your Golden will happily take part in many canine sports, including obedience, dock diving, and agility.
One big downside to golden retrievers is that they are heavy shedders, so you’ll need to be prepared to devote lots of time to groom your dog every day. And you won’t need to mind sharing your carpets, upholstery, and clothes with shed dog hair!
Good luck finding your perfect canine companion!