October 23, 2017

Introduction to the Golden Retriever

Affectionate, playful, devoted, smart and very easy to train, the beautiful Golden Retriever has been one of the most popular breeds around the world for decades.

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They usually love children so they make a great family dog.

Goldens are large, active dogs so they are perfect for active families. They do require plenty of daily exercise so they do best if you have a large yard or you can guarantee them some (safe) room to run and play each day. Their coat requires brushing a couple of times per week.

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History of the Golden Retriever

Most people are surprised to learn that the Golden Retriever was originally developed in Scotland in the mid-19th century. As dog breeds go, the Golden is not a very old breed. They were created on the estate of Lord Tweedmouth and careful records were kept of the breedings that produced the Golden Retriever over several decades. Lord Tweedmouth originally crossed a yellow retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel (a kind of dog that no longer exists but which was local to the area at the time) named Belle around 1868. The yellow retriever, named Nous, came from a litter of black wavy-coated retrievers. Most of the popular retrievers in Britain at the time were offshoots of Labrador Retrievers which had become popular earlier in the 19th century when they were brought back to England from Canada. The breeding of Nous with Belle produced several puppies which formed the basis of the Golden Retriever breed. Other dogs which were added to the breeding program included an Irish Setter, a Bloodhound, a St. John’s Water Dog from Newfoundland (one of the breeds responsible for the Labrador Retriever), and a couple more wavy-coated black retrievers. Lord Tweedmouth wanted to produce dogs that were gentle and trainable, as well as more vigorous and powerful than previous retrievers. The dogs could be used for retrieving on land as well as in water. The Golden Retrievers produced were also known for having a “soft” or gentle mouth, meaning that they would not harm the birds retrieved.

Wavy-coated retrievers do not exist as a breed today but you can read some interesting thoughts about them here. This site also includes some very old photos of early Golden Retrievers along with a photo of Nous.

You can find more detailed history of the Golden Retriever on the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) web site.

The Kennel Club in England recognized the Golden as a new breed in 1903. The American Kennel Club in the United States recognized the breed in 1925. The Golden has been one of the most popular breeds around the world for many years. They are currently the third most popular breed registered in the United States, according to the AKC.

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Golden Retriever Health Related Issues

If you are interested in a Golden Retriever, we urge you to read the health information on the Golden Retriever Club of America web site. This is a popular breed and most dogs will live long, healthy lives. However, there are some health issues that can appear. Goldens are prone to certain health problems and the club provides good information about them. Cancer, in particular, tends to be a problem in Golden Retrievers, especially hemangiosarcoma. Lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumors, and osteosarcoma also occur with greater frequency in Goldens than in other breeds. Cancer in general is the leading cause of death in the breed.
The GRCA recommends that breeders have dogs tested for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia; have annual eye exams, and have a congenital cardiac exam or advanced cardiac exam.

You can see the current Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) test results for the breed here. This data includes all test results for the breed since OFA began keeping records. You will also note on the Golden Retriever page that there has been a noticeable trend toward Excellent hips in the last 30 years. Hips in the breed are currently 77.4 percent normal and 20 percent abnormal, so there is still room for improvement.

As a breed, Golden Retriever owners and breeders may do more health testing than almost any other breed with the possible exception of Poodle owners/breeders.

Eye diseases can occur in the breed, such as cataracts. Progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, distichiasis, entropion, retinal dysplasia, and corneal dystrophy can also occur.

Heart disease such as cardiomyopathy and subvalvular aortic stenosis are known in the breed. Joint problems such as osteochondritis, luxating patella, panosteitis, and cruciate ligament ruptures can also occur.

Some dogs can also experience a dry skin disease known as ichthyosis. Some dogs can also have hot spots or allergies, especially allergies to fleas.

The Golden Retriever Club of America and its members participate in and help fund many studies and research projects to improve Golden Retriever health.

We advise you to talk to breeders about health issues in the breed. Ask questions about the parents of puppies. Ask about health guarantees. Ask about the health tests the breeder has had done with their dogs. All of these things will help you choose a healthy puppy or adult dog.

We do need to mention an important study at this point. Research with Golden Retrievers (and some other breeds) has shown that early spay/neutering can increase the odds for some dogs to have certain cancers, hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and other health problems. If you have a Golden Retriever puppy and you are thinking of spaying/neutering, please read this article. Talk to your puppy’s breeder about the pros and cons of waiting to spay/neuter your puppy until s/he is a little older.

Golden Retriever Temperament

Most people love the temperament of the Golden Retriever. They are kind, sweet, friendly, outgoing dogs. Goldens are known for being especially patient with children and make excellent family pets. They are not usually “one-man” dogs. Rather they are attached to everyone in the family. They also tend to be friendly with strangers so they don’t make very good guard dogs. Goldens are naturally calm, intelligent, and biddable dogs, which you would expect from a sporting breed. They have a strong desire to please. All of these attributes make them exceptionally good at obedience and other activities that require training. According to the book The Intelligence of Dogs, the Golden Retriever is ranked as the fourth most intelligent breed of dog, just behind the Border Collie, the Poodle, and the German Shepherd. These rankings are based on how quickly a dog learns and obeys commands.

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Goldens excel at obedience, rally, agility, tracking, flyball, and field events. They have a natural love of swimming since they were bred to be water and land retrievers. They often enjoy dock jumping. The Golden Retriever loves to work and they have a great ability to focus on whatever job they are given. They make wonderful therapy dogs because of their gentle personalities and empathy. They are also one of the most desirable breeds as guide dogs for the blind and other assistance dog work because of their intelligence, their calm, steady nature, and their sensitivity to people. They can also make excellent search and rescue dogs.
With their intelligence and gentle temperaments, Goldens respond well to positive training methods. They enjoy training and love to do things with their owners.

Golden Retrievers typically get along well with other dogs, cats, and animals (large or small). They are very sociable dogs so they will welcome strangers in a calm, friendly manner. Golden Retrievers really are one of the great all-around breeds of the dog world.

Golden Retriever Grooming

Golden Retrievers are moderately large dogs with coats that come in various shades of rich, lustrous gold. They have some feathering on their legs, stomach, thighs, and tail that may be a little lighter in color than the rest of their coat. The coat is dense and water repellent with a good undercoat. They have a natural, untrimmed ruff around their throats. The coat and feathering should not be excessively long. The feet and stray hairs are kept neat but the breed is not clipped or shaved.
Male Golden Retrievers are 23-24 inches tall at the withers. Females are 21 ½ – 22 ½ inches tall. Male dogs weight about 65-75 pounds. Females weigh 55-65 pounds. You can see the AKC breed standard for the Golden Retriever here.

Goldens require regular grooming and occasional baths. They should be brushed at least once a week and every day when they are shedding heavily. Regular grooming will cut down on the amount of shedding. They should be bathed about once a month.

Goldens shed a little throughout the year but they have a seasonal shed twice a year (as do most dogs). You should clean their ears regularly to avoid ear infections.

Golden Retriever Fun Facts

  1. President Gerald Ford had a Golden Retriever in the White House named Liberty.
  2. Golden Retrievers have starred in many films such as Air Bud and Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey.
  3. No, Golden Retrievers are NOT descended from Russian circus dogs.
  4. Golden Retrievers were originally called “Yellow Retrievers” before the name was ultimately changed to Golden Retrievers in 1920.
  5. Golden Retrievers in Britain tend to be more muscular and their coats tend to be lighter than we see in the U.S. Canadian Goldens are a little taller than British or American Goldens. However, breeders often import dogs from the other countries, so these are not hard and fast rules.
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Common Golden Retriever Mixes

Since Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the United States, it’s easy to find them on Petfinder no matter where you live. The same is true for Golden Retriever mixes. Checking online, some of the Golden mixes we found include Golden x Siberian Husky, Golden x Dachshund, Golden x Poodle (the original Goldendoodle), Golden x Cocker Spaniel, Golden x Pit Bull, Golden x German Shepherd, Golden x Basset Hound, Golden x Saint Bernard, Golden x Chow Chow, Golden x Rottweiler, and Golden x Border Collie.

Golden Retriever FAQ’s

What is a Golden Retrievers Life Expectancy?

According to the sources we found, the life expectancy of the Golden Retriever is about 12 years.

Are Golden Retrievers easy to train?

Yes, absolutely, positively! Goldens are one of the most intelligent of all dog breeds. They are eager to please and very smart. They do well with positive reinforcement. They love to learn and can do well at almost anything you want to teach them.

Do Golden Retrievers shed a lot of hair?

Yes, they do. You should expect your Golden to shed a little all the time. S/he will also have seasonal shedding in the spring and fall. If you brush your dog regularly it will cut down on loose hair in the house and keep things under control.

Do Golden Retrievers make good apartment pets?

Golden Retrievers are large dogs and they require about an hour of exercise each day. They usually do well in a rural or suburban setting considering their exercise needs. However, if you are committed to exercising your dog, even though you live in an apartment, this could be achieved. Goldens have good manners and they are very sociable. If you could meet your dog’s exercise needs, he would probably fit into an apartment setting in other ways. Goldens don’t yodel or howl like some breeds.

Are Golden Retrievers good with Children?

Golden Retrievers usually LOVE children. This is a wonderful family dog in most cases. As always, you should supervise all interaction between small children and dogs because accidents can happen. Goldens are big dogs and it’s possible the dog could knock over a small child or a child could yank on the dog’s tail. On the other hand, Goldens are very tolerant, so if a child falls on them or pulls a tail, they are unlikely to react. In general, we can’t think of a better breed with children. If your bigger children like to romp, swim, play hide-and-seek, or just need a best buddy, this is a great breed for your family.

Carlotta Cooper

Carlotta Cooper is a freelance writer and a long-time contributing editor for the weekly dog show magazine, Dog News. She is the author of The Dog Adoption Bible, the Dog Writers Association of America Adoptashelter.com award-winner for 2013. Additionally, Carlotta is the author of Canine Cuisine: 101 Natural Dog Food & Treat Recipes to Make Your Dog Health and Happy, as well as other books about pets. She is a guest writer for numerous website and blogs and a frequent pet food reviewer.

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