Originally bred as hunting dogs, the Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dogs around. It’s not hard to see why—the Golden Retriever dog breed has the reputation of being friendly, gentle and loyal, making these sociable pups the perfect companion for families (and everyone else). They’re also hard-working and smart, which makes them naturals for guiding the blind, search-and-rescue jobs or competitive games like agility.
Golden Retriever Facts
These delightful dogs rank third on the American Kennel Club’s most popular breeds list, a spot they’ve held onto for the past few years. Typically, a Golden Retriever’s life expectancy can reach 10 to 12 years, and a Golden Retriever’s weight averages at about 55 to 75 pounds.
- Breed Group: Sporting
- Height: 21.5-24 inches
- Weight: 55-75 pounds
- Life Span: 10-12 years
- Coat: Double-coated
- Color: Golden, ranging from light (or cream) to dark (a reddish gold)
Golden Retriever Characteristics
Golden Retriever History: From Scottish Gundogs to Popular Pets
The Golden Retrievers’ origin begins in Scotland when Lord Tweedmouth (yes, seriously) started breeding this gundog in the 1840s. Goldens were called Yellow Retrievers and were a cross between a yellow wavy-coated retriever and a Tweed Water Spaniel, with a few Bloodhounds and Irish Setters thrown in down the line.
The first Golden Retriever shown in a dog ring was a British dog in 1908. Soon after, dogs from the breed started arriving in the U.S. and Canada. Hunters recognized their stamina, strength, energy and smarts. Regular folks appreciated the sweet Golden Retriever temperament, and the breed soon became a popular pet. President Gerald Ford had a Golden named Liberty when he was in the White House in the 1970s, and Goldens have starred in TV shows (“Full House”), movies (“Air Bud”) and countless commercials.
The Golden Retriever dog breed isn’t just prized for their good looks and sweet nature. Because they’re smart and biddable, they are used as therapy dogs, guide dogs and search-and-rescue dogs, most notably after 9/11, when several Goldens came with their parents to look for survivors after the fall of the twin towers.
So, where is the best place to find Golden Retriever puppies? You can find a list of reputable Golden Retriever breeders on the American Kennel Club’s website. What’s the average Golden Retriever price? Depending on the breeder, expect to spend anywhere from $1,200 to $2,500 for a pup; but for that, you usually are getting a dog who’s been screened for health and temperament issues, and they might even come with pedigree papers. You can also reach out to Golden Retriever rescue organizations to adopt a Golden, or keep an eye out for the breed at your local animal shelter.
What Does a Golden Retriever Look Like?
It’s hard to mistake a Golden Retriever for any other kind of dog. They’re medium-sized, sturdy dogs with broad heads, straight muzzles and short ears that fall close to their cheeks. They’re double-coated dogs, with a dense, water-repellent topcoat, a ruff on the neck and feathering on their legs, underbody and tail.
Their coats are always golden, ranging from light (or cream) to dark (a reddish gold). You may have heard of red Golden Retrievers, but those are just Goldens whose coats are so dark they look reddish. There are no white Golden Retrievers, either, though some puppies’ coats are so light they almost look white—but they usually get darker with age. Cream-colored Goldens sometimes are referred to as English Cream Golden Retrievers because that color dominates there.
Besides the golden shade, this dog’s hair can be slightly wavy (a throwback to its Scottish ancestors) or straight. Besides the coat, there are no real variations in this breed; a Golden is a Golden is a Golden, no matter the shade.
Golden Retriever Temperament: Everyone’s BFF
The Golden Retriever dog breed could be the ambassador of the dog world. Friendly, outgoing and devoted, this breed is a great example of what it means to be a faithful canine companion. With a face that always seems to be smiling, Goldens make friends with nearly everyone they meet. The Golden Retriever temperament is irrepressibly clownish, and the dogs retain puppy-like characteristics well into adulthood.
Golden Retrievers also have energy to spare. These exuberant and powerful dogs don’t seem to have an “off” switch. Despite their tendency to be excitable, Goldens are fantastic family dogs. They’re generally trustworthy and reliable dogs with love to spare for all family members, and anyone else who enters the home. This kind, puppylike pooch is a fantastic fit for most families on the go.
Keeping Golden Retriever Dogs Healthy: 6 Issues to Watch Out For
Because they are so popular, Golden Retrievers have some genetic problems due to the breeding of unhealthy dogs. By recognizing Golden Retriever health problems early on, you can seek treatment sooner. You can also avoid many Golden Retriever health problems by purchasing a puppy from a responsible breeder who has papers to prove that their Golden Retriever puppies are bred from healthy parents who undergo routine testing for common health problems.
Golden Retrievers are known to suffer from elbow and hip dysplasia, which are diseases that cause the joints to grow abnormally and develop arthritis. You can avoid this condition by only buying dogs from breeders who certify their dogs to be free of any joint dysplasia. You can also ask a Golden Retriever rescue organization for the medical history of any of their adoptable dogs.
Skin Allergies and Infections:
Skin allergies and infections due to fleas, food or environmental allergens like pollen are common in Golden Retrievers. They can cause hair loss, red and itchy skin and excessive scratching.
Allergies and floppy ears can predispose Golden Retrievers to recurrent ear infections. Dogs typically suffer from outer ear infections, which cause ears to be red, itchy, smell terrible and have increased discharge. Left untreated, infections can occur deeper inside your Golden Retriever’s middle or inner ear.
An underactive thyroid, or hypothyroidism, is a common plight in Golden Retrievers, which can cause weight gain without appetite change, low energy, changes in skin and haircoat, lethargy and mental dullness.
Cataracts, or cloudiness in the eye lens, are known to be a genetic problem in some Golden Retrievers, and it can cause blindness if untreated.
Unfortunately, cancer is very common in Golden Retrievers, affecting 60 percent of these dogs in the U.S., according to the Morris Animal Foundation’s Golden Retriever Lifetime Study. The most common types Golden Retriever cancer reported are hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessel walls), osteosarcoma (bone cancer) and lymphosarcoma (blood cancer).
Caring for Your Golden Retriever Dog
Your Golden Retriever will shower you with a lifetime of love and laughter if you care for them properly. Here’s how.
Do Golden Retrievers shed a lot? Yes, they do, but it is so worth it. Golden Retrievers shed moderate amounts of their thick double coats all year round, and twice a year they shed heavily. To reduce shedding, Golden Retriever grooming consists of brushing several times a week, and daily during the heavy shedding times. Using a product like the Furminator deShedding Edge Dog Brush can reduce shedding. Bathing, unless the dog is heavily soiled, is not recommended more than once a month, and shaving a Golden Retriever is not recommended.
Nutrition plays an important role in the health of your Golden Retriever, and how much you feed them is as important as what you feed them. Studies show that large-breed dogs live longer and experience fewer problems with disease, including arthritis, if they are kept at a healthy weight. Ask your veterinarian what your Golden Retriever’s weight should be, and pay attention to these six signs that your dog is overweight.
As for the best dog food for Golden Retrievers, adult Golden Retrievers benefit most from eating a complete and balanced large-breed dog food, like Blue Buffalo Lift Protection Formula Large Breed Adult Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe Dry Dog Food . Large-breed dog food is formulated to support the unique bone and joint needs of large-breed dogs.
Avoid overfeeding Golden Retriever puppies because it can predispose them to health problems. No more roly-poly puppies! Many future problems can be avoided when Golden Retriever puppies are fed appropriate amounts of large-breed puppy food, like Purina Pro Plan Focus Puppy Large Breed Formula Dry Dog Food. Use the feeding chart on the bag as a guide or ask your veterinarian how much to feed your puppy.
If you choose to cook at home for your dog or feed a raw dog food, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a complete and balanced diet.
This smart and active breed requires daily exercise, both physical and mental. Adult Goldens need at least 45 minutes of exercise a day, whether it is walking, running, playing fetch with a toy like Frisco's Rope with Squeaking Ball, or training. Many Golden Retrievers enjoy water, and swimming is a great low-impact exercise. Chewing is also an important behavior that can be supported by giving your Golden Retriever safe items to chew.
Exercises such as hiking, agility, dock diving or hunting provide both physical and mental stimulation for Golden Retriever dogs. Then you can supplement with interactive dog toys, learning tricks and playing games like hide-and-seek.
For normal growth, Golden Retriever puppies need less strenuous exercise than adult Goldens. Talk with your veterinarian about exercise recommendations for your pup.
Training Your Golden Retriever
Not only are they affectionate, they’re also eager to learn, so Golden Retriever training is straightforward and enjoyable. And when put to a task, whether work or play, most Goldens develop a single-minded focus to get the job done.
Like every dog, they excel when trained using treats and dog-friendly positive-reinforcement training. Because most Goldens are toy-driven, you also can use balls and toys to supplement treat training.
When it comes to training a Golden Retriever puppy, it’s important to note that some can become overexcited during the training process and might require a quick pace to stay focused. Like many dogs, Golden Retriever puppies can be mouthy, so consistent early training will help to decrease this natural tendency to nibble. Golden Retriever potty training is also straightforward, requiring typical supervision and consistency to get the job done.
This playful breed needs both physical and mental exercise to work off their boundless energy. Their name gives a clue to an easy way to do so—retrieving. Goldens also have excellent noses, so games that incorporate scenting, like “find it,” can help to burn off their puppy-for-life exuberance.
With their gentle ways and gorgeous looks, it’s no wonder people clamor for the Golden Retriever dog breed. These playful, energetic pups will fill your life with joy—and activity. Get ready for long walks or runs, games of fetch in and out of the water, and maybe even an agility class or two.
Golden Retrievers are loving, smart, playful, majestic beings who make great companions and family dogs.