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Golden Retriever Facts and Characteristics

These playful pups, with their signature coloring, beautiful feathering and floppy ears, were originally bred to assist hunters in retrieving fowl. These days, they are happily fulfilling many other roles, including working as service dogs and playing endless games of fetch with families who love them.

Photo by Justin Aikin on Unsplash

Key breed characteristics

  • Origin: Scotland
  • Weight: 65 – 75 pounds
  • Lifespan: 10 – 12 years
  • Activity level: high
  • Shedding: moderate
  • Other: moderately easy to groom and protective, great with cats and good with dogs and kids, too!

History

Golden Retrievers were originally bred as hunting dogs in 19th century Scotland, specializing in land and water retrieving. Breeders combined other retrieving breeds with water spaniels to create this golden breed, with their particular talents for bringing back birds, such as waterfowl, to their masters unharmed.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognized the breed in 1925 and the Golden Retriever is now one of the most popular breeds throughout the United States.

Appearance

Golden Retrievers are, you guessed it, golden! That said, they do come in a range of shades, from very light golden (like the English cream or the white Golden Retriever), to much darker golden colors. Their lushous coats feature feathering to the fronts of their necks, the backs of their forelegs, the backs of their thighs and their tail bottoms. Their long, floppy ears compliment their playful personality perfectly.

Their gorgeous coats are also known as a double coat, as they have two layers. They consist of a soft undercoat that serves to regulate their body temperature in both warm and cold weather, and a water-repellent outer coat to protect them from the elements.

Like any dog with a double coat, Golden Retrievers shed quite a lot. To prevent heavy shedding in the spring and fall, it’s essential to brush a Golden Retriever once a week, and even daily during the shedding months. With proper regular brushing, they should only occasionally need bathing.

Personality

Golden Retrievers are gentle, trusting and kind. These traits don’t make for very effective guard dogs, but are perfect for loving family dogs. They are playful, intelligent, highly trainable and eager to please. They are also prone to suffering with separation anxiety and thrive best when in the care of an involved owner who is home a lot.

Ideal environment

Golden Retrievers need plenty of exercise and prefer wide open spaces, with plenty of room for retrieving! For this reason, they are best suited to houses with big yards and/or an owner who is willing to take them to off-leash parks regularly. Golden Retrievers are a safe option for families with small children, especially when properly trained.

Photo by Kevin Noble on Unsplash

Ideal owner

Golden Retrievers are high energy dogs who need daily activity and exercise. Their ideal pet parent is therefore also an active personality and someone willing to engage in up to one hour of the daily exercise that this breed craves. Golden retrievers enjoy walking, running, swimming, and can’t get enough of a good game of fetch.

Training

Golden Retrievers are renowned for being easy to train and agreeable, yet, when bored, they can become quite naughty. They don’t do well when left to their own devices for long periods and are not happy when the daily walk has been missed. The first step to successfully training a Golden Retriever is to tend to their needs of both regular physical activity and closeness.

That said, they are a highly intelligent breed and certainly willing to work for rewards, treats or praise, and they also thrive with clicker training. Because Golden Retrievers are often up for something more and excel at obedience training, they make excellent service dogs, some even working in such demanding fields as search and rescue.

It’s worth noting here that Golden Retrievers are so hardworking and agreeable, that they can sometimes work themselves to the point of collapse. It is therefore essential to incorporate plenty of water and rest breaks into heavy bouts of training or play, and balance any exhausting training out with a long, gentle walk or some calmer mental exercises such as puzzle toys.

Grooming

As discussed, a Golden Retriever’s dense double coat requires a regular brushing regime to stay on top of shedding, particularly during seasonal shedding periods, when a daily bruising is ideal. Occasional baths will also help to remove dead fur and keep them clean. Like most breeds, a Golden Retriever’s nails should be regularly trimmed and their teeth regularly brushed to maintain good dental health.

Health

Like most dog breeds, Golden Retrievers have their own unique potential for certain health issues. Up to 20% of Golden Retrievers will develop some form of disease in their joints, such as elbow or hip dysplasia. They are also more prone than some other breeds to developing a specific heart disease – subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) – which can be fatal.

That said, sadly, many Golden Retrievers pass away from cancers such as osteosarcoma and hemangiosarcoma. Aside from these potential health concerns, however, Golden Retriever owners find them to be a joy to care for and love, but like any responsible pet parent, it’s best to opt for pet health insurance, regular exercise and the best nutrition for your Goldie

One other health trait of the breed is that, because of the shape of their ears, they must be cleaned regularly to avoid developing nasty ear infections. Your vet can assist you with safe ear cleaning regimes.

Photo by Ryan Wang on Unsplash

Final thoughts

Golden Retrievers are gentle, loving, protective, playful, clever dogs who are perfect for active pet owners and fun-loving families with small children. 

If you decide to buy one as a puppy, as with most dogs, prepare yourself for some intense initial training in basic obedience, socialization, and teaching important skills such as toilet training and sleeping through the night. With the right approach, though, once you’ve come through those puppy months, you should have a wonderfully gentle, obedient dog who is relatively easy to please!

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