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Golden Retriever - Breed Facts & Characteristics

The very definition of the words “bounding dog”, Golden Retrievers are full of joyful exuberance. Also a very gentle breed, however, they have an excellent temperament and are friendly and affectionate to all around them. As at home in the heart of the family as they are on a search-and-rescue mission or working as a guide dog, the Golden Retriever is a remarkably versatile breed, too. When you add in their golden good looks and robust constitution, it’s no surprise they are one of the world’s most popular dogs.

Official name: Golden Retriever

Origins: Scotland

Two Golden Retriever puppies sitting with mother in black and white
  • Drooling tendencies

    3 out of 5
  • Grooming needs

    3 out of 5
  • Shedding Level

    4 out of 5
  • Barking tendencies

    4 out of 5
  • Energy level*

    3 out of 5
  • Compatibility with other pets

    4 out of 5
  • Warm weather?

    2 out of 5
  • Cold weather?

    3 out of 5
  • Suited to apartment living

    2 out of 5
  • Can stay alone

    2 out of 5
  • Family pet?*

    4 out of 5
* We advise against leaving pets alone for long stretches. Companionship can prevent emotional distress and destructive behavior. Speak to your veterinarian for recommendations. Every pet is different, even within a breed; this snapshot of this breed specifics should be taken as an indication. For a happy healthy and well-behaved pet, we recommend educating and socializing your pet as well as covering their basic welfare needs (and their social and behavioral needs. Pets should never be left unsupervised with a child. Contact your breeder or veterinarian for further advice. All domestic pets are sociable and prefer company.However, they can be taught to cope with solitude from an early age. Seek the advice of your veterinarian or trainer to help you do this.
Illustration of beige Golden Retriever from the side
MaleFemale
HeightHeight
56 - 61 cm51 - 56 cm
WeightWeight
30 - 34 kg25 - 30 kg
Life stages
PuppyAdult
2 to 15 months15 months to 5 years
MatureSenior
5 to 8 years8 to 18 years
Baby
Birth to 2 months
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Get to know the Golden Retriever

All you need to know about the breed

With their bright and bouncy demeanour, it’s hard to believe that the Golden Retriever was originally bred as a finely-honed gun dog. Today, they are rather better known for their loyal and faithful temperament, that lovely lolloping stride and their glorious golden coat. The Golden Retriever also has a playful, puppyish side to their personality, even as an adult.

That said, they do retain some of the qualities from their former hunting days. Known for their great sporting and working prowess, Golden Retrievers have excellent tracking abilities. As such, they are often utilised by search-and-rescue teams in the hunt for missing people. At the same time, their gentle temperament makes them ideal as guide dogs for the blind or visually impaired persons. They make good therapy dogs too.

One thing they definitely aren’t, however, is a watchdog. In fact, they’re more likely to wag their tails at an intruder than anything else!

Most of all, though, Golden Retrievers are perhaps best known as a cherished family pet. Great with children and other animals once trained, they form deep bonds with their human families – and the feeling is mutual. Along with German Shepherds and Labradors, Golden Retrievers are frequently cited as one of the three most popular breeds in the world.

In terms of their appearance, Golden Retrievers have a thick, water-resistant coat with a dense undercoat. This can vary in colour from a pale gold to a deeper amber shade and everything in-between. The one constant is that it is very thick, and built to withstand the elements. But this does mean it requires a fair bitof grooming. Golden Retrievers are also known for being quite a high-sheddingbreed.

With their hunting-dog background, Golden Retrievers do need a fairly high level of daily exercise too – whether that’s a walk, a jog or running after a ball. Retriever by name, retriever by nature, they like nothing better than fetching an object and bringing it back to you. So, if you can indulge your Golden Retrieverin this, they’ll be your number one fan.

Golden Retriever standing on grass and yellow flowers
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2 facts about Golden Retrievers

1. 101 Retrievers

In July 2006, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland organised a gathering at the ancestralhome of the breed. During the event, a photo was taken – and, with 188 dogs, it is believed to hold the record for the most Golden Retrievers in one picture.

2. A dog’s dinner 

This is a breed that loves to eat! As a result Golden Retrievers can easily become overweight. It is important, therefore, to keep treats to a minimum and be sure to opt for a high-quality, low-fat food. For more facts on the best diet for the Golden Retriever, see below.

Golden Retriever sitting facing camera in black and white
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History of the breed

The origins of the Golden Retriever date back some 200 years. To discover the breed’s story, we need to head to the Scotland of the 19th century. There, we meet a Scottish aristocrat called Lord Tweedmouth and his Yellow Retriever named Nous.

In 1865, this keen hunter decided that he wanted to create a gundog that could cope with the tough terrain and harsh climate. So, he crossed his Yellow Retriever with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, and added the Irish Setterand Bloodhound into mix. As he kept careful notes of his findings, we have the full history of the Golden Retriever.

The early Golden Retrievers were first shown in England in 1908 and recognised by the Kennel Club there in 1911.At that point, however, they were classified as a ‘Retriever–Yellow or Golden’. Following the creation of the Golden Retriever Club, in 1913, the name was changed in line with that. The Golden Retriever was inaugurated by the American Kennel Club in 1925.

Today, they are one of the most popular dog breeds across the world – though, interestingly, there are actually three different types of Golden Retriever: the English, Canadian and American. However, as there are only subtle differences between them, they are all classed as the same breed.

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From head to tail

Physical characteristics of Golden Retrievers

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2
3
4
5

1.Ears

Soft, floppy ears that usually reach down toaround chin-height.

2.Face

Face is characterised by a long, elegant muzzle, distinctive black nose and brown eyes.

3.Fur

With lustrous golden fur, they have the added benefit of a water-resistant undercoat.

4.Body

Large in stature with alevel toplineand strong and muscular loins.

5.Tail

Set high, tail is naturally long and rarely stops wagging – and their whole body can wiggle at times.
Golden Retriever with puppy sitting on rocky outcrop
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Things to look out for

From specific breed traits to a general health overview, here are some interesting facts about your Golden Retriever

Be sure to check their ears regularly

Among the more common afflictions that can affect the Golden Retriever is a condition called ‘otitis’ – otherwise known as ear infections. This is often caused by an allergy and can be painful and itchy for the dog. In more serious cases, it can also result in hearing damage. As a result, ears should be checked weekly for any sign of infection and, in the event of anything unusual, your Golden Retriever should be taken straight to your vet. Professional examinations are also recommended at least twice a year.

They can also experience joint complaints

Like a number ofother dog breeds, Golden Retrievers have a genetic predisposition to something called hip dysplasia – a condition in which the ball and socket become out of kilter. This can lead to pain and inflammation and also result in arthritis later on in the dog’s life. However, the condition can be managed, so have a chat with your vet about the options available. For example, if your Golden Retriever is carrying excess weight, this can magnify the condition, so it’s important that they have a carefully balanced diet. In severe cases, surgery can also be an option.

Be aware of any changes in their body

Unfortunately, Golden Retrievers can also be susceptible to several types of cancer – including lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma and mast cell tumours.

As early detection is key, it’s important to keep an eye out for any unusual symptoms – in - particular any lumps and bumps, obvious pain or laboured breathing. Your Golden Retriever’s grooming sessions can be a good opportunity to give your dog the once-over. Unfortunately, if an internal organ is affected, it can be much harder to spot. So if your Golden Retriever seems a bit off-colour, refuses to eat or loses weight, have them checked. Comprehensive examinations with your vet are also recommended at least twice a year.

Healthy diet, healthier dog

When choosing food for a Golden Retriever, there are many factors to consider: their age, lifestyle, activity level, physiological condition, and health including potential sickness or sensitivities. Food provides energy to cover a dog’s vital functions, and a complete nutritional formula should contain an adjusted balance of nutrients to avoid any deficiency or excess in their diet, both of which could have adverse effects on the dog. Clean and fresh water should be available at all times to support good urinary regularity. In hot weather and especially when out exercising, bring water along for your dog’s frequent water breaks.

Energy intake may also have to be adapted to the climatic conditions. A dog that lives outdoors in winter will have increased energy requirements. The following recommendations are for healthy animals. If your dog has health problems, please consult your veterinarian who will prescribe an exclusively veterinary diet.

A Golden Retriever puppy’s requirements, in terms of energy, protein, minerals and vitamins, are much greater thanthose of an adult dog. They need energy and nutrients to maintain their body, but also to grow and build it. Until they are 15 months old, Golden Retriever puppies’ immune system develops gradually. A complex of antioxidants -including vitamin E -can help support their natural defences during this time of big changes, discoveries, and new encounters. Their digestive functions are different from an adult Golden Retriever’s, too: their digestive system is not mature yet so it is important to provide highly digestible proteins that will be effectively used. Prebiotics, such as fructo-oligosaccharides, support digestive health by helping balance the intestinal flora, resulting in good stool quality.

It is important to choose a kibble with an appropriate size, shape, and texture. This growth phase also means moderate energy needs. Large-breed puppies, such as Golden Retriever puppies, whose growth period is long and intense, are especially susceptible to skeletal and joint problems, including limb defects, bone deformities, and joint lesions. The first part of growth is mainly concerned with bone development, although the muscles also start to grow. This means that a puppy that eats too much -takes in too much energy -will put on too much weight and grow tooquickly. Limiting the energy concentration of a food for Golden Retriever puppiesand feeding a correct daily amount will help control the speed of growth and minimise these risks.

Concentrations of other nutrients should be higher than normal in a specially formulated growth food. Although the calcium content in the food needs to be increased, maxi-sized breed puppies are more sensitive to excessive calcium intake. It’s important to understand then that adding any ingredients to a complete food formulatedfor the growth phase is at best unnecessary and at worst dangerous for the animal, unless prescribed by a veterinarian. It is recommended to split the daily allowance into three meals a day until they are 6 months old, then to switch to two meals per day.

Throughout their life, it is important to avoid feeding Golden Retrievers human foods or fatty snacks. Instead, reward them with kibbles taken from their daily meal allowance, and strictly follow the feeding guidelines written on the package in order to prevent excessive weight gain.

The main nutritional goals for adult Golden Retrievers are:

Maintaining an ideal body weight by using highly digestible ingredients and keeping the fat content at a sensible level

Helping to support the health of their bones and joints with glucosamine, chondroitin, and antioxidants

Helping preserve the health and beauty of the skin and coat with the enriched addition of essential fatty acids (especially EPA-DHA), essential amino acids, and B vitamins.

After 5 years old, Golden Retrievers will start facing the first signs of ageing. A formula enriched with antioxidants will help maintain their vitality, and specific nutrients, such as chondroitin and glucosamine, will help support healthy bones and joints. Ageing is also accompanied by themodification of digestive capacities and particular nutritional requirements, so food for older Golden Retrievers should have the following characteristics:

Higher vitamin C and E content. These nutrients have antioxidant properties, helping to protect the body’s cells against the harmful effects of the oxidative stress linked to ageing

High-quality protein. Contrary to a widely held misconception, lowering the protein content in food brings little benefit in limiting kidney failure. IN addition, older dogs are less efficient at using dietary protein than younger dogs. Reducing the phosphorus content is a good way of slowing down the gradual deterioration of kidney function

A higher proportion of the trace elements iron, zinc, and manganese to help maintain the good condition of the skin and coat

A higher quantity of polyunsaturated fatty acids to help maintain the quality of the coat. Dogs can normally produce these fatty acids, but ageing can affect this physiological process

As they age, dogs increasingly suffer from teeth problems. To ensure they continue to eat in sufficient quantities, the size, shape, and texture of their kibble needs to be tailored to their jaw.

Golden Retriever running through waves on a beach
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Caring for your Golden Retriever

Grooming, training and exercise tips

As former gundogs, Golden Retrievers require plenty of outdoor exercise, so adult dogs should be getting at least an hour a day – but ideally two or more. If they don’t have enough exercise, Golden Retrievers can become a little bit boisterous, so, a good long walk or run will help them to burn off any excess energy. Conversely, some dogs, given the opportunity, will quite happily turn into couch potatoes, which can lead to weight gain, so exercise is important all-round. Given the breed’s hunting heritage, Golden Retrievers usually enjoy fetching and swimming, so it’s worth being a bit creative with their activity programme.

One of the few – only? – catches of having a Golden Retriever is that their long coats can require a fair bit of maintenance. Especially as they love nothing better than tearing through muddy fields, rolling in a puddleor enjoying a swim (which, by the way, they are a big fan of). In addition, Golden Retrievers are prone to shedding quite profusely. They should therefore be brushedat least twice a week, and daily during the moulting seasons. Their coat should also be checked after their walks, to make sure nothing is tangled in their fur, and they will need regular baths to keep them smelling sweet. Trimming their nails, checking their ears and brushing their teeth should all be done regularly too.

A smart and intelligent breed, Golden Retrievers are also eager to please – so this makes training a pleasant experience for both dog and owner alike. As they’re also very food-motivated, treats can be an extra enticement – as long as they are healthy ones! Think about taking treats from their daily food portion. Start your Golden Retriever early with regular socialisation and puppy-training classes and they’ll soon get the hang of things. Also renowned for their excellence in agility and obedience classes, many go on to excel in the show ring. Your Golden Retriever’s training can also be supported with regular games back at home – another good bonding opportunity.

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All about Golden Retrievers

Sources
  1. Veterinary Centers of America https://vcahospitals.com/
  2. Royal Canin Dog Encyclopaedia. Ed 2010 and 2020
  3. Banfield Pet Hospital https://www.banfield.com/
  4. Royal Canin BHN Product Book
  5. American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/

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