Golden Retriever Breed Information

Golden Retriever Breed Information

Golden Retrievers are an extremely popular and highly recognizable breed. There is no mistaking that friendly and happy-looking face, or that beautiful golden coat with long feathery locks flowing from the tail, legs and stomach.

Originally bred as a waterfowl retrieving dog, the Golden Retriever falls into the Sporting Group or Gun Dog category with breed organizations. While they are still used for a variety of working tasks, Goldens are one of the most popular family companion breeds in America due to their extremely friendly nature and highly tolerant disposition.

If you’re planning on adding a Golden to your family, you will most likely have 10 to 12 years of devoted companionship from your four-legged friend. While they are prone to some health issues, and can be a pain when it comes to grooming, they can make an outstanding addition to any family. Here’s everything you need to know about Golden Retrievers.





Space Needed

Large Garden

Life Span

Large Garden

Exercise Required

1 - 2 hours per day


1 - 2 hours per day


While their exact history is somewhat fuzzy, the breed started being developed for use as waterfowl hunting dogs by Lord Dudley Marjoribanks in the mid-1800’s. Some records claim the breed originated from Russian sheep herding dogs, but records show the first dogs used in the creation of today’s modern Golden Retriever were bred in Inverness-shire Scotland.

Lord Marjoribanks worked with the breed for over 50 years in an attempt to create a dog that was adept at retrieving waterfowl on both land and in the water. He also focused on making sure that the dog had a water-repellent coat and could easily navigate the terrain in the Scottish Highlands where he hunted.

While the original yellow retriever Lord Marjoribanks created, the Tweed Water Spaniel is extinct, the breed created the foundation of what we now know as the Golden Retriever.

Historical Timeline

1800’s: The breed started being developed by Lord Marjoribanks with the use of various breeds including the now-extinct Tweed Water Spaniel.

1908: The very first of the early Golden Retrievers was shown in Britain.

1910: The first Golden Retrievers were moved from Canada into the USA.

1911: The England Kennel Club recognized “Retriever – Yellow or Golden” as a breed.

1920: The breed’s name was changed to Golden Retriever and recognized officially.

1925: The breed was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club or AKC allowing them to be shown competitively in the United States.

1974: President Gerald Ford brought a Golden into the White House. Popularity in the breed went through the roof.

1999: The AKC recognized the Golden as the 2nd most popular dog breed in America.

Today: Goldens are still in the top 10 most popular breeds in North America and have been used for everything from fieldwork, gun dogs, service dogs, search & rescue dogs, and beloved family companions.

Golden Retrievers we know today are classed as a large breed dog, with their weight being anywhere from 60 to 75 pounds at maturity. At the shoulders, they can stand up to 24 inches tall when fully grown, and with their thick and long double-coat, they can seem much larger than they actually are.

Lord Marjoribanks strived to create a dog that was not only competent at retrieving waterfowl, but that also had a very friendly and outgoing nature so that it could fit in with family life when not being used for hunting. In keeping with that original line of traits, modern Goldens are extremely outgoing, highly loving, willing to please, and very playful.

Temperament & Personality

Golden Retrievers rarely meet anyone that they consider a stranger – everyone is an instant friend! Goldens have the innate ability to instantly become best friends with people and other dogs they meet, leading to a flurry of wagging tails and happy little barks of excitement. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Golden that does not want to meet new people as these dogs are born extroverts.

Aggression Levels

While each dog is an individual and their unique personality can depend on early socialization or histories of abuse, as a whole, the breed is not considered aggressive. They have an extremely tolerant and patient disposition which leads to a more happy-go-lucky attitude than anything else.

Golden Retrievers were bred as retrieving dogs and not as guard dogs, so they have very little if any guarding skills. They may occasionally bark at a stranger approaching your home or yard, but would much rather make friends with them than run them off.

Preventing Boredom

Golden Retrievers are incredibly intelligent and extremely willing to please. They want nothing more than to do a task for you that will please you. As such, they require an abundance of mental stimulation to prevent boredom.

Mental stimulation can be provided in a variety of ways, but treat dispensers that require the dog to use their nose to locate and open different compartments are popular. As are outdoor tasks such as retrieving a favourite toy or scent tracking. Additionally, Goldens make excellent service dogs and in their mind, assisting their human is one of the best jobs they can have.

Being Around Children

When it comes to patience and tolerance, Golden Retrievers are extremely high up on the list. Even with young children, a Golden can be very delicate and gentle. They put up with a lot of abuse from these children as well such as ear tugging, tail pulling, pinching and more.

Introductions between new puppies and children should be done as early as possible, but even older Goldens are adaptable enough to remain docile and careful around new babies or adopted children. Their intelligence and even-tempered disposition are a wonderful combination when it comes to living with families with children.

Being Around Other Pets

While Goldens were bred as waterfowl retrieving dogs, they do not have a high prey drive. Their purpose was to retrieve the already-downed waterfowl and not aggressively chase it themselves. As such, they can be excellent around other animals including cats, rabbits, birds, and other pets.

As with every introduction, it should be done slowly and with full supervision. But once the Golden realizes this other animal is a part of his family, he will move into a “more the merrier” mentality with his new friends.

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Golden Retriever


When it comes to intelligence, Goldens definitely got more than their fair share. They are extremely smart, can be highly focused on certain tasks, are willing to work, and are eager to please. These traits combined make them an absolute dream to train and work with.

It’s not uncommon for a Golden to be able to recognize certain toys by their name or descriptive term and retrieve that exact toy when asked. They can also perform basic daily tasks such as opening or closing doors, picking up and delivering phones, or picking up dropped items which makes them supremely capable as service dogs.

Training should be started as early as possible with your new puppy and should focus on positive reinforcement. Offering a treat or favourite toy after a job well done is a great way to keep your Golden eager to please and willing to work, regardless of the task at hand.

Puppy Training & Socialization

While this is not just unique to Goldens, all breeds should start their training foundation off with proper socialization. Being confident in a wide range of situations and around numerous distractions can help your Golden remain focused on his training or task at hand.

Puppies should be exposed to all types of people, including those that may be wearing large hats or coats. They should also experience loud sounds such as thunderstorms, loudspeakers in a school or store, phones ringing, car horns beeping, and more. The more sounds, situations and people they are exposed to at an early age, the better adjusted and confident they will be growing up.

Mischievous Side

Goldens are extremely intelligent and know exactly what you want from them, but like a human child, sometimes they just want to goof off. Their perpetually playful demeanour can sometimes lead to “play-breaks” in the middle of a training session. And with that adorable face, it’s hard to resist letting them run around like crazy now and then!

If your Golden is prone to having these uncontrollable bursts of energy, training him to perform in agility, flyball or other events can help focus his mind as well as burn off that excess energy.


If you are an outdoorsy person that loves hiking, cycling, swimming or jogging, a Golden Retriever can be your best friend. These dogs absolutely love being active and being by your side, so they will be more than happy to join you on your adventures.

Due to their intelligence, boredom can set in quickly if they don’t have enough physical and mental stimulation, and this boredom can lead to destructive behaviours such as digging holes in the yard and chewing on furniture.

It is recommended that Goldens receive at least an hour of exercise on a daily basis, but this does not have to be all at once. In fact, smaller jogs around the block a few times a day can be plenty for you and your companion.

However, keep the exercise lighter for dogs under two years of age as their skeletal and muscular systems are still growing and developing. Too many strenuous activities done at a young age can lead to joint issues, arthritis, and other issues.

Dog Sports

If you’re searching for something more breed-specific, Goldens love showing off their retrieving skills at field trials. Sign them up for some scent tracking and retrieving classes and watch them shine in their natural element.

If this isn’t your style, consider sports that revolve around water such as dock diving. Goldens absolutely love the water and won’t pass up a chance to plop right into it. If you toss their favourite toy into the water, they will be barreling right behind it to retrieve and return it to you.

Other dog sports such as agility, obedience, and flyball can help exercise their mind and body at the same time. These sports also get you involved as well, which is an added bonus as far as your Golden is concerned. He wants nothing more than to be having fun with you by his side.

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Food & Nutrition

The best diet for your Golden will depend on a variety of factors including his age, activity level, and whether or not they are overweight. Some goldens are prone to obesity so it’s your responsibility to limit their intake of food and treats.

If your Golden seems prone to bloat, offering multiple smaller meals throughout the day may be safer than one or two big meals. You may also want to ensure their food bowls are raised up to the height of their chest so they don’t have to reach down to eat. This has been said to reduce the frequency of bloat in some dogs.

Goldens love getting treats, and it’s sometimes hard to resist their beautiful brown eyes and sweet faces if you have something they want. As a highly intelligent breed, using treats as a reward during training is common – but can quickly lead to your dog becoming overweight.

Offering table scraps can also become an issue with some Goldens. Always avoid giving your dog foods that have a high-fat content or contain cooked bones as they may splinter causing a choking hazard, as well as damaging your dog’s throat or digestive tract.

Optional Supplements

Many Goldens can benefit from daily vitamins and supplements in their diet as well. There are many supplements that can be helpful if your dog suffers from skin conditions, joint issues, or other minor ailments. Some of the most commonly offered supplements for Goldens include:

  • Probiotics: A mix of healthy cultured bacteria that can aid in gastrointestinal health and improve digestion. Additionally, it has also been shown to reduce anxiety in some dogs.
  • Krill and Fish Oils: A great source of omega3 fatty acids and glucosamine, these supplements can aid in joint care and may reduce the pain caused by arthritis over time.

While the above supplements can be helpful if offered on a regular basis, you may want to work with your veterinarian to develop a supplement plan that works for your dog. There may be some supplements that are better suited to your individual dog to help them live a long, happy, pain-free life.

Health & Care

Overall, a Golden Retriever is a healthy dog that can share your life for 10 to 12 years. However, there are some health concerns that some North American bloodlines may be more prone to than others. All responsible breeders will perform genetic testing on their breeding adults to ensure they are producing the healthiest puppies possible, but some health concerns for Golden Retrievers should still be kept in mind.


Various studies done on Golden Retrievers over the years by a number of breed registries and canine cancer societies have found that roughly 60% of all Goldens will develop some form of cancer. However, with treatment, many forms of cancer can be managed so your Golden Retriever enjoys a long and comfortable life.

Some of the most common cancer types in the breed include Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphoma. Both of these cancers have a higher rate of occurrence in males than females but commonly start to develop as early as 5 years of age. Treatment options are available and many can be very successful.

Hip Dysplasia

While not as prone to hip dysplasia as much larger breeds, about 10% of Goldens will develop hip dysplasia in their lifetime. The first signs of this disease can be seen in puppies from 6 to 14 months of age, their walking gait may be different or their hips may seem “loose”.

By the time the dog is 4 and 8 years of age, the hip dysplasia can be severe and osteoarthritis can set in making it painful for your companion to get around. Treatment options can include orthopaedic surgery to replace the hip socket and femur joint for extremely severe cases, maintenance supplements and exercise restriction for mild cases or early-onset.

Heart Conditions

During an annual health exam, your veterinarian may notice your Golden has an audible heart murmur and diagnose it as Subaortic Stenosis. This is one of the heart conditions some Goldens may deal with in their lifetime.

In addition to the above conditions, you may also need to watch out for gastric issues such as bloat. While bloat can happen at any time and has no known warning signs, many owners feel that reducing the size of feedings and raising the food bowls so your dog does not have to reach down to eat has been helpful in preventing the issue.

Some bloodlines are more prone to developing retinal atrophy and cataracts as they age, which could lead to blindness. However, early genetic testing in the breeding stock and ophthalmology scans should help reduce the likelihood of your puppy developing vision issues.

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If you hate having your furniture and clothing covered in dog hair, a Golden Retriever may not be the best choice for your lifestyle. In addition to their unique brand of glitter on every surface in your home, you should also like having muddy pawprints on your carpet and kitchen floor. If you own a Golden Retriever, you’ll get that and more from them.

Golden Retrievers have a thick double-coat that is made to repel water. Since they were originally bred as waterfowl retrieving gun dogs, a huge majority of them love playing in the water and won’t pass up romping through a muddy puddle if given the chance. You’ll need to stay on top of bathing if your Golden is attracted to puddles.

Shedding can also be a very common thing. In fact, a Golden will shed some of its coat year-round, with the heaviest shedding happening in the spring and fall. Daily brushing will be needed to help keep this shed hair minimized, but no amount of brushing will prevent the occasional hair from showing up on your furniture or clothing.

When brushing your Goldens, pay close attention to the back of the ears and the feathering on the hind legs. Both of these areas are prone to matting which, if left unmaintained, can lead to skin infections and permanent hair loss.


Most breed registries recommend bathing your Golden once a month, or as needed if they happen to get into mud puddles or other messes. Additionally, if your Golden swims in a stagnant pond or another water source often, rinsing them off can help prevent skin infections from the bacteria in the water. Leaving the undercoat moist can lead to skin infections, rashes, and mange-like symptoms.

Bathing also helps to free up dead hairs in the undercoat and topcoat. It’s a great first step before a monthly grooming session. Just make sure your Golden is fully dry all throughout their coat before you start brushing or you can increase the occurrence of mats forming in the coat.

Tooth Care

As with all breeds, Goldens should have their teeth maintained on a regular basis. While daily brushing is great, two times a week is usually recommended. By using a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste, you can help reduce the amount of tartar and bacteria growing in the mouth. This helps reduce the likelihood of tooth decay and improves your dog’s breath.

Ear Care

The cute fold-over ears of your Golden can also be a breeding ground for bacteria. Moisture trapped in the ear combined with the warmth of that area can lead to bacterial blooms and yeast infections. Using a pH balanced dog-specific ear cleaner and a cotton ball can help remove this bacteria and prevent the growth of yeast or fungus.

Toenail Clipping

Giving your Golden a pedicure is important at least once a month. Toenails continue to grow throughout your dog’s lifetime, and if not worn down naturally on sidewalks or other hard surfaces, they can continue to grow and make walking uncomfortable.

Toenail trimming is a quick and simple procedure, especially if your dog has been trained from an early age to tolerate his feet being touched. But if this task worries you, due to the blood vessels contained within the toenail, your vet or groomer can help you out.