Golden Retriever

By on August 27, 2012
File:Golden retriever demonstrating an agility jump.jpg

The Golden Retriever is a medium-sized breed of dog. They were historically developed as gundogs to retrieve shot waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds during hunting and shooting parties.[1] They were named retriever because of their ability to retrieve game undamaged. Golden Retrievers have an instinctive love of water. They have a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth and a water repellent outer coat that lies flat against their body. These dogs are well suited to suburban or country environments. Although they need substantial outdoor exercise, they should be kept in a fenced area because of their instincts as hunting dogs and tendency to roam.[2]

The Golden Retriever’s intelligence makes them versatile, allowing them to fill a variety of roles including guide dog for the blind, hearing dog for the deaf, hunting dog, illegal drug detector, and search and rescue participant. Because of their loyal and gentle temperament, Golden Retrievers are also popular family pets.

Golden Retrievers possess friendly, eager-to-please demeanours, and are the fourth most popular family dog breed (by registration) in the United States,[3] the fifth most popular in Australia,[4] and the eighth most popular in the United Kingdom.

The Golden Retriever has its roots in Scotland. In the mid-eighteenth century, wildfowl hunting was very popular among the wealthy. In Scotland, a dog was needed that could retrieve from water and land because the land was covered in ponds and rivers. Early retrievers were crossed with the best of water spaniels giving birth to the dog we know as the Golden Retriever.[6] The Golden Retriever was first developed in Scotland at “Guisachan” near Glen Affric, the highland estate of Sir Dudley Marjoribanks later Baron Tweedmouth. For many years, there was controversy over which breeds were originally crossed. In 1952, the publication of Marjoribanks’ breeding records from 1835 to 1890 dispelled the myth concerning the purchase of a whole troupe of Russian sheepdogs from a visiting circus.[7]

Improvements in guns during the 1800s resulted in more fowl being downed during hunts at greater distances and over increasingly difficult terrain. This led to more birds being lost in the field. Because of this improvement in firearms, a need for a specialist retriever arose as training setter and pointer breeds in retrievals were found to be ineffective. Thus work began on the breeding of the dog to fill this much needed role.[8]

The original cross was of a yellow-coloured Retriever, Nous, with a Tweed Water Spaniel female dog, Belle.[9] The Tweed Water Spaniel is now extinct but was then common in the border country. Marjoribanks had purchased Nous in 1865 from an unregistered litter of otherwise black wavy-coated retriever pups. In 1868, this cross produced a litter that included four pups; these four became the basis of a breeding program which included the Irish Setter, the sandy-coloured Bloodhound, the St. John’s Water Dog of Newfoundland, and two more wavy-coated black Retrievers. The bloodline was also inbred and selected for trueness to Marjoribanks’ idea of the ultimate hunting dog. His vision included a more vigorous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, one that would still be gentle and trainable. Russian sheepdogs are not mentioned in these records, nor are any other working dog breeds. The ancestry of the Golden Retriever is all sporting dogs, in line with Marjoribanks’ goals. The Golden Retriever was active and powerful and had a gentle mouth for retrieving games while on hunts.[2]

Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by The Kennel Club of England in 1903, as Flat Coats – Golden. They were first exhibited in 1908, and in 1911 were recognized as a breed described as Retriever (Golden and Yellow). It would take another 14 years for the breed to be recognized in America, and in 1925 AKC did so. In 1938, the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) was founded.

The Honourable Archie Marjoribanks took a Golden Retriever to Canada in 1881, and registered Lady with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1894. These are the first records of the breed in these two countries. The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927, and the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario, now the Golden Retriever Club of Canada was formed in 1958. The co-founders of the GRCC were Cliff Drysdale, an Englishman who had brought over an English Golden, and Jutta Baker, daughter in law of Louis Baker who owned Northland Kennels.[10]

There are also organizations other than clubs dedicated to Golden Retrievers, such as breed specific adoption sites.

In July 2006, The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland organized a gathering of Golden Retriever enthusiasts at the ancestral home of Guisachan House. A photograph was taken by photographer Lynn Kipps to commemorate the occasion. It captures 188 Golden Retrievers and therefore holds the record for most Golden Retrievers captured in one image.


British type

British-type Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever

Some variations do exist between the British type Golden Retrievers that are prevalent throughout Europe and Australia,[11] and those of American lines; these differences are reflected in the breed standard. The muzzle of the British type of dog is wider and shorter, and its forehead is blockier. It has shorter legs, with a slightly deeper chest, and shorter tail. Its features make it generally heavier than the American type. Males should be between 56–61 cm (22–24 inches) at the withers and females slightly shorter at between 51–56 cm (20–22 inches). Their weight, however, is not specified in the UK standard. The KC standard calls for a level topline and straight hindquarters without the slight rear angulation found in American lines.[12][13] The eyes of the European type are noted for their roundness and darkness as contrasted with the triangular or slanted composition of their American counterparts. A Golden Retriever of British breeding can have a coat colour of any shade of gold or cream; however, red or mahogany are not permissible colours. Originally cream was not an acceptable colour in the UK standard; however, by 1936 the standard was revised to include cream. It was felt this exclusion was a mistake as the original “yellow” retrievers of the 19th century were lighter in colour than the then current standard permitted. As with American lines, white is an unacceptable colour in the show ring.[14] The British KC standard is used in all countries with the exceptions of the USA and Canada.[13] Some breeders of this type in America may import their dogs to improve the temperament and health noted in those bloodlines . Golden Retrievers have a muscular body with great endurance built for hunting.

American type

American Golden Retriever

An American Golden is lankier and less stocky than a British Type. A male should stand 22–24 inches (56–61 cm) in height at the shoulders, and females should be 20–22 inches (51–56 cm).[15] The coat is dense and water repellent, in various shades of lustrous gold, with moderate feathering. The gait should be free, smooth, powerful, and well-coordinated.[16]

Canadian type

As with American Golden Retrievers, Canadians are often taller and leaner than their British counterparts. However, Canadian retrievers differ in the density and colour of their coats, which are commonly thinner and darker than those of Americans.

Coat and colour

Golden Retrievers vary widely in colour.

As indicated by their name, their coat comes in light golden colours to dark golden colours. They have two different types of hair on their coat. The topcoat is water-resistant and slightly wavy. It sheds in small amounts throughout the year. The undercoat is soft and keeps the retriever cool in summer and warm in winter. The undercoat sheds in the spring and fall.[17] It usually lies flat against the belly. Golden Retrievers have mild feathering on the back of their forelegs and heaver feathering on the front of their neck, back of their thighs and the bottom of their tails.[2] The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard states that the coat is a “rich, lustrous golden of various shades”, disallowing coats that are extremely light or extremely dark. This leaves the outer ranges of coat colour up to a judge’s discretion when competing in conformation shows. Therefore, “pure white” and “red” are unacceptable colours like black .[14] The Kennel Club (UK) also permits cream as an acceptable coat colour.[12] Judges may also disallow Goldens with pink noses, or those lacking pigment. The Golden’s coat can also be of a mahogany colour, referred to as “redheads”, although this is not accepted in the British show ring.[12] As a Golden grows older, its coat can become darker or lighter, along with a noticeable whitening of the fur on and around the muzzle. Puppy coats are usually much lighter than their adult coats, but a puppy with a darker colouration at the tips of the ears may indicate a darker adult colour. A golden’s coat should never be too long, as this may prove to be a disservice to them in the field, especially when retrieving game.[16]


Golden Retriever swimming

The temperament of the Golden Retriever is a hallmark of the breed and is described in the standard as “kindly, friendly and confident”.[12] Golden Retrievers are great family pets and get along great with children.[2] They are not “one man dogs” and are generally equally amiable with both strangers and those familiar to them.[8] Their trusting, gentle disposition makes them a poor guard dog.[18] Any form of unprovoked aggression or hostility towards either people, dogs or other animals, whether in the show ring or community, is completely unacceptable in a Golden Retriever and is not in keeping with the character of the breed. As such is considered a serious fault. Nor should a Golden Retriever be unduly timid or nervous.[8][16] The typical Golden Retriever is calm, naturally intelligent and biddable, with an exceptional eagerness to please.

Most Goldens are high energy and need plenty of exercise, such as dog agility.

A Golden Retriever puppy jumps to catch a treat.

Golden Retrievers are also noted for their intelligence, it ranks fourth in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs following the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd Dog, being one of the brightest dogs ranked by obedience command trainability. These dogs are also renowned for their patience with children.

By the time they reach maturity however, Goldens will have become active and fun-loving animals with the exceptionally patient demeanour befitting a dog bred to sit quietly for hours in a hunting blind. Adult Golden Retrievers love to work, and have a keen ability to focus on a given task. They will seemingly work until they collapse, so care should be taken to avoid overworking them.

Other characteristics related to their hunting heritage are a size suited for scrambling in and out of boats and an inordinate love for water. Golden Retrievers are exceptionally trainable—due to their intelligence, athleticism and desire to please their handlers—and generally excel in obedience trials. They are also very competitive in agility and other performance events. Harsh training methods are unnecessary as Golden Retrievers often respond very well to positive and upbeat training styles.[19]

Golden Retrievers are compatible with children and adults and are good with other dogs, cats and most livestock. Golden Retrievers are particularly valued for their high level of sociability towards people, calmness, and willingness to learn. Because of this, they are commonly used as guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and search and rescue dogs. friendly and tend to learn tricks easily.

They are also known to become excellent surrogate mothers to different species.[citation needed] Kittens and even tiger cubs from zoos are well taken care of by golden retrievers. In some cases, a retriever may produce milk for her adopted even though she may not have been pregnant or nursing recently.[citation needed]


The average life span for a Golden Retriever is 11 to 11½ years.[20][21] Golden Retrievers are susceptible to specific ailments. A responsible breeder will proactively minimize the risk of illness by having the health of dogs in breeding pairs professionally assessed and selected on the basis of complementary traits. They should be taken to the vet for yearly checkups.

Golden retrievers are known to have genetic disorders and other diseases. Hip dysplasia is common in the breed; when buying a puppy, the pedigree should be known and be examined by the OFA or by PennHIP for hip disease. Obesity is also common in the breed because Golden Retrievers love to eat. Puppies should eat about 3 cups of food a day and adults 3-5 cups. This depends on the food and how active the dog is.[17]

Common diseases

A Golden Retriever at 12 years old with hip problems

  • Cancer, the most common being hemangiosarcoma, followed by lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumour, and osteosarcoma. Cancer was the cause of death for 61.4% of American Goldens according to a 1998 health study conducted by the Golden Retriever Club of America, making it the breed’s biggest killer.[20] A 2004 survey by the UK Kennel Club puts this number at 38.8%.[21]
  • Obesity
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia afflicting 19.8% of dogs [22][23]
  • Eye diseases, including cataracts[22] (the most common eye disease in Goldens), progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, distichiasis,[24] entropion,[24] corneal dystrophy[24] and retinal dysplasia[24]
  • Heart disease, especially subvalvular aortic stenosis[22] and cardiomyopathy
  • Joint diseases, including patella luxation, osteochondritis, panosteitis, and cruciate ligament rupture
  • Skin diseases, with allergies (often leading to acute moist dermatitis or “hot spots”), particularly flea allergies, being most common.[20] Others include seborrhoea, sebaceous adenitis, and lick granuloma.
  • Haemophilia[25]
  • Lyme Disease is unseen until the late stages of kidney failure in the breed.[clarification needed]


Golden Retrievers require regular grooming and the occasional bath.[26] They should be groomed at least once a week, and every day during heavy shedding. They should be bathed every two months. Their coats shed somewhat during the year, but are known to shed profusely twice a year. They also need to have their ears cleaned regularly, or ear infections might occur. While shedding is unavoidable with Golden Retrievers, frequent grooming (daily to weekly) lessens the amount of hair shed by the animal. Severe shedding resulting in bald patches can be indicative of stress or sickness in a Golden Retriever.


A Golden Retriever dock jumping

The Golden Retriever’s eagerness to please has made them consistent, top performers in the obedience and agility rings.Furthermore, their excellent swimming ability allowed them to be considered great at dock jumping. Their natural retrieving ability also sees them excel in flyball and field trials.[7]

The first three dogs ever to achieve the AKC Obedience Champion title were Golden Retrievers; the first of the three was a female named Ch. Moreland’s Golden Tonka.[27]

Since Golden Retrievers are so trainable, they are used for many important jobs such as : being a guide dog for people who are blind, sniffing out drugs or bombs at an airport or helping to rescuing people from earthquakes, and other types of natural disasters.[17] This breed is also used in water rescue/lifesaving. It continues in that role today, along with the Leonberger, Newfoundland and Labrador Retriever dogs; they are used at the Italian School of Canine Lifeguard.[28]

In popular culture

Golden Retrievers are considered as one of the most friendly, domestic and popular dogs. In fact, they are ranked as the fourth most popular family dog breed in the United States. The Golden Retriever is very recognizable, probably due to its popularity and somewhat frequent appearances in popular culture. Indeed, they appear in several movies, series, commercials, books, and songs.[29]

Golden Retrievers are also famous among celebrities: Pamela Anderson, Nick Carter, Jackie Chan, Tom Cruise and Tommy Lee, among many others, are known to own one or more Golden Retrievers. They are not only owned by celebrities, but they also play a very important role in modern families.[30]

Golden Retrievers are also considered celebrities themselves in the Western culture. They appear in many American television series, including Punky Brewster and Sam.[30]

Golden Retrievers are really involved in commercials like the worldwide 2012 Super Bowl commercial. Not only were the Golden Retrievers involved in the Super Bowl commercials such as VolksWagen and Bud Light, but also appeared in the half time shows of every game.

Country of origin Scotland
Weight Male average 65-75 lbs (29-34 kg)
Female average 60-70 lbs (27-32 kg)
Height Male 23-24 in (58-61 cm)
Female 21 1/2-22 1/2 in (55-57 cm)
Coat straight or moderately wavy
Color any shades of gold or cream
Life span average 10-12 years

Notable dogs

Liberty, the presidential pet of President Gerald R. Ford, was a Golden Retriever.[32] The breed has also featured in a number of films and TV series, including: Air Bud and Air Bud: Golden Receiver, Full House, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, Fluke, Napoleon, Up, Pushing Daisies, and The Drew Carey Show. Cash from “The Fox and the Hound 2” was also a mix of this breed, as was Whopper from Pound Puppies.


You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Leave a Reply