Golden Retriever

The golden retriever is one of the most popular breeds in America, and with good reason. A lovable and loving dog with a beautiful golden coat, this dog is a perfect match for many families around the world. Their intelligence and devotion to their families make them extremely trainable as a house pet or competition companion. Read on to learn more about the golden retriever.

Description of the Golden Retriever

A large dog with a silky coat that ranges from ivory to reddish, the golden retriever is instantly recognizable. His floppy ears and soft eyes frame a dark nose. This breed was originally bred to help duck hunters bring ducks back to the boat. To this day, these dogs are generally friendly with strangers and even-tempered with change. They tend to love water and fetch, qualities that come together to make them into the quintessential American dog.

The breed was originally developed in Scotland as a hunting retriever, in the mid 1800s. They quickly exploded in popularity thanks to their balance between friendly pet and useful hunting companion. Currently, the breed is more often bred as a companion pet than hunting thanks to their sweet temperament. This temperament is also what makes them popular for use as service dogs. The golden retriever is one of the best dog breeds for growing families thanks to their sweet nature.

Life Expectancy and Size

The health of this breed has deteriorated slightly during its rise in popularity. Inbreeding and irresponsible breeders have contributed to a steep rise in cancer rates and hip dysplasia for this breed. These popular family dogs generally only live 10 to 12 years.

The golden retriever stands just about two feet tall, and weighs between 55 and 75 pounds, with the males larger than the females.

Protective Ability

It’s often said that the golden retriever is more likely to bring an intruder his ball and show him to the jewelry, than to protect your home. Their love of their owners does not translate to protective ability in general. Given that this dog was originally bred to share a small boat with strangers, this intense friendliness is not surprising.

Golden retrievers that growl around other dogs or their food bowls are generally undersocialized or undertrained, rather than protective. This trait is uncommon and undesirable in the breed, and warrants a call to a behavior consultant.


The golden retriever is one of the most trainable dog breeds around. The drive to learn and be near humans makes this dog extremely trainable. They respond well to clicker training and other reward-based training methods.

Their love of food and toys makes them ideal as guide dogs, search and rescue dogs, and competitors in dog sports. They excel at obedience, agility, tracking, and more.

Many fetch-obsessed goldens will enjoy training in exchange for a round of play. Their bright minds should be fed with training – this breed is a lifelong learner that will continue learning new tricks well into their golden years.

Energy Level

Despite being a fantastic family dog, the golden retriever is not a piece of furniture. They require regular mental and physical exercise to keep them happy. Without jogs, hikes, training, or other exercise, this breed will quickly resort to destructive and hyperactive ways.

Goldens tend to play using their mouths. Exercise using toys like flirt poles gives them an appropriate outlet for this urge. A mix of mental and physical exercise every day will keep this dog a happy companion for many homes.

What Living with a Golden Retriever is Like

While the golden retriever is a perfect dog for many homes, they require regular exercise. Families that are gone for 8-10 hours per day (or more) might not be well-suited to living with this active and intelligent breed.

As puppies, goldens can be very mouthy, and often steal socks or other objects. They have prolonged adolescence, frustrating owners who are unprepared for having rebellious teenage dogs for almost three years. Responsible owners will take their dogs out several times per day, and for at least one long excursion per week.

Do not expect to just skate by as a golden retriever owner – these dogs need to be paid for good behavior using treats or toys, or they will find other ways to get what they want! Once well-trained, the golden retriever is nearly unrivaled in his friendliness and love of family.

Care of the Golden Retriever

The popularity of this breed can be attributed to their relatively low care. The golden retriever is a relatively easy dog breed to own once their exercise needs are taken care of.

Environmental Needs

Like all breeds, the golden retriever should not be left in extreme heat or cold. They should not be exercised in extreme heat unless they’re playing in the water – which many goldens love.

Exercise Needs

As a hunting dog, the golden retriever needs regular outdoor exercise. He enjoys running, chasing, retrieving, swimming, and using his nose. These dogs often love playing with children and other dogs, though that is often not enough on its own. They should get at least an hour of structured mental and physical exercise per day.

While some golden retrievers would happily play fetch until they drop, these ball maniacs should be taught to play other games and exercise in other ways. The full-on sprinting of fetch and single-minded obsession is potentially harmful to their bodies and minds. Balance out fetch with puzzle toys, training games, and long walks as much as possible.

Shedding and Grooming

The long, silky coat of this dog is thick and water-repellant. The “pet line” of this breed tends to be very fluffy, leading to increased grooming needs. The “hunting line” of this breed tends to have less thick fur. Either way, this breed sheds intensely once or twice per year.

They benefit from regular (at least weekly) brushing to deal with the year-round moderate shedding. A slicker brush can help remove the fur from a golden’s coat before it works its way into your home.

Ideal Home Environment

This adaptable dog is extremely popular for a reason. They can succeed in homes with young children, young couples, or older owners. Their large size makes them a bit difficult to manage for extremely young or old owners. Keep this in mind, even if you’ve had a golden retriever at another stage of your life.

While they are quite adaptable to urban and suburban life, the golden retriever requires at least an hour of playtime, exercise, or training per day, and does not do well if left alone for the majority of his time. “Sport lines” and “hunting lines” may require more mental and physical exercise than “pet lines” in this breed.

Speak to your breeder or rescue to ensure that you are matched with a puppy or adult that is well-suited to your home and life. There is a wide range of personalities within this breed, depending on what the breeder has in mind.

Health Concerns

Unfortunately, cancer is a common concern for this breed. This is a difficult problem for breeders to screen for, but ask your breeder about cancer in their past dogs. They should have a good idea of what their past dogs have died from, and at what age. Good golden retriever breeders will also screen for hip and elbow dysplasia, heart issues, and eye issues.

Behavior Problems

The golden retriever is touted as one of the friendliest and most easy-going dog breeds in existence for good reason. That said, some golden retriever lines show a high incidence of “resource guarding,” where the dogs growl, snarl, snap, or bite around food and toys. Speak to a behavior consultant if you notice your golden retriever displaying these behaviors.

Some dogs become so excited to see other people and dogs that they bark or lunge at them. This problem is more common in urban and suburban areas. This behavior is called “leash reactivity” and can be frustrating to live with or resolve. Speak to a trainer or behavior consultant for help, and be sure to ask about reward-based training rather than resorting to punitive training tactics.

Finally, an under-exercised and bored golden retriever can be a very naughty dog. They can be quite destructive or anxious if uncared for.