Golden Retriever Breed Guide

Breed Group:
Sporting Dogs

Middle Age: 5 years

Geriatric Age: 10 years

Life Span: 10 to 12 years

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Golden Retriever History & Background

In Scotland during the 1800s, game was plentiful. Hunting was not just a way to get food anymore; it was a sport. Sir Dudley Courts Marjoribanks, a Scottish Lord, purchased the only yellow retriever in a litter of black retrievers and started training the dog for hunting.

At the time, yellow retrievers were not well-known, while black retrievers were extremely popular. Sir Dudley ended up purchasing more yellow retrievers and breeding them in an attempt to create the perfect hunting dog. He wanted an obedient dog who could quickly grab waterfowl for him and one that could also be a well-tempered family dog.

He bred his yellow retrievers with Tweed Water Spaniels, who were exceptional hunting dogs and good with the family. He also used wavy-coated retrievers, flat-coated retrievers, and red setters. His perfected breed gained a lot of attention in the hunting world and soon became a highly popular breed. In 1911, the Kennel Club in England recognized them as an official breed, and in 1920 they switched the name from Retriever, Golden or Yellow, to Golden Retriever.

Golden Retriever Temperament & Personality

Golden Retrievers are obedient, playful, and intelligent. In addition, they have a well-mannered temperament, making them great family pets. They are extremely active and are always happy to go on a walk. This breed tends to mature slowly and maintains a silly puppy personality for many years after they’re grown.

Plan on bringing your Golden Retriever with you on family vacations, as they become sad when they are not with their people. Goldens always appear to be smiling, and you can often catch them wagging their tail in happiness. Don’t expect them to be good watchdogs, as they usually greet everyone who walks through the door. They may bark occasionally, but it’s with a friendly tone, not a protective one.

Keep in mind, Golden Retrievers love to chew. Always have chew toys stocked, as they may end up chewing up your furniture if they don’t have a toy to play with.

Are Golden Retrievers easy to Train?

Thanks to Golden Retriever characteristics like obedience and intelligence, Golden Retrievers are easy to train and are often the top of their class in training school. Golden Retrievers are people pleasers and would do anything for some praise and a good snack. The only time you’ll run into a problem with training Golden Retrievers is with leash training. Start the leash training at a young age to prevent any leash pulling behavior, which can result in a variety of neck and spine issues.

Exercise Requirements for Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers require a lot of exercise and should be walked at least once a day. They are happy to partake in any outdoor activity, from hikes to swimming to playing fetch. They love the outdoors and running around with other dogs. Giving them proper exercise is crucial to prevent bad Golden Retriever behavior and keep them in good health. A bored Golden Retriever tends to get destructive and will chew on household items.

The Lifespan of a Golden Retriever

Due to their large size, Golden Retrievers tend to live between 10-12 years.

Golden Retriever Popularity

The Golden Retrievers’ kind and obedient personality make them an extremely popular dog. In 2016, the American Kennel Club ranked the Golden Retriever as the 4th most popular dog in the United States.

How Much Should You Feed Your Golden Retriever?

It is recommended you feed your Golden Retriever 2-3 cups of high-quality food, split into two meals. It’s essential to watch your Golden Retriever’s weight to make a decision on how much to feed him. This is especially important for Golden Retrievers as they are susceptible to health problems like obesity.

Golden Retriever Grooming Suggestions

The Golden’s long, beautiful coat comes at a price. It requires lots of brushing to maintain it’s condition. You should brush your Golden Retriever’s coat at least once a week, however, once a day is optimal. You should bathe your Golden at least once a month. Depending on how dirty he gets on hikes, you may have to bathe him more frequently.

For optimal Golden Retriever health, check your Golden Retriever’s nails once a month. Goldens tend to file down their nails when they exercise, but sometimes they do need a nail trim. Brushing their teeth 2-3 times a week will help prevent dental health issues by decreasing the buildup of tartar and bacteria.

Are Golden Retrievers Good With Kids?

The loving and friendly nature of the Golden Retriever make them great with kids. Keep in mind, they were bred to be obedient and well-tempered. They are often thought of as family pets and do well with other animals as well. Goldens are known to be friendly with everyone and love to meet new friends, especially smaller companions.

Common Golden Retriever Health Problems

  • Cataracts: As with humans, Golden Retrievers can develop cataracts. Golden Retriever cataracts are eye problems recognizable by the cloudy spots that cover the eye. Most of the time, cataracts in Golden Retrievers aren’t a huge problem. However, sometimes cataracts can result in severe vision loss. Cataracts can usually be removed successfully with surgical procedures.
  • Ear Infections: The big, floppy ears of the Golden Retriever can cause moisture to build up, resulting in an ear infection. This is especially true for Goldens that love to swim. Once a week, check your dog’s ears for a bad smell or redness. After swimming, clean your Golden’s ears with a cotton ball and ear cleaning fluid. Do not put anything in your dog’s ear canal as it can leave a negative impression on them and make cleaning their ears a much more challenging process.
  • Elbow Dysplasia: Elbow dysplasia is an inherited disease that is often found in large dogs. Elbow dysplasia in Golden Retrievers occurs when the three bones that make up the elbow grow at different rates. Some surgery may be necessary to fix Golden Retriever Elbow dysplasia or medication may be prescribed to deal with the pain.
  • Epilepsy: Unfortunately, Golden Retrievers are prone to epilepsy. Take your dog to the vet if he shows sign of a seizure, such as paddling the legs, loss of consciousness, and uncontrollable shaking. You don’t have to take your dog to the vet immediately unless their seizure lasts more than five minutes or they has multiple in a row. When you bring your dog to the vet, you will be able to find the cause of their seizure.
  • Gastric Dilatation-Volvulus (GDV): This condition affects many large breeds and can cause death. If Goldens eat too much, eat then exercise, or drink too much water after drinking too much food, gas or air can get stuck in their stomach. The stomach then twists. They cannot belch or vomit, and their normal blood flow to the heart is cut off. Once blood pressure drops, they can go into shock. Take your dog to the vet immediately if they are drooling excessively, retching without vomiting, or has a distended abdomen as these are all signs of GDV. You can prevent GDV by splitting up your dog’s food into small meals, making sure he doesn’t drink an excessive amount of water after eating and not giving him exercise after eating.
  • Heart Disease: Some sort of heart disease affects 15% of the breed. It is imperative to take your Golden Retriever to the vet to check for any sign of heart disease.
  • Hip Dysplasia: Golden Retriever hip dysplasia is an inherited disease where the hip doesn’t properly fit into the hip joint which leads to arthritis. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred, so ask for veterinary tests of the parents of your potential puppy to ensure neither of them has hip dysplasia.
  • Hypothyroidism: Hypothyroidism is a disease that affects the thyroid gland. It can cause epilepsy, hair loss, obesity, lethargy. Hypothyroidism can also result in Golden Retriever skin problems such as dark patches on the skin. Hypothyroidism can be managed with a change of diet and medication.
  • Lyme Disease: Lyme disease is transmitted by deer ticks after they have been latched onto a dog for 2-3 days. Because Golden Retrievers love exercising outdoors, they often get ticks. It is crucial to check your Golden Retriever for any ticks after playing outdoors.
  • Osteosarcoma: Osteosarcoma is a malignant bone cancer that often affects large breeds, like the Golden Retriever.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Progressive Retinal Atrophy is the gradual deterioration of the retina. PRA starts with your dog becoming night blind, then slowly loses vision during the day as well. Golden Retrievers tend to adapt to loss of vision quite well as long as their surroundings don’t change.
  • Separation Anxiety: Because Golden Retrievers love their families so much, anxiety in Golden Retrievers is common. If your Golden endlessly whines and barks when you leave and you come home to a destroyed couch, they probably have separation anxiety. There are exercises you can do to lessen Golden Retriever anxiety, but it will take patience and love.
  • Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis: This is a heart condition where there is a narrow connection between the left ventricle and the aorta, resulting in fainting and sometimes sudden death. Have your vet run a test to see if your Golden suffers from this condition.
  • von Willebrand’s Disease: Von Willebrand’s Disease is a blood clotting disorder found in humans and dogs. Signs your Golden Retriever may be suffering from this disorder includes bloody noses, bleeding gums, and prolonged bleeding after surgery. Golden Retrievers are also known to suffer from obesity, osteochondrosis, and panosteitis.

Other Resources:

National Breed Website: Golden Retriever Club of America

Golden Retriever Rescues: The Golden Retriever Club of America National Rescue Committee