Golden Retriever: A Popular Family Dog

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Golden Retriever Smiling (Caption: Golden Retriever Guide)The golden retriever is known for being one of the most popular family dog breeds, but just what is it that makes this breed so high in demand? Below we will take a look at what distinguishes the golden retriever from other popular dog breeds including their intelligence level and trainability. Read on to find out more about this lovable dog including the history, facts and what it takes to have one in your household.

Article Overview

History Of The Golden Retriever

The origin of the golden retriever begins in the 1800’s when it was developed by Lord Tweedmouth. In the Scottish Highlands, Lord Tweedmouth crossed a yellow flat coated retriever with the Tweed water spaniel. The Tweed water spaniel is now extinct but it played a significant role in contributing to the golden retriever breed.

The dog that resulted from the retriever spaniel cross breeding was then crossed with the bloodhound and Irish setter and later with the Tweed water spaniel once more. The resulting dog was the golden retriever however, at the time of its development it was referred to as the golden flat coat. This well-loved breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club for the first time in 1925.

The golden retriever is currently recognized by the following organizations: CKC, FCI, AKC, UKC, KCGB, CKC, ANKC, NKC, NZKC, APRI, ACR, DRA and NAPR.

British Versus American Golden Retrievers

There are two varieties of golden retriever that are generally recognized, this is the same as with Labrador retrievers. These two variations are distinguished by physical appearance alone.

British (Or English) Type Golden Retriever

British Type Golden Retriever laying in grassThe British or English Cream golden retriever is most commonly found in Australia and Europe. As with Labrador retrievers, the muzzle of the British type golden retriever is shorter and wider and it has a blockier build. The legs and tail of the British type are shorter and the chest is deeper than the American type golden retriever. British type goldens are generally heavier dogs and have rounder eyes as opposed to triangular-shaped eyes.

American Type Golden Retriever

American Type Golden Retriever in grassThe American type golden retriever is not as blocky in build as the British type golden retriever and often appears lankier. The skull is more slender rather than the wide skull of the British type and the legs and tail are longer.

Some individuals also distinguish between the American and Canadian golden retrievers; however, most combine Canadians with the Americans as one group. The Canadian golden retrievers, when they are distinguished, are done so by the different density of their coat and their darker color. Canadian goldens are also considered to be thinner than the Americans.

Basic Appearance

The golden retriever stands between 20 and 24 inches tall. Females are generally smaller than males standing between 20 and 22 inches where males stand between 22 and 24 inches tall. Female golden retrievers are also commonly lighter than males weighing between 55 and 65 pounds whereas males weigh between 65 and 75 pounds.

Golden Retriever sitting

The golden retriever is a medium-sized breed with a black to brown-black colored nose and a scissor bite. The eyes of this breed are a deep brown and relatively large in size to the skull. The ears of this breed hang low and close to the face. Another recognizable feature to this breed is the thick and feathered tail. Feathering can also be seen on the back of the legs, the underneath of the belly and the front of the neck.


The golden retriever is always golden in color but the shades of gold vary from light cream to deep gold. As the dog ages it is not unusual for it to lighten in color becoming almost white around the eyes and muzzle as well as the feet and underbelly. The double coat of this breed is water-resistant and thick. The under coat is designed to repel water from the skin and help hold in body heat even when it is quite cold. The golden retriever’s coat tends to shed year round but most particularly in the spring. A healthy coat can be maintained with regular grooming. The coat should be both combed and brushed with a brush that has firm bristles. It is important as with other retrievers, to minimize bathing to avoid stripping the coat of oils necessary to maintain skin health. Dry shampoo can be used on the dogs coat as needed. Due to the average level of shedding this is not a dog that should be considered by anyone with allergies in their household.


Unfortunately for the golden retriever breed, it is prone to a number of health conditions. A considerable number of these health conditions result from over-breeding by irresponsible breeders. Some of the most common health conditions that are seen in golden retrievers include: cancer (particularly mast cell tumors), hip dysplasia, heart conditions, skin allergies, Von Willebrand’s disease, congenital eye defects and obesity. Many of these conditions lead to a shortened lifespan so it is important to understand the impact of not researching a dog’s genetic lines. The average life expectancy of this breed is between 10 to 12 years.

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Girl with golden retriever in water with stickThe golden retriever is an intelligent breed; in fact it ranks high on the list of top ten most intelligent breeds according to obedience trial judges. If it is provided with training and enough exercise, this is a devoted and gentle dog that is patient with family members, children and other animals. This breed is self-assured when raised by a healthy household and when provided with consistent leadership, socialization and obedience training.

As with most retrievers, the golden retriever is a dog that takes pleasure in pleasing its owner which can make obedience training a fun experience for both the dog and owner. The golden retriever is a sociable breed and will never become a healthy dog if not allowed constant contact and companionship from its pack members – this is not an “outside dog” breed. This is not a breed that excels in guarding or other protective work like schutzhund. Despite not being good at guarding, this is a breed that will sound the alarm if strangers approach the family or the family home.

Without proper training this is a breed that can quickly and easily become destructive or “neurotic.” It is necessary to consider the amount of both physical and psychological stimulus that this breed requires to be healthy and happy prior to deciding whether this breed is right for you.

Sporting Breed

The golden retriever is recognized by the American Kennel Club as a sporting breed. Most popularly this retriever is used as a gun dog but it also excels in other activities including: tracking, hunting, narcotics detection, competitive obedience, agility work and any activity that involves swimming. Another important and frequent use for the golden retriever is as a service dog in all aspects of the service industry including guide dogs for the blind and therapy dog work.

The golden retriever is a dog with such a strong work ethic that it will work until it literally collapses. It is important for the dog’s human handler to monitor their dog’s activity and any signs of fatigue as this breed is not one to stop in the middle of a job even if it is tired. Overheating may also become a concern for the golden retriever that over exerts itself on the job so it is important to look for signs of dehydration and overheating as well as fatigue.

Exercise Requirements

Golden retriever fetching tennis ballDue to the nature of the golden retriever as a sporting breed it is important that their daily exercise requirements are met. This is not a dog that is going to be satisfied with just a short walk daily. This dog needs at a minimum a long walk or a run daily to expend pent-up energy. As retrievers, this is also a breed that will thrive on retrieval games such as fetch. It is important to make sure that during exercise this dog is made to heel (with the exception of fetch) so that the dog understands that it is not the leader of the pack. Like any dog, it is important that the golden retriever never doubt the human pack leader’s position of leadership.

The golden retriever can live happily in an apartment but only when it receives an adequate amount of exercise outside of the home.

The biggest consideration when deciding to add a golden retriever to your family is the amount of exercise this breed needs to stay healthy. Adequate exercise is not only important to maintain physical health, but it is also crucial to maintain a healthy psychological state. If you are rarely home then the golden retriever is not a breed that you should consider without being able to provide doggy daycare type activities where the dog can socialize and exercise. If you are an inactive family unwilling to take long daily walks and unable to afford someone to conduct this service for you, then a golden retriever is not for you. This dog is not a couch potato.


In a list of the top ten dog breeds ranked by trainability, the golden retriever ranks fourth according to neuropsychologist Stanley Coren. These dogs were ranked in accordance with their ability to obey commands that have been repeated less than five times with a 95% success rate. There are numerous factors that come together to make a dog an intelligent breed and for the golden retriever one of these factors is its desire to please its owner.

Training a golden retriever is often fairly easy because of their intelligence level; however, it is crucial to begin training at an early age. The sooner training begins for any dog; the more solid of a foundation is built for the dog for future more advanced training.

Video: Golden Retriever 101

This five-minute video from Animal Planet gets into the basics of golden retrievers and what you can expect from this lovable family pet.

Is This Breed Right For You?

Deciding which dog breed is right for you is a decision that should not be taken lightly. There are many things that should be taken in to consideration when deciding if this is the right breed for your lifestyle and your family.

If you are looking for a dog that is allergy or asthma friendly then the golden retriever is not your best choice. While no dogs are truly hypoallergenic, there are some breeds that are less likely to cause allergic reactions in family members – the golden retriever is not this type of dog. And if you are a loner who doesn’t like people to depend on you then you are not going to mesh well with the golden retriever. This is not a loner’s dog; it requires companionship and attention from its family and will not thrive in a family where it is neglected.

However if you don’t have allergies and love company and taking care of others then this might be the perfect addition to your family!

Why do you love golden retrievers?

About The Author:

Sadie graduated from the Moody School of Communications at the University of Texas at Austin with a Bachelors in Advertising and minor in Business. Her love of pets started from an early age with her childhood cocker spaniel, Peanut, and two cats. She is currently dog mom to Lexie, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

As a professional dog sitter for more than a decade, Sadie has cared for dozens of canines of various breeds, sizes and temperaments. The responsibility of caring for others' pets has helped her understand the importance of giving animals a loving home. She has experience potty and house training as well as teaching dogs tricks such as sit and shake. Sadie is passionate about canine well-being so she feeds her pup all-natural meals and no table scraps.

Sadie and her husband live in Washington DC and enjoy walking Lexie to nearby dog parks or patios and taking her canine companion on trips. Having an adventurous, long-haired Blenheim means frequent baths and home grooming to maintain a clean coat. A small dog also requires more frequent dental care and Sadie is proactive with Lexie's oral hygiene.

She has been covering dog-related topics since 2012 and is proud to share her latest personal experience, resources and information with fellow pet parents. Her expertise has appeared in many notable media outlets, including The New York Times' Wirecutter, Forbes, People, Reader's Digest, Apartment Therapy, and other regional news organizations.

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Alicia P
December 25, 2019 4:59 pm

Having wanted a “golden” all my life, finally my 1st in ’97, Duchess. Kept her daughter Sadee, then Saddee’s daughter in ’05, Chloee. 3 generations, Loved my “girls!” But of course they’re gone so now we have out 4th Stellaa! This is the best breed, theyre natural lovers! I have severe allergies but I don’t care, Love my girls! This is a WONDERFUL video, especially for those w/small children looking for a terrific fur family addition!

December 1, 2019 3:13 am

Love the article! Thru the years I’ve had many breeds, but no breed compares to Golden retrievers. I’ve had asthma all my life and own 3 golden retrievers…❤❤❤

May 9, 2016 1:14 pm

Though we are clearly biased, we absolutely adore the Golden Retriever! The absolute perfect fit for our family!

Gabski Web
February 9, 2016 10:55 pm

What a great article! Loved reading this. We are huge fans of the golden retriever and take any chance to promote this beautiful dog.

Sadie Cornelius
February 17, 2016 10:29 am
Reply to  Gabski Web

@gabskiweb:disqus so glad you enjoyed the article and we appreciate you stopping by to share your love of the Golden Retriever!