Not surprisingly, the Golden Retriever is an incredibly popular and easily recognized breed.
People are quickly attracted to their handsome appearance, their intelligence, their reputation for being good with children and other animals, and their wonderful personalities. Because Golden Retrievers are known for making great pets, the decision to buy one is often easy to make.
But is a Golden Retriever truly the right breed for you? Are you and your family the right people for a Golden Retriever? Before making the decision to add a Golden Retriever to your family, there are several factors that you need to consider.
Breed Function: Companion, Retrieving, Assistance, Obedience Competition, Retriever Field Trials
Also known as: Yellow Retriever
Life span: 10 to 13 years
Average Size: 23 to 24 inches (males) and 21.5 to 22.5 inches (females)
Average Weight: 65 to 75 pounds (males) 55 to 65 pounds (females)
Common Health Issues:
- Gastric torsion
- Hip dysplasia
- Elbow dysplasia
- Osteochondritis dissecans
- Sub-aortic stenosis
- Portosystemic shunts
Golden Retriever Breed Origin
Golden Retrievers originated in Glen Affric, Scotland during the mid-19th century. The 1st Baron Tweedmouth, Dudley Marjoribanks, is credited for the development of this retrieving breed. He had the idea of developing a breed that could retrieve game from both water and land, which was more vigorous and powerful than the previous retrievers. He also wanted the breed to docile and easy to train.
For many years, it was said that Golden Retrievers descended directly from Russian tracker sheepdogs that Marjoribanks brought to Scotland from a circus. However, in 1952, the publication of Marjoribanks’ breeding records from 1835 to 1890 showed that Golden Retrievers were the result of a careful breeding program that included the Irish Setter, the sandy-colored Bloodhound, the St. John’s water dog of Newfoundland, and probably, other retrievers. The original cross consisted of a yellow-colored retriever, called Nous, with a Tweed Water Spaniel female dog, known as Belle. This cross produced a litter of four puppies from which the breed originated.
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 referred to as Golden or Yellow Retrievers.
Marjoribanks brought a Golden Retriever to Canada in 1881 and registered her as ‘Lady’ with the AKC in 1894. The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927. In the United States, Golden Retrievers were first recognized by the AKC in 1925 and the Golden Retriever Club of America was founded in 1938.
Golden Retriever Physical Characteristics
The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the US and around the world because of its friendly personality and calm temperament. These are fairly large dogs, often weighing as much as 75 pounds (34 kg), with a longish coat that requires frequent brushing.
Retrievers love to interact with people, physically and vocally, and their natural instincts make them great guide and service dogs. The average lifespan of the Golden Retriever is between 11 and 12 years old.
- Size. Males measure 23 to 24 inches in height at the withers, and females measure 21.5 to 22.5 inches. The appropriate weight for dogs is 65 to 75 pounds and 55 to 65 pounds for bitches.
- Hair Coat. The coat of a Golden Retriever should be Dense and water-repellent with good undercoat. It may be straight or wavy and the color should be rich, lustrous golden of various shades.
- Head. The skull of a Golden Retriever should be slightly arched laterally and longitudinally without prominence of the forehead. The foreface should be deep and wide, nearly as long as the skull. The AKC states that the muzzle should be straight in profile, blending smooth and strongly into the skull.
- Eyes. Golden Retrievers have friendly eyes that reflect an intelligent expression. They should be medium to large in size and have dark, close-fitting rims. The eye color should be dark or medium brown.
- Ears. Golden Retrievers have short ears with front edge attached well behind and just above the eye and falling close to cheek.
- Nose. The nose of a Golden Retriever should be black or brownish black.
- Neck. They have a medium to long neck, merging gradually into well laid back shoulders, giving a sturdy, muscular appearance.
- Legs. Golden Retrievers have muscular, well-coordinated legs that are capable of free movement.
To read more about the Golden Retriever’s breed standard, download the Official Standard of the Golden Retriever by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
Golden Retriever Common Health Concerns
Due to hereditary health problems which are passed down from one generation to another, it’s recommended that Golden Retrievers receive annual vet checkups. These dogs are also prone to various kinds of canine cancers and a number of congenital (birth-related) illnesses are also associated with the breed.
Ultimately, pet insurance is an individual decision and you should never enroll in coverage until you understand which health problems your dog faces and how much it costs to treat them.
- Cancer. Golden Retrievers can suffer from many of the same types of cancers that humans get. Dogs are the only non-human species susceptible to prostate cancer, and dogs are also at risk for bladder cancer, lung cancer, lymphoma, mammary carcinoma, skin cancer, bone cancer, testicular cancer, brain and mast cell tumors, and hemangiosarcoma. Most of the dogs who suffer from cancer need any of chemotherapy, radiation therapy and/or surgery depending on the cancer’s type and severity.
- Hip Dysplasia. Canine hip dysplasia is an inherited issue that stems from an abnormal looseness in the ball and socket joint of the dog’s hip. When the femoral head doesn’t fit snugly into the socket or acetabulum, the components rub irregularly on each other and can eventually cause a deformation of the bone, resulting in pain and arthritis. Large dog breeds, including Golden Retrievers, are typically more prone to the condition than smaller dogs. Depending on the severity of the condition and the age of your Golden Retriever, treatment options can range from exercise and weight reduction to extensive hip replacement surgery.
- Gastric Torsion. Bloat in dogs is commonly known as Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus or more simply as ‘GDV’. This life-threatening condition occurs mainly in large breeds such as the Golden Retriever. GDV occurs when the stomach then becomes distended within the abdomen which also compromises the peripheral organs. Volvulus refers to the twisting motion of the bloated stomach causing the air to be trapped with no release.
- Elbow Dysplasia. Medium and large breeds are particularly prone to elbow dysplasia, which occurs when the bones that form the elbow joint don’t properly come together. Golden Retriever who suffer from elbow dysplasia usually shows lameness of the forelimbs, thickening of the elbow and pain. Treatment of elbow dysplasia usually consists of pain and anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy and surgical correction, whenever possible.
- Osteochondritis Dissecans. When developing cartilage experiences varying rates of maturation, some areas of the cartilage become thickened, weak, and prone to injury. As a result of the abnormal growth, cartilage flaps form in the joints, eventually becoming separated and lifted from the bone. This will cause inflammation and pain. In veterinary terms, the condition is called Osteochondritis dissecans (OCD).
- Cataracts. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye, resulting in blurry vision. Smaller cataracts are not likely to affect a dog’s vision too greatly, but even the small ones must be regularly monitored to prevent blindness. Old age, disease, and eye trauma can cause cataracts, although they most commonly stem from inherited conditions. Surgery can often restore vision loss due to cataracts, and many dog insurance plans cover up to 100 percent of the cost of cataract surgery.
- Sub-Aortic Stenosis. A congenital narrowing of the area underneath one of the heart’s valves, which leads to the obstruction of the blood flow through the heart.
- Ichthyosis. This inherited skin condition is primarily seen in Golden Retrievers and West Highland White Terriers. It is characterized by skin scaling or keratinization, which is caused by an abnormality of the top layer of the skin (the epidermis).
- Cardiomyopathy. This is a heart disease that Golden Retrievers are somewhat prone to and it occurs when a dog’s heart fails to pump properly, causing one side of the heart to become enlarged. If left untreated, the result may be congestive heart failure. Symptoms include lethargy and weakness; diagnosis is confirmed by electro- and echocardiography; treatment involves administration of drugs that control the heart’s rhythm.
- Patellar Luxation. The kneecap (patella) of some dogs may become dislodged, causing pain and restricted movement. In severe cases, surgery may be required to reposition the affected bone and connective tissue.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). As the name suggests, this disease occurs when the cells of a dog’s retinas degenerate. A single gene mutation is responsible for the problem, though as yet no genetic test has been developed. It is therefore imperative to know the breeding history before acquiring a puppy in order to ensure that none of its ancestors has gone blind. There is no treatment for PRA, though affected dogs can almost always live full lives if kept indoors.
- Sebaceous Adenitis (SA). This disease occurs when the immune system attacks the oil-producing glands in a dog’s own skin; it may or may not be inherited. Symptoms include a dingy coat, hair loss and lesions on the skin. SA can be difficult to diagnose, usually requiring multiple biopsies, and may be masked by secondary infections. There is no known cure; treatment involves soothing the skin, treating secondary infections and lifelong administration of immunosuppressive drugs.
|Average cost to treat and diagnose|
|Cancer||High||$5,150 to $20,000|
|Hip dysplasia||High||$4,025 to $6,050|
|Gastric torsion||Medium||$490 to $1,050|
|Elbow dysplasia||Medium||$1,550 to $6,025|
|Osteochondritis dissecans||Medium||$50 to $2000|
|Cataracts||High||$3507 to $3784|
|Sub-aortic stenosis||Medium||$3,000 to $10,000|
|Ichthyosis||Medium||$30 – $100 per month|
Other Congenital and Heritable Conditions in Golden Retrievers
- Dermatitis. Inflammation of the skin that can be caused by several factors.
- Myasthenia Gravis. A syndrome characterized by muscle fatigue due to an autoimmune disease which produces chemical abnormalities of the muscles and nerves.
- Muscular Dystrophy. Progressive degeneration of the muscles.
- Hypothyroidism. A common endocrine disease where the thyroid glands do not produce enough thyroid hormone.
- Hemolytic Anemia. A type of anemia caused by the destruction of the red blood cells by an autoimmune process.
- Factor VIII deficiency or Hemophilia A. Coagulation disorders caused by a deficiency in one of the coagulation factors.
- Ectropion and Entropion. Abnormal positioning of the eyelids.
- Dilated Cardiomyopathy. A disease of weakened heart muscles.
- Corneal Dystrophy. Progressive degeneration of the cornea that can lead to blindness.
- Portosystemic Shunts. An abnormal connection between the liver’s vasculature and systemic circulation.
You can learn more about this is other genetic diseases in Golden Retrievers and other breeds on the Guide to Congenital and Heritable Disorders in Dogs published by The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association.
Overall, Golden Retrievers are happy, friendly, and energetic dogs, who love to be with his or her family. They are especially good with children, though its overwhelming affection may be a bit much for very young children. This dog also does very well with other pets.
Golden Retrievers are remarkably intelligent, loyal, affectionate, loving and patient. They are excellent family dogs, who are always willing to please. Golden Retrievers are among the top choices for service dog work. These lively dogs are always eager to play and they love to swim.
They are obedient, easy-going, outgoing, not aggressive, and they crave the attention of their families and want to be included in all activities. Some Golden Retrievers may be reserved around strangers and they make an excellent watchdog.
Born to retrieve, Golden Retrievers have a tendency to carry things in their mouth. While this is normally harmless, if you don’t provide your golden with durable, quality toys, he may scout out things to carry and potentially chew on his own.
All dogs, regardless of their breed, are a time commitment. No dog wants to be left alone all day; this must be remembered when considering adding the extremely sociable and attention-seeking Golden Retriever to your family.
When deciding whether or not to add a Golden Retriever to your family, it is important to consider the size of the breed. Golden Retrievers are not small dogs, though they sometimes act like they are. While Golden Retrievers can live happily in a small home or apartment, provided their minds and bodies are properly exercised, their desire to be with their family at all times means they are frequently at your side; in a small space, this may mean they are always in the way.
After determining whether or not you have the space for a Golden, you should consider the correlation between size and expenses. The cost of leashes, collars, dog beds, crates, food and water bowls, and toys increases with size, as do expenses associated with veterinary care, feeding, and grooming.
No matter what breed of dog you are considering, adding a dog to your family is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It should be a decision that you never regret. Take the time to thoroughly research the breed to ensure it will be a perfect match.
Golden Retrievers are very smart, easy to train dogs. They thrive on human leadership and need to feel that they are part of the family. Golden Retrievers should be socialized and trained as early as possible. They are strong dogs, so they can become destructive if not trained appropriately.
It is a good idea to train Golden Retriever puppies to heel on the leash so that they do not bolt out doorways and gateways before their masters, this will teach them who is the pack leader. Golden Retrievers need a great amount of mental and physical stimulation, and if left alone for long periods of time, they can become destructive.
They are excellent watchdogs and given their winning personality, intelligence obedience and eagerness to please. They are not considered good guard dogs.
In addition to making great family pets, Golden Retrievers, due to their hardworking nature and intelligence, are frequently employed as service dogs. The breed is also a popular choice in search-and-rescue operations and for drug detection.
Golden Retrievers have a double coat, and on top of two periods of heavy shedding each year (one in the fall and one in the spring), the breed experiences light to moderate shedding year round. To help minimize shedding and to keep their coat free from tangles and looking its best, Golden Retrievers should be brushed at least once a week. During periods of heavy shedding, daily brushing is ideal. Even with regular grooming, a home with a Golden is a home with dog fur.
In addition to regular baths and brushing, grooming this breed involves checking their ears, eyes, claws, and teeth. The AKC recommends grooming your Golden Retriever weekly to keep his/her coat clean, shiny, and manageable.
A regular grooming schedule allows us to detect any skin abnormality, fleas, ticks, or ear infections, among other health problems. It is important to start grooming Golden Retrievers at an early age so he or she gets used to these procedures as early as possible. Grooming is also an excellent opportunity to bond with your Golden and to reinforce your leader position.
Bathing frequency depends on your dog’s lifestyle. Very active dogs or dogs that spend too much time outside need more frequent baths. Golden Retrievers are susceptible to allergies and other skin problems, so you might need a medicated shampoo.
Ask your veterinarian about the best shampoo for your dog. Since this breed has abundant hair, you can dilute your shampoo before application and this will help you achieve an even application. Always dry your dog’s hair coat thoroughly, paying special attention to the ears since humidity can lead to ear infections.
Energy & Exercise
Many Golden Retrievers are happy to curl up by their owner’s feet at the end of the day or sit on the couch for extended periods of time while they are showered with love. But don’t count on your golden being a couch potato. It is important to remember that this breed belongs to the “sporting group” and originally was bred to work.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that they have seemingly endless energy. Of course, you also must keep in mind that the naturally energetic Golden tends to mature slowly, maintaining a high-energy, puppy-like mentality for years.
Training is definitely necessary because this breed has a lot of energy and exuberance. The working heritage of Golden Retrievers means that they are very active dogs. This breed needs a great amount of physical and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy.
When not exercised properly, Golden Retrievers, as well as other working dog breeds, can become destructive. If you cannot personally meet the exercise requirements of a Golden Retriever, are you in a position to hire a dog walker or send your Golden to doggy daycare on a regular basis?
In order to meet your dog’s exercise needs, you can take your Golden Retriever on daily walks, jogs, or runs. Remember to keep your dog walking beside or behind you, that way he or she will learn that you are the pack leader. If possible, teach your Golden Retriever to do a job around the house.
For example, you can teach him/her to bring you the newspaper every morning. Having daily chores will keep your dog busy and it will prevent him/her from becoming destructive. Feed your Golden Retriever according to his/her physical activity level will help prevent obesity.
Nutrition & Feeding
Your best options for feeding your Golden Retriever are commercial dry food (kibble) or canned food, and homemade meals. There are several types of commercial dog foods—how should you choose the best one for your Golden? You should consider your dog’s size, age, and activity level. It is important to understand that dogs, just like us, need a nutritionally balanced meal with an appropriate amount of calories.
Dog food contains a combination of ingredients, including meat, grains, vitamins, minerals, fats, and byproducts. This combination is balanced to meet the nutritional requirements of dogs. If you prefer to feed your Golden Retriever a homemade meal, you should make sure it is nutritionally balanced.
Dr. Paula Terifaj from Founders Veterinary Clinic in California has developed a nutritionally balanced homemade dog recipe that you can use to feed your dog. You may also want to consult your dog’s veterinarian before you start feeding your Golden with homemade meals.
Golden Retriever Pet Insurance
Golden Retrievers have an average lifespan of 10 to 13 years. This breed is susceptible to various congenital and hereditary conditions such as cancer, hip dysplasia, cataracts, and osteochondritis dissecans. There is no way to know for certain if your Golden Retriever will suffer from any of these illnesses, but the possibility is always there, and every dog will require special care as it gets older. The right pet health insurance plan can help keep you from the added burden of financial worries when your dog requires medical care.
The first step to a healthy and happy Golden Retriever is finding a reputable breeder who can provide genetically fit puppies. The second step is to train your dog well and give it plenty of healthy food, exercise, and love. For many owners, the third step is to purchase a pet health care plan that helps to keep vet bills predictable and to ensure that you can focus on helping a sick dog to recover rather than worrying about the cost of treatment.
Golden Retrievers are considered by many to be part of the family. Like any family member, they deserve the best medical care available. Since veterinary care requires immediate upfront payment, ask yourself if you have the financial resources to pay for a health emergency or ongoing chronic condition.
If the answer is no, pet insurance may be a better option than accruing credit card debt or skimping elsewhere to care for your dog. To compare coverage, exclusions, benefits, reimbursements and more, refer to our side-by-side comparison chart. Or if you’re interested in learning more about a specific provider’s reputation, visit our company reviews page for updated ratings.
When choosing your pet insurance plan, it is a good idea to check if it covers the hereditary conditions mentioned above. Taking this precaution can save you lots of money and headaches. The following pet insurance companies allow you to choose a plan that covers hereditary or breed-specific conditions such as cancer, hip dysplasia, and cataracts.
- Embrace Pet Insurance
- Trupanion Medical Insurance for Your Pet
- Pet Plan Pet Insurance
- Healthy Paws Pet Insurance & Foundation
Need help to choose the right pet insurance for your Golden Retriever? Take a look at our Pet Insurance comparison chart
Is A Golden Retriever Right For You?
A Golden Retriever may be right for you if you want…
- a large, athletic, and natural-looking dog
- a dog with a beautiful hair coat
- a cheerful, happy and docile dog
- a dog with a steady and dependable temperament
- a dog that is peaceful with other animals
- a smart and easy to train dog
A Golden Retriever may NOT be right for you if…
- are unable to provide your dog with a good amount of exercise
- do not want a dog who likes to chew and bite on things
- do not have enough time groom your dog regularly
- do not want to deal with potential inherited health issues
For other types of dogs, check out our full list of dog breeds.