*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).
They are the fourth most popular dog breed in America and for good reason: they’re super-sweet, highly intelligent, naturally athletic, gentle with kids, and to top it all off…they look like living sunshine. In this episode, we’ll take a closer look at the dog that can arguably be called friendliest of “man’s best friends” and a “dog’s dog”—the Golden Retriever.
he first Golden Retrievers were developed during the Victorian Era by Lord Tweedmouth, Dudley Marjoribanks (try saying that three times). Lord Tweedmouth’s endgame was to create the quintessential gundog to retrieve game at his estate in the Scottish Highlands.
Marjoribanks crossed the dog known as the “Yellow Retriever” with the Tweed Water Spaniel and further down the line, he added the Bloodhound and Irish Setter to the mix, thus creating the genetic foundation of the Golden Retriever we love today.
The modern-day Goldie made its debut in 1908 at a British dog show. Soon afterward, the breed made its way to the US of A and was the new darling of the dog world, coveted by sport hunters, show dog enthusiasts, and dog-animal-loving families. Although the Golden Retriever was sought-after from the start, its popularity surged in the 1970s when President Gerald Ford introduced his dog, Liberty, to America. Liberty could be spotted in many lovely photos from both the White House, as well as Camp David, and typically cast a favourable light on the president.
The breed gained yet another spike in popularity thanks to Buddy the Golden Retriever, who you may know simply as Air Bud, if you were of an impressionable age in the late 90s.
Size and Appearance
In terms of appearance, the Golden Retriever is the beach babe or surfer dude of the canine world with their golden flowy main.
The average height and weight for male Goldies is 22 to 24 inches and 65 to 75 pounds, and females range between 20 and 24 inches and 55 to 65. The breed takes its name from the thick, wavy, double coat that comes in various shades of gold, from cream to dark gold.
There are three types of Golden Retriever: British, American and Canadian. British Goldies have a broader skull and their muzzles are more defined than the other types. They also have more muscular forequarters than the North American varieties.
Typically, the British coat is lighter in color than those of the American and Canadian. The eyes are dark and round, while the others’ eyes are almond-shaped.
American Goldies are less muscular than the other subgroups. They tend to have lighter eyes and darker coats that are slightly feathered, and range from a deep yellow to a reddish gold. Canadian Goldies usually have shorter, thinner coats and can be as much as two inches taller than their counterparts.
Which Golden variety do you prefer and why?
Related Post: Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever
Temperament and Family Life
Goldies never meet a stranger and are treasured for their gentle, yet confident demeanor. They also tend to be calm, trusting, and eager to please. All of these qualities make them the ideal family pet, especially if you have school-age children. On the other hand, these same attributes render them basically useless as guard dogs. Oh well…you can’t have it all.
It takes about three to four years minimum for a Golden Retriever to mature. Until then, they’ll have the lively, silly, playful temperament of the puppy you first fell in love with. Some of them never lose their youthful charm, and “suffer” from Peter Pan syndrome well into their later years.
Trainability and Intelligence
Due in part to its mild temperament, strong desire to please, and exceptional intelligence, the Golden Retriever is one of the easiest breeds to train.
The Goldie is a working breed, so it always needs something to do, and in recent years it has become the most popular service dog. The combination of intelligence, agility, patience, and docility are the “perfect storm” of qualities that are desired in an assistance, therapy, search and rescue, or emotional support animal.
What do you think is the most important attribute that a service dog should have?
There’s nothing that a beach babe or surfer dude loves more fun in the sun and true to form, the Golden Retriever loves nothing more than an action-packed romp in the great outdoors.
To curb boredom and weight gain, your Golden boy or girl will need at least an hour of exercise each day, which can be split into two 30 minute sessions. Since they were bred to retrieve shot waterfowl—they have a soft mouth that is ideal for grasping game without damaging it—a vigorous game of fetch is always a great way for them to stay in tip top shape. Take your buddy for a brisk walk or jog in the park or neighborhood, or for a change of scenery and more challenging terrain, check out a hiking trail. Since Goldies were developed to recover aquatic birds, it’s only natural that they love swimming. It’s a great way for you both to stay cool in the summer, and for them to have fun in the winter. They’re not very sensitive to cold because their top coat is water repellent, and their undercoat, which helps cools them off when it’s hot, also keeps them warm when it’s chilly.
Other forms of exercise that are good for Goldies include agility training, dock diving, tug-of-war, and “hide and go seek the treats”—a game that will not only give them a great physical workout, but a fantastic mental workout as well.
Health and Lifespan
The average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is 10 to 12 years. We know…not long enough for these gentle giants, or any dog for that matter.
Although they are a generally healthy breed, there are certain diseases and infirmities that Goldies are particularly susceptible to. Hip and elbow dysplasia, cataracts, allergies, progressive retinal atrophy, and OCD—no, not that OCD, but osteochondrosis dissecans, a condition caused by overgrowth of joint cartilage are some of the chronic ailments that are manageable, but can affect the quality of a Golden Retriever’s life.
Some life-threatening illnesses that Goldies are prone to include subvalvular aortic stenosis (a heart condition that can cause fainting or sudden death), osteosarcoma (bone cancer), bloat, and hemangiosarcoma (a cancer that originated in the blood vessels), and Von Willebrand’s Disease (canine hemophilia).
To avoid passing along the gene for Von Willebrand’s Disease, affected dogs should not be bred.
What conditions would influence your decision to become a parent to a dog of a particular breed?
Do Goldens shed? Yeah, you can expect dog hair everywhere. EV REE WHERE! A Golden needs to be brushed daily and regular use of an undercoat rake, such as the FURminator