Able-bodied, hard-working, loyal, astute, and kind the Golden Retriever is one of the most beloved canine companions in the United States. A member of the Sporting Group, this breed holds the third-ranking position of the 193 breeds that are registered with the American Kennel Club.
The strikingly beautiful Golden Retriever is a relatively new breed, in comparison to many other registered breeds. It originated in Scotland in the mid or latter part of the 19th century. Hunting wild fowl was a big sport amongst the Scottish elite. The landscape, however, which was covered with marshlands, rivers, ponds, and streams, was not conducive to retrievers that already existed. These breeds had a difficult time trudging through the wetlands and while managing the fowl that they were supposed to retrieve. A new breed with a special set of skills was needed; one that could retrieve fowl and manage the landscape.
The first Goldens (as they are affectionately called) are credited to Dudley Marjoribanks (also known as Lord Tweedmouth) of Scotland. He bred his wavy-haired, Yellow Retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel, a Scottish breed that no longer exists, which resulted in four yellow puppies, the first variation of the Golden Retriever breed. These puppies were bred with other water spaniels, as well as Labrador Retrievers, and Irish Setters, which further refined the breed; however, all Golden Retrievers are the descendents of the four puppies that were produced as a result of Lord Tweedmouth breeding his Yellow Retriever male with his Tweed Water Spaniel female.
The general public did not become aware of this new breed of dog until 1908, when they were showcased at a Kennel Club show by a Lord Harcourt. At this show, the dogs were entered in a class that incorporated any type of retriever, as the breed had yet to be given a name. Due to the striking yellow coats of these dogs, the term ‘Golden Retriever’ was used to describe them, and hence the name of the breed was determined. The dogs proved to be very popular, and in 1913, the Golden Retriever Club of Great Britain was created, which further popularized the breed. In 1925, the breed also became registered with the American Kennel Club. The formation of the American Golden Retriever Club in 1938 made the breed even more popular.
The agility, strength, strong sense of smell, intelligence, and the strong swimming abilities of the Golden Retriever made them the perfect choice for retrieving water fowl, which is exactly what these dogs were bred to do. Today, they are still used as hunting dog; however, their characteristics also make them suitable for a variety of other jobs. This breed often serves as service dogs, search and rescue dogs, and they are also used for detective work. In addition to these important jobs, the Golden Retriever also makes a wonderful pet. If you are looking for a medium to large sized dog that is loyal, easy going, and great with children and other animals, the Golden Retriever is an excellent choice.
Characteristics of the Golden Retriever
Next, we’ll go into the appearance and temperament of the Golden Retriever.
The Golden Retriever is a medium to large sized breed. Generally, they weigh between 55 and 75 pounds and stand between 21 and 24 inches tall. Like most breeds, females are smaller and males are larger, but bother genders are muscular and limber, as they were bred for retrieving.
The head of this breed is broad, their ears are short, and they have a straight muzzle. The most notable feature of the Golden Retriever is its coat, which is semi-long, lustrous, and golden or cream in color. The coat can be flat or wavy, and it’s thick and water repellent, a notable feature, as it protects the dog from the cold waters that they were bred to retrieve water fowl from. Another notable feature is the eyes, which are friendly and thoughtful.
In addition to their notable appearance, the Golden, as this breed is often called, is also regarded for its friendly disposition. They are even-tempered, confident, gentle, kind, friendly, and trustworthy. Shyness and anxiousness are traits that are not typical of this breed; however, some dogs may exhibit such qualities is they are not properly socialized or nurtured. Due to their easy-going personality, Golden Retrievers do well with humans of all ages, including children, as well as other animals.
Golden Retrievers are also incredibly intelligent. That, combined with patience, loyalty, and desire to please, makes this breed very easy to train; a Golden should be able to learn even the most advanced commands and tricks in a dog training book without issue. Since they are so astute, they do require plenty of mental stimulation, so be prepared to offer your Golden a variety of activities that requires him to use his keen intellect; interactive dog toys and puzzle toys for dogs are ideal for this breed.
In addition to mental stimulation, Golden Retrievers also require regular exercise. Since they were bred for hunting, they have an innate desire to be active. Regular walks with a properly fitted dog collar or dog harness are essential. Additionally, a leash for dogs that pull may be necessary, particularly for dogs that are not yet trained how to walk properly, as Goldens are quite strong and tend to be easily distracted by sights, sounds, and smells that catch their attention. This breed also loves to play and interact with their human companions. They are drawn to the water, and will enjoy playing with water toys for dogs. On land, engaging your do in rousing games of tug-o-war or fetch with sturdy rope and tug toys will keep your pet contented and provide you with the opportunity to bond. Golden Retrievers are not well-suited for a solitary life; they crave affection and need to be with their pack members, so this breed should not be confined to a dog house or left in an outdoor dog kennel for an extensive amount of time. While they love being with their humans, Goldens are not well-suited for guard work, as they have a tendency to greet everyone they meet with warm affection.
Though Golden Retrievers do possess several desirable traits, they can exhibit some troublesome behaviors. For example, they are excessively mouthy and have a tendency to chew. To avoid damage to your possessions, do make sure that you provide your pet with sturdy chew toys for dogs, as well as dental chews. The mouthy behavior of this breed is particularly excessive when they are young, so if you have a puppy, do make sure you offer him puppy teething toys. Golden Retrievers are also notorious jumpers; they will jump up on anyone they meet. Training your dog basic commands, such as “sit” and “stay” is important to prevent unwanted jumping. As mentioned, this breed needs companionship. If they are left alone for long periods of time, they may develop separation anxiety. If you have adopted a Golden from an animal shelter who is showing signs of anxiety, offering him plenty of love, affection, and security can help to reverse his anxiety; medications for dogs can also help to ease anxiousness, or if you prefer a holistic remedy, CBD oil for dogs can be helpful, as can dog calming aids.
Golden Retrievers love to explore, and they make wonderful travel companions. They do well in cars, but do make sure that you invest in a dog car seat cover to prevent damage to your upholstery from excessive shedding, odor, and shedding.
With a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years, the Golden Retriever will make a wonderful addition to your family; however, do note that as with any breed, the Golden does require proper care to thrive. Attending to their likes and working to combat undesirable traits is important for this breed.
Caring for a Golden Retriever
Just like any dog breed, pet parents need to know how to properly care for a Golden Retriever. With proper care, this breed will thrive and live a long, happy, and healthy life.
Golden Retrievers have unique dietary needs and it’s important to make sure that you are offering your pet a premium quality dog food that meets those needs. This breed loves to eat and is prone to obesity. Closely monitoring caloric intake is essential to prevent excessive weight gain, as obese dogs can suffer from a number of health complications. Animal nutritionists and veterinarians recommend between 990 and 1,272 calories per day for older and less active Goldens, while puppies and more active dogs should eat between 1,350 and 1,740 calories per day. For dogs that are experiencing weight gain or who need fewer calories, a dog food for weight loss is a good choice.
Golden Retrievers are prone to allergies and tend to have sensitive skin. You can help to control these problems through diet; for instance, feeding your pet a dog food for allergies can help to eliminate skin issues. Furthermore, this breed can also suffer from stomach issues, so a dog food for sensitive stomachs may be necessary. Alternatively, you may be able to combat skin and stomach problems by offering your pet a grain free dog food can help to eliminate skin issues.
Just like any breed, it’s important to avoid poor quality dog food, especially those that are manufactured in China. Anything that contains artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, and byproducts should not be offered to your pet. There are several high quality dog food brands available that are made with healthful ingredients and will meet the dietary requirements of the Golden Retriever. Brands that make suitable dog food for Golden Retrievers include:
- Taste of the Wild dog food
- Merrick dog food
- I and Love and You dog food
- Nutro dog food
- Hill’s Science Diet dog food
The coat of the Golden Retriever is the most famous feature of this breed; however, it does require a bit of maintenance. They tend to shed excessively and their coat can become tangled and matted. To reduce tangles and remove the buildup of spent hair, run a sturdy dog brush through your pet’s coat on a daily basis. They shed all year long, but shedding does increase in the spring and fall. Additionally, Goldens are known to emit a pungent odor through their skin. To offset excessive odor, bathing your pet regularly may be necessary. However, too much bathing, especially with a poor quality shampoo, can irritate the skin and dry out the coat; therefore, using a natural dog shampoo that’s free of dyes, perfumes, and other harsh ingredients is important. You can also combat skin and odor problems by using a dry shampoo for dogs or a dog deodorizer to avoid the need for excessive baths.
Just like any other breed, it’s also important to keep a Golden Retriever’s nails neat and trim and to keep their ears clean to avoid infections. Dental hygiene is also important; to keep the teeth strong and avoid foul breath, brushing with a toothbrush for dogs and a quality toothpaste for dogs at least once a week is recommended.
Exercise and Activity
Because Golden Retrievers were bred for hunting, they have an innate desire to engage in physical activity. This breed is not a “couch potato” and needs to have plenty of exercise. As mentioned, they should be walked on a daily basis; however, if walking is not always possible, securing your pet to a sturdy dog tie out may be substituted, though it is not recommended for regular exercise. Since they are a part of the Working Group, giving your Golden Retriever a job can certainly meet his needs for physical and mental stimulation. These dogs are often used for detective work and make great service and companion dogs. You might also consider teaching your pet to complete certain tasks around the house, such as fetching the newspaper or mail, or helping to locate lost items.
Golden Retrievers are quite astute, and as such, they are very easy to train. Training is recommended to avoid undesirable behaviors, such as jumping and pulling while walking. Engaging in training activities can also provide your pet with the physical and mental stimulation that he needs; plus, it will make him feel useful, something that is very important for Golden Retrievers.
You can start training puppies at a young age; however, older Golden Retrievers are easy to train, too. Start training sessions with the basic commands, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “heel”. Once your pet has mastered these commands, you can begin working on more complex commands. This breed is well-suited for agility training, too.
House-training a Golden Retriever should not be difficult. Again, starting at an early age is recommended; however, if you have adopted an older Golden who is not housebroken, you should not have a difficult time training your dog. Experts recommend the crate training approach. Invest in a dog crate that provides your pet with enough room to stand and turn around. To make ensure your pet’s comfort, you can add a dog crate mat or a dog bed to his crate; an indestructible dog bed is a wise idea, as this breed tends to chew.
While this breed is highly intelligent and can easily master tasks, it should be noted that they tend to be easily distracted. Diligence, patience, and positive reinforcement is key to effective training.
Like many breeds, Golden Retrievers are genetically predisposed to certain health issues. Generally, they are health dogs; however, it’s important to be aware of the health issues they can develop to avoid complications.
Some of the most common health concerns of the Golden Retriever include:
- Hip dysplasia. This condition is common among many breeds, including the Golden Retriever. It is marked by a malformed hip socket, which deteriorates the hip joint and can cause pain, reduce mobility, and increase the risk of arthritis. Offering your pet a dog joint supplement can help to offset the issues associated with this condition.
- Skin issues. Golden Retrievers are also prone to skin issues, including excessive dryness, flaking, and itching, as well as allergies. Coconut oil for dogs can be an effective treatment for these problems, as they nourish the skin and coat.
- This breed is also prone to cataracts, an eye condition that can impede vision and even lead to blindness if not treated promptly and effectively. A vet should assess the condition of the eyes at regular exams and will offer proper solutions should there be evidence of cataracts.
Routine veterinary care is essential for Golden Retrievers. With proper care, this breed should live a long, healthy, and full life.
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