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All About Golden Retrievers

Learn all about Golden Retrievers, their bloodline, history, health and more.

The ideal Golden is athletic,and well balanced. It is a symmetrical, powerful, and active dog.

A male should stand from 23-24 inches in height at the shoulders, and females should be 21.5 to 22.5 inches at the shoulders.

The coat should be dense and water repellent, in various shades of lustorous gold or cream, with moderate feathering. Excessive length, lightness, or darkness is undesirable.

The gait should be free, smooth, powerful, and well-coordinated. In shows, any resistance to handling, shyness, or aggression is a serious faul.

Golden Retrievers vary widely in color

English goldens are easily recognized by their longer, light cream-coloured coats, which sometimes appear white.

This type is bigger-boned, shorter, with a more square head and/or muzzle. They are more common in Europe, so breeders of this type in America may import their dogs to improve bloodlines.

A Golden Retriever of English breeding can have a coat colour in the colour range of all shades of gold or cream, but not including red nor mahogany.

While shedding is unavoidable with Golden Retrievers, frequent grooming (daily to weekly) lessens the amount of hair shed by the animal. Golden's are known to shed the most in the spring and summer months as this is when they drop their winter undercoats. Severe shedding that results in bald patches can be indicative of stress or sickness in a Golden Retriever.

Coat and Color

The coat is dense and waterproof, and may be straight or moderately wavy. It usually lies flat against the belly. The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard states that the coat is a "rich, lustrous golden of various shades", disallowing coats that are extremely light or extremely dark.

This leaves the outer ranges of coat colour up to a judge's discretion when competing in conformation shows. Therefore, "pure white" and "red" are unacceptable colors for the Golden coat.

Judges may also disallow Goldens with pink noses, or those lacking pigment.

The Golden's coat can also be of a mahogany color, referred to as "redheads", although this is not accepted in the British showring.

Golden Retriever Dog Breed Picture

As a Golden grows older, its coat can become a darker or lighter tint of brown, along with a noticeable whitening of the fur on and around the muzzle.

Puppy coats are usually much lighter than their adult coats, but a darker coloration at the tips of the ears may indicate a darker adult color.


They are also noted for their intelligence. As the name suggests, the Golden Retriever loves to retrieve. Retrieving a thrown stick, tennis ball, or flying disc can keep a Golden occupied and entertained for hours, particularly if there is also water involved. Goldens tend to be notoriously tolerant of boisterous children. However, if not properly trained, they may accidentally injure a child in play.


Goldens should be groomed at least once a week, and every day during heavy shedding.


The Golden Retriever breed was originally developed in Scotland at "Guisachan" near Glen Affric, the highland estate of Sir Dudley Majoribanks (pronounced "Marchbanks"), later Baron Tweedmouth. For many years, there was controversy over which breeds were originally crossed. In 1952, the publication of Majoribanks' breeding records from 1835 to 1890 dispelled the myth concerning the purchase of a whole troupe of Russian sheepdogs from a visiting circus.

The original cross was of a yellow-colored dog, Nous, with a Tweed Water Spaniel female dog, Belle. The Tweed Water Spaniel is now extinct but was then common in the border country. Majoribanks had purchased Nous in 1865 from an unregistered litter of otherwise black wavy-coated retriever pups. In 1868, this cross produced a litter that included four bitch pups; these four became the basis of a breeding program which included the Red Setter, the sandy-colored Bloodhound, the St. John's Water Dog of Newfoundland, the Springer Spaniel, and two more wavy-coated black Retrievers. The bloodline was also inbred and selected for trueness to Majoribanks' idea of the ultimate hunting dog. His vision included a more vigorous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, one that would still be gentle and trainable. Russian sheepdogs are not mentioned in these records, nor are any other working dog breeds. The ancestry of the Golden Retriever is all sporting dogs, in line with Majoribanks' goals.

Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by the 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 described as Retriever (Golden and Yellow). In 1913, the Golden Retriever Club was founded. The breed name was officially changed to Golden Retriever in 1920.

The Honorable Archie Majoribanks took a Golden Retriever to Canada in 1881, and registered Lady with the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1894. These are the first records of the breed in these two countries. The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927, and the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario, now the Golden Retriever Club of Canada, was formed in 1958. The co-founders of the GRCC were Cliff Drysdale an Englishman who had brought over an English Golden and Jutta Baker, daughter in law of Louis Baker who owned Northland Kennels, possibly Canada's first kennel dedicated to Goldens. The AKC recognized the breed in 1932, and in 1938 the Golden Retriever Club of America was formed.


In many lines of Golden Retrievers, life-threatening health problems are so common that it can be difficult to find an individual that you can count on remaining healthy for a normal lifetime. A large number of Golden Retrievers live less than 10 years.

Breeding Goldens can be profitable for puppy mills and backyard breeders. As a result of careless breeding for profit, Goldens are prone to genetic disorders and other diseases. Hip dysplasia is very common in the breed; when buying a puppy its parents should have been examined by the OFA or by PennHIP for hip disease.

Common diseases

   - Cancer, the most common being hemangiosarcoma, followed by lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumor, and osteosarcoma. Cancer was the cause of death for 61.8% of Goldens according to a 1998 health study conducted by the Golden Retriever Club of America, making it the breed's most deadly disease.

   - Hip and elbow dysplasia.

   - Eye diseases, including cataracts (the most common eye disease in Goldens), progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, distichiasis,entropion, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia

   - Heart diseases, especially subvalvular aortic stenosis and cardiomyopathy are major problems in this breed.

   - Joint diseases, including patella luxation, osteochondritis, panosteitis, and cruciate ligament rupture.

   - Skin diseases, with allergies (often leading to acute moist dermatitis or "Hot Spots"), particularly flea allergies, being most common. Others include seborrhea, sebaceous adenitis, and lick granuloma.

   - Haemophilia

Other diseases

Golden Retriever Dog Breed Picture
  •  Autoimmune hemolytic anemia
  •  Bloat
  •  Cushing's Disease
  •  Diabetes (occasionally)
  •  Ear Infections
  •  Epilepsy
  •  Hypothyroidism
  •  Laryngeal paralysis
  •  Liver shunt
  •  Megaesophagus
  •  Myasthenia gravis
  •  von Willebrand Disease

Rescue efforts

Because of the prevalence and prominence of the breed, high demand results in many Goldens being abandoned each year by owners who can no longer care for them. Puppy mills are another source of orphan Golden Retrievers. These dogs, often old or in need of medical support, may end up in animal shelters.

In response to the numbers of orphan Goldens, volunteer organizations work to rescue, care for, and adopt abandoned Golden Retrievers. These rescue groups usually accept dogs from owners and establish agreements with local animal shelters to ensure that dogs will be transferred to their care rather than euthanized. Once rescued, Golden Retrievers are placed in foster homes until a permanent home is found. It is common for rescue groups to screen prospective adopters to ensure that they are capable of providing a good home for the dog. Golden retriever rescue groups have utilized the world wide web to raise funds and advertise rescued Goldens to adopters. The Golden Retriever Club of America has a permanent standing committee, the National Rescue Committee.

They are known to bark when suddenly startled, but generally their friendly nature makes them poor guard dogs.

Other Related Golden Retriever Articles

    - Golden Retriever Dog Breed

    - Food Options for your Golden Retriever

    - Gear for your Golden Retriever

    - Golden Retriever Exercise and Training

    - Golden Retrievers Aptly Named

    - Golden Retrievers Common Health Problems

    - Golden Retrievers Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

    - Golden Retriever Temperament and Behavior

    - Golden Retriever Vaccinations

    - Grooming your Golden Retriever

    - Health Care for your Golden Retriever

    - Housebreaking Tips for your Golden Retrievers

    - Neutering your Male Golden Retriever

    - Socializing your Golden Retriever

    - Spaying your Female Golden Retriever

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