Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
The Golden Retriever is one of the world's most beloved—and most recognizable—dog breeds. These good-natured, trustworthy, sporty, and eager-to-please dogs have a reputation for being perpetually happy just to be in the presence of their favorite humans. Looking for constant love and affirmation? This is probably the pup for you.
Due to their affectionate and laid-back nature, Golden Retrievers are frequently adopted or purchased by families with children. Yet, their origins as hunting and field dogs mean they're capable of many other tasks besides companionship. In fact, they're a perfect partner for any and all outdoor activities.
If you're looking for a best friend to go running with, play fetch with (preferably in the water), take hiking and camping, and/or snuggle with in the evenings, a Golden Retriever may be the breed for you.
Also Known As...
Goldens. America's Sweetheart. Wiggly Butt. The Brad Pitt of dogs.
Golden Retrievers haven't been around as many decades as other breeds, but their popularity did expand rapidly. Likely a mix between a Yellow Labrador Retriever and Tweed Water Spaniel (a now extinct breed that resembles an Irish Water Spaniel), these Scottish dogs were first bred by a man named Lord Tweedmouth in 1865. The resulting puppies were possibly the first Golden Retrievers.
Although this version of history is somewhat contested, it's clear that this breed originated in the highlands of Scotland in the late 1800s. Bred to retrieve water fowl and other game that had been shot, the Golden Retriever quickly became popular with hunters. Soon, in 1903, the breed was recognized by the the Kennel Club. 14 years later, Golden Retrievers were also recognized by the AKC.
Today, Golden Retrievers' intelligence, excellent noses, affable natures, and easy trainability make them a top choice for guide dogs. They're also commonly used as search and rescue or sniffer dogs for law enforcement, as well as therapy dogs in private homes, schools, and hospitals.
23-24 inches tall for males; 21.5-22.5 inches tall for females.
65-75 pounds for males; 55-65 pounds for females.
Golden Retrievers are reputable for their merry and playful personalities. This even-tempered dog is often loyal, affectionate, and sensitive to the emotions of others. While personality depends on each individual dog, Golden Retrievers are also often easily socialized and naturally submissive.
Goldens are also capable of hard work and focus. They love a good athletic challenge or a long, slow walk in the woods. While this breed isn't considered to be a natural guard dog, they're also likely to bark and protect their home.
Lastly, despite their sweet disposition, without proper exercise, mental stimulation, and training, this athletic dog can become overexcited and mouthy. They can also become overly-obsessed with the game of fetch or another task, which can lead to an unhealthy mindset.
Intelligence / Trainability
This breed is often described as being very intelligent, although their gentleness and occasionally clumsy behavior may fool you. Golden Retrievers' big smarts—combined with their good, pleasing natures— results in this breed being extremely easy to train.
While any calm, assertive, and positive training method will do, Golden Retrievers also excel in obedience training classes. With a professional or experienced owner, most Goldens should pick up the basics within hours.
This breed does well in any environment with enough exercise and attention. That said, given their origins as gun dogs, Golden Retrievers arguably live their best lives when they have access to a yard. Having space to roam allows them to use their impeccable noses and play more.
Of course, a yard—no matter how big—is never a replacement for exercise. Meaning, apartment-dwelling Golden Retrievers that get to fetch and explore the world daily do just fine.
Good For Families And Kids?
Yes. Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dogs in the U.S. for good reason. They are notorious for being gentle and reliable playmates for children of all ages. Golden Retrievers also have a reputation for loving to snuggle with babies.
Young children also often develop a strong bond with Golden Retrievers by learning how to throw the ball for their dog and give basic commands. That stated, this happy-go-lucky breed should, of course, always be handled gently and respectfully by kids.
The average life expectancy for Goldens is 10-12 years.
Due to their immense popularity and, thus, mass breeding, the health of Golden Retrievers has unfortunately declined. The health issues of Golden Retrievers include elbow and hip dysplasia, as well as eye conditions like pigmentary uveitis, juvenile cataracts, and progressive retinal atrophy. Goldens can also suffer from certain heart diseases, such as subvalvular aortic stenosis.
Still, by finding a reputable and responsible breeder, major health issues should likely be avoided. Goldens were originally strong, sturdy, powerful, and athletic dogs. Thus, if purchasing a puppy instead of adopting, look for parents who embody these traits.
Lastly, even the healthiest of Golden Retrievers should have their ears cleaned regularly. Since their ears are long and soft, and because Goldens often spend a lot of time swimming, this breed is prone to ear infections.
Due to their relaxed disposition and propensity for cuddles, Golden Retrievers are often mistakenly classified as low energy dogs. Yet, like all Sporting breeds, healthy Golden Retrievers need lots of daily exercise. This dog does best when receiving at least two walks a day, or one long run.
A game or five of fetch can also supplement walks and runs, although play shouldn't substitute for focused exercise. Over time, this pattern can lead to ball obsession and other unhealthy personality quirks.
Furthermore, Golden Retrievers do best when they spend a great deal of time outdoors. Any activity in nature will do, including field trials, hunting, agility courses, hiking, swimming, and more.
Friendly With... (Dogs? Strangers? Cats/Other pets?)
Considering the best motto for Golden Retrievers may simply be "I'm friendly!" it's safe to say that most Goldens get along great with other dogs. Still, they should always be thoroughly socialized, especially as they can become territorial over tennis balls and other toys.
This breed is also well-known for its healthy relationship with felines. Since some Golden Retrievers may have a higher prey drive than others though, it's important to do a calm and controlled introduction. Note: If this breed does get along with cats, they're apt to try to make them their best friend.
Lastly, Golden Retrievers are often friendly with strangers on the street, but protective of their house. Although each individual dog is different, they'll likely bark or even howl at the door, but then greet a guest in a kind manner.
Coat & Grooming
A Golden Retriever's thick, water-repellant double coat requires less maintenance than you may think. A once or twice-weekly brushing will probably do the trick. Still, this breed sheds all year round and particularly during the spring. Thus, it's advisable that you invest in a good vacuum!
Additionally, because of their love for water and mud, Goldens often require more baths than the average dog.
Golden Retrievers were bred to retrieve water fowl using their large, soft mouths. Thus, this dog breed understandably loves carrying around plush toys and other objects. Often times, Goldens can even be seen walking home from the dog park with a tennis ball or two in their mouths.
Toys Golden Retrievers Would Like Best
This super playful breed is usually thrilled to receive a new toy. As a master fetcher, Goldens love tennis balls—especially squeaky ones—as well as frisbees and rope toys. Yet, due to their cuddly nature and history of retrieving ducks, Goldens also need plenty of plush toys. Some Golden Retrievers may also enjoy treat-motivated puzzle games, while others may simply give up and roll over for pets.
For a more detailed list, check out our "What Are The Best Toys For Golden Retrievers?" post.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Due to their large size and propensity for hip dysplasia, you may want to consider supplements for a Golden Retriever's diet. As always, consult with your veterinarian first.
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Golden Retriever with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
For older Goldens or dogs suffering with stiff joints or hip dysplasia, a comfortable, supportive dog bed is probably a good idea.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup's tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find the Golden Retriever Of Your Dreams
Due to their mass popularity, there are several Golden Retriever Rescues across the country. Here are two notable rescues:
- Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue has placed thousands of Golden Retrievers in loving homes in Pennsylvania and other states. This nonprofit also rescues Labrador Retrievers, Goldendoodles, and Labradoodles.
- As Gold As Gold: Golden Retriever Rescue of Illinois has saved thousands of Goldens in the Midwestern region. They also report that they always have at least 35-40 dogs in need of forever homes.
Notable Instagram Golden Retrievers
This incredibly photogenic Golden Retriever will entertain you for hours! Just look at him and try not to smile! It's impossible.
Another ridiculously photogenic Golden? You don't say. Gunner spends most his days just loving his life! And why shouldn't he? It looks amazing!
Looking for some sweet Golden faces to ohhh and ahh over? @ThatGoldenDog is the perfect place to start. This photographer's dog, Bear, is seen enjoying birthday parties, swims in the pool, and smiling for the camera.
@JadeandherGoldens is another great Goldens-only account. Featuring two adorable dogs, Sawyer and Stevie, these pics are the ideal way to enjoy the Golden Retriever life—even if you don't live with one of your own.
***Looking for a gift to blow your Golden Retriever's mind? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <-- This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! :)
Featured image via CoopertheGoldenR/Instagram