The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK. Adored by families and the elderly, acclaimed by lifeguards, tireless companions to athletes, these dogs are a big ball of fabulous qualities, all bundled up in fifty kilos of love and fur! These doggies have a docile temperament and a cheerful disposition, which greatly contribute to their tremendous popularity.
A Brief History
Theories about the origin of the breed diverge. According to some, the Golden Retriever originated in Scotland, where it was bred for waterfowl hunting in the mid-19th century. The best water spaniels were crossed with retriever dogs, resulting in the creation of the breed known today as the Golden Retriever. According to other sources, Golden Retrievers are descended from the now-extinct Russian tracker dog. The breed was first recognised by The Kennel Club as a “yellow” or “golden” Retriever in 1913.
The official breed name was changed to the Golden Retriever in 1920, with the establishment of the Golden Retriever Club. These days, this is one of the most popular breeds in the UK, ahead of its cousin, the Labrador Retriever.
Golden Retriever Physical Characteristics
The Golden Retriever's physical characteristics vary depending on the type (British, American, or Canadian). Unsurprisingly, the British type is the one most commonly found in the UK.
Body: The Golden Retriever is a medium-large dog with a robust, well-proportioned body and deep, well-sprung ribs.
Head: The head is balanced and well chiselled with a well-defined stop. The nose is preferably black.
Ears: The medium-sized, triangular ears are set at eye level and hang down.
Eyes: The eyes are dark brown with dark rims, set well apart.
Tail: The tail is carried level with the back, without curling. The length reaches the hock.
Coat: The coat is long, wavy or flat, with feathering. Golden Retrievers also have a dense, water-resistant undercoat.
Colour: The Golden Retriever is, by definition, golden, but there are several accepted shades, ranging from creamy white to sienna. White coats are not accepted by the breed standard. Red or mahogany coats neither.
Golden Retriever Temperament
Golden Retrievers are well known for their gentle, patient, and cheerful temperament. These are loyal dogs, who are very obedient when properly trained, and gentle with children and the elderly. Typically non-aggressive, Golden Retrievers get along well with other dogs. All these great qualities make them excellent guide and assistance dogs.
Golden Retrievers form close bonds with their owners and don't like being alone. Athletic, your Golden Retriever will gladly accompany you on your jogs, hikes, and bike rides, in the mountains or on the beach. This dog breed also loves canine activities such as musical canine freestyle or agility.
They are not natural guard dogs, but can be protective should the circumstances require. Golden Retrievers are quite capable of cohabiting with other animals, provided they've been properly socialised from an early age. Nonetheless, these are hunting dogs, with a fairly developed predatory instinct.
Ideal Living Conditions for a Golden Retriever
Golden Retrievers are generally easy-going by nature and can be comfortable almost anywhere. While your pooch will of course appreciate a house with a big garden or, better yet, in the countryside, they can also be perfectly happy living in an apartment, so long as they get enough exercise and time outdoors. This athletic dog breed needs to be able to run and exercise for at least an hour and a half a day, in addition to shorter outings to relieve themselves.
If you live near a water source where dog bathing is allowed, like a river or a beach, be sure to take your furry friend for regular trips there. Golden Retrievers love the water and will be delighted to swim whenever they get the chance.
Do Golden Retrievers Get Along Well with Others?
This sociable, affectionate dog breed gets along wonderfully with children, with whom they are gentle and patient. Of course, it is still never advisable never to leave a toddler alone with a dog to avoid any risk of accident. With elderly people, Golden Retrievers are quick to understand that they need to avoid any abrupt movements that could hurt them. Cohabitation with other pets is also quite possible provided that your Golden Retriever puppy has been socialised from an early age. However, it's still more prudent not to leave your cats or exotic pets, rodents in particular, alone with your Golden Retriever, because, being hunting dogs, they would undoubtedly consider them prey.
Is a Golden Retriever the Right Dog for Me?
The Golden Retriever is a suitable breed for all different types of people and families, just as long as their owners have sufficient time and energy to devote to them. These energetic dogs especially love athletic owners who will take them out multiple times a day for exercise.
Despite their robust appearance, Golden Retrievers are prone to certain hereditary diseases. Like many large dog breeds, Golden Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, a joint disease that can seriously affect a dog's mobility. To avoid this, be sure to choose your breeder carefully and check that both parents are unaffected by this disorder. You should also avoid putting too much stress on your puppy while they're growing to prevent the onset of serious joint problems. Unfortunately, like the Flat-Coated Retriever, this dog breed is also susceptible to cancer and eye diseases. Finally, Golden Retrievers are known to suffer from skin problems, such as dermatitis or allergies. Beware of ear infections, especially if your dog likes to swim! Their hanging ears are an easy target for infection. The average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is between 12 and 14 years.
Golden Retriever Training
Being very intelligent dogs, Golden Retrievers are easy to train. In fact, they are one of the brightest dog breeds in terms of obedience training. However, it's important to adopt the right approach to training your dog from the start, to ensure you're doing it positively and not causing any sort of trauma. Golden Retrievers are very sensitive dogs, so even the slightest indication of violence, either verbal or physical, can antagonise them and turn them against you. They also have a stubborn side which will not make it any easier for you if you decide to take a negative approach to training. Favour positive dog training, based on rewards (treats, strokes, verbal praise, etc.). Take advantage of your Golden Retriever's playful side to transform playtime into teachable moments. Golden Retrievers have a natural desire to please their owner: make the most of it!
This breed is recommended as a first dog because even first-time owners will be able to train them without too much trouble. If need be, you can always hire a professional dog trainer or take your puppy to puppy school, where they'll also get the chance to meet and socialise with other dogs.
Diet: What to Feed Your Golden Retriever
Don't neglect your Golden Retriever’s diet. It plays a vital role in their health and, as such, must be able to meet all their nutritional needs. One of the golden rules of dog food is to avoid the industrial dog food found in supermarkets, as much as possible. This is because it tends to be very poor in quality and thus incapable of meeting your Golden Retriever's nutritional requirements. Opt for dog food rich in animal protein - never buy dog food with a plant protein base! Remember that dogs are opportunistic carnivores.
Learn how to decipher product labels to understand exactly what you're feeding your dog and be sure to choose a healthy composition, without added preservatives or sweeteners. You can choose between feeding your pooch dry dog food, wet dog food, or a mixture of the two. Each type of dog food has its pros and cons. Finally, if you have the time and want to control all the ingredients you offer your Golden Retriever, you can try feeding them homemade dog food or a BARF diet - just be sure to check with your vet first!
Your Golden Retriever's dietary needs are likely to change over time, depending on their age and health condition. Stay attuned to your dog's needs and change their dog food if necessary, taking care to do any transition gradually so as not to cause digestive upset.
Golden Retriever Care
Vaccines: between £30 to £60 for the first injection series, plus annual boosters
Dog food: from around £50 per month for high-quality dog food
Monthly budget: minimum £105 per month
Due to their thick undercoat, Golden Retrievers require brushing ideally once a day. At the very least, they need brushing once per week. During moulting periods, which occur twice a year in spring and autumn, Golden Retrievers lose a lot of hair. To prevent a build-up of dead hairs, brush your pooch every day during these periods, using a suitable brush.
Golden Retrievers have very sensitive ears. After each outing, check to make sure that your pooch doesn't have any parasites or debris hiding in there. This dog breed is prone to ear infections, so be extra careful and regularly clean the inside of the ears using special cleaning products. Brush your dog's teeth to ensure good oral health and trim their nails to prevent any risk of injury. If you're worried about grooming your Golden Retriever yourself, you can always call your vet or take your dog to a professional dog groomer.
Golden Retriever Price
As a general rule, a Golden Retriever puppy can cost anywhere between £1400 and £5000. This price varies according to several criteria. Some breeders ask for higher prices if the animal is intended for exhibition or reproduction, or if it comes from an exceptional line. The popularity of the breed can also affect the price. Some rare breeds are more expensive than others. When there is more demand than supply, breeders can also afford to increase their asking price. Be aware, however, that a high price doesn't necessarily equate to a high-quality breeder. Before you decide, make sure to visit the breeder in person and ask to see the parents, as well as where the animals live.
Golden Retriever Sleep
Sleep is important for all dogs and Golden Retrievers are no exception. Golden Retrievers can sleep outside, but much prefer to sleep indoors with their family. If you'd prefer that your dog sleeps outside, make sure to invest in a quality kennel, well insulated and raised off the ground to keep it free from moisture. Warning: Do not put your dog outside to sleep if temperatures are freezing. Despite their thick coat, Golden Retrievers are not built to withstand sub-zero temperatures.
In the house, place your dog's bed in a corner all of its own, a little out of the way, well ventilated in summer and nice and warm in winter. You can buy your pooch a cushion that perfectly matches their size or a dog bed or basket. You can even find small dog sofas. Opt for solid material, like plastic, especially if your Golden Retriever has destructive tendencies. You can fill the bed with blankets and cushions to make it cosy for them.
Games and Physical Activities for Your Golden Retriever
Athletic and playful at heart, Golden Retrievers have significant physical expenditure needs. They are very fond of games and physical activities that appeal to their intelligence, sense of smell, and physical abilities, especially as a swimmer. If not sufficiently exercised, this dog breed will very quickly fall bored and risk developing problematic behaviours like barking and destroying property. Take your Golden Retriever out for at least an hour and a half a day and try and get them to run.
Golden Retrievers love the water, so let them swim whenever you have the chance. This dog breed is also excellent at agility, tracking, or even traction activities. They will have no problem accompanying you on a hike through the forest or in the mountains. At home, make sure you have enough games and toys to occupy your pooch in your absence. Golden Retrievers need intellectual stimulation to be happy and balanced. Brain games, such as Kongs or puzzles, are ideal.
Pet Insurance: Protecting Your Golden Retriever
As a family dog, pet insurance is not obligatory for your Golden Retriever. However, taking out a pet insurance policy for your dog helps to cover you in the event of accident or illness. Even if your dog is not aggressive by nature, accidents can happen quickly and you would be held responsible for any damage or harm caused to a third party by your dog. Pet insurance is a great way to make sure you're not hit with any nasty surprises. Most home insurance policies offer the option to include animal liability insurance. You can also purchase third party public liability dog insurance, which provides additional protection.
On the other hand, if you use your dog for hunting, you will need to take out special insurance to protect yourself. This type of insurance is only valid during the hunting season. Additionally, pet insurance for dogs is a great way to make sure your Golden Retriever gets the healthcare they deserve throughout their life. This dog breed is prone to certain diseases and, as vet fees are not standardised in the UK, veterinary costs can be very high. Health insurance for your Golden Retriever works the same way as for humans: you pay a monthly premium to an insurance company and, in return, they reimburse you for any veterinary expenses.
Golden Retriever Size and Weight
Males are slightly larger than females and measure between 56 and 61cm, compared to 51 to 56cm. In terms of weight, a male Golden Retriever weighs between 28 and 32kg, and a female Golden Retriever weighs between 24 and 28kg.
The Kennel Club classifies Golden Retrievers in The Gundog Group, which consists of dogs that were originally trained to find live game and/or to retrieve game that had been shot and wounded.