The Golden Retriever is an all-around sporty breed that thrives on work as well as play. A charismatic addition to the family, the Golden matches nicely with almost any potential owner ready for full-throttled fun.
Developed in mid-19th century Scotland as a gundog to retrieve birds for hunters, the Golden’s history is an action-packed tale. First Baron Tweedmouth (aka Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, a founder of the breed) cultivated the breed’s strong swimming and retrieving skills. Although bred for hard work, early Goldens also were expected to have a gentle mouth. They needed to carry birds without causing damage. People, after all, wanted to cook a whole bird, not bird bits.
Golden Retrievers Delight in life
These days, Goldens enjoy hunting, hiking, swimming and ball chasing. A delightful family dog, the Golden is above all an athlete. They thrive on sports such as dock diving, flyball, agility, rally and scent work. Many Goldens improvise homemade games as well. Most of these sports involve sticks, balls and almost certainly water (not to mention mud!). Bred to work for people, Goldens are also eager and successful obedience students.
Although Goldens are multi-talented, they’ll likely fail guard dog duty. A Golden’s bark is typically more of a greeting than a warning. The breed isn’t sold on the concept of stranger danger. Most will play with anyone tossing a ball! Goldens usually view new dogs as potential playmates, not rivals. Some Goldens chase cats, but most often playfully.
Search and rescue heroes
“With their strength, stamina, drive and excellent noses, Goldens can make excellent partners in the search field,” says Susannah Charleson, K-9 search specialist handler and author (Where the Lost Dogs Go: A Story of Love, Search, and the Power of Reunion, 2019). “Sensitive to humans in distress, many Goldens easily switch roles from finder to comforter, calming those they’ve found in a way human rescuers often can’t.”
Goldens trained in search and rescue show great persistence. “We weren’t on a search, but my partner, Gambit, recently pulled me across a parking lot to alert on an unconscious woman in a car,” Susannah says. “He picked up the scent of something disturbing to him and led me to a woman who had collapsed in her vehicle after a workout.” The woman was in a bad way when the paramedics arrived, but she survived. “Without Gambit’s resolve the woman might not have been found in the car before the day’s temperature rose to triple digits,” Susannah explains. “The Golden’s determination can be life-saving.”
Labors of love
Goldens excel as physical assistance dogs, guide dogs for the visually impaired, search and rescue dogs and hearing dogs for the hearing-impaired. The Golden learns quickly and strives to please.
The gentle Golden makes a dependable family dog. As youngsters, though, they tend to play rather rough. A classic “whoops” for a Golden juvenile is jumping up on, or knocking over, little human playmates. The breed appreciates big spaces for running, but (if exercised regularly) also can thrive in apartments. Their adaptability is as renowned as their amiability.
Golden Retriever Facts
Weight: Males, 65 to 75 pounds; females, 55 to 65 pounds
Life span: 10 to 11 years
Coat: Dense, double coated. Straight or wavy outer coat. The undercoat offers soft warmth.
Color: Many shades of rich golden; not remarkably dark or light
Grooming: Regular brushing keeps the coat clean, beautiful and mat-free.
Shedding: The Golden’s coat stays healthy by shedding old hair. Keep the vacuum plugged in!
Who woo-hoos?: Many Goldens make a woo-hooing sound when they’re happy or excited. Some woo-hoo along to music.
Best for: Active singles and families. Newbie and experienced owners alike.
Equipment: Stock up on balls and water toys for his active lifestyle.
Possible health issues: Hemangiosarcoma; hip dysplasia.
Proposed breed quote: Choose Happy
Read Next: The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study