In honor of National Purebred Dog Day on May 1st, we’re pleased to give you a breed profile on the Golden Retriever! We’ll go over the breed specifics, exercise requirements, food, grooming, temperament, and more to answer all your questions about the world’s number 1 family dog.
In this section, we’ll talk about the physical and mental traits that Golden Retrievers are bred to have. While they were initially bred to be hunting dogs to retrieve anything from ducks to small deer (and some still work as hunting partners!), they are still quite versatile in their roles.
Please understand that, while these traits are tendencies observed across a wide variety of Goldens over many years, the traits of individual Golden Retrievers can vary quite widely.
Their height ranges from 21-24 inches, with males tending to be slightly taller than females. Weight ranges from 55-75 pounds, with males ranging heavier than females.
Their coats are medium-length, water-resistant, and can be wavy or straight. They come in a variety of colors ranging from white (like gorgeous Millie) to golden (like our sweet Goldie) to reddish-gold (like the lovely Moana and Minnie). Because Goldens are double-coated (meaning, they shed - but more on that in the Grooming section!), they are NOT hypoallergenic.
On average, Golden Retrievers live a 10-12 year lifespan that is normal for many dogs in the “large” breed category. They are part of the Sporting category, since they were historically bred as hunting companions.
Golden Retrievers rank high on dog intelligence measurements, despite their goofy, puppy-like antics. Their intelligence allows them to be trained to fulfill a variety of working roles, such as guide dogs, service dogs, search-and-rescue dogs, hunting companions, therapy dogs, and much more.
The typical personality of a Golden Retriever is gentle, friendly, outgoing, loyal, even-tempered, and eager to please their humans. They are also VERY playful and are adaptable to changing routines, which makes them a perfect dog for families with children. They don’t always see themselves as a “large breed” and will frequently lay all over your lap, even when they’re full-grown and don’t fit there anymore.
Goldens are not typically predisposed to guarding behaviors, since they’re more likely to want to play with strangers than scare them away. They are also not very independent dogs, as they want to be around their people 24/7.
Golden Retrievers are a generally healthy breed. Everyday issues a Golden might experience could include allergies/other skin conditions and ear infections.
Responsible breeders screen their mamas, studs, and puppies for many conditions, especially hip, eye, and heart conditions. Even so, some issues that may appear later in a Golden’s life are:
Golden Retrievers often mature slowly, both in physical stature and mental progression, which means they bring their puppy-like playfulness into adulthood. So be prepared for LOTS of activity and playtime in the first 4-5 years of their lives! They tend to get more docile and calm as they age.
Goldens are 100% obsessed with food. While helpful for training, the desire for extra treats and table scraps can lead even the most mild-mannered Goldens astray. If a Golden isn’t properly trained and food boundaries are not set, this can lead to weight gain/obesity, chronic begging, and sneaking unattended food.
Due to being bred as game retrievers, Goldens have a tendency to be “mouthy,” which can lead to inappropriate and excessive chewing if the dog does not get proper physical/mental stimulation. They have a moderate desire to bark, but not as strong as other breeds.
Now that we’ve discussed what Golden Retrievers typically are, let’s talk about how to take care of them!
Golden Retrievers should be fed a high-quality brand of dog food that fits with their developmental stage (puppy, adult, senior, etc.). Your vet can give you recommendations for good brands of food and the benefits of wet vs. dry food.
In addition, it is best to carefully measure their food intake and have two or three meals per day as opposed to a free-feeding option.
Why no free feeding? Well, remember how we said Goldens are 100% obsessed with food? That means Goldens will take WAY too much advantage of free-feeding, which they would treat like an all-day buffet, which could THEN lead to obesity, joint pain, and an overall decreased quality of life.
Since Goldens were bred to be working dogs and are in the sporting group, they have a moderate to high energy level. On average, they need 40+ minutes of exercise per day. They would function well with a couple of walks per day and a few trips outside to run in a fenced-in yard or park.
They can be good companions on long runs and bike rides, but consult a vet before engaging in super high-impact exercise. If canine sports interest you and your family, they can be trained to excel at agility, tracking, and obedience.
A Golden’s intelligence, obsession with food, and strong desire to please their people makes them extremely trainable. They can learn a variety of essential commands and fun tricks and, most importantly, they love doing so! In addition to being great mental stimulation for your Golden, training is a source of tasty treats and affection from their person that also strengthens their bond with you.
Because Goldens shed moderately throughout the year, brushing once or twice a week is recommended. During heavy shedding seasons during the spring and fall, daily brushing is needed (unless you want your couch to look like it was upholstered with yellow shag carpet).
Baths are recommended once monthly to keep their coats and skin healthy. Bathe them with good-quality dog shampoo and conditioner, then fully dry them with a hair dryer before you start any brushing. Do NOT allow them to air-dry, as allowing Goldens usually get “zoomies” and rub themselves all over couches, the ground, and other obstacles to get themselves dry. This behavior can lead to severe matting, which is uncomfortable for your dog and can cause skin problems. If you’re interested in having a professional groomer take care of your Golden’s coat, Goldens usually acclimate well to the grooming process.
In addition to coat maintenance: their nails should be trimmed any time they “clack” on your floors; their teeth should be brushed a couple times per week; and check their ears regularly for signs of ear infections (redness, tenderness, bad smell, leakage).
Golden Retrievers make wonderful pets for a variety of single people and families. They are spectacular at getting along with children, seniors, and other pets (both dogs and cats). They are intelligent and mild-mannered by nature, so they make ideal pets for first-time pet owners.
We at Burnham’s Goldens think that Golden Retrievers are darn near the perfect dogs!... but we’re a little biased. We know that, despite all the wonderful traits Goldens have, there are some families to whom Goldens just aren’t well-suited. You may want to research other breeds if one or more of the following are major concerns for you and your family:
Sources and other breed profiles:
Hey, Nick and Mandy Burnham here. We breed our Golden Retrievers, but we aren’t your usual breeding family. Awareness of unethical puppy mills has increased in recent times, and breeders aren’t accepted. We don’t blame people for calling them out. We call them out as well.