Golden Retriever – Breed description
The Golden Retriever has enjoyed immense popularity as a working and family dog for many years. It is renowned for being gentle and friendly whilst, at the same time, obedient, trainable and intelligent.
The breed’s origins can be traced back to Scotland in the 1800s, where a yellow coated, retriever-type dog named Nous was paired with Belle, a Tweed Water Spaniel (this breed is no longer around today), combining the individuals’ retrieval capabilities on land and in water, to create the predecessors of today’s Golden Retriever. Before long, the Golden Retriever crossed the Atlantic and established the early versions of today’s American Golden Retriever, which tend to be leaner and darker in colour.
The breed comes in various golden shades, from a deep red-gold, to almost white. They are still popular as working dogs, but are frequently found as assistance and service dogs, as well as much loved family members.
- People loving and affectionate
- Enjoys plenty of exercise
- Intelligent and easy to train
- Avid swimmers
- Gentle when retrieving
- Need lots of physical and mental stimulation
- Tend to chew and eat inappropriate things
- Hefty appetites – prone to becoming overweight
- At risk of various orthopaedic problems
- Shed a lot of fur
The Golden Retriever can excel as a working dog, a family pet and as a service dog. They have lots of energy and need plenty of walks and mental stimulation to avoid getting into destructive habits like chewing household objects and being overly boisterous in the house. They are very intelligent and highly trainable, relishing any opportunity to please. This means that they can enjoy happy careers as working and assistance dogs, but are equally happy to please their families with fetch games and agility.
The Golden Retriever is always a much-loved companion, but it is best suited to:
- Homes with active lifestyles
- Assistance work – for example, as therapy dogs and hearing assistance dogs
- Stimulating outdoor working activities
Perhaps an ideal home for the Golden Retriever would be a young active couple with plenty of time on their hands and lots of outdoor space.
Known health problems in Golden Retrievers
Golden Retrievers are prone to developing various health problems. Some of which have a proven genetic basis, whilst others are the result of the interaction between genetic risk and the individual dog´s lifestyle. In addition, there are further conditions that we suspect have a hereditary component, but it hasn’t yet been established.
Orthopaedic problems including elbow and hip dysplasia, as well as osteochondrosis, are common among Goldens. These are genetically linked, and unfortunately, can cause significant discomfort, leading to lameness and arthritis over time. Factors such as obesity can increase the risk of an individual suffering from their adverse effects, so careful weight management is essential.
As with Labradors, there are some inherited eye problems that Goldens are at risk for. These include conditions of the retina such as retinal atrophy and retinal dystrophy, these are problematic because they can affect vision. Cataracts or glaucoma (painful, elevated pressure in the eye) may also be an issue.
Additionally, individuals of the breed commonly suffer from skin problems, such as itching, and idiopathic epilepsy. This means seizures with no known cause, and, as with Labradors, is suspected to have a hereditary aspect. Your dog might never suffer from any genetic or inherited condition, this depends on factors such as individual breeding, but this breed has a higher prevalence than normal of such issues. Goldens may also suffer a heart problem such as dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM) which is common among older, large breed dogs, and are at risk for gastric dilatation and volvulus (GDV) given their deep chests.
Ingesting things that they shouldn’t is a common habit amongst Golden Retrievers, they tend to be exuberant eaters! Unfortunately, this puts them at risk for gastrointestinal obstructions, which can mean surgery.
- Orthopaedic problems – osteochondrosis, hip and elbow dysplasia, and cranial cruciate ligament disease
- Susceptible to overeating and obesity
- Tendency to ingest foreign material, causing the risk of intestinal obstruction
- Skin complaints
- Eye problems – including inherited forms of glaucoma, retinal abnormalities and cataracts
- Seizures (idiopathic epilepsy)
Golden Retriever care advice
Goldens need plenty of exercise and mental stimulation to stay healthy and happy. It’s important to spend time teaching any Golden puppy what it can and can’t put in its mouth, so it becomes accustomed to appropriate toys from an early age. That said, they might still pick things up and can scavenge whilst out on walks, so training them to drop and leave objects is essential. Although undeniably gorgeous, their long coat tends to shed often, so they should be brushed at least weekly, otherwise you’ll find another, slightly smaller Golden accumulating around the house!
- Provide plenty of opportunities for activity and exercise
- Teach basic obedience and drop commands
- Provide toys to engage and stimulate
- Maintain an appropriate weight
- Brush the coat regularly
Lead author: Yvette Bell MRCVS