Golden Retriever Temperament & Personality
Golden retrievers are sporting dogs known for their lustrous golden coats. They were first bred as hunting companions to retrieve fallen game, hence their name.
The Goldens were first bred in Scotland and were trained to hike mountains, and swim in bodies of water like lakes, ponds and rivers. This made them strong and enduring, as well as intelligent and trainable.
As the breed developed, so did their roles in the lives of their humans. These days, they make a perfect family pet, and they are also often trained as military and police dogs (primarily for sniffing, search and rescue), and guide dogs for the blind. They are often featured in well-loved movies like “Air Bud” and “Home Bound”.
Golden Retriever Characteristics
It is easy to fall in love with this handsome breed. The hallmark of a Golden Retriever is its luscious coat of various shades of gold, broad head, straight muzzle, short ears, and kind eyes. It has a body that has the propensity to grow muscular, short sturdy legs, and hairy tail. Moreover, Goldens are bred to be noble masters and sport dignified gait.
Golden Retriever Size (Male & Female)
The Goldens are muscular dogs of medium size. Golden males are slightly larger and heavier than their female counterparts. There are slight variations in size among the three types of goldens—English, Canadian and American.
Golden Retriever Height (Male & Female)
Male Goldens have an average height of 23 to 24 inches, while females grow up to 21.5 to 22.5 inches high. They generally reach their full height when they turn one year old.
Golden Retriever Weight (Male & Female)
Male Goldens weigh, on average, 65 to 75 pounds, and females, 55 to 65 pounds.
Golden Retriever Life Span (Male & Female)
Goldens have an average life span of 10 to 12 years. This breed is prone to diseases that come with age but when their medical needs are met and with a healthy lifestyle, they may reach beyond their 15th year. The oldest Golden in history is August “Augie” who celebrated her 20th this year.
Golden Retriever Personality
It’s not hard to fall in love with a Golden Retriever. They have a kind countenance and playful personality. Well-settled Goldens don’t shy away from intimacy and human interaction. It is one of the breeds to bring into gatherings as it loves catching everyone’s attention.
Male Goldens are more attentive, affectionate and people-pleasers than their female counterparts. Female Goldens tend to be more independent and territorial, but they require as much attention from their humans. Overall, both genders of this breed retain their pleasing traits that make them sweet and intelligent pets.
Goldens are also loyal and obedient to their humans. When owners have established their connection with their Golden, they will have to get used to being cuddled or offered objects. This is their natural way of showing their humans that they love them. In times of danger, they do not abandon their owners even at the risk of their safety.
Aggression is the last thing to associate with a Golden Retriever. It is not in their nature. This only happens when the Golden feels fearful, stressed, or frustrated. Their default is that of quiet calmness that only gets better as they age.
Goldens are the Miss Congeniality in the world of pets. They are generally friendly with other pets in their home. However, Goldens don’t need a dog companion—unlike some breeds—and are happy with their humans through and through.
Golden Retriever Exercise
Exercise is a big part in keeping a golden happy and healthy. They are genetically created to have tremendous stamina for movement and action.
The exercise routine of Goldens should be age appropriate. Puppies of several weeks old may start training once they are settled in their new home. They will need at least 5 minutes of exercise with brisk walk or fetch. The intensity of the activities should be mild as the pups are just starting to build stamina.
Come adolescence, or when they turn eight months old up to two years old, their body reaches mature size. Their energy level increases, and so is their need for physical activity. At this age they should be given at least an hour of exercise. There is no intensity limit during this age. Trainers will tire out faster than the Goldens.
Variety in activities will stimulate them, and preferably includes water fetch (retrieving objects in the water), jogs at the park, sprints, and hikes.
Goldens carry out this level of energy well into their adulthood. At this age, they become more confident and chill out. But their stamina for outdoors and play is still at the peak.
Goldens reach their elderly age at seven years old and beyond. Age-related diseases may start taking toll and they would need to slow down. Other than that, Goldens will be as cheerful and energetic as in their adolescent years.
Golden Retriever Training
Goldens’ intelligence and athletic build make them highly trainable and able to perform strenuous tasks that other breeds will easily succumb to. They can be trained as companion pets, and into several professions such as therapy, search and rescue, sniffing, and guide dogs. They are extremely smart, obedient, patient, and hardworking that enable them to get into canine services.
For regular pet owners who want to personally train their Golden at home, here is a few things to remember:
- Goldens thrive in trainings disguised as play. They are eternal puppies and love it when they are given competition and challenges to match their enthusiasm. They are motivated by rewards such as tasty treats, vegetables and fruits.
- They respond to happy and playful voice and tones. Rather than shouting commands and constantly showing forceful authority, Goldens appreciate it more when trainers use a friendly voice.
- Goldens are red-green color blind and may have difficulty focusing from a close distance. Appropriating the training to their abilities can help them better perform a task.
- Goldens can be trained for scent work at home. Given their eyesight, their olfactory senses compensate for the lack. They have superior sniffing abilities which make them perfect for bomb sniffing, and even for detecting COVID-19.
- Goldens like training on a consistent manner, and ingrain more of the lessons when done daily. Owners are encouraged to create a training routine and schedule they can devote to their Goldens.
- Goldens can start obedience and potty training immediately as soon as they get home with their owners, and as early as a few weeks old. There is no set age for training Goldens but the younger they are, the better. This will facilitate better memory retention for longer.
- Older goldens can be trained, too. If the owner decides to adopt or purchase adult Goldens, know that this breed still has the exuberance to learn. This is a very smart breed that given proper training even during adolescence and adulthood, they are still able to learn new things. It would be best to choose a good breeder to find out more about the training of their adult Golden.
Golden Retriever History
In the 19th century, the Golden Retriever was first bred at the Guisachan estate in Scotland by Lord Tweedmouth, Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (1820-1894). Baron Tweedmouth chose “Nous”, a light-colored pup from a family of black Wavy-Coats, and “Belle”, a Tweed Water Spaniel (presently, an extinct breed). The breeding program gave birth to three bitch puppies named Ada, Cowslip and Primrose, and one male, Crocus.
The breed was created to become waterfowl dogs, as game was a favorite pastime of the baron. Tweed Spaniels were known for their swimming skills while Wavy-Coats are popular retrievers with excellent build to match the rough and chilly waters of the North Sea coast. The match made the Golden Retrievers as they are today, excellent swimmers, with strong physique.
The Golden Retriever was officially recognized as a breed of its own by the Kennel Club in England in 1911, and by the American Kennel Club in 1932.
Golden Retriever health problems
Cancer kills 60% of Goldens according to GRCA reports. This may be due to a long history of interbreeding. What happens is that interbreeding creates issues in the genes that make them prone to diseases such as cancer. Some of the deadliest cancers that hit Goldens are:
- Lymphosarcoma or lymphoma is the cancer on lymphoids.
- Mastocytoma or mast cell tumor is an accumulation of mast cells that look like a tumor.
- Osteosarcoma is a cancer found in bones. For dogs, this usually appears at the knee area.
Early detection can help slow down the progress of cancer and detect tumor for surgical removal. Surgeries give them a fighting chance for survival. At the present, a number of treatments are being developed to cure canine cancer.
Bloat and GDV. GDV or gastric dilatation volvulus is a condition where the dog’s stomach is flipped upside down, that can stop the flow of blood and get trapped in the stomach. This is fatal if not treated. Other digestive issues that commonly occur with dogs are vomiting, diarrhea, worms, food poisoning, and pancreatitis. Owners should monitor their dog for any of these issues. Treatment varies, but it should be a practice to see a vet at the onset of pain.
Seizures happen a lot in some breeds with genetic epilepsy such as Goldens. Short seizures repeat over weeks or months for dogs with genetic epilepsy. They can develop seizures when they turn 1 year of age, or as late as 5. Goldens with this condition are still able to live a long life. However, seizures of more than five minutes are alarming and warrant medical attention. The effects of seizures are cumulative and may turn into brain damage. Certain foods trigger seizures in dogs, and therefore must be avoided. This and other prevention measures can be consulted with a veterinarian.
Hip dysplasia is a debilitating condition stemming from abnormal formation of hip sockets. It may cause joint arthritis but, fortunately, it can be treated.
Skin conditions, in Goldens, can be due to improper grooming, behavior, and genetic causes. Some of these are lick granuloma, sebaceous adenitis, seborrhea, sebaceous cysts, and lipomas. Detection of any of these conditions will require consultation with a vet.
Subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) is a congenital heart disease that affects Goldens, Newfoundlands, and Rottweilers, to name a few. The heart murmur symptoms of SAS are hard to spot on. But once veterinarians do, they may stand a chance of survival. Owners should watch out for lack of energy, excessive panting even when they have long been resting, persistent coughing/hacking, fainting, bluish tongue or gums, and rapid pulse.
Von Willebrand disease is a genetic blood disorder found in Goldens. Dogs with this disease have a hard time clotting because of the absence or defective von Willebrand factor which is a clotting protein. They may suffer excessive bleeding from injuries, nose, gums and internal organs.
Loose knees (Luxating Patella) happens when the kneecap moves from its original position. Dogs with loose knees may be seen limping, skipping, losing limb support, and sitting with an abnormal posture.
Cataracts affect Goldens and Labrador Retrievers the most. Depending on the size range of the cataract, it will still allow Retrievers to identify light and dark, but when neglected, it can progress to vision loss.
Low thyroid is common in dogs but more so in Goldens, Dachshunds, Cocker Spaniels, and Doberman Pinschers, to name a few. It happens when the gland does not produce enough hormone. Signs include excess shedding, weight gain, dull and thinning coat, and reduced activity.
Ear infections are common in dogs with big ears. It is a tendency to trap moisture inside and create an environment for bacterial growth. If left unattended, this can result to wax buildup and foul smell.
Elbow Dysplasia can show at an early age in dogs. Its most obvious sign is lameness when the dog is lying down or after exercising. Like hip dysplasia, it can lead to arthritis. Treatment for elbow dysplasia is done to slow down the development of arthritis and help the patient to still perform motion with the elbow. However, it is not curable.
How to Care for Golden Retrievers
Owning a Golden Retriever is a commitment as much as a pleasure. The two most important points to expect are exercise and grooming.
Exercise is an important part of the daily lives of Goldens. This medium-sized breed loves to eat and will hardly become satiated. This makes them prone to obesity. To manage their weight, owners must see to it that their Golden receives its minimum exercise requirement.
Exercise is also the key in keeping Goldens from being stressed and restless. They have tremendous energy inside that is quenched by constant motion. Not having enough exercise frustrates them and they may divert this stamina in destructive play.
That said, spacious yards are an important consideration when adopting or purchasing a Golden. The breed loves the outdoors for running and play. However, these dogs can stay peacefully inside their homes as long as they are with their humans. They thrive best in suburban and country environments.
And then, there’s grooming. The dense coat of Goldens takes the bulk of hours put in the overall grooming. Fortunately, Goldens love water and the attention they get from their humans and that makes the activity pleasurable for them. Owners can turn this into an opportunity for more bonding moments.
While exercise and grooming are the biggest responsibility of a Golden Retriever parent, it is also notable to take care of their pets emotionally. These gentle giants are attention seekers and want constant human touch. It is not surprising that they attract strangers to pet them.
Goldens cannot be left alone for a long time and would get their human’s attention every so often. It is most stressful for them to be away from their human, and long periods of neglect can develop separation anxiety and depression.
Being the sensitive, quiet and amiable creatures that they are, Goldens are negatively affected by a loud environment. This may not be generally true for all but Goldens tend to fear loud noises.
Nutrition and Feeding for Golden Retriever
Goldens love to eat and have the tendency to grow overweight and obese. For this breed, it is necessary to measure their food and monitor their macros, with focus on protein and carbohydrates.
Goldens are carnivorous and their diet largely consists of raw or cooked meat. They don’t do well with vegetarian protein source, but they can be given vegetables and bananas for snacks or as treats. During training, they respond best to high value treats. They can be given food scraps but not too often.
Goldens must not be fed the following:
- Foods with Ethoxyquin, BHT, BHA, propylene glycol and sodium nitrate/nitrite. These are all suspected to contain carcinogen and must be avoided at all cost given that Goldens are very much at risk of cancer.
- Foods with other chemical preservatives.
- Grapes and raisins have toxic compounds that are poisonous to dogs. These have the potential to lead to kidney failure and death even in small amounts.
- Onion contains sulfoxides and disulfides and are toxic for dogs.
- Garlic is also poisonous for dogs in large amounts.
- Apple seeds, apricot pits can choke dogs and are hard to digest. Same goes for peaches and plums.
- High sugar content foods such as desserts for humans. Examples are sodas, candies, chocolate, and caffeinated beverages.
- High fatty content foods such as cooked bones.
Coat Color and Grooming
Goldens are double coat, which means they have a topcoat and an undercoat. The topcoat serves as their first shield from dirt and liquid. This coat is water-resistant and appears lustrous and soft when at its peak health. The undercoat helps in keeping the body insulated. The hairs of undercoat is a lot shorter than the outer coat.
Shaving a Golden’s coat will make its texture coarse. It also encourages the growth of hot spots or also known as pyotraumatic dermatitis. Hot spots cause skin lesions that may contain pus, and extremely uncomfortable. Therefore, it is not recommended to shave a Golden.
When it comes to shedding, Goldens tend to shed the most during spring and fall, and lesser during summer and winter. Shedding naturally occurs to all dogs even those with short hair. It is their way of changing coats. Owners can make shedding easier by combing their Goldens as often as every two days.
At three months of age, Golden pups tend to feather, or transition to mature coat, first on the legs, on the underside of stomach, and on the tail, and gradually up the entire body.
To make this new coat shiny all year long, owners can take them to a professional groomer every 4 to 6 weeks. At home, Goldens need to bathe and get a blowout every week, but not more than a month. Brushing must be done daily to prevent matting and tangling.
Basic grooming Goldens comprise of shampooing, washing trimming hair on the ears, feet, neck and tail, clipping nails and cleaning the ears. Full haircut is not recommended, and by no means should they be shaved even in the summer.
Children and Other Pets
Goldens are mild-tempered and gentle with children. They don’t bark very much and have a “soft mouth”, a behavior that resulted from long training of the breed as game retrievers. This allows the dogs to pick up and carry fallen game and makes them a safe companion for young children.
Having established that Goldens are more of the calm and playful companions for children, they are not very much of a guard dog. With proper training, they can boost their protective skills.
The Golden Retrievers Club of America (GRCA) is the largest group of enthusiasts that protects Golden Retrievers and educates others about the breed. The GRCA National Rescue Committee is the dedicated volunteer-operated group that provides networking and coordinating services for the rescue activities for Golden Retrievers all over the US.
The GRCA Puppy Referral and Rescue networks allows future fur parents to find a reputable breeder in their area. GRCA also provides new owners additional information about breeders, the process of purchasing a Golden, and the American Kennel Club (AKC) breed standard. Access the website here.
More About This Breed
Spaying and Neutering
Vets recommend spaying and neutering goldens to control their population and avoid overcrowding shelters. Spaying for female Goldens is commonly done before they reach their first heat cycle around 6 to 8 months, while neutering for males is usually after 1 year of age. Spaying and neutering may be different for each dog and it is best to talk to a vet for this procedure.