Golden Retriever Temperament & Personality
Golden retrievers are intelligent, sociable, energetic and popular dogs. These are a large breed known for their iconic dark to light golden coat.
Goldens make great companion and guide dogs for the blind. Their excellent nose sensitivity qualifies them to work in sniffing jobs, and search and rescue operations.
A key quality for Golden Retrievers is their love for water, and the outdoors as a whole. They are suited as jogging buddy and fitness partner for owners with an active lifestyle.
Below are some of the general facts about Golden Retrievers and what to expect as an owner.
Golden Retriever characteristics
The Golden is overall a symmetrical and strong dog. It is one of the larger dogs, but its legs are not very long. It is known for its golden mane, which can go from lighter to darker shades.
Goldens have a kind appearance and friendly and intelligent eyes. Their ears are short and hang close to the cheek. Their skull is broad and slightly arched, but without a prominent forehead.
Active Goldens have a lean body that may look thicker when covered with fluffy coat. Their legs are muscular, short and make for a powerful gait. The tail starts with a muscular base and follows the natural croup line, and may extend before the hock.
The types of Golden Retrievers are Canadian, British and American of origin and below are some of the differences from one to another.
Canadian Golden Retrievers have shorter and thinner coats than British and American. The texture of the coat is soft but not as silky, and feathers less. Average size of males is 23-24 inches, and for females, 21.5-22.5 inches.
British Golden Retrievers, unlike their Canadian counterparts, have long and feathery coat that is creamy in color. The coat can be wavy or flat, and thus feathers a lot. British Goldens are shorter (males 22-24 inches and females 20-22 inches) than their counterparts.
American Golden Retrievers are a very familiar breed, and easily recognized for their dense and deeply golden coat in various shades. Their coats tend to heavily feather in the neck, thighs and tail area. Average size for males is 23-24 inches, and for females, 21.5 to 22.5 inches.
Golden Retriever Size (male & Female)
This breed is generally large and athletic, which make them suitable for outdoor recreation, and physically strenuous games.
Golden Retriever Height (Male & Female)
Adult male Golden Retrievers grow on average up to 23 to 24 inches high while their female counterparts could grow from 21.5 to 22.5 inches high. They could reach their full height by age one.
Golden Retriever Weight (Male & Female)
Full grown male Golden Retrievers weigh 65 to 75 pounds. Females could be as heavy as 55 to 65 pounds. The breed generally reaches their mature weight on their second year.
Golden Retriever Life Span (Male & Female)
Goldens have a longer life span compared to a lot of breeds. The average life span of Goldens is about 10 to 12 years. Annual health checkups are a must as this breed is susceptible to ailments as they grow old. The oldest Golden retriever on record is August “Augie” which turned 20 years old on April 24 this year.
Golden Retriever Personality
Golden retrievers are impeccably smart, affectionate and empathetic to people. This extroversion means they love receiving attention from their owners, and even strangers, and will always ask for petting. They also show affection by bringing objects to their human.
Goldens can be trained to be left by themselves for a good eight hours, before they start giving their owners a paw--their sign of asking for attention. Without the habitual interaction with their humans, they can be very unhappy, hyper, loud, aggressive, and destructive.
This breed is generally intelligent, but they often do not realize their size. Goldens are a puppy inside an adult body which is both adorable and annoying. Good training can manage this behavior.
Golden Retriever Exercise
Generally, Golden Retrievers are a bundle of energy in their youth. They have high energy levels and require a lot of exercise daily. They need constant movement, play and attention.
At around 2-3 years, this behavior will start to mellow down. This is the age when they start gaining maturity and confidence, and their body chemicals start to balance.
The early ancestors of retrievers are brought up running in the mountains and playing in bodies of fresh water like lakes, ponds and streams. The long hikes, swims and vigorous physical activities made this a sturdy, enduring and highly energetic breed.
As a family pet, Golden Retrievers do not need as much high intensity activities. But lack of movement can stress them and make them feel restless. If so, they may channel their excess energy in destructive habits like gnawing on furniture, running inside the house, and aggression towards other pets, among others.
A Golden’s exercise requirement varies with age, genes and training. While there is no fast rule for physical activities for Goldens, first time owners can benefit from the tips below:
Breeders usually separate Golden puppies from their mothers when they turn seven to eight weeks old. The pups can then be trained as soon as they are settled in their new home.
At this age, trainers need to structure their activities around moderate intensity exercises and for a short period.
For starters, the pups would require 5 minutes of exercise every day, and this is compounded by another 5 minutes as they grow a month older. A gentle game of fetch and brisk walking on a leash is a good start.
Adolescent and adult
Adolescent and adult Goldens would need at least an hour of daily exercise. This could increase or decrease, depending on the training they received early in life or on the genes of their parents.
This is the peak age of their energy and they would love various high intensity activities like running, hiking and swimming. The breed has an affinity with water and would love swimming in pools, lakes and rivers.
Adult Goldens especially love games that involve their human families. Playing fetch can make a good bonding time for the whole family and their Golden.
Elderly Goldens may need to slow down due to joint pains and other ailments that may develop as they age.
This does not always apply to all as some elderly Goldens maintain their stamina for a long time even beyond their 12th year. When they start involuntarily slowing down, it is best to take them to a vet and change routine as advised.
Nevertheless, Goldens will always need to exercise regardless of what stage they are in life.
Golden Retriever training
This breed is intended to work alongside humans (historically, for retrieving game for hunters) and to receive training from as early as two to three weeks of their birth. As working retrievers and a sporting breed, they are receptive to instructions.
Once a Golden is settled in its new home, it can begin training almost immediately.
Goldens love training that is structured around games. They learn well when it involves rewards (high-value treats), and when it is integrated in their day to day as consistently as possible.
It is important to avoid yelling during training and, if it can be helped, at all times. If a Golden does not respond to a cue, being playful and making the task a little easier will get them back on track. A happy, friendly and playful tone is sure to get them engaged and cooperative, rather than using forceful, loud or angry commands. These gentle giants thrive in amiable learning set up and may need trainers to be creative in their training approach.
One reason a Golden may not be responsive is when the command is too complicated and unclear. Owners must have the patience to communicate as clearly and associate the command to sounds like clicks. Goldens are quick to learn and can easily repeat good behavior when done this way.
Golden Retriever History
The origin of the Golden Retriever has been a subject of debate for many years. In the Book of the Golden Retriever (1932) by Mrs. W. A. Charlesworth, the author discussed that “Nous”, the founding sire of the breed is originally from the troupe of trick dogs from Russia.
However, the myth was contested and was debunked later when the stud records of Scottish Baron Tweedmouth, Sir Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks (1820-1894). Sir Dudley’s kennel records, which dates to 1835, show that the parentage of the early Goldens are from “Nous”, a light-colored pup from the black Wavy-coated Retrievers, and “Belle”, a Tweed Water Spaniel. In 1868, the breeding program birthed three yellow wavy-coated puppies named Cowslip, Crocus and Primrose.
This breed is brought together to enhance the pleasant character of the Wavy-coats, (also known as Flat coats) and intensify their aquatic abilities. The early Golden Retrievers were created for hunting and sporting. They were brought up in the highland deer forest of Guisachan estate in Tomich, Inverness-shire.
They are noble, strong, intelligent and beautiful. They are naturally sociable given that they joined hunting parties, and they mingled with high society families at the time.
In 1911, the Kennel Club in England officially registered "Retriever – Yellow or Golden" as a distinct breed. In 1920, the breed name officially became "Golden Retriever".
The Golden Retriever breed was registered by the American Kennel Club in 1932.
Present day descendants have adapted to being family pets, guide dogs, and police and military canines.
Golden Retriever Health Problems
While the Goldens as a whole are an active breed, they are also susceptible to diseases. From genetic to parasitic ailments, here are the top common health problems of Goldens:
- Cancer is the biggest killer of Goldens. Among the most common types of cancer in this breed include hemangiosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and mastocytoma.
Cancer affects this breed about one in three, according to the Golden Retriever Club. According to a large-scale study on cancer of Goldens, some canine cancers strike as early as when they reach two years old. Genes contribute to canine cancer, according to the same study. If detected early on, they stand a 50/50 chance of being cured.
- While most seizures are brief, cumulative effects can lead to brain damage. Idiopathic epilepsy is the top cause in seizures among Goldens and dogs in general. It is an inherited disorder and the cause is unknown. Epileptic dogs can still lead happy lives with the help of regular medical checkups and medication. Other causes of seizures include kidney failure, liver disease, brain tumors, brain trauma, and toxins.
- SAS or subvalvular aortic stenosis is a congenital condition that normally affects larger breeds. This is hereditary and possibly life-threatening. Signs that a dog with severe SAS may exhibit include inability to exercise properly, shortness of breath, lethargy, and fainting.
- Digestive and intestine disorders are also common among Goldens. These include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, straining when attempting to defecate, and blood in stools. Most of these are just symptoms of underlying serious conditions and may require immediate vet attention.
- Skin conditions such as lick granuloma, sebaceous adenitis, seborrhea, sebaceous cysts, and lipomas are also common in this breed. Skin diseases should be clinically examined and treated.
Other considered minor health problems among Goldens include hypothyroidism, eye disorders (including cataracts), hip and elbow dysplasia, ear infections, low thyroid, bloating and loose knees.
How to Care for Golden Retrievers
The breed makes a wonderful option for first time dog owners as taking care of Goldens is fairly easy. Here are some of the tips on taking care of a Golden Retriever:
- Supervise them while they are young. Golden pups love carrying things with their mouths. It would be wise to put away objects that they can easily pick up and ingest accidentally.
- The teeth of the Goldens are strong, but they need brushing at least twice a week to keep from tartar build up and rotting teeth.
- Cleaning the ears must be done weekly. Their ears flap towards their faces and so are always warm and constantly need ear wax.
- Brushing of the coat must be done at least weekly. During shedding season, daily brushing is advised as it helps speed up coat changing.
- Constant human interaction as well as socializing with other pets keep them happy and emotionally contented.
- Consistency is key to their health and learning. It applies to their diet, training and hygiene.
- Exercise allows Goldens to maintain a healthy weight and keep them from developing diseases related to obesity.
- They can be conditioned for obedience, and sociability, and not just for sports and tricks. Positive reinforcement includes delicious treats and competitive games.
- Goldens love water. It lightens their mood effectively. Swimming is a highly recommended exercise and bonding moment for Goldens.
- Watch out for unusual signs like lethargy, loss of appetite, dull coat, rapid weight loss, aggression, etc. It is best to take them to the vet when owners sense something is wrong. There are many professional sources online for new owners to read and better take care of their Goldens.
Nutrition and Feeding for Golden Retrievers
Golden retrievers are naturally large in size and are easily prone to obesity, according to a lifetime obesity study in Goldens. While obesity is as much as a genetic problem, calorie restriction and physical activity is still integral in keeping off excess (and harmful) weight off of them.
A few good reminders in feeding a Golden is to feed them at mealtimes and during training, not when they’re stressed out. It is also not healthy to overindulge them.
Feeding should be appropriate for the Golden's age. They need nutrients from a variety of food sources, and to keep their appetite. Owners must measure their meals to avoid overfeeding.
Depending on the genes of the Golden, they may be allergic to some human food. Although food scraps are allowed here and there, cooked bones and high fat meals should be avoided. It is good to ask the breeder the type of diet the parents have or, if purchasing adult Goldens, their food restrictions.
Goldens will need to source their protein requirements largely from high quality meat, raw or cooked, being carnivorous. Grains work great too as cheaper source of carbohydrates and are usually incorporated in dog food. Fats should be limited to animal-based source as this is easier to digest.
Owners must avoid high-calorie and high-fat foods and treats. They can be given fruits and vegetables as snacks, but not grapes, raisins and onions as these may be poisonous to them. Consult a vet for more of the food restrictions for pets.
There is a wide variety of dog food with high nutritional content in the market at fair costs. It is a good reminder that a high value meal would save trips to the vet.
Before purchasing, check on the ingredients. The first five ingredients are usually the main composition of the product. This would be useful in determining what goes in a Golden’s diet.
Dog foods and treats that contain artificial preservatives, sweeteners, colors or flavors may be harmful for dogs in general. Goldens are highly susceptible to diabetes too so owners may need to control their sugar intake, and refrain from giving them desserts.
It is not a good idea to store dog food for a long time, but if it is inevitable, keep these in tight containers and controlled environment.
The breed is "mouthy" and loves picking and carrying objects in their mouth. If a Golden accidentally ingests anything inedible or poisonous, take them immediately to a vet.
Coat Color and Grooming
The coat of a healthy Golden Retriever is often rich and lustrous gold. The outer coat is dense and water-repellent, while the undercoat is thick. Feathering happens more on the back of their front legs and underside of the body, and heavier feathering on the tail, back of thighs and chest.
The standard, or the American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized color is gold in various shades. Nowadays, Goldens with white or cream coats are already being marketed as rare breeds.
Normally, Goldens shed the heaviest during spring and fall, and moderately in winter and summer. Owners will have to expect dog hair all over the house, on the furniture, and clothes.
Goldens’ medium-length coats are easy to clean and brush. Regular bathing and brushing help in managing heavy shedding.
Given the active lifestyle and dense coat of Goldens, they would need professional grooming every 4 to 6 weeks.
If the owners decide to handle it themselves, the groomer can leave at least one inch of the hair and never past the undercoat. The coats should be combed every two days to avoid mats and tangles.
Like other double-coated breeds like Huskies, Malamutes and Border Collies, Goldens should not be shaved. Double-coated dogs have a topcoat that is water-repellent and provides shield from dirt, and an undercoat that insulates the body. Shaving alters the texture of the outer coat and makes twigs and burr stick to the coat. Shaving can also encourage matting and developing hot spots on the skin.
Children and Other Pets
Goldens are great with people in general, but more so with children. A lot of Goldens keep their playfulness and puppy traits even in their old age. They are gentle, caring and even-tempered, which make them a great playmate for toddlers.
But as Goldens are not originally trained as watch dogs, they may lack guard instincts and don’t bark as often as other breeds. They also have “soft mouths” and, in some tests, would be able to carry raw eggs in their mouth without breaking them.
The most notable rescue group organization for Goldens is the Golden Retriever Club of America, Inc., National Rescue Committee. The largely volunteer-operated group provides networking and coordinating services for rescue activities for Goldens all over the country.
The Golden Retriever Rescue program ensures that Goldens for adoption receive medical care, vaccinations and tests. The program also includes spaying/neutering the dog and seeking veterinary treatment for illnesses and injuries.
To find a Golden Retriever breeder, refer to the Golden Retriever Club of America =, the official AKC Parent Club for the Golden.
More about This Breed
- Goldens are one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and one that has starred in several well-loved movies including “Napoleon” (1995), “Air Bud” series (1997-2011), “Love on a Leash” (2011), “A Dog’s Purpose” (2017), and “The Art of Racing in the Rain” (2019).
- Spaying/neutering helps in a Golden's longevity. They can undergo the surgery at 6-7 months of age, or before the dog’s first heat cycle. Spaying/neutering will not affect their hyperactivity.