Breed Group: Sporting
Height: 21.5 to 24 inches at the shoulder
Weight: 55 to 75 pounds
Life Span: 10 to 12 years
This sporting breed has a sweet, gentle, people-pleasing personality. A well-bred Golden Retriever does not have strong guarding instincts, so don’t expect him to protect your home from burglars. He will, however, make friends with them and show them where the treats are.
Did You Know the Golden Retriever Must Have a High Level of Activity?
During the Ford Administration, a Golden Retriever lived in the White House. Liberty, a gift to President Gerald Ford from his daughter Susan, spent her days keeping him company in the Oval Office and splashing in the pool at Camp David.
Cheerful, easy to train and eager to please, the Golden Retriever is what you see in the dictionary when you look up “Perfect Family Dog.” Goldens love everyone, especially children, and get along well with new people and strange dogs. They draw admiring looks – and usually loving pats – from almost everyone they meet. The Golden is an active dog who will retrieve a tennis ball until your arm gives out. The breed’s loyalty, intelligence and stable temperament have made them the darlings of the service dog world. Their smiling faces and sun-kissed coats have brought more than a few to movie fame, including a starring role in two “Homeward Bound” movies.
The Golden was developed to be a working retriever, and that means a high level of activity is a must for these dogs. They are best suited to life with active singles, couples or families in which someone is home during the day and will enjoy spending time with and exercising the dog. Goldens love, love, love their people, and they don’t do well as home-alone dogs. They will find their own (destructive) entertainment if no one is home to channel their energy through walking, jogging, hiking, swimming or playing fetch, plus brain games that will wear them out mentally.
Like many breeds developed to hunt, the Golden has diverged into different types – primarily the fluffy, teddy-bear Goldens of the show ring and the leaner, darker, smaller and less-coated athletes popular as hunting companions and dog-sports competitors. Each camp swears their “type” is the best. Dogs bred for looks only – and for the currently trendy near-white color – are anecdotally less healthy and some seem to sport a considerably un-Golden temperament, including problems with biting. Hunting and dog-sports lines may be a little too energetic for many families, but the traditional stable temperaments remain intact, and they may be healthier overall.
Goldens of both types are enthusiastic about exercise. If you aren’t an active person before you get a Golden, you will be afterward — or you’ll suffer the consequences. Goldens get up every morning with one thought on their mind: What are we gonna do today?
Keep your Golden occupied by taking him for extended walks or hikes of at least an hour a day (or break it up into two or three outings), make him your jogging or running partner, or teach him to run alongside your bicycle. Take him swimming at your local lake or beach. He excels at all dog sports, including agility, obedience, flyball, rally, freestyle, dock diving and tracking. Being a therapy dog appeals to his love of people and satisfies his need to get out and do something. If you don’t have kids yourself, enlist the neighbors’ kids to throw tennis balls for your Golden to fetch. That can keep them busy for hours. Teach him tricks and acquire an assortment of puzzle toys to challenge his brain. Often, mental work is just as satisfying — and tiring — as physical exercise, although it can’t replace it entirely.
Now, all that said, it’s important to take it easy with exercise the first two years of a Golden pup’s life. His growth plates are still forming in those first two years, and hard exercise can damage them. Take him swimming, go for walks on grass or other soft surfaces and take easy hikes, but don’t start any jogging, bicycling, steep climbs or descents, or activities that require jumping until he has reached full physical maturity at two years of age.
Golden Retrievers are people-oriented, and if you expect your dog to live in the yard, don’t get a Golden. Loneliness and boredom will lead to barking, digging and general destructiveness. Your Golden Retriever needs to live indoors as part of the family.
Other Quick Facts About the Golden Retriever
The Golden has a dense, water-repellent double coat that comes in various shades of gold. Goldens shed heavily and require frequent brushing to keep the fur from flying.
Goldens typically have litters of six to eight puppies. Most breeders like to keep puppies until they are at least eight weeks old. This gives the puppies time to learn how to behave toward other dogs and gives the breeder time to evaluate the puppies’ personalities so she can place each one in just the right home. A bonus is that puppies of this age are more mature and more easily housetrained.