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Golden retrievers might just be the best breed of dog out there, and in general, the best family pet that you could ever ask for.
I know that’s a grand claim, but it’s backed by so many years of golden retrievers being in the top three picks of family-friendly dogs in the United States (among other places).
This golden retrievers guide will cover everything from their origin down to their temperament, and a little bit of every aspect of their personalities. Golden retrievers aren’t the most complex of creatures, but that’s not a bad thing.
We’re going to go over every little scrap of information you need to know before you welcome your new retriever into your home. Not just for your sake, but so that they have the best home possible for the rest of their lives.
What Are Golden Retrievers?
Golden retrievers are mixed breed dogs that originated from Scotland, and were used as hunting companions by important people during the end of the 19th century.
They are loving, friendly dogs that are often deemed the best breed of dog to have for families with lots of children, because they’re timid in nature.
Golden retrievers appear to have a golden, dark caramel, or cream-colored coat, and a friendly, energetic disposition (which you can almost always see right on their faces).
Where do They Originate From?
Scotland in 1860. A man by the name of Sir Dudley had a castle there, which he would vacation at whenever he had the chance. He bred two dogs together to create the golden retriever.
Both of these dogs were believed to be Russian circus mutts, but in fact, they were two separate breeds. One male and one female dog. They were both so good at hunting and matched one another in performance so well, that Sir Dudley bred them together.
That’s the gist of it, but if you want even more information, you can check out our guide on All About Retrievers: History, Origin, and Types of Retriever Dogs. It’s a fully dedicated guide to all types of retrievers and what makes them special from other breeds of dogs.
How Are They Different From Other Dog Breeds?
You have about ten basic dog breeds that we can draw information from, such as their usual energy levels, reported aggression, and things of that nature. Golden retrievers stand out from the pack for a few primary reasons.
Easy to Train
Golden retrievers are very motivated by food, so generally speaking, they’re going to be easier to train because you can offer positive reinforcement.
They’re not just going to respond well to food, though – golden retrievers are affectionate dogs, and any form of positive reinforcement is a plus. This makes them super simple to train in comparison to many other breeds.
Loyalty Like No Other
Dogs are loyal, but golden retrievers offer some different brand of loyalty that you’re not going to find anywhere else.
They know their master, they’re friendly to others but they won’t obey anyone except their master (with proper training). You’re in for life with a golden retriever, and honestly, what could be better than that?
Even when they get energetic, it’s never in an aggressive way. Yes, they’re athletic, and it can come out in a slightly jumpy way, but it’s not going to cause any major problems.
They get a little touchy feely, but throughout all their excitement, they’re still calm enough to hug and hold, and be good around children at the same time.
Types of Golden Retrievers
There are Canadian, American, and British retrievers, generally speaking. While you can run into five different coats, there aren’t too many differences between them.
British and American retrievers are the most common, and do have different demeanors as far as their energy levels are concerned.
We have a full guide to golden retrievers with more information that you can view here.
Why Are They Considered the Perfect Pet for Families?
Golden retrievers are fantastic around children. They’re calm and collected, even when a touchy toddler is constantly annoying them. For this, they’ll protect the child instead of harm them, or at the very worst, remove themselves from the room if it’s aggravating them.
Goldens show a very high level of restraint in this area. They can also be trained to protect. While they’re not an aggressive breed by nature, they know their family and they’ll do anything to protect them. Remember – these were hunting dogs once upon a time.
Should I Raise a Puppy or Adopt One?
Adoption has its perks, but so does raising a breeder-born puppy. We want to go down a few basic differences so you can better align your interests with the best possible golden retriever for your family.
Golden retrievers are one of the most sought-after dogs in the world, so you can believe that breeder fees and end prices are going to be insanely expensive. You’re not going to get out cheap.
Many shelters have programs that can help you with adoption fees, and you can expect to spend under $500 for a shelter dog. The thing is, this initial cost isn’t necessarily better, based on medical issues and other things that we’ll get into in a moment.
Previous Owner Problems
Previous owners from shelter dogs might have been abusive to their pet.
That dog could be untrusting and shy, or aggressive and hard to control. It’s a wildcard, and possibly one of the hardest things about getting a dog from a shelter period.
However, golden retrievers are such affectionate and kid-loving dogs that you never really run into goldens that become highly aggressive and dangerous. They just want to be loved and wonder why they aren’t with someone.
You don’t know what you’re getting with a shelter dog. Some families actually leave dogs like golden retrievers in shelters for non-selfish reasons, like not being able to handle the costs of the dogs medical needs, but then it becomes your problem as well.
You now have potential years of unchecked medical issues that have permanently affected this dog’s life, and you have to be prepared for that. With breeder pups, they have all the information handy, and you know all of their history.
You can dictate their health for the rest of their lives from an early age, after getting your dog from someone who made it their career to love dogs.
Saving a Life
no matter which way you look at it, you’re saving a dog’s life by bringing them out of a shelter. Even if it’s a good shelter, even if it’s no-kill, they’re not equipped to handle every need that a golden retriever has.
Goldens are very affectionate and like socialization, which isn’t the way that a shelter runs. They do their best, don’t get me wrong, but your dog would live a longer and happier life if they had a one-on-one relationship with someone that loved them differently.
Things You Need to Know Before Getting a Golden Retriever
Golden retrievers are furry companions that love affection and being loved by a good master, but we only ever see the good.
These lovely dogs have some problems that they’re biologically predisposed to have, and a few other things you need to know about (it’s not all bad, but it’s need-to-know information).
While golden retrievers do share a lot of similarities with labs, they’re not exactly there in terms of height. It’s close (down to half-inches), but a golden retriever will be about 23” – 24” at full height for males, and about 21” – 22” for full-grown females.
These are just averages, mind you, so as long as they’re in the parameters of a healthy BMI and their vet isn’t concerned, you should be okay with alternate heights and weights.
This is where they greatly differ from labrador retrievers, because they’re a bit smaller. Adult males will be about 55 to 65 lbs, regardless of gender.
They’re a medium to large-size breed, meaning you’re going to have to have the food necessary to get them there and then maintain that weight. It’s not a crazy weight, but you just have to make sure that you can help them to not fall in the underweight category.
When it comes to their health card, a golden retriever can have allergies (environmental and dietary), as well skin issues. However, the main problems come down to two specific medical conditions that goldens go through quite regularly.
Hypothyroidism is a problem that messes with the hormones of your golden retriever, which can result in weight loss, gain, hunger suppression, and even depression.
It’s serious and could be life-threatening when it worsens (happens to humans as well), so be sure to get them checked out by a vet if they exhibit any symptoms of this.
For some reason, golden retrievers are also more prone to develop cancer.
This can come in many forms, from lung cancer to digestive tract cancer (tumors can form in multiple places), and is always serious. You need to get this checked out immediately and be ready for the bills and hardship along the way.
You can expect a golden retriever to live for anywhere from ten to twelve years in total. It’s a bit shorter than the average life expectancy of a labrador retriever.
However, many goldens tend to possess crippling medical conditions at an old age that require you put them down.
These can be mostly avoided depending on the way you take care of your golden, and you can get them to that total of twelve years (or more; it’s happened) with as few incidents as possible. Factors that affect their lives and lifespan are:
- Exercise: If your golden isn’t exercising as much as possible, then it’s not going to
- Diet and Nutrition: This is key. You want high-quality dog food that actually benefits your pup, not just whatever is on the shelf.
- Medical Conditions: These are unfortunately mostly out of our control, but with the right medication and attention to detail, we can help our dogs successfully live with (and sometimes beat) medical conditions that threaten to lower their lifespan.
- Mood: A happy home is actually something that can make you live for even longer, and that goes for your dog as well. Positivity breeds healthier brain chemicals.
- Environment: Smoke-free, stress-free environments help your dogs. Stress causes chemical reactions in the body that kill humans and dogs faster. For a longer lifespan, you need the right environment for your golden retriever.
Lifespan is impacted by more than just the five things we listed here. Golden retrievers are athletic dogs, so be sure to have them as active as possible when they’re young so that momentum carries over into their older years.
If you really think about it and account for all the upfront costs, you’re going to run into about $10,000 up to about $15,000 for the first decade of owning your dog. This is very similar to labrador retriever costs as well.
That means that over the course of ten years, you’re spending about $1,000 to $1,500 every single month on food, vet bills, supplements, and more. It’s not just for those reasons, though:
Goldens sometimes like a balanced diet of wet and dry food, and who are you to deny them of that mixed diet?
It’s not cheap, but you need high-quality food to ensure their health and overall lifespan. You can consider making homemade dog food for nutritional purposes, but it’s not going to be any less expensive.
Appointments add up, hospital visits can happen over the course of a decade, and since each dog is pretty different, you don’t know how many follow-ups you’re going to need. That $15K framework I talked about could have a higher ceiling on it if your golden isn’t doing well.
Paying a professional groomer? A salon, maybe?
You could even take your dog to the vet to get their nails done if you most. These all add up in costs, and even if you DIY it the whole way through, you have to buy grinders and clippers, as well as a trimmer for their hair. It’s an expensive part of owning a golden, but a necessary one.
This comes as an additional cost to vet visits, because supplements are something that you just give to your dog as a daily thing, like a multivitamin.
These help protect joints from being damaged, and help cartilage, which is also essential for your dogs joints. Overall, this can lead to a pain-free set of senior years, but it’s not cheap.
Apart from all that, you can expect to run into additional costs on top of it. Kennel costs when you travel, professional dog walkers, new leashes and harnesses, new dog toys – the obscurities add up and aren’t included in the ceiling of golden retriever costs.
Either way, they’re a good dog to have, and the price is definitely worth their happiness. You’re a good owner, you just need to have the financial capabilities to take care of them properly.
What Type of Food do They Eat?
Goldens are completely fine with a mix of dry kibble and canned, wet foods, with the occasional fresh meat and vegetables to keep them satiated and well-nourished.
As a little life hack for your golden retriever, you can mix wet food with dry food in the same serving. Usually, people will use a 75/dry and 25/wet, but you have to be careful, especially if you’re not used to giving your dog a wet diet.
Dry food on its own can be left out on its own for extended periods of time, usually around three days, but wet food has enough moisture content to build bacteria in as little as four hours, just like human food.
If you mix this, make sure they eat and you take the bowl away so it doesn’t have the chance to grow bacteria and mold.
How Easy Are They to Wash and Clean?
Golden retrievers would just be rated as average when it comes to washing them and cleaning them. There aren’t really a lot of golden-specific dog shampoos out there, because for the most part, everything can come out of their coats with ease.
You only really need special shampoo if they run into skin irritation problems, or you like to play in the backwoods and they commonly get mud in their coats.
You want to make sure there’s no waterborne bacteria in there that’s going to cause an infection of some sort, but other than that, standard dog shampoo seems to work for their coats just fine.
Do Golden Retrievers Need Walks Every Day?
Yes, they most certainly do. Golden retrievers are some of the most athletic dogs that you can possibly own, and they love nothing more than running around, going on walks, and spending time at the dog park.
People immediately assume that because a golden retriever is friendly, they’re going to be good with being sedentary pets, but it’s quite the opposite.
If you aren’t able to do walks every single day, I recommend that you assess your backyard, and make a doggy door for entry to and from the backyard if you aren’t going to be handy for walks.
This way, they’ll still have somewhere to run around. I would be sure to have plenty of toys for them so that they can entertain themselves while outside.
Getting Your Home Ready for Your New Golden Retriever
We have to get the home ready for them, right?
If it’s not ready, it’s going to get torn to pieces by this energetic little furball that you’re welcoming home. Let’s go over some basic home-readying tips to help out.
- Secure Furniture: Goldens can get pretty big, and when they bump into things, they can send them tumbling. Bookshelves, tables, anything you can possibly find, needs to be secured to the floor or the wall.
- Designate a Feeding Spot: They need to have expectations of where to get food and water. They need to know that when you tell them it’s feeding time, they run to their bowl (which should always be in the same spot), and they’re going to be fed.
- Figure Out Walking Times: When are you taking Fido out for a walk? You should figure that out now. If you work from home, you’ll spoil this affectionate dog rotten, but that’s okay. Just have clear expectations so your dog can get used to holding their business depending on the number of walks every day.
- Buy a Dog Bed: I know it’s tempting to imagine your golden laying in bed with you, but let’s be honest… it’s probably going to happen anyway. Still, it’s important for them to have their own bed and own safe space, so get a dog bed that they can grow into so you don’t have to replace it later on.
There are a lot of things you could do to prepare your home. Treat it like a toddler is coming over for the day – hide the chocolate, don’t let them get hurt on sharp furniture, and expect to entertain them (for the first week, anyway).
The Golden Rules on Golden Retrievers
Are golden retrievers the ultimate dog? Do they really have everything and can adapt into any family?
Yes, they pretty much can.
We have a full guide on the shallow pool of different retriever breeds, and some temperament differences that you can inspect to narrow down your choice for the ultimate golden retriever.
You have room for a four-legged friend in your family right now, so why not get a golden retriever?
I get it – do your own independent research, figure it out for yourself before you finalize your decision, but you’ll remember me saying this: golden retrievers have no downsides when it comes to loyalty, temperament, and being friendly with your children.