Why the Golden Retreiver Is so Beloved: Characteristics and Personality Explored

Updated December 8, 2021
woman and her Golden Retriever dog sitting on the beach

Golden Retrievers are among the most popular of family pets. This breed has a reputation for being a loyal, playful family pet who is equally at home in the show ring and in the hunting fields.

Origin of the Golden Retriever

This wonderful sporting dog breed originated in the Scottish Highlands, having been developed by Sir Dudley Majoribanks on the grounds of his rural estate. The original 1868 cross that became the foundation for the breed was between an undetermined breed of yellow retriever stud named Nous and a Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle.

Majoribanks continued his breeding program, selecting his stock for intelligence and cooperative qualities as well as the beautiful golden coloration from which the breed takes their name. In the end, his efforts produced an outstanding hunting dog that is as much at home in the field as the house.

Breed Characteristics

Golden Retriever Breed Characteristics

Modern Golden Retrievers are recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and they have their own breed standard. Beyond that, goldens tend to fall into one of two major type categories: show or field.

Appearance

Goldens bred mainly to perform in the field tend to be slightly smaller than their show-strain cousins, and a little more reddish gold in coat color. Show-bred golden lines tend to be a little bigger and flashier than field retrievers and have brighter golden coloration and a longer coat and feathering.

Temperament

More endearing than the Golden's beautiful outward appearance is their wonderful personality and temperament. These dogs are extremely intelligent and patient. They also seem to have the intuitive ability to sense their owner's moods and respond accordingly. Goldens are rather gentle for their size and do well with children who know the proper way to treat pets.

Training

The Golden Retriever is one of the most fun breeds to train, responding easily to your time and attention. House training is usually accomplished with minimal trouble, as is other basic household etiquette training. These enthusiastic clowns love to learn tricks, so if you'd like to teach your golden to balance a biscuit on their muzzle until you give the command to eat it, go ahead. They will play along.

Retrievers also make exceptional obedience dogs because they are able to focus so intently on their trainers. Agility training is another available pastime that can be shared by these dogs and their owners. Think of agility training as a doggie track crossed with a field event at the Olympics and you've got the idea.

If that isn't enough activity for you, goldens also make wonderful assistance and service dogs. They can be trained as guide dogs for the blind and as therapy dogs for nursing home visitations. They are often trained for search-and-rescue missions. Be aware though, while goldens perform search-and-rescue admirably, this type of work is hard on their psyche due to their very close connections with humankind.

Exercise Requirements

Golden retriever dog playing with stick

Golden Retrievers are energetic dogs who require 40 to 60 minutes of daily vigorous exercise. Obedience training, agility lessons, and play are excellent ways to provide your dog with both physical and mental activity.

Health

Unfortunately, Golden Retrievers are plagued by some hereditary health problems that can seriously affect their quality of life. Top-notch breeders test their puppies and breeding stock to screen affected animals from future breeding programs in an effort to eliminate these afflictions. Health problems common to Golden Retrievers include:

  • Hip Dysplasia: A genetic condition that causes the ball and socket of the hip bone not to fit properly.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A genetic eye condition that affects the photoreceptors of the eye and eventually leads to blindness.
  • Bloat: A life-threatening condition affecting deep-chested, large-breed dogs that causes the stomach to twist.
  • Epilepsy: A brain disorder that causes seizures that can often be treated with medication.
  • Hypothyroidism: A disorder that causes a lack of thyroid hormone.

Lifespan

The typical lifespan of a golden retriever is 10 to 12 years, which is comparable to other dog breeds of similar size.

Grooming

Grooming is much the same for any pet retriever, whether you have the field or show variety. Goldens need to be brushed a couple of times each week and bathed about twice a month. Expect shedding with this long-haired breed. Be sure to check your pet's nails and trim them if they aren't being worn down naturally.

Show specimen Goldens require more diligent grooming, especially if you want to keep those fringes in perfect condition. These dogs will benefit from more frequent bathing and brushing. They will also require a slight amount of trimming on the fringes and feathers to keep their coat from looking rough.

Fun Facts About the Breed

Anyone who has ever been loved by a golden understands what a loyal friend they are. But, there's a lot more to learn about this endearing breed:

  • Golden Retrievers are excellent therapy dogs and are frequently used to soothe and calm people.
  • Their puppy behavior lasts longer than other dogs and can go well over the one year mark.
  • They love carrying their toys around, whether it's the tug-of-war rope or a stuffed toy.
  • They have been in the top 10 list of most popular dog breeds in the United States for decades.

Purchasing or Adopting a Golden Retriever

Woman holding 3 male golden retriever puppies

If you're looking for a Golden Retriever puppy, a good place to start is the Golden Retriever Club of America. They have a breeder directory available as well as helpful tips on how to find responsible breeders with quality dogs. The AKC Marketplace page also has a breeder search. Expect to pay around $700 to $1,500, although higher-end show dogs from champion lines can cost as much as $3,500 and up.

Rescue Organizations

If you would prefer a rescued dog, you can begin searching PetFinder and Save-a-Rescue. You can also contact these breed-specific Golden Retriever rescues:

Is a Golden Retriever Right for You?

If you are looking for a playful, loyal, intelligent canine addition to your household, a Golden Retriever just might be the right choice for you. However, before bringing one of these dogs home, make sure that you are fully prepared to deal with the unique challenges of living with a large, energetic adult dog who sheds. If you are prepared to put in the time required to train your dog and keep them properly groomed, and you don't mind incorporating dealing with dog hair into your regular cleaning routine, a golden just might be your ideal companion.

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Why the Golden Retreiver Is so Beloved: Characteristics and Personality Explored