Golden Retrievers 101 – Everything You Need to Know About Caring for Your Golden Retriever

happy baby golden retriever

The golden retriever is one of the friendliest, most amiable dog breeds around, and one of the top choices for many American families as the favorite pet. This lovable breed is known for their agility and natural athleticism, making them great companions for both hunting and sports. 

Golden retrievers have exceptionally high intelligence, making them great working dogs as well. They can track, hunt, and sniff out drugs. Not only that, but they are also fantastic therapy and support dogs. These friendly pups have it all. They are loving, beautiful, smart, and extremely loyal. No wonder the golden retriever is so popular! 

Golden Retriever Highlights

family of golden retrievers

The golden retriever resides in the sporting dogs breed group. Golden retrievers are about two feet tall at the shoulder on average, although some run slightly shorter. These pups are typically somewhere between 55 to 75 pounds in weight. Golden retrievers have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years of age. 

Golden retrievers mature slowly. This means they keep their high energy, playful puppy’s spirit well into their third or fourth year. This is a double-edged sword that can prove to be great fun sometimes, and bordering on obnoxious in other situations. Some of these lively dogs even retain their energy and silliness far into old age. 

The golden retriever was originally bred for physically intense jobs like retrieving small animals like ducks and birds for hunters. As a highly intelligent breed that is historically bred to work, the golden retriever needs plenty of exercises and a job to do. 

Your pup will need daily exercises like a walk in the park, some time to run around in the yard, or a daily jog. Give your dog a sense of purpose by giving him responsibilities like retrieving the paper or competing in doggy sports. 

Golden retrievers are family dogs by nature. This means your pup will want to be involved in all your daily family activities. They want to be included as part of their human “pack” and should not be left alone in the yard for extended periods of time. 

Be prepared to have your golden around 24/7 right there in the middle of your family’s business. Be aware, this pup is not going to be your watchdog. Golden retrievers will sometimes bark at strangers, but they are usually friendly with everyone. 

Golden retrievers shed a LOT. They shed the most during the spring and autumn seasons. Brush your pup every day to remove some of the loose hair to limit the amount that will end up on your clothes and furniture. You will not be able to eliminate the hair entirely though. If you get a golden retriever, you will have to get used to dealing with some amount of dog hair as an ordinary course of your day. You can use Hertz Self Cleaning Slicker brush to help with the shedding.

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As active pups, golden retrievers need a lot of exercise to thrive. Approximately 40 minutes to an hour per day of challenging activity is preferred. Golden retrievers do particularly well with agility and obedience training classes. These are great for both his physical development and his mental health too. 

Golden retrievers are fantastic family dogs. They are great with little ones, but be cautious as they are large and get easily excited. An overly hyper pup may run into or knock a small toddler down. As with all dogs, it is advised to have supervision with animals and toddlers at all times for the safety of both the dog and the child. 

Feed your golden retriever regular meals at designated mealtimes rather than free feeding. These pups love to eat and can become overweight quickly. In addition to scheduled meals, you may want to measure the daily kibble and treats so your dog won’t be tempted to overeat. 

If you are wondering where to purchase a healthy golden retriever, you will want to do some research to find a reputable breeder who will test their breeding dogs to ensure they have even temperaments and do not carry any genetic diseases that can be passed on to puppies. To make sure you get a healthy dog, steer clear of puppy mills, pet stores, and irresponsible breeders. 

Where Do Golden Retrievers Come From? 

golden retrievers in Scotland

The history of the golden retriever is rich with legends of the breed originating from Russian circus sheepdogs. In actuality, the golden retriever came about when a Scotland breeder, Sir Dudley Majoribanks, known as Lord Tweedmouth, began the process of breeding dogs to attain a perfect retriever. Lord Tweedmouth wanted a talented retriever with an extraordinary sense of smell, who would also be highly attentive and loyal to his hunting companion, and imbue an even temperament.

Lord Tweedmouth bred Nous with Belle, a Tweed Water Spaniel (a now-extinct breed). Tweed Water Spaniels have many of the characteristics Lord Tweedmouth was looking for. They were known to be exceptional retrievers who were also even-tempered and loyal. The pups of Nous and Belle were then bred with wavy and flat-coated retrievers as well as a red setter. Lord Tweedmouth insisted on keeping the golden-colored puppies for more breeding and gave pups of other colors away. 

Tweedmouth was successful in his experiment to breed a fantastic retriever and word caught on quickly. Lord Tweedmouth’s golden retriever’s attracted much attention for their hunting skills. One of the most popular of Tweedmouth’s retriever descendants, Do of Gerwyn, even won the International Gundog League trial. 

In 1911, the Kennel Club of England recognized the golden retriever as an official distinct breed. In the beginning, these pups were classified as “Retriever- Yellow or Golden” but were officially deemed the “Golden Retriever” in 1920. 

The breed later became recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1932. Since then, the golden retriever has become the third most popular breed in the United States after the Labrador retriever and the German shepherd. A full list of top breeds can be found on the American Kennel Club website.

How Large Can a Golden Retriever Get? 

big golden retriever

Golden retrievers are relatively large dogs. The male is typically about 23 or 24 inches tall and can weigh anywhere from 65-75 pounds. The female is on average 21-23 inches tall and weighs approximately 55-65 pounds. These pups often reach their adult height by the time they are one year old and get to their adult weight by the time they are two years old. 

Are Golden Retrievers Good With People? 

Golden retrievers are known for their calm, mild temperament. These dogs were bred to please their owners and are naturally great with people. However, like all breeds, these pups need to be trained to optimize these attributes. Early socialization and exposure to new environments, people, and situations when your puppy is young will help your dog be the best golden retriever he can be. 

Find a Reputable Golden Retriever Breeder

The golden retriever is, overall, a pretty healthy breed. However, like all dogs, your golden may be more susceptible to some health conditions and more resilient to others. First and foremost, in the search for a new golden puppy, make sure to go to a reputable breeder who will provide you with proof of health clearances for both of the pup’s parents. 

A reputable breeder of golden retrievers will have health clearances from Auburn University for thrombopathia, from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) for eye health, and from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for elbow and hip dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and Von Willebrand’s disease. Go to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals website to verify these health clearances. 

What Health Conditions Do Golden Retrievers Get? 

golden retriever at the vets

Golden retrievers are prone to certain conditions including cataracts, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, osteochondrosis, some types of allergies, Von Willebrand’s disease, subvalvular aortic stenosis, hemangiosarcoma, gastric dilatation-volvulus, hypothyroidism,  and osteosarcoma.


Dogs in general, and golden retrievers specifically, are prone to a variety of allergies from food allergies to pollen. If you notice your dog rubbing his face or licking his paws obsessively, you may need to get him checked for allergies with your vet. You can also use Musher’s secret paw wax to keep your dogs paws moisturized to prevent itchiness.

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Cataracts are cloudy spots that grow over the eye lens. They can occur no matter the age and do not always cause vision impairment. However, in some cases, cataracts can cause severe loss of vision. They can typically be removed through surgery. One of the health clearances to look for from your dog’s breeder is from a board-certified ophthalmologist to attest that both parents are free of any type of hereditary eye diseases. 

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is another inherited condition. It is a common problem for large dog breeds. The exact cause for elbow dysplasia has not been determined, but it is generally thought to be a result of varying growth rates in the three bones that comprise your pup’s elbow causing severe laxity in the joint. If your dog suffers from elbow dysplasia, your veterinarian may recommend corrective surgery and/or pain medication. 


Epilepsy is a condition that causes periodic convulsions and seizures. If your dog is experiencing epileptic symptoms, make a note of the severity and the frequency of seizures and convulsions to report to your vet so they can determine the proper treatment. 

Gastric Dilation-Volvulus

upset dog

Gastric dilation-volvulus is a life-threatening condition that can occur in large, deep-chested dog breeds. This condition, also known as “bloat,” happens when your pup eats one large meal per day, eats too quickly, drinks a lot of water in a short amount of time, or exercises rigorously right after he has eaten. 

Gastric dilation-volvulus involves the stomach becoming distended with gas or air, then getting twisted up so the dog cannot burp or vomit to relieve the excess air, causing reduced blood flow to the heart. 

When gastric dilation volvulus occurs, the dog’s blood pressure will drop, and he will go into shock. If this happens, your pup will require immediate medical attention. Symptoms of bloat include a distended abdomen, excessive drooling, retching without vomiting, restlessness, depression, lethargy, and weakness with a rapid heart rate. If your golden retriever is exhibiting these symptoms, get him to the vet ASAP. 


Hemangiosarcoma occurs most in adult and elderly dogs. It is a dangerous form of cancer that occurs in the blood vessel and spleen lining. 

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia occurs when the thigh bone does not fit properly in the hip joint. This condition is inherited; therefore, dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred. If you are looking to get a puppy, make sure to verify the health clearance for proof that neither parent has hip dysplasia problems. 

If you have a dog with hip dysplasia, he may show signs of pain and lameness in one or both of his back legs. Or, your pup may not show any symptoms at all. As your dog gets older, he can develop arthritis. Dog treats like Zuke’s Hip Action joint treats are good to help maintain their hip joint health.

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Hypothyroidism is a thyroid gland condition that is associated with epilepsy, obesity, lethargy, and hair loss. Hypothyroidism can be treated with medication prescribed by your vet as well as a healthy diet. 


Osteochondrosis is an orthopedic condition that occurs when the cartilage in your dog’s joints grows improperly. This condition typically presents itself in the elbows and the shoulders and can cause painful stiffening and can even result in your pup not having the mobility of their elbow. 

Your vet can detect osteochondrosis in your puppy as early as four-nine months old. It has been discovered that giving your golden retriever puppy too much growth formulas and high protein foods might contribute to the development of this condition. 


Osteosarcoma is common in large breeds. It is malignant bone cancer.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

upset golden retriever with closed eyes

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a class of eye diseases that cause gradual deterioration of the dog’s retina. An early symptom of PRA is night blindness. Pup’s with PRA eventually lose their daytime vision as the disease worsens. Fortunately, dogs are very resilient animals and can adapt to vision loss surprisingly well as long as their surroundings are constant. 

Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis

Subvalvular aortic stenosis is a heart condition that occurs when there is a narrow connection between the aorta and the left ventricle. This condition is dangerous as it can cause fainting and sudden death. Your veterinarian will be able to detect subvalvular aortic stenosis and prescribe necessary treatments. 

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood disorder that is inherited. This disease prohibits the blood’s ability to clot. Symptoms for Von Willebrand’s disease include excessive bleeding after an injury or surgery, as well as bleeding nose, gums, and stomach. 

Unfortunately, a cure for Von Willebrand’s disease has not been discovered at this time, and the only treatment method is a blood transfusion for a healthy dog. The good news is, most pups with this condition can live happy and healthy lives. Your veterinarian can check your golden retriever for this condition. 

How to Care for Your Golden Retriever

baby golden retriever in a stroller

Golden retriever pups grow very quickly between the ages of four to seven months. If your puppy is in this age group, you will need to be especially careful when exercising him as these growth spurts make him prone to bone disorders. 

Avoid letting your golden puppy run on hard surfaces like asphalt or concrete until he is two years old. By this age, his joints will have fully formed. Until then, stick to play on grass and agility classes specially designed for his age group. 

Golden retrievers are bred for movement and enjoy outdoor adventures. If you are an active, outdoorsy person, take your pup on a jog or a hike. These pups absolutely love to play fetch. So, next time you are tossing a ball around in the backyard, bring your energetic dog with you to join in the fun. If you’re taking your dog out for long hikes, you should consider purchasing dog booties for them. QUMY dog boots offer waterproof, anti-slip shoes for dogs of all sizes.

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Golden retrievers are “mouthy” pups, meaning they like to have something to carry in their mouths. Provide your pup with a tennis ball, soft toy, or newspaper to carry around in his mouth. 

How Much Exercise Does a Golden Retriever Need? 

Golden retrievers need a lot of physical activity to burn up their energy. They typically need anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour of vigorous exercise every day. You can break this up into two shorter sessions of 20 to 30 minutes. Giving your pup plenty of exercise will keep him mellow when he gets back in the house. If you slack on this activity, it could result in destructive or obnoxious behavior from all the pent up energy. 

How Much Food Should You Feed Your Golden Retriever? 

The recommended amount of food to feed your golden pup each day is two-three cups of high-quality dry dog food. It is a good idea to divide these servings into two separate meals, a morning meal and an afternoon meal. It is a healthy choice to give your pup designated mealtimes versus free feeding. 

The amount of food your dog will need does vary by his age, height, weight, and fitness level. An exceptionally active dog will eat more food than one that does not get as much exercise. 

The quality of dog food you give your pup makes a considerable difference in the amount you will need to feed him. The higher quality the food is, the less you need to give him for sufficient nourishment. On the other hand, the lower quality kibble will require a more substantial serving to provide the necessary nutrients, even though it comes with higher a higher calorie intake. 

If you are not sure if your golden is overweight, you can do a simple test to get a reasonable estimate. Step one, look directly down at your pup. You should see his waist. Next, place your hands along his back with your thumbs along his spine. Spread your fingers out and down. If your dog is at a healthy weight, you will be able to feel his ribs (but not see them) with only light pressure. If you can’t feel his ribs, he probably needs to consume a smaller amount of food and get more exercise. 

If you are the lucky pet parent of a golden puppy, be prepared for rapid growth spurts between the ages of four to seven months. These growth spurts will cause your pup to be more susceptible to developing bone disorders during this time. A low calorie, high-quality meal plan will help mitigate this by keeping them from growing too quickly. 

What Color is Your Golden Retriever’s Coat?

The golden retriever is equipped with a thick undercoat and a super dense, water-resistant outer coat. Some golden retrievers have wavy coats, while others are straight. The fur feathers on several parts of the body including the tail, back of the legs, and underbody. 

Golden retrievers have fur that comes in an array of golden shades. Your pup may have dark golden brown hair, to light golden blonde fur that can be almost white. 

Golden retrievers shed only a moderate amount in the summer and winter seasons but tend to shed a lot during the fall and springtime. If you want to have a golden retriever, you will need to get used to the presence of dog hair on your clothes and furniture. 

Golden Retriever Grooming Tips

brushing a golden retriever

Brush Your Golden Retriever Daily

Golden retrievers need daily brushing to avoid tangling of the fur in their thick coats. Make sure to use a high-quality dog brush for best results. Golden retriever pups also need good bathing at least once per month. Some golden’s may need a bath more frequently to keep them smelling clean and fresh. EarthBath makes a great Oatmeal and Aloe shampoo that’s great for your dog. This depends on their overall activity level and how much dirt they get into while being outside. Read our article on the top dog shampoos by Professional Groomer, Cheyanne Glenn.

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How Often to Trim Your Golden Retriever’s Nails

Golden retrievers need their nails trimmed regularly. If your dog does not wear his nails down naturally through activity, trim them once or twice per month to keep his feet healthy. A dog’s toenails have blood vessels in them. If you cut his nails too close, it will cause them to bleed. If you have not trimmed your puppy’s nails before you may want to seek advice and tips from a groomer or a vet. They may also recommend a good nail trimmer for golden retrievers. 

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Keep Your Golden Retriever’s Teeth and Ears Healthy

Golden retrievers need their teeth to be brushed once or twice per week to get rid of any bacteria, and tartar buildup. To prevent gum disease and bad breath, brush your puppy’s teeth daily. We recommend Sentry Petrodex, an enzymatic dog toothpaste.

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Golden retrievers are susceptible to ear infections because of their adorable fold-over ears that have the unfortunate ability to provide a warm, dark environment for fungus to grow. Check your dog’s ears once a week and any time your pup gets wet for odor or redness, which are signs of a possible infection. 

To clean your golden’s ears, wipe his ears out with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner on a cotton ball. Use a quality ear cleaner like Zymox to keep your pup’s ears clean! Stick to the outer ear. Never insert anything into his ear canal.

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Make Grooming a Good Experience for Your Golden Retriever Puppy

When your golden is still a puppy is the best time to get him accustomed to being brushed, examined, and bathed. Make sure to handle your golden retriever puppy’s paws often. Dogs have a tendency to be touchy about their feet so you will want to acclimate yours to getting his feet examined, and nails trimmed early on. 

If you treat the grooming experience as a positive and enjoyable activity by praising your pup frequently and giving him plenty of rewards, you will be laying the foundation for more relaxed and less stressful veterinary exams and grooming he will need as an adult.

Examine your dog weekly. Check for rashes, sores, tenderness, redness, and inflammation on the nose, mouth, eyes, and feet. Your dog’s eyes should be clear without any redness or discharge. Checking your dog for any signs of infection every week will help you detect any potential health issues early on.

Are Golden Retrievers Good With Kids? 

baby with golden retriever

Golden retrievers are good family dogs. They love the boisterous noise, and commotion kids make. Golden’s love playing with kiddos, but as large, strong dogs, they can easily knock a small child over or hurt them unintentionally when they get overexcited. 

Always teach young kids the best way to approach and pet a dog. Children and pups should always be supervised for the safety of the kids and the dogs. Teach children never to approach a dog while he is eating or sleeping. No golden retriever or any other breed of dog should be left alone with a small child. 

Are Golden Retrievers Good With Other Pets? 

Golden retrievers enjoy the company of other pets. Golden’s love to have other dogs for companionship. With proper training, they can also get along great with other animals, including rabbits and cats.

To learn more about this beautiful breed, check out these facts about golden retrievers.

Sarah is not only a pet owner but loves animals of all shapes and sizes.

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