What are the characteristics of the Golden Retriever breed?
Unlike any other breed of dog, the Golden Retriever is famous for its “will to obey”. Its aim is to please its owners, and this breed shows real joy when learning. The Golden Retriever adapts calmly to everyday situations and loves to be a part of every activity its owner is involved in. This human-loving dog is one of the most popular family pets worldwide, with its good-natured, laid-back character and friendly, playful nature making it a real favourite for families with children. Even living with other pets, the friendly “Goldie” generally proves to be a success.
Owners of this breed jokingly say that a Golden Retriever is more likely to help burglars carry the valuables out of the house than to drive them away, and it is true that, if it has any protective drive at all, it will only be rudimentary. The breed is completely unsuitable as a guard dog, but its enthusiasm, intelligence and ability to learn make it a great choice as a guide dog, therapy dog or assistance dog. Combined with its good nose and innate hunting instinct, these qualities also make the Golden Retriever a common choice for police and emergency services, ideal as a rescue dog, drugs dog or arms and explosives detection dog.
What does the Golden Retriever look like?
Of course, the Golden Retriever is not only popular because of its gentle nature, but also because of its attractive appearance. This medium breed dog has a well-proportioned physique, with a well-formed skull featuring a clear stop and dark eyes under pigmented eyelids that combine to give the Retriever its typically gentle and friendly expression. Strong muscles and strong bones make this dog a very agile, active dog.
The Golden Retriever is classed as a medium-sized breed. In males, the shoulder height is between 56-61cm, with bitches slightly smaller at a withers height of 51-56cm. This dog will weight between 30-40kg at a healthy weight, depending on gender and size. The medium-long coat can be either smooth or wavy, but never curly. The fur is tight on the back, but the backs of the forelegs, underside of the tail and both the chest and abdomen will all be heavily feathered. Due to its dense undercoat, the Golden Retriever does not mind extreme wet or cold weather conditions. Its coat colour ranges from bright glowing gold to soft moon yellow to cream, with white hair occasionally appearing on the breast.
What are the origins of the Golden Retriever?
There are many different myths and legends surrounding the origin of the Retriever breeds. Unlike most other Retriever types, however, the history of the Golden Retriever can be clearly traced to at least as far back as 1864. In that year, Briton Sir Dudley Marjoribanks bought the yellow wavy-coated Retriever “Nous” from a shoemaker in Brighton. The male had been the only yellow puppy in an otherwise black litter. In the far north of Scotland on his “Guisachan” estate, Marjoribanks, who was later appointed the first Lord of Tweedmouth, began breeding this dog.
The aim of his breeding efforts was to create the perfect retriever for hunting wild birds. In 1868, he crossed Nous with the Tweed Water Spaniel bitch “Belle”, as spaniels were not only considered to be enthusiastic around water but also to be as persevering as retrievers. Over the next 20 years, the descendants of Nous and Belle were further crossed with other wavy-coated Retrievers and Tweed Water Spaniels, as well as Irish Setters and, in one line, with a sand-coloured Bloodhound. From these various cross-breedings came, eventually, the Golden Retriever as we know it today.
According to the original breeding goals, the Golden Retriever was initially used for “work after the shot”, meaning that its main task was to retrieve killed game, bringing the already-dead animals back to the hunter with its soft mouth. Many Golden Retrievers specialised in retrieving shot waterfowl, which shows the love of water that most of these animals had. Golden Retrievers are still good swimmers to this day.
How did the Golden Retriever gain its popularity?
These beautiful dogs quickly gained popularity in their native United Kingdom and in the United States after the Golden Retriever breed was officially recognised by the British Kennel Club in 1913 and the first breed club was founded eight years later. In the 1980s and 1990s, the Golden Retriever frequently appeared in films and on television, resulting in a veritable boom. The breed spread from English-speaking countries to many countries in mainland Europe and quickly became one of the most popular family and companion dogs in these countries as well. Even today, the Golden Retriever is the most common pedigree dog found in English- and German-speaking countries, according to the puppy statistics from breed associations.
How healthy is the breed?
Unfortunately, this boom in popularity had many negative side effects for the Golden Retriever. Greedy “puppy farms” looking to make some quick money selling cute puppies mated dogs without any planning or looking into the nature and health of the breeding pair. As a result, breed-related diseases developed and are still suffered by many retrievers now. Targeted breeding selection and strict conditions are used to help reduce the risk of hereditary diseases, but the following still occur more often than average in Golden Retrievers:
- Hip dysplasia (HD)
- Elbow dysplasia (ED)
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
- Hereditary cataracts (HC)
If you are interested in getting a Golden Retriever puppy, it is vital that you check you are using a reputable breeder who has carried out all necessary health checks. Make sure you see the pedigree and confirm that the parents, grandparents and siblings of the breeding pair are all in perfect health. Unfortunately, there are still a great number of mass breeders who place little value on the health of their animals. Only buy from a recognised breeder and take the time to make a careful selection.
You should expect to pay a fair amount of money for a healthy puppy from a reputable breeder. For a dog that will be a treasured member of your family for many years is well worth the money. A puppy from a recognised breeder is also likely to cost you less in veterinary bills over the years than a mass breed puppy, as the breeder will have carried out medical tests and carefully crossed selected dogs. Golden Retrievers from a recognised breeder can have a relatively high life expectancy of around 12-16 years, so you are likely to enjoy many years of happiness with your four-legged friend!
How do I care for my Golden Retriever?
A genetically well-bred puppy is but the first step in keeping your Golden Retriever happy and healthy! Its health and vitality over the years will also depend on whether your dog is receiving the proper care. Your dog’s marvellous golden coat will, of course, require plenty of attention. This breed changes its coat twice a year, during which time it will naturally lose plenty of hair, but it will also lose little bits of fur throughout the year, meaning that it needs to be brushed and combed regularly. This will help to clear the undercoat, as well as greatly reducing the amount of hair you need to hoover up off your carpet, cushions and couch! Your Golden Retriever will not particularly enjoy hot temperatures, so removing any excess dead undercoat can help make hot summer temperatures more bearable.
What kind of routine health checks will my dog require?
As well as regular coat care, your dog’s paws, teeth, eyes and ears will also need to be routinely checked. Not only can this help to detect any illnesses early on, allowing for rapid treatment, but it can also help to prevent dangerous infections from developing. Regularly checking your dog will ensure you can quickly identify any changes, as well as getting your dog used to be looked over and making the whole process less traumatic. The best option is to get your Golden Retriever used to these thorough checks as a puppy, so that they simply become part of life.
What kind of diet does a Golden Retriever require?
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The diet you choose for your Golden Retriever will also have a significant effect on your dog’s health. But how do you know the right food to choose? Is dry food better than wet food? Or is homemade the best option? What about raw feeding? There are so many options out there, as well as so many opinions on the best food to choose for your Golden Retriever.
Unfortunately, there is no single right answer, as choosing the right diet for your dog will depend on a number of individual factors. Your Retriever’s age, height, weight, activity levels and general health will all impact on its nutritional needs and should be taken into account when choosing food. As with us humans, a young, agile dog that is always racing around will have higher energy needs than an older, less active dog with a tendency to gain weight.
Lots of meat, little grain!
Regardless of individual needs, the composition of your dog’s food can give you a good indication as to whether it is of a high enough quality. Good dog food is always characterised by a high meat content, which should be around 70% or higher. Vegetables, herbs and fruits should make up the rest of the recipe, without too many grains, as these are not suitable for a dog’s digestive system and can indicate low quality food. Sweeteners such as sugar, fructose, glucose or syrup should also play no part in animal food. Any high-quality food will openly list its ingredients in detail, including exact details of where the meat has come from.
Is wet food better than dry food?
For many dog owners, dry food may be the most practical solution, but it is not necessarily what is best for your dog. Dry kibble often lacks not only moisture but also nutrients in the optimal form for your dog to absorb and use. Although it can form an important part of your dog’s diet, exclusively feeding dry food is not recommended. When choosing between dry and wet food, the latter is certainly the better choice. You can offer your dog even more variety by feeding a BARF diet of raw meat, or by providing self-cooked meals. This also means, of course, that you can directly influence the quality and nutritional composition of your dog’s diet.
How do I best look after my Golden Retriever?
As well as taking care over your dog’s nutrition and grooming, you also need to remember the most vital part of owning a Golden Retriever: offering it plenty of love and attention. Golden Retrievers love their humans and need to become a real part of the family – keeping the dog outside in a kennel is wholly unsuitable for the sensitive nature of this breed. Allow your Golden Retriever to participate fully in your life and be sure to allow enough time for physical and mental stimulation.
Like all hunting dogs, Golden Retrievers love to be active, so caring for this breed should involve plenty of training. A simple daily walk around the block will not be enough for this dog! This intelligent breed not only needs physical but also mental exercise, so try including small retrieving or searching games into your daily walks. Various sports and training types can also be ideal for your Golden Retriever, providing the necessary stimulation. For example, obedience training, dummy training, tracking work or being part of a rescue dog team can be ideal for these dogs. There are also plenty of sports and games that allow your dog to use its excellent nose and to satisfy its urge to retrieve. As a water-loving breed, the Golden Retriever will also love to swim in streams, lakes or the sea – if none of these are nearby, you can’t go wrong a good muddy puddle or an unpredictable garden hose!
What kind of training does a Golden Retriever require?
Before committing to taking an adorable little Goldie puppy home, you should carefully consider whether you will have the time to play with this energetic dog. For busy professionals who will be working full time throughout the week and will often be away from the house, a Retriever is not the right choice. However, if you have the time and desire to look after such a dog, as well as preferably having a house with a garden, then this pedigree breed will offer the perfect faithful, loving companion.
Training your Golden Retriever will not, in itself, take up a great deal of time. This is not to say that the breed does not need any training, but thanks to its eagerness to work and strong desire to be obedient, the Golden Retriever can be a particularly pleasant student. As with any dog, consistency is vital. Your dog will love to wrap you around its little finger with its cute eyes, ever-wagging tail and clumsy paws, but it is important to master at least the essential commands. You do not need to be incredibly strict with your Golden Retriever – rather deliver your commands with a calm and loving yet determined voice. These sensitive, human-loving dogs need handlers as composed as themselves.