The Golden Retriever is classed as Group 3 (Gundogs) by the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC).

The Golden Retriever is one of six kinds of retrievers. The other Retriever breeds are Labrador Retriever, Flat Coated Retriever Retriever, Curly Coated Retriever, Chesapeake Bay Retriever and Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.

History of the Golden Retriever

The relentless quest by the British gentry during the 19th century for the perfect hunting dog led to the development of most of today’s retrievers and hunting dogs.  On his Scottish estate, Guisachan, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth, aspired to create a breed of dog to retrieve waterfowl that was more powerful than previous retrievers whilst retaining their gentle, easily trained nature.

The first recorded Australian Golden Retriever litter was registered on 26th December 1938.

Today, the Golden Retriever’s intelligence coupled with his tolerant easy-to-train nature makes him a popular choice for families, people with disabilities, and owners involved in obedience, tracking, agility and retrieving.

Physical characteristics

The Golden Retriever is a medium to large dog that stands 56-61 centimetres at the shoulder and females are 51-56 centimetres. They weigh around 32 – 37 kg for males and 27 – 32 kg for female dogs.

Golden Retriever. Photo: Tanner Vines/Unsplash

Golden Retriever. Photo: Tanner Vines/Unsplash

Golden Retrievers, like other retriever breeds, are slow to fully mature both physically and mentally.   At one year of age, they will be at full height but their full weight will be another year or two away.  Mentally, Golden Retrievers can remain puppies up to the age of three years.The ANKC describes the Golden Retriever as symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, level mover; sound with a kindly expression.

The ANKC recognised colours are any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany. A few white hairs on chest only, permissible.

Their coat is flat or wavy with good feathering, dense water-resisting undercoat.

Personality traits

The ANKC says this breed is biddable, intelligent and possessing a natural working ability.  The temperament is kindly, friendly and confident.

This breed is an adaptable, devoted companion with a kindly nature. It is often employed as a therapy assistance/guide dog, service and customs.

Like the popular Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever is known for his intelligence and gentle disposition.

Note: All dogs are individuals. While there is a great difference between dog breeds there is also a difference in temperament within breeds. Temperament is affected by a number of factors, including heredity, training, and socialisation.

Care and Exercise for Golden Retrievers

Diet – Golden Retrievers love food and must not be overfed.  Golden Retrievers are susceptible to hip dysplasia, which can be exacerbated by excess weight, so it is important to monitor food intake throughout the life of your dog. Ensure you are providing your dog with a high quality balanced diet based on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Discuss with your veterinarian and a responsible breeder about the best diet that is appropriate for this breed’s life stage from puppy to adult to senior. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.

Grooming – A good brush at least once a week or at more regular intervals if your dog requires it, should be enough to keep him looking healthy and free of any matted hair.  Grooming is an excellent time to check for skin allergies such as hot spots and whether his toenails need trimming.  Regular grooming will also help to keep the dog’s coat clean.

After swimming in salt water, the coat should be rinsed with fresh water to remove any salt residue.  This will help to avoid any skin irritations.

Begin familiarising your Golden Retriever puppy to being brushed and examined by the vet by gently handling his paws frequently.

Shedding – Golden Retrievers are heavy shedders especially in Spring and Autumn. Daily brushing will get some of the loose hair out of the coat, keeping it from settling on your clothing and all over your house. But if you live with a Golden, you’ll have to get used to dog hair.

If you don’t provide this dog breed with companionship and an outlet to burn off energy, your dog may turn to undesirable activities like chewing and digging instead.

Exercise and Games – They are strong, active dogs that love retrieving and swimming.  Owning a Golden Retriever can open up a whole new world for family involvement.  Activities such as dog sports – retrieving, obedience, tracking and agility can be very rewarding for both the owner and dog. The level of involvement can range from purely social to serious competition.  They love to retrieve and can spend hours at the park or beach bringing back a tennis ball or a frisbee.

As they can also be great chewers as puppies, this breed will like soft toys they can carry around in their mouth.  This breed will enjoy regular games of tug with you but never pull the tug toy out of his mouth, wait until he drops the toy then pick it up and start playing again.

Housing – This breed is adaptable to outdoor conditions, but they prefer to live indoors, close to people, most of the time.  If your dog is mostly outside, spend time with him outside even just to be there.

Training the Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is highly trainable.  All dogs need training and this breed thrives on training.  This breed will pick up new skills easily. Start training early using positive reinforcement methods.  A dog that listens to and responds to just a few well-trained instructions can be kept infinitely safer than an untrained dog. And their quality of life is so much better when trained as they’re given more freedoms and taken more places.

Socialisation your puppy with gradual introductions to people, other dogs and other animals is essential.

Dog sports are a great way for you and your Golden Retriever to exercise and spend time together. Activities such as ObedienceRally-O,  AgilityTracking, and Retrieving and Field trials can be very rewarding for both the owner and dog. The level of involvement can range from purely social to serious competition.

Health issues

The expected average lifespan of a Golden Retriever is approximately 10 – 12 years.

The hereditary defects most commonly associated with Golden Retrievers are Hip dysplasia and Eye Defects.  Hip Dysplasia is an abnormal development of the hip-joint, influenced by hereditary and other factors. The hip-joint is referred to as a ball-and-socket joint, the rounded head of the femur fits into the cup-like acetabulum. Hip dysplasia results in instability of the joint due to alterations of the head of the femur and a shallowness of the acetabulum. The degree of change can vary from slight to so severe that the head of the femur can become totally dislocated. The dog’s movement does not always give an accurate assessment of the degree of hip dysplasia. Dogs with changes of hip dysplasia will develop osteoarthritis later in life.  By keeping your puppy the correct weight, not over exercising, not allowing the puppy under 12 months of age to jump into/onto objects, you will help minimise the chances of your dog sustaining any injuries that could present as Hip Dysplasia.

Elbow dysplasia is the abnormal development of the elbow joint. The term includes a number of specific abnormalities which affect different sites in the joint. These abnormalities are called primary lesions. Primary lesions cause problems by affecting the development of the cartilage in growth plates and the joint surfaces. The primary lesions then start a secondary osteoarthritic process. More on elbow disease in dogs.

Golden Retrievers can suffer from inherited heart disease. The breed’s primary heart problem is Subarterial Aortic Stenosis (SAS).

There are various eye conditions that affect the sight in Goldens such as, Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Hereditary Cataracts (HC) and other conditions that don’t affect the sight such as, Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia (MRD) and Post Polar Cataract (PPC). In Australia, Breeders screen there dogs annually for these conditions.

The two most common types of cancer in the Golden Retriever are hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.

Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.  Knee, hip, eye, and elbow tests should be included in the usual veterinary check-ups.

Talk to a veterinarian about health issues for this breed.

Note: No amount of hereditary defect testing of the puppy’s parents can guarantee 100% you’re your Golden Retriever will be structurally sound.  Responsible breeders will utilise genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of inherited disorders in their puppies.

Suitability of the Golden Retriever

The Golden Retriever is the classic family companion as they tend to have a calm temperament and easy to train.  Their pleasing personality and natural drive to be a good companion make the Golden Retriever one of Australia’s most popular breed of dogs.  Golden Retrievers need people and best suited for active families.

Over the years, Golden Retrievers have been bred to make excellent companions to owners as retrievers in hunting expeditions, as service dogs for people with sight or physical disabilities, or as sniffer dogs working with the narcotics or search and rescue divisions in police departments.  As a result, Golden Retrievers need to closely interact with their owners and be regularly included in family activities.

They are good watchdogs, but make lousy guard dogs as they love people far too much to be effective.

If you are a clean freak, then perhaps a Golden Retriever is not for you with their shedding.

Never leave a puppy or adult dog alone with your child! If you are unable to supervise, then separate your pup and child. Crate training your puppy to give him a safe and fun space to be on his own for short periods is recommended.

Adoption in Australia

 Golden Rescue (NSW)

 More details on the breed

Australian National Kennel Council
National Golden Retriever Council of Australia

Thinking of getting a dog? Download our FREE eGuide: Before you get a dog – 8 essential tips to get it right!