BREED PROFILE – Golden Retrievers
Golden retrievers may look like a long-haired relative of the Labrador Retriever, but they are a fantastic breed that should be recognized for what they truly are – a loving and loyal companion willing to share all they have with a caring owner. Golden retrievers are currently the third most popular breed in the United States, both among pet owners and competitive breeders, for their friendly dispositions and intelligent natures.
Like many other sporting breeds, golden retrievers were developed in Great Britain during the 19th century. They are believed to have been bred from sporting spaniels and yellow retrievers in Scotland where they were used to retrieve waterfowl. Today, they use the agility and intelligence they once showed in the field to serve as service animals for the disabled, as tracking or narcotics animals for law enforcement services, competitors in obedience and agility competitions, and as family pets.
As the name implies, golden retrievers are found in shades of gold from cream to a darker golden yellow. They have a very dense double coat which is feathered on the dog's legs and requires relatively little grooming. The coat should only be bathed when necessary, in addition to regular dry-shampooing. Shedding tends to be worse in the Spring but brushing the coat regularly will help to remove the undercoat as it sheds before it can cover your home and become a nuisance. A full-grown golden retriever can reach 55 to 75 pounds, females staying slightly smaller than males.
This breed is not for the owner who doesn't have time to spend with their dog. They are one of the more energetic breeds and needs lots of exercise to use up all of that energy. Being retrievers, these dogs love to play fetch and a tennis ball or Frisbee can keep them occupied for as long as you care to throw it. In addition to exercise, it is a good idea to start obedience training young. They tend to greet or play by jumping and can be a handful if they aren't taught early to curb their bad behavior. Golden retrievers can be easily distracted at times but usually respond well to gentle, positive training.
Overall, they will be friendly with most people and dogs if they are socialized well. However, they usually greet visitors (and intruders) with a loud bark and will let you know you have company. Beware of “separation anxiety” among golden retrievers. If they are left alone or ignored for long, they can get nervous. If you plan on being away from your golden retriever for long, you may want to consider crate training or a dog-sitter in addition to your regular obedience training to help overcome the separation anxiety or you may come home to find your home full of destroyed furniture and your golden retriever's new “chew toys.”
Health and Care Considerations
Like many of the other larger breeds, golden retrievers can be at risk for a variety of medical problems. The most common conditions are hip and elbow dysplasia, caused by deformities in the hip and elbow joints. Dysplasia isn't directly life-threatening, but it causes arthritis and severe pain and can really cut down on your pet's quality of life. The condition is sometimes hereditary but rapid growth in puppies and obesity in adults will make the problem worse. Monitoring your pet's diet carefully, not “free-feeding” (letting a dish of food out constantly), providing plenty of exercise, and not slipping your dog table scraps will help him maintain a healthy weight. Golden retrievers also may develop eye problems (especially retinal displacement), heart disease, and cancer. If you are planning on welcoming a puppy into your home, buying from a reputable breeder who knows the ancestry of their animals and avoiding pet stores and puppy mills for your new animal will help you cut down on the chances that your new puppy will have hereditary health problems.
Golden retrievers love to be around people, crave attention, and want to please their owners. If you want an intelligent animal to add to your energetic family, this may be a breed you want to consider. They are intelligent enough to provide some stimulating training for both of you, energetic enough to keep you both in shape from exercising, and affectionate enough to provide you with a dedicated companion for years to come!