Chapter One: Understanding Golden Retrievers

It is imperative that prospective owners of Golden Retrievers find out what they can about the breed’s unique traits, nature and characteristics before they open up their homes to this very popular breed.  It would not be mincing words to say that Goldens will be quite a demanding house pet to keep, as they will need lots of exercise, frequent grooming, space, and lots of love and attention.  They will surely be worth all that investment of time and energy, but if you simply cannot devote that much of your resources or your time to keeping this new family member, then this breed is probably not for you.

Below you will find a general overview of some of the interesting facts and quirks about the breed.  Let me introduce you to breed with a true heart of gold: the Golden Retriever.

Facts About Golden Retrievers

            The Golden Retriever is a large dog breed with a characteristic long, golden coat.  They are one of the most popular family pets today, owing largely to their kind, gentle temperaments and loving natures.  They are also extremely intelligent, and are naturally eager to please. This makes them highly trainable dogs, and coupled with their natural strong sense of smell and hunting instincts, are now also popularly used as working dogs, serving in many capacities such as guide dogs for people with disabilities, drug or bomb sniffing dogs, and even rescue dogs.

            This breed was originally developed in Scotland – to be an effective hunting or gun dog on Scottish terrain, retrieving water fowl.  Golden Retrievers are thus excellent retrievers: they will love a game of fetch, and they are also excellent swimmers.  They are naturally suited to swimming, in fact, as they that beautiful long, golden coat is also pretty much waterproof, and being double-coated, also provides this breed with adequate protection against the cold.  They are also very sturdy and powerful, as would be expected of a breed bred to navigate the challenging Scottish terrain. But even for all its natural skills, power and energy, the Golden Retriever is also very amiable and gentle, with a friendly and sociable temperament.

            All these unique characteristics which make the Golden Retriever what it is is require a goodly investment of time, energy and money.  Being large breeds, they will occupy a large space in your home – and curious creatures as they are, they will have a penchant for chewing and destruction unless they are allowed to work off their energy in regular doses of exercise.  That long, golden coat also requires regular grooming and maintenance.  Goldens shed, and unless their hair is brushed and combed regularly, there might be a tendency for their coats to get matted or tangled, which will be quite painful for them, and a headache to their owners.

            It should also be noted that Golden Retrievers do not like to be left alone – not for long periods of time.  In fact, they will want to be close to you as much as possible, and as often as possible.  They are very loving, devoted and gentle dogs, which make them great family pets.  As guard dogs, however, they are not very effective since they are more likely to be friends with strangers than to warn you of intruders.  This means that they will need constant company, grooming and exercise – so if your lifestyle keeps you out of the house for long periods of time, with no opportunity to spend time with your dog, then the Golden Retriever is probably not the best breed for you.

            One other thing that bears mentioning is the recent spate of illnesses that seem to strike at this breed.  Cancer, in particular, is a very worrying concern for many owners of Golden Retrievers.  But even this does not detract from the love and joy that this breed can bring into a pet owners’ life.  Many Goldens are in need of homes, and it is to be hoped that the current unexplained prevalence of cancer in the breed will not have prospective owners closing their homes to this beautiful breed.             

Summary of Golden Retriever Facts

Pedigree: Tweed Water Spaniel, Irish Setter, Bloodhound, St. John’s Water Dog, 

AKC Group: Sporting Group

Types: British, American, and Canadian Golden Retrievers

Breed Size: large

Height: 20 to 24 inches (51 to 61 cm)

Weight: 55 to 75 lbs (25 to 34 kg)

Coat Length: Long

Coat Texture: straight or moderately wavy; a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth in the outdoors, and an outer coat that lies flat against their bodies and repels water.

Color: light to dark golden colors, of various shades

Eyes and Nose: gentle, brown eyes and a brown nose

Ears: medium-sized, pendant or hanging ears

Tail: thick and muscular at the base and follows the natural line of the croup, level or with a moderate upward curve

Temperament: friendly, gentle, trusting, naturally intelligent and biddable, active and fun-loving, patient, and eager to please

Strangers: are amiable even to strangers, do not make good guard dogs

Other Dogs: compatible with other dogs 

Other Pets: compatible with other pets such as cats, and most livestock

Training: intelligent and very trainable

Exercise Needs: very active, needs daily exercise of at least one hour each day

Health Conditions: Cancer, joint conditions such as hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS), pigmentary uveitis, ear infection, obesity

Lifespan: average 10 to 12 years

Golden Retriever Breed History

            One of the interesting and unique things about Golden Retrievers is their history – that is, unlike many other dog breeds whose origins and history are largely unknown, the Golden’s origins and history are pretty well-documented.  This is largely thanks to the efforts of the Scottish lord Dudley Marjoribanks, the First Baron Tweedmouth, who practically single-handedly developed the breed.

            Sometime in the mid-19th century, wildfowl hunting was a popular sport in Scotland.   And due to the peculiar Scottish terrain, there was a need for a dog breed who was adept at retrieving on both land and in the water.  None of the then-existing hunting dogs were quite adept at the task, and so cross-breeding attempts ensued.

            In 1952, the breeding records of Marjoribanks were published, and it contained detailed records of his breeding attempts which resulted in the modern Golden Retriever breed.

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