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Golden Retrievers 101

a golden retriever puppy playing outside on a sunny day

The Golden Retriever is the third most popular breed in the American Kennel Club. They’re intelligent, friendly, and absolutely devoted to their families. Here’s everything you need to know before you add a Golden Retriever to your home.

History Of The Golden Retriever

The history of the Golden Retriever is actually really interesting. The initial story was Dudley Marjoribanks, who was also known as Lord Tweedlemouth, bought a pack of Russian circus dogs and brought them to his Scottish estate. He supposedly then bred them with a sand-colored Bloodhound. When Lord Tweedlemouth’s stud journal was published in the 1950s, this story was proven false.

The truth is that in 1865, Marjoribanks purchased an unregistered male yellow retriever, called Nous. He bred Nous with a Tweed Water Spaniel bitch called Belle. The Tweed Water Spaniel is another Scottish breed, which is now extinct. This breeding produced four female puppies and all Golden Retrievers are descended from them.

Marjoribanks bred from the puppies and chose dogs to add in desirable traits for what he wanted in a breed of hunting dog. The studs included more Tweed Water Spaniels, Irish Setters, and black wavy coated retrievers.

The breed was mostly kept away from the public and really only hunting enthusiasts owned them. However, in 1908 Lord Harcourt showed his collection at a Kennel Club show. As they had no official classification at the time, he entered them into the ‘any type of retriever’ class and he coined the name Golden Retriever.

They actually became an officially recognized breed by the UK Kennel Club as Retriever -Yellow or Golden in 1911, before getting a class of their own (Retriever - Golden) in 1920. They were accepted by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1925 and by the AKC in 1932.

Common Health Information

A healthy Golden Retriever should be between 50-80 pounds, 21-24 inches in height and have a double coat with a good undercoat. The average lifespan is 10-12 years. Golden Retrievers are generally healthy, with few health complications. However, there are four that all owners should be aware of.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a deformation of the hip joint. It can progress and cause pain, and arthritis. If left untreated it can be degenerative. Most reputable breeders will only breed from dogs with healthy hips and will assess the puppies’ hips and give them a hip score.

Skin Allergies

The double coat of a Golden Retriever can be an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, mold, and parasites. Golden Retrievers can be allergic to bacteria, molds, and parasites, where they can develop other skin conditions. Regular grooming and routine vet care are important to prevent serious skin issues.

Chest Conditions

Large breeds like Golden Retrievers can be prone to problems with their hearts, lungs, and circulatory systems. While it may not be possible to test for these issues when the dog is a puppy, a reputable breeder will never breed from an adult dog who is known to have any chest condition.


Golden Retrievers are quite prone to cancer. It’s estimated that around 1 in 3 of them will have some form of cancer at some stage of their lives. Early detection is incredibly important for recovery, so regular veterinary care is absolutely critical.


A golden retriever being given a bath

Golden Retrievers have two layers to their coats. There’s a soft, fluffy undercoat, and then the thick, water repellent, wavy outer coat. As they have double coats, they do shed, and sometimes what they shed can get stuck between the layers causing mats and tangles. This is why grooming is really important.

They need to be brushed from head to toe at least once or twice a week. Always brush when your dog is clean and dry, and follow the direction of the hair. You don’t have to bath every time you’re brushing and should only bath your dog once every month or two.

You should never shave a Golden Retriever, but you can trim his hair, especially on the tail, and the backs of the legs where the hair is more feathery. Your dog will need to have his teeth cleaned regularly and you should also clean his ears carefully.


One of the biggest reasons why Golden Retrievers are so popular is because of their personality. They’re very friendly, affectionate and loyal. They’re even-tempered and are playful and gentle with children. They tend to get along well with most other animals. They’re intelligent and eager to please, which makes them very trainable. They love to work, so they’re often used as service animals. They aren’t known for barking and are not really suited to guard dog work. They love to be around people and make great family pets.

Daily Care

Golden Retrievers need a moderate level of daily care.


They are a relatively high energy breed, and younger dogs can be very exuberant. They need two long walks daily, and they also need mental stimulation. They can’t be turned out in a backyard, and left, as it just isn’t enough for them. They do excel in dog games, such as dog ball as they were bred to hunt and retrieve, and they also do very well in obedience classes. If they have enough exercise, and mental stimulation, they can adapt to any living situation, including apartment living.


Golden Retrievers need toys. As they were bred to retrieve, they can be mouthy, but supplying some toys for your dog to chew, and carry can help prevent him from destroying your belongings.

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Food And Water

You should feed your Golden Retriever 2-3 cups of high-quality dry food per day. If he’s a puppy, feed him a puppy food three times per day. Adult dogs should be fed adult food twice per day. Some owners give their dogs free access to food, but this isn’t really a good idea. For one thing, it would be very difficult to tell how much he’s actually had to eat, which is important in fast-growing breeds like retrievers.

Water should be given freely, and he should always have access to fresh, clean drinking water.

Fun Facts

There are a few fun facts about Golden Retrievers that you may not know:

The record for ‘most tennis balls held in the mouth by a dog’ is held by Golden Retriever Augie from Dallas. He held 5 tennis balls in his mouth.

  • President Gerald Ford and President Ronald Reagan both owned Golden Retrievers
  • They have an amazing sense of smell and are often used by the police as drug detection dogs.
  • Their personality and willingness to learn and help make them ideal for guide dog work.
  • Their sense of smell and their personality makes them also ideal search and rescue dogs.
  • They love to swim.

Meet The Author 

Grant Withers

Canine Specialist & Writer

Grant is an award-winning writer for SitStay with a passion for pets and especially dogs! Grant loves writing about furry little goofballs and aims to educate pet parents about anything and everything regarding their dogs.

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