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Golden retriever smile

The essentials

  • Golden retrievers originated as a mix of existing breeds — This beloved breed first originated from a cross between yellow retrievers and the extinct Tweed water spaniel, both of which were known to be skilled hunting breeds and companions in the Scottish Highlands. It is also believed that bloodhounds and Irish setters were added to this early mix.
  • Goldens are designated as a member of the American Kennel Club Sporting Group — The AKC has dubbed these furry friends as a member of the Sporting Group, alongside other athletic and versatile hunting breeds like the Labrador retriever and German shorthaired pointer.
  • Golden retrievers have their own breed club — That’s right! The Golden Retriever Club of America is the official parent club for these special dogs, working to spread awareness and advocate for their well being not just in the United States but also around the world.

From the Scottish moors to the Oval Office: The golden retrievers history as man’s best friend

Scotland has incredibly rainy and slick weather, making it difficult for many dog breeds to keep up with their owners’ active lives. Back in the 19th century, Lord Tweedmouth of Scotland was on the hunt for a furry companion who could accompany him comfortably in the harsh weather and environments of the Scottish Highlands, while maintaining their natural affinity for waterfowl hunting, adventuring, and general companionship.

He began to cross-breed known dog breed types, such as the bloodhound and the Irish setter. Eventually, he ended up with the Tweed water spaniel, which played an important role in the golden retriever’s formation. He kept extensive documentation of his breeding process, which eventually led to the final version of the golden retriever that we know and love today.

After the breed’s debut at a 1908 British dog show, their popularity took off—eventually winding up at the sides of families, leaders, and presidents, like with U.S. President Gerald Ford’s golden retriever, Liberty. Today, dogs of the breed can be found in a wide variety of coat colors and types, including red and English cream golden retrievers.

Golden retrievers: Scotland’s skilled hunting companions 

From the diverse terrain of the United States to the rolling hills of Europe, hunters and sportspeople of all types enjoy the companionship and support that a golden can bring to the thrill of the hunt.

These special dogs were originally bred to weather the harsh environments of Scotland—and, as a result, can handle nearly any type of inclement weather from a light rain to a heavy snowfall.

When given a good sniff, these furry friends can track and retrieve any downed game, usually of the feathered variety, across a range of environments. They’re capable hunting dogs in their own right with the proper training, despite their notably lower prey drive compared to other breeds.

Dog owners and hunters appreciate the fact that the golden retriever remains as sweet-tempered as possible, even in the most heated hunting situations. Their trainability and obedience make them a true asset to any group, no matter what type of game you’re after.

Golden retrievers make excellent support and service dogs 

Both Labs and golden retrievers are known for their intelligence, sweetness, reliability, and loyalty. While they weren’t originally bred to support those who are disabled, their natural abilities and sweet temperament make them excellent candidates for service dogs, supporting thousands of people with a wide range of conditions. Aside from task-oriented jobs performed by service dogs, goldens have also proven adept at the emotional intelligence needed to be successful support animals as well.

Emotional support animals (ESAs)

Golden retrievers are friendly, supportive, and calming. Many of them can work skillfully as an emotional support animal—or ESAs. Their intelligence makes them especially receptive to alert opportunities, and their weight can provide a helpful grounding effect for those who prefer physical pressure to calm them during times of stress.

They may often thrive as therapy dogs, who play a distinctly different role than service dogs. These empathetic pups work in hospitals and schools to provide mental health support and an uplifting attitude to people who are under emotional stress.

Service or mobility assistance dogs

Those who have difficulty with mobility might choose a golden retriever as their mobility assistance dog. Their size and strength can be  helpful tools to offer a physical  holding space around their pet parent, and their high level of intelligence can actively help to keep their owner safe in busy public spaces.

Medical alert dogs

Golden retrievers, like many dogs, are highly emotional and intelligent. They can easily sense shifts in their owners mood and overall disposition. This makes them ideal candidates for medical alert dogs, who can help those who experience:

  • Diabetes
  • Chronic pain
  • POTS or dysautonomia
  • Seizure disorders, such as epilepsy

👉 We do want to note that certain breeds may do better in certain capacities. For example, Xoloitzcuintlis dogs are a great fit for those experiencing chronic pain, while retrievers and German shepherds can be great seeing-eye dogs.

Golden retrievers are strong showdogs

The golden retriever’s friendly disposition, obedience, and intelligence makes them especially competitive as show dogs in the conformation ring. They’re conventionally attractive, often sporting buttery-yellow mid-length coats and sweet, honest faces. They’re also ready for any challenge you throw their way, harnessing the power of their competitive, eager-to-please spirit to excel in sports categories.

Daniel the golden retriever was slated to make history as winner of the Sporting Group, and runner-up to the Best in Show crown at the 144th Westminster Kennel Club dog show in 2020—narrowly losing to Siba, a standard poodle. While a golden has yet to take home Westminster’s top prize, one of the breed’s ancestors, a bloodhound named Trumpet, won the most recent Best in Show title in 2022.

What should I look for in a working golden retriever? 

No two dogs are alike. Understanding what to look for in a working golden retriever can help both the pup and the owner have the best transition experience possible as they welcome each other into their lives. Here’s what you should look for if you want a working golden retriever as your lovable companion:

Strength, size, and physical capabilities

Working dogs, such as a guide dog or a medical alert dog, should be large enough to hold space around their owner(s). They may need to be strong enough to support the weight of a human, or of whatever medical supplies that the pet parent may need to keep with them. Hunting dogs should have enough size and weight to them to stay safe on the hunt, maintaining agility to keep up with their owners.

Emotional state

Working dogs shouldn’t have hostile temperaments. Instead, they should be tolerant and somewhat social, remaining neutral no matter what environment they are in. Training working dogs to maintain their state of calm helps keep both the pup and the owner as safe as possible, whether they’re out on errands or tracking with the hunting party.

Trainability and obedience

A working dog should be able to keep up with ongoing training, and possess a high level of obedience. They might find themselves in distracting or overwhelming situations—which means that relying on training skills is critical.

Are golden retrievers healthy?

Golden retrievers are generally healthy dogs. However, they can be predisposed to certain genetic health conditions. Feel free to ask your breeder about your dog’s risk profile for diagnoses like dysplasia (hip & elbow), cancers , skin issues (such as belly rash), or aortic stenosis. Regular vet visits can help keep your pup as healthy as possible over the course of their lifetime.

Golden retriever temperament: Sweet, kind, and loveable

There’s a reason that the golden retriever reputation precedes them. These dogs are notably kindhearted and sensitive, craving every second of companionship they can get. They are fiercely loyal to their pet parents and family members, and are gentle giants—making them especially popular for homes with small children or other animals.

Frequently asked questions

Golden retriever vs. Labrador retriever: What’s the difference?

While these two dogs share a similar temperament, the golden retriever and Labrador retriever are two distinct dog breeds. Goldens are a bit more “clingy” and sensitive, while Labs tend to be more independent and lively. Both however are incredibly sweet, intelligent, and trainable.

How long do golden retrievers live?

On average, a golden retriever can live between 10-12 years. This lifespan may vary based on a variety of factors, such as the dog’s overall health and environment.

Do golden retrievers bark a lot?

Golden retrievers will vocalize to communicate, but they aren’t known to be big barkers. Usually, they’ll just alert you to new people, places, or things—quickly becoming occupied as they explore their surroundings.

Do golden retrievers shed a lot?

Golden retrievers are known to have a luxurious double-coat, so the short is yes, expect a fair amount of shedding.. They’ll shed their coats approximately twice per year, with light seasonal shedding as the seasons change. Frequent brushing can help keep your retriever’s coat healthy and your furniture fur-free.

Are golden retrievers good house dogs?

Golden retrievers are kind and mild-mannered, making them ideal for homes with other people, animals, or small children. They have the best experience with pet parents who have plenty of time to give them love, affection, and mental stimulation. They are also extremely obedient and trainable, making housebreaking a cinch.