Golden Retriever Breed Information

Key facts and characteristics

Energy levels
 
Grooming
 
Easy to train
 
Exercise needed
 
Barking/likely to be vocal
 
Size Large
Average height 51-61 cm
Average weight 25-34 kg
Average lifespan Over 10 years
Minimum exercise (per day) 2 hours
Coat length Medium
Minimum cost (per month) £105

Golden Retrievers can be a great family dog for an active family due to their high energy levels, but also calm natures and intelligence. They can be easy dogs to train and can make good first dogs for new dog owners, as long as you know what you’re getting into taking on a larger breed dog.

As long as they are socialised well as a puppy, Golden Retrievers can happily fit into family life. They are gentle but need to be treated with respect by all members of the family, including young children, as like any dog their patience will eventually run out.

 

Common health problems in Golden Retrievers

Like any purebred dog, Golden Retrievers may encounter some breed-related health problems throughout their lives. Often, Breed Clubs will also be able to provide advice on what tests your breed may need and where to get these done. Make sure the parents of your puppy have had the relevant health screening to reduce the chances of your puppy being affected by these upsetting conditions.

Golden Retrievers are amongst a group of breeds classed as ‘Category Two’ by The Kennel Club. These are breeds of dog that have been highlighted as having ‘points of concern’ – visible features which, if exaggerated, might potentially affect the breed in the future and cause health and welfare concerns. For Golden Retrievers, this is because they can have short legs in proportion to their body and a tendency to become overweight.

Some of the conditions Golden Retrievers are more prone to developing include:

  • Hip dysplasia – where hip joint that doesn’t fit together perfectly, which will eventually lead to arthritis. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by x-rays through the BVA/Kennel Club Hip Dysplasia Scheme.
  • Elbow dysplasia – where the elbow joint that doesn’t fit together perfectly, which will eventually lead to arthritis. Before breeding, dogs should be screened by x-rays through the BVA/KC Elbow Dysplasia Scheme.
  • Eye problems – screening tests are available and dogs should be screened on a yearly basis, especially if intended for breeding. These conditions include:
    • Cataracts – where the lens of a dog’s eye goes ‘cloudy’.
    • Multifocal retinal dysplasia - abnormal development and growth of the back of the eye (retina) which can lead to blindness.
    • Generalised progressive retinal atrophy (GPRA) – slowly leads to progressive blindness over months or years.
    • Retinal pigment epithelial dystrophy (RPED, or central progressive retinal atrophy) – a genetic problem which causes issues in the back of the eye (retina) and loss of vision.
    • Glaucoma – high pressure within the eye causing pain and loss of vision.
  • Ichthyosis – a skin disease that causes thickening of the footpads and makes other areas of skin rough and covered with thick, greasy flakes that stick to the hair.

 

Caring for your Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are usually real big softies and can make a great addition to a home. They are a popular pet for families, but be aware that they are prone to certain health conditions and you will need to make sure your pet’s been screened where possible to avoid them. It’s also really important to keep your Retriever in shape, as they can easily become overweight.

Golden Retrievers and barking

As with any dog, you shouldn’t expect your Golden Retriever to be silent all the time! How much noise they make will be down to the individual dog. If you’re having problems with excessive noise or barking, we recommend seeking the advice of an accredited behaviourist.

Training and socialisation

Golden Retrievers thrive off training and are very intelligent dogs. They love nothing more than to be given tasks to do to keep them occupied and have fairly good problem-solving skills – for a dog!

As long as your Retriever is properly socialised from a young age, they should be confident around new people and situations. Retrievers also like their chill out time but will be more than happy to show you plenty of affection on their own terms.

Though they are typically well-behaved with positive, reward-based training, we wouldn’t recommend leaving your Retriever on their own for too long if you can avoid it. Like all dogs, Golden Retrievers like to chew, so it’s better if there is someone around for the majority of the time to keep an eye on them. Remember, it’s recommended that you never leave your dog alone for more than four hours as it can cause them to become stressed and anxious.

Exercise

Golden Retriever swimming

Golden Retrievers are very active dogs and need plenty of opportunities to exercise, play and get rid of excess energy.

Your Golden Retriever will need a minimum of two hours of good exercise per day. It’s best to spread this out across the day and include walks and lots of running, with extra playtime and training on top. You can find out how much exercise your dog needs, or even find exercises you can do together.

Because they are intelligent dogs, Golden Retrievers can get bored easily so make sure you keep their brains active as well as their bodies. As their name suggests, retrieving is what they were bred for, so nearly all Golden Retrievers love a good game of fetch!

Grooming

Golden Retrievers have medium to long coats and generally do shed a lot. They are not a dog to take on if you hate hoovering! Ideally, they should be brushed or combed three times a week at a minimum. When they’re changing their coat, you may need to up this to daily brushing to really help keep on top of excessive shedding.

Unless recommended by a vet, it isn’t usually necessary to clip your Retriever’s coat back fully as this can be bad for them as they won’t be able to regulate their body temperature. Where necessary you can trim their coat with the right tools, but seek advice from a professional dog groomer or vet first.

You may also find that your Retriever loves water (including any and all muddy puddles) and swimming. Make sure they stay safe around the water and if they get mucky, use a dog safe shampoo.

Golden Retrievers and children

If you have a young family then Golden Retrievers can be fantastic with children. If socialised properly from a young age, Retrievers can be quite calm and tolerant. While they usually have a great temperament, it’s best to always supervise your dog with children.

As puppies, it’s normal for Retrievers to be ‘mouthy’, which means they have a tendency to nip and play bite. This is especially true when they’re teething. Although they don’t mean this in an aggressive way, it’s best to use positive training techniques to let them know that biting you can be sore and isn’t a fun game. That way, when they’re adults they’ll know this isn’t a good way to play with humans or other dogs.

Always supervise children and vulnerable adults with your Golden Retriever and make sure you can recognise the signs of unhappiness or anxiety in your dog to help avoid any conflicts. As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and play with dogs with care and kindness, to prevent any issues.

Golden Retrievers and other pets

Well-socialised Golden Retrievers are very easy-going, which usually means they can be great around other dogs and pets, too. Any introductions should be done carefully and following the right advice for your other pet, too.

Always supervise your dog with other pets, even if they have known them for a long time.

Food

Your Golden Retriever’s diet will vary depending on their age and any health conditions they may have. You’ll need to feed them a complete dog food to keep them slim and healthy. Obesity can cause other health problems for your Golden Retriever, so keeping them in shape is extra important.

You’ll need to be careful with where you keep food and how you secure your bins, as Retrievers are known for eating anything and everything they can get their paws on. Make sure to monitor their weight and keep an eye out for any sneaky snacking.

Your vet will be able to tell you how much your dog should be eating. You should feed a good quality, commercially available and complete dog food and it’s recommended to split their daily allowance into two meals. If you give your dog an occasional treat or use treats for training, remember to take this into account and reduce their daily food allowance. Treats shouldn’t make up more than 10% of their daily calorie intake as it can unbalance their diet. Their big appetite also means they can easily get a taste for titbits off the table or scraps after dinnertime, so it’s best not to get in the habit of feeding these as they can be very high in calories for your dog. Use healthy treats in moderation instead.

You should try to feed your dog at the same time every day to get them into a routine. Remember to leave a gap before exercising and after eating.

 

The cost of owning a Golden Retriever

Golden Retriever smiling at camera

Having a Golden Retriever will cost a minimum of £105 per month after purchase and set-up costs and up to £17,000 across their lifetime.

Costs you’ll need to think about include:

Purchase costs

Adopting an adult dog from a rescue centre may be a more cost-effective option, as well as having the added advantage of offering a home to a pet without one – check if the rehoming centre you’re looking at asks for a donation for rehoming.

If instead you’re buying a Golden Retriever puppy from a breeder, you’ll need to factor in this cost. Beware unusually cheap puppies as they could come from a puppy farm. If you want to buy a pedigree puppy, we recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they have to do extra health tests and meet higher standards.

Set-up costs

  • Puppy vaccines – if you rescue a dog, reputable centres will often vaccinate them for you. Remember that ongoing booster vaccinations will be needed to continue their immunity.
  • Neutering – you should usually arrange for your dog to be neutered at around 6-12 months old, though your vet will be able to advise you exactly when is best. Check prices at your local practice as these will depend on your vet and where you live. Some rescue centres will neuter any dogs they rehome, saving you this cost.
  • Equipment – including a collar and tags, lead, harness, dog beds, dog bowls, pet-safe toothpaste and toothbrushes, grooming brushes and toys. Keep in mind that all these will need to be replaced with wear or damage or if your dog outgrows or damages them!

Ongoing costs

  • Food.
  • Preventive healthcare – budget for routine vet visits to help stop your dog getting ill and catch any problems early. They need annual check-ups, vaccinations and regular flea and worming treatments. Check if your vet offers a health care plan as this can help spread the cost throughout the year.
  • Vet bills* or pet insurance – if you don’t have pet insurance and your dog needs veterinary treatment for an injury or illness, costs can rapidly mount up. Check what’s covered and what isn’t when comparing policies.
  • Accessories – including lots of poo bags, replacing worn toys and grooming accessories, buying doggy toothpaste and any other extras they might need.

Other costs

  • Training – basic training is very important and dogs can benefit from formal classes. Some dogs may have, or develop, behavioural problems which might need professional management.
  • Boarding – you may also need to budget for boarding or dog sitting costs if you are planning to go away from home on holiday.
  • Dog walkers/day-care – you might consider a professional dog walker to keep your dog happy and healthy if you’re unable to get out with your dog enough yourself, or to look after them during the day if you need to be out for more than four hours.

* It’s always better to plan ahead and budget or get pet insurance in case your pet gets injured or unwell. If you are having difficulty with veterinary costs, you can check if you are eligible for treatment at PDSA here.

If you’re considering pet insurance, our PDSA Pet Insurance could be a great option for you and it’s quick and easy to get a quote online.

Fun facts

  • As they were bred to fetch game, they have a naturally gentle grip, called a 'soft mouth', so they don't damage the birds they carry back in their mouths.
  • Golden Retrievers have an amazing sense of smell and are often used as search and rescue dogs in other parts of the world.
  • They absolutely love water (well, most of them do). Most Retrievers will take any opportunity to have a swim. Luckily, their coats are thick to keep out water and keep them warm.
  • Golden Retrievers make really good assistance dogs and are often a top choice for training to be Guide Dogs for the Blind.

 

Getting a Golden Retriever

Do plenty of research before you get a Golden Retriever. Make sure you have the knowledge and dedication to give to these sweet natured dogs to keep them happy and the time and space to exercise them. While they make great family pets, make sure you are absolutely ready to take on the commitment of getting a dog first.

Rehoming centres

There are plenty of rescue centres across the country where you may find a Golden Retriever. Breed-specific rescues that specialise in Golden Retrievers are out there too. You’ll need to ask any rescue centre about the dog’s history to make sure they will be comfortable in your home. Good rescue centres should let you know of any health and behaviour problems.

Breeders

If you buy a Golden Retriever puppy from a breeder, make sure your puppy will be well socialised and have all necessary health checks and vaccinations. We recommend looking for a Kennel Club Assured breeder as they meet higher standards. We’ve put together some advice to help you find a good breeder.

Not sure if the Golden Retriever is the right pet for you?