Physical characteristics of the Golden Retriever

Physical characteristics of the Golden Retriever
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The general appearance of the Golden Retriever should be symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, and well-aligned in its gait. The expression is that of a thoughtful and gentle dog. The head is proportionate and well-chiseled. The skull is broad but not coarse. The muzzle is powerful, broad, and deep, equal in length to the skull, with a well-defined stop. The eyes should be dark brown, set wide apart, with dark eyelid margins. The ears are of moderate size and are set at approximately eye level. The legs are straight and well boned, well-positioned under the trunk. The tail is set on and carried at the height of the back: it reaches to the hock, without ever curving at the end.

Hair: flat or wavy, with beautiful feathering. Undercoat thick and waterproof.

Color: all shades from gold to cream are allowed, but not red or mahogany.


Size: 56 to 61 cm for the male and 51 to 56 cm for the female

Weight: about 30 kg

Origins and history

The recognition of the breed is quite recent since it dates from 1931, but we know practically nothing about its history. The most famous one is that in 1858 Lord Tweedmouth bought a pair of light-colored Caucasian Shepherds that he had seen working in a circus. In each of their litters, he would have kept only the “golden” puppies to fix the recessive character of the coat. Another theory is that the breed originated from a cross between a sand-colored Bloodhound and a now-extinct Water Spaniel. Other authors maintain that the ancestor of the breed was Nous, a yellow dog born from a cross between this Water Spaniel and a Flat-Coated Retriever.

Character and abilities

The Golden Retriever has an exceptional character: it is perfect with children, gentle and peaceful with the elderly. Robust and resistant, it is a companion for young people and of course a precious helper for the hunter. It is a dog that needs a lot of time because it has a great need for human company: it feels part of the family, that is to say, of the “gang” in which it lives and wants to play a full role, making itself useful and participating in all possible activities. In hunting, it is a very skilled retriever, especially in the water.


This dog has more than just a creamy coat, it also has a golden temperament! Very close to his social group, he will be eager to please them and give his members all the love they need.


This dog is very playful and active, so he will be a perfect companion to play with children. He will delight young and old alike with a variety of tricks simply to amuse, distract and attract the attention of all.

Games that are both playful and educational will be preferred to reinforce the obedience of this dog but also and especially to strengthen the relationship that binds him to his master.

Calm :

If his needs are respected and fulfilled and he is sufficiently well trained, he will be a calm and quiet dog at home.

However, this depends a lot on the kennel where he grew up. Indeed, the great success of this breed has sometimes led to some deviations and has even succeeded in endangering the first quality of this dog, namely its “good paw” side.

So beware of certain Golden Retriever breeders who prioritize yield rather than the quality of their litters.


This versatile dog excels in many disciplines, which is a sign of its great intelligence and adaptability. The Golden Retriever’s abilities and character have even led it to become an excellent service dog for the blind and disabled.

The intelligence of the Golden Retriever is recognized by the greatest scientists, specialists in cognitive ethology. Indeed, a classification, highlighting the instinctive intelligence, the intelligence of adaptation and the intelligence with work, raises this dog on the third step of the podium. That’s how real its intelligence is.


Naturally made to accompany hunters in the field, a subtle apprenticeship and training is still necessary to be able to use this dog effectively in the hunt.

The Golden Retriever will be particularly good at retrieving game, especially in water, an environment in which he moves with pleasure and dexterity.


Fearful/distrustful of strangers:

Not at all aggressive or reserved around strangers, this golden retriever is sociable, friendly and very much in demand of contact, whether familiar or new.


Particularly close to his masters and in demand of attention, this dog will however know how to regain his apartments and evolve with a certain autonomy within his environment.



Supports the solitude:

It is not a dog made to remain alone for long hours. It needs to be surrounded and stimulated regularly to be well in its paws.

The life outside or in kennels did not saw him wonderfully, this dog needs to live within the family home.


Easy to train / obedient:

The Golden Retriever is very easy to train since he will want and need to please his master. Of a docile nature, he will be eager to learn, if the learning methods are respectful of the principles of positive education.

Education should be started at a very young age for Golden Retriever puppies. Until the first 20 weeks of life, his brain is in a state of flux and he will need to learn and be stimulated so that his natural abilities can develop.

Instinctively, the Golden Retriever puppy will look for a reference on whom to rely, so this is the role that his new owner will have to assume to guarantee the beautiful balance of this breed.



This dog will not be an excessive barker but may raise his voice in excitement or frustration. Good education and respectful response to its needs of expenditure will participate to control this aspect.


This adorable companion is not a runaway dog because he greatly prefers to stay with his family.

Beware, however, of dogs that are not taken out of the garden every day, as they may find the time long and take to the streets to get some fresh air.


The maturity of the adult Golden Retriever is relatively late, so destruction may be persistent. Nevertheless, a good physical and mental expenditure of the dog, coupled with a firm and coherent education allows controlling this aspect.

Greedy / glutton :

Very greedy, the Golden Retriever dog is not the last to ask for food and treats. This is an asset for training, but care must be taken to avoid overweight.

To avoid gluttonous behavior during meals, the food can be offered in two portions and/or in an anti-gobbling bowl.

An additional tip: for dogs that tend to eat very quickly, their daily ration can be scattered in the garden for example. This allows the dog to both eat more slowly and stimulate his sense of smell!

Guard dog:

Absolutely not a guard dog, this dog will welcome guests with pleasure and joviality, but also intruders. This can be an asset as well as a disadvantage, depending on the expectations of the dog’s owners.

First dog:

This Retriever is particularly suited for a first adoption. Docile, affectionate, playful, loyal and sociable, it is the perfect companion dog. It adapts wonderfully to all lifestyles and various family constitutions.

Of course, you will have to find out about the conditions of the kennel you choose to be sure you will get a balanced Golden Retriever puppy that complies with the official breed standard.

Living conditions

Indoors or outdoors.

The Golden Retriever will be the happiest living in a house with a garden, but it can be content with life in an apartment if it is taken out very often.

Golden Retriever in an apartment:

Sporty and active by nature, this dog will need space to fully blossom. A life in the country with a garden and a water source nearby will be the ideal living conditions for this great swimmer.

However, its intelligence of adaptation allows it to adapt to city life, in an apartment, if its needs of physical expenditure are filled.

Need for exercise/sport:

The Golden Retriever needs to go out and spend time every day to be perfectly balanced physically and mentally.

Long walks with the possibility of wading or even swimming should be offered as regularly as possible.

This dog excels in many disciplines: hunting, agility, obedience, tracking, obedience, cani-courses, etc. So many activities that his owners can offer him as a hobby.

Travel / Ease of transport:

The size of this dog could slow down its accessibility in some transports, but it needs to be near its master and its intelligence of adaptation allows it to travel without too many constraints.


The Golden Retriever and Cats:

The very sociable character of this dog makes it a dog that is quite capable of cohabiting with a cat. This understanding will be accentuated if the two animals grow up together.

Beware, however, of possible aggressive reactions from cats that could injure the dog, especially in the eyes and nose.

The Golden Retriever and other dogs:

Not a fighter for a penny, this dog will often get along very well with its fellow dogs with whom it will love to spend time and let off its high energy.

Nevertheless, the Golden Retriever puppy should be socialized early on to enable him to acquire and reinforce his canine codes.

The Golden Retriever and children:

Gentle, attentive, friendly, and jovial, this dog is made to live with children.

Be careful, however, that the children respect the tranquility and nature of this dog. Rules of life will have to be set up to guarantee the safety of all and to make inter-species cohabitation harmonious.

The Golden Retriever and the elderly:

All the qualities and the good character of this exceptional dog make it suitable for elderly people.

However, the latter must be sufficiently dynamic and ready to provide for the many needs of this dog.


This is a very robust dog. Although Golden Retrievers were born to work in water and have a perfectly waterproof coat, they must be dried at the base of their tail when they get out of the water, otherwise, they risk suffering from “broken tail”, a painful contraction of the adductor muscles that causes the dog to carry its tail incorrectly, just as if it had broken it.

Life expectancy:

The life span of this dog can be up to 12 years.

Tough / Robust:

The Golden Retriever is an athletic dog with robust health and a long life expectancy. According to several surveys, few dogs do not reach the age of 10 years. These dogs are therefore strong and resistant.

Withstand the heat:

Rather enduring, it will still be necessary to ensure that the dog is offered fresh water and renewed regularly during the heat as well as the possibility of wading to cool down.

Withstands the cold:

The thick undercoat of this dog as well as the impermeability that his coat gives him allow him to resist the bad weather, but be careful however with freezing temperatures.

Tendency to get fat:

So friendly and cheerful, we often tend to want to please this dog by giving him a few treats or bones here and there. However, you must be careful because the Golden Retriever is particularly sensitive to being overweight and could quickly become obese.

Contrary to popular belief, overweight dogs are not healthy dogs. Adjusting the daily rations and offering the dog a good physical expenditure will be necessary to avoid excess.

Frequent diseases:

  • Predisposition to cancer (hemangiosarcoma, lymphoma, osteosarcoma, mastocytoma)
  • Hip and elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Cataract
  • Retinal atrophy/degeneration
  • Ocular allergies
  • Otitis
  • Dermatological diseases (dermatitis, vitiligo, furunculosis, folliculitis, ichthyosis)
  • Hepatitis due to copper overload
  • Risk of “Broken tail” if the tail is not well dried when leaving the water

Grooming and maintenance

The maintenance of the coat of this dog is not difficult nor constraining but requires nevertheless a regular brushing, in particular for the subjects with wavy and fringed hairs.

His coat can easily tangle, depending on his regular activities, daily brushing will sometimes be necessary, weekly at least.

Furthermore, special attention should be paid to its floppy ears to avoid and/or prevent any infections.

Hair loss :

The loss of hair of this dog is regular and all the more important during the periods of molting, in particular in spring.


The price of a Golden Retriever varies according to its origins, age and sex. The average price for a dog registered in the LOF is 900€. The bloodlines of some Golden Retriever breeders can be sold for up to 2180€.

Average life expectancy: about 12 years

Notes and advice

“Golden” does not mean “golden dog”, but “golden dog”, “golden retriever”, in the metaphorical sense of the term. By the way, not all Goldens have a golden coat, but they are often cream-colored (which is also very beautiful)…

In addition to being an excellent hunting dog, companion dog, and guide dog for the blind, the Golden Retriever is also used by search and rescue teams and police units to detect drugs and explosives thanks to its unmatched scent and tracking abilities.

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