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Golden retriever

The golden retriever is one of America’s most popular dog breeds—for good reason. Good-natured and eager to please, golden retrievers are used as guide dogs and for search-and-rescue missions. They are often described as the perfect family dog, so if you are looking for a friendly family addition, this may be the breed for you.
Golden Retriever Dog Puppy Breed

AT A GLANCE: The golden retriever

  • Friendly, trustworthy, and good with children
  • Typically 21.5 to 24 inches tall
  • Weigh 55 to 75 pounds on average
  • Keenly intelligent
  • Commonly used as guide dogs
  • Feathered coat in shades of gold
  • Average lifespan of 10 to 12 years

Physical characteristics of the golden retriever

Golden retrievers are large dogs originally bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters. They have a somewhat long body that gracefully flows into a broad head, a straight muzzle, and short ears that fall close to the cheek. Golden retrievers are well-known for their dense, water-repellent coat in light to dark shades of gold. Short, even hair covers the head and front leg surfaces, with longer hair feathering on the stomach, back leg surfaces, and tail.

Personality and temperament of the golden retriever

Golden retrievers are happy-go-lucky dogs who enjoy mentally stimulating tasks, such as obedience training or agility trials, and are happiest when given a job. They often compete in events such as dock diving, flyball, and retrieving trials. Their intelligent nature makes them the perfect choice for guiding the blind, providing physical and emotional support, and participating in search-and-rescue missions.

As family pets, golden retrievers can typically be trusted with children of all ages. They are patient and mild-mannered, and don’t typically become agitated by rowdy toddlers or crawling babies. They love to participate in outdoor activities, and are a great choice for families who want to include their dog on hikes, camping trips, and other adventures.

Golden retrievers can be rambunctious as puppies, but are easily trained, and are eager to please. They may have trouble restraining their enthusiasm for new people, and are known to jump on houseguests if not taught to remain calm. Early obedience training, as well as regular exercise and mental stimulation, help provide an outlet for their boundless energy.

Common health concerns for the golden retriever

The average lifespan for golden retrievers is 10 to 12 years. To keep your golden retriever in good health, watch for the following common health concerns:


Approximately 60% of golden retrievers are affected by cancer. Morris Animal Foundation is currently conducting the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study, which will help identify nutritional, genetic, and environmental risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs.

Canine hip dysplasia (CHD)

Large-breed dogs have a higher risk of canine hip dysplasia. Rapid bone development during the growth stage causes inappropriate joint development, with eventual degeneration and lameness.


Decreased thyroid hormone production causes slowed metabolism, weight gain, and hair loss. Diagnosis is made by measuring thyroid hormone blood levels.


Golden retrievers can develop a sensitivity to environmental allergens, such as pollen, dust mites, and food ingredients. Clinical signs include itchy skin, hair loss, and chronic ear infections, and may be seasonal or year-round.


Canine ichthyosis is a chronic skin condition that causes dry, scaly looking skin. Dried skin flakes off like dandruff, and affected skin can eventually become thickened and discolored.

Other health concerns include:

  • Bone and joint problems
  • Cataracts
  • Glaucoma
  • Distichiasis
  • Ear infections
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gastric dilation volvulus
  • Tumors

Thinking of adopting a golden retriever into your own family? Make sure they’re protected and learn more about how Trupanion’s dog insurance can help in the event of injury or illness.

Caring for the golden retriever

The beautiful, dense hair coat that golden retrievers are known for requires frequent brushing to minimize shedding and matting. Golden retrievers shed a moderate amount of fur consistently, but experience a more aggressive shedding in the spring and fall, when loose hair comes out in clumps. They require routine grooming, such as bathing, ear cleaning, and nail trimming, monthly. Golden retrievers typically have healthy teeth if they are maintained by routine brushing and regular professional veterinary cleanings. Your veterinarian can demonstrate how to brush your dog’s teeth.

Golden retrievers require daily exercise to prevent boredom and destructive behavior. Their natural energy and intelligence make mentally stimulating activities, like agility training, a good choice. They are always up for a run or game of frisbee, and they love outdoor activities, such as hiking and swimming. If an outing is not on the agenda, golden retrievers are happy to chase a ball in the backyard or take a stroll in the park.

The golden retriever is the perfect dog for you if:

  • You love the outdoors and want to take a companion
  • You have a large yard for exercise and play
  • You want to explore sports like agility, dock diving, or flyball with your pet
  • You want a fun, affectionate family pet
  • You don’t mind regularly brushing your dog