published 1st May 2017
These magnificent looking dogs are renowned for having one of the most stable temperaments of all of the breeds which is one of the reasons they are so popular around the world. Their lovable nature and overall compatibility with humans, other dogs and animals, is what makes a breed of dog that people love. They are also the least likely to be aggressive or anti-social.
The Golden Retriever is a large breed of dog (average 25-34kgs) with a fun-loving nature that suits most people’s lifestyle. Because they learn quickly, they are great family pets and lifelong companions. They are strong dogs and hard workers whether they are hunting, guiding, servicing or performing search and rescue activities.
If there is a downside to this breed, it might be their coat type, the care it requires and the shedding from the dense undercoat. But this is a small price to pay for sharing your life with this magnificent breed of dog that ticks all the boxes when it comes to temperament.
Golden Retrievers were originally bred in Scotland in the 19th century to retrieve waterfowl and game birds. They were popular with the Scottish elite who loved hunting and needed an energetic dog capable of bringing the birds back unharmed.
As guns became more effective over long distances, more birds were being felled and the need for the perfect dog with the retrieval ability to help the hunter became important.
The breed had to be capable of navigating their way through rough terrain, over long distances, determined and undeterred, retrieve the birds where they had fallen and bring them back to the hunter intact. The Golden Retriever was excellent at performing these tasks and so their popularity as a great retriever grew.
Although they are still used for hunting, Golden’s excel at many other activities including search and rescue and guide work.
The Golden Retriever was first bred in Scotland and then spread throughout the UK. The United Kingdom style of Golden Retrievers are slightly different than the North American types with thick coats and larger body weight.
British-type Golden Retrievers can be found in Europe and Australia and New Zealand. They have a larger, broader skull, larger chest and forequarters and are more muscular than those found in the USA and Canada. The coat is generally lighter in colour than in the American types, with the blonder colour being very popular in Australia and New Zealand. The darker colours of gold, red or mahogany are hardly ever seen.
Golden Retrievers have muscular bodies with great endurance, owing to their origins as hunting and gun dogs.
In the USA in 1938, the Golden Retriever Club of America was founded. Golden Retrievers are ranked number two for American Kennel Club Registrations. According to the pure bred dog guide recognised by the American Kennel Club, Golden Retrievers are judged based on a variety of traits: colour, coat, ears, feet, nose, body, etc.
The Honourable Archie Marjori Banks took a Golden Retriever to Canada in 1881, and registered 'Lady' with the AKC in 1894. These are the first records of the breed in these two countries. The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927, and the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario (GRCO) was formed in 1958. The co-founders of the GRCO were Cliff Drysdale, an Englishman who had brought over an English Golden, and Jutta Baker, daughter-in-law of Louis Baker, who owned Northland Kennels. The GCRO in later years expanded to become the Golden Retriever Club of Canada.
Golden’s love the water and won’t take much coercing to get them swimming. This comes as no surprise considering their origin. As dog owners, it’s our job to make sure they are safe.
Even though Golden Retrievers are adept at swimming and are addicted to water, they still need to be trained how to exit backyard pools safely. A dog can drown in a backyard pool, even an adept swimmer like the Golden Retriever. The reason being is, the side of the pool is slippery and does not allow a dog to gain a foothold, to allow it to easily climb out.
It is hard-wired in the domestic dog as it was in the wild dogs, that when they fall into a creek or a river, they would instinctively attempt to exit the water at the exact spot where they entered or fell in. This is nature’s way of protecting them for those times when they fall through the ice while maneuvering frozen creeks or rivers. A fall into icy water could be fatal and the instinct is to get out quickly, not to swim around and find another option.
Steps to make your Golden Retriever safe around the pool
Start water training as soon as your new dog or puppy is venturing outside and near the pool. Fit a firm collar and long lead to your puppy or dog and let them enter the pool and swim around a little while. Now gently guide them, using the long lead, to the stairs or where you know they can exit the pool with ease and allow them to exit the pool on their own. You are conditioning your dog or puppy to locate the right way out of the pool.
If you help them, you can slow their ability to be able to get themselves out of trouble if ever they were to fall into the pool or in an emergency when you are not there.
If it is impossible for your dog or puppy to exit easily, then your puppy/dog must NEVER be left alone near the pool or he could drown.
Once you see that your dog can exit easily, then start having the pup or dog enter at different points, still attached to the lead. Make sure that they are capable of working out how to swim towards the exit or stairs and get out of the pool.
The males are generally larger than the females and can be quite physically strong, more muscular and outgoing. Their overall personalities are similar but males are generally more extroverted, whereas females are more reserved and tend to need more encouragement initially, especially when it comes to training.
Females are more likely to use passive influence on their owners than the males.
The females will still call ‘all the shots’ with any male dogs in the home. This is not always easily spotted as they tend to use subtle body language that can go undetected by the untrained eye. The male dog will usually be aware of this behaviour and act accordingly, with great respect.
The female’s control of the male is pretty much consistent throughout the canine world; the females rule the roost.
The males excel at obedience, agility and gun dog work, where the females need more encouragement and gentle persuasion. They need patience and time to bring out the best in them. Just as the males will bound into their work with relish, the females may need a little bit of coaxing to get the best out of them.
However, once they know what you want and feel confident about you and what you are trying to teach them, they do very well and are usually more focused on pleasing you.
One or two dogs?
As dog trainers, we are often asked the question, should I get one or two puppies/dogs? Some people want two so they have playmates and don’t suffer from “the only child syndrome”.
When selecting a golden-retriever puppy, identify what type of personality you are looking for:
Remember that females like to rule the pack and they will jostle for power. Having two females in a household could lead to sibling rivalry or dog fights.
The answer is always the same: if you want more than one puppy you can get two but one by itself is fine. There is no getting away from the fact that a dog is a pack animal and they are not a solitary animal, but they bond to you and their family the same way they bond to other dogs. They can also just as easily bond to another animal if they are introduced properly.
For example, a puppy and a kitten make good companions if introduced correctly from an early age.
Because of their lush coat, they need to have regular grooming and brushing to keep them looking beautiful.
Goldens need their nails clipped at least once a month. Start out using a treat to accustom them to the clipping procedure.
Don’t rush in and grab your puppies foot and start clipping immediately. This alarms most dogs and they will automatically try to pull back, bite your hand and a tussle begins. If you puppy begins to fear nail clipping early on it can lead to a lifetime of headaches.
Start off by just picking your puppies paw up, offer a treat and let it go. Once your puppy accepts that, some pups will begin to lift their paw just to get the treat. Now you can produce the clippers, just take the paw, touch the puppy’s nail briefly with the clippers, offer a treat and let go. Lavish praise! Never grip your puppy’s paw on the pad as most dogs are ticklish there. Always grip them gently at the knuckle just above the paw. This is more comfortable for your dog and they are less likely to resist.
Initially get your puppy used to you holding its paw and the clippers touching their nail. Begin by only increasing this process to clipping one nail. Offer a treat and lots of praise, like they have done something fantastic. Then leave it until the next day, and repeat the same procedure.
Everyday Illnesses and Injuries
Your Golden Retriever’s health concerns will change over the course of their life. A puppy might be more prone to swallow something they shouldn’t, a 2-year-old Golden may be more likely to rupture their knee ligament, and a senior Golden is far more likely to develop arthritis or cancer as they age. Goldens also have personality and physical traits that may make them more prone to certain conditions— a Golden Retriever who loves to swim may develop an ear infection more often than a breed with a pricked ear.
If you are ever concerned about your dog’s health, your local veterinarian is a great resource—no matter how small the question.
Genetic Health Concerns
Like many popular breeds, the Golden Retriever has its fair share of hereditary based issues, like hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Most reputable breeders now have their breeding stock checked and scored for these hereditary ailments by a vet. You can request proof that the puppy you are purchasing comes from parents that have been checked for these issues.
Because many other health issues are also hereditary, you should do some research on the ancestry of your puppy and any health issues of that particular breed.
Some of these ailments may not be hereditary but could stem from environmental or dietary issues. Be sure that your dog is fed on a healthy diet and receives regular vet checks to ensure it always stays healthy.
As a pet owner, you should expect to pay for basic veterinary care like vaccines, spay/neuter, and annual checkups. Many pet owners don’t consider the unexpected illnesses and injuries that can occur throughout a pet’s life, and they don’t prepare for them. Medical insurance can help a pet owner prepare.
The concept of medical insurance for pets is fairly straightforward—pay a monthly premium to be covered for eligible veterinary expenses. But every provider is different, offering varied coverage with different plans, pricing options and limitations. As you research, pay close attention to coverage, deductible options, and ease of use.
You can teach a Golden Retriever almost anything because they are highly intelligent and willing to please. They are very keen to learn new things and bond easily to their family members. Although they might initially be over-exuberant, they will soon learn to calm down and listen.
The most common reason Bark Busters dog trainers are called in is to address barking or over-exuberance and food aggression. Rarely are we asked to address aggression towards humans or other animals in Golden Retrievers.
This breed are lovers, not fighters.
Aggression in the Golden Retriever
Although aggression is rare, we do see it in some fearful temperament types. This needs an experienced knowledge base of how to address these issues effectively through the proper dog training techniques. Although Bark Busters has seen relatively few Golden Retrievers with aggression issues, this problem is easily solved once we identify the reason behind it. We do however get quite a lot of ‘food aggression’ cases.
Muffin Dish-the better way to feed a litter of puppies.
Food aggression is quite common in this breed, especially if they were not properly imprinted as a puppy. Some breeders like to feed their puppies from one large bowl which causes the puppies to push and shove each other to ensure they get enough to eat. This creates urgency in the puppy to rush its food and a feeling its being deprived. The puppy thinks that if he doesn’t learn to fight to protect his meal, he will starve.
This invariably leads to ‘food aggression’ which is jostling for position at the food bowl resulting in bickering and all out fights.
The ideal way to wean puppies of all breeds, is to have them eating from something like a muffin tin, so they all get an adequate opportunity to eat with ease.
You can also feed them with individual bowls. This way there is no feeling of urgency, no sense of feeling deprived, no fights and no jostling for position.
The Golden Retrievers are a very vocal breed and barking issues are often a behaviour that Bark Busters is called to address.
Don’t allow your Golden Retriever to demand attention from you, by barking and then getting your attention or a response from you. They may bark to go outside, bark to get fed or bark simply for attention. If you tolerate these mis-behaviours it will only encourage your dog to bark more.
Bark Busters can tailor a dog training behaviour modification program for you and your dog that will address any barking issue your dog has using communication and leadership, kindness and understanding.
Recall-come when called
Golden Retrievers are renowned for their ability to bound away without notice, leaving their frustrated owner looking bewildered and unable to get them back quickly.
This is a dangerous behaviour and something that could spell disaster for your dog.
If you have a recall problem, then start off on a long lead and condition your dog to stay close and to come when requested.
Don’t allow your dog off the lead until you first teach them to come back immediately when called or this could spell trouble.
The Golden is one of the safest breeds and most lovable. They make a great family dog and are loyal and trustworthy. Golden lovers know how lucky they are to have a breed of dog that has the all-round personality that fits into most situations with ease. Their temperament is generally very stable. If you choose a breeder who breeds ethically, you will have an all-around fun-loving dog, with a great temperament and overall grace and beauty.
Once you have decided that a Golden Retriever is for you, than make sure that you select the right breeder or a reliable source from which to get your puppy. The ideal age to take your puppy away from its mother or litter mates is at 8 weeks of age.
Most ethical breeders will understand that puppies that are taken away earlier than 8 weeks miss out on much needed education that occurs at this stage of life within the litter. There is also a lot to be learned from mother dogs at this stage, which serves to set your puppy up for life.
When selecting a puppy look for a pup that has the right personality to suit your temperament and lifestyle. Avoid selecting the fearful pup that hides away at the back of the litter, but also look to avoid the one that is bossy, biting and beating up on its litter mates. It might look cute, but you will be that bossy pup’s target when you take it home.
Look for the pup that is sensible enough to not push or bite the others. You don’t want the wriggly guy that wriggles about when picked up or the one that bites and snaps at your fingers or feet. Instead look for the puppy that sits calmly in your arms if you want a better family pet that can bring you joy, not anguish as it grows.
Selecting the wrong temperament can cause you all sorts of grief. The fearful type will possibly be anti-social with visitors and the bossy type will be the life and death of the party.
Select well and enjoy your Golden Retriever for a long time. The average life span of a Golden is 10 – 15 years so he/she will be a companion for much of your life!
Bringing A Golden Retriever Puppy Home
It is best to bring a puppy home early in the day to allow it time to settle into its new environment. Try to obtain something that is familiar to the pup like a piece of bedding or a favourite toy.
Select a place for your puppy to call its own (see also a Dog’s 4 Basic Needs later in this article). A crate or strong box is best or a small secure room. You might want your puppy to share your bed or sleep in your room but this can be disruptive as your puppy grows and develops.
Also give thought to the fact that the pup that starts out this way may never be able to be left alone. Bark Busters treat many cases of Separation Anxiety and one of the constant contributing factors is people who sleep with their dog, either in their bed or bedroom.
We recommend that you provide your Golden Retriever puppy with a bed of its own, in a place of its own if you want a dog that you can sometimes be left alone without incident.
Addressing Puppy Barking
It is not advisable to ignore any barking your puppy might do when left alone. This will only serve to make the situation worse. You must stay close by and assure yourself that the puppy is not trapped or in any trouble. Once you know that, then address any barking with a sharp tone.
It is far better if the pup knows you are there and close by. However, don’t immediately rush into sight as that will only cause your puppy to cry out anytime it wants to see you.
Toilet Training Your Golden Retriever
The results you achieve will depend on how your puppy was imprinted when it was still in the litter. Some breeders have their puppy’s toileting on proper puppy toilets, newspaper or some use carpeted areas.
Once a puppy is imprinted on a particular surface it remembers the smell of that surface and it’s permanently imprinted on the brain. So they will seek out that smell again when they need to toilet. Dogs that are reared outdoors and on grass or dirt, will likewise seek out the same smell once more to toilet, which is more conducive to healthy toilet practices.
Dogs can be trained to toilet outdoors and on appropriate surfaces, but it takes time, patience and effort. It is best to ensure that the puppy you select has been raised and imprinted properly and on the appropriate surface.
We do recommend Astro Turf as a good functional alternative for toilet training as this product has a strong smell that attracts dogs to it to toilet. It’s also washable and durable.
Your dog has four basic needs in life to keep it happy healthy and content
Let’s examine those four basic needs and why your dog needs them to keep it healthy, balanced and content.
We do promote a diet that is grain free, low in carbs and without any harmful colours or preservatives. Carbohydrates do add energy that the dog needs to burn off and can make an already hyperactive dog more active.
The right diet, void of grains and filled with fruits, vegetables and raw meat will have advantages to how your dog will feel, look and act.
If you want to understand why grains can make a dog more energetic, you only have to think of race horses and how their trainers give them grain to get highly energetic race horses. Energy in, equals energy out.
Bark Busters dog trainers are not vets or dietitians, so we urge you to do your own research into the best diet for your Golden Retriever.
We do however have vast experience at how highly concentrated grain diets effect behaviour and can cause hyperactivity. This is very prominent in Japan, where most dogs are fed high levels of rice in their diet which can adversely affect concentration and focus.
Safety-leadership and education
All dogs need a strong leader to know where they fit into the family unit. If they know their place and know they have a leader that will make all of the decisions – one who is fair and just -- they will be happy and content.
On the other hand, if they have no structure in their life, they have inconsistency and don’t know how things will be from one day to the next, then they will become stressed and may experience health ailments, skin and stomach issues and behavioural problems. Routine and respect must be established immediately.
With equal doses of love and structure your Golden Retriever will feel safe and secure.
Entertainment & Toys
Golden Retriever playing with the GameChanger®
A very intricate part of your dog’s four basic needs is their need to have something to do. If we want to avoid our pets becoming bored and destructive, then they need a way to fill their day.
Dogs thrive with physical and mental exercise. Because they are highly intelligent, they need to keep their brains active as much as their bodies. Entertainment is an important part of their well-being and essential to your dog’s overall mental health.
One great toy is the Bark Buster’s GameChanger which helps to prevent boredom, anxiety and separation anxiety. By filling it with small treats, your dog will have plenty of fun trying to get the treats to dispense. Also, retrievers love to play fetch so have numerous tennis balls on hand!
Shelter-a place to call their own
Dogs love nothing better than to curl up on the couch or in a place they can call their own, even when there is more than one dog. Be sure to provide your Golden with its own “den” and a place where they can all live in harmony. Goldens are very sociable and they will think nothing of all snuggling in together. Just make sure their “den” is warm, easy to clean and maintain.
If your dog sleeps outside then be sure to provide adequate shelter and a place that is waterproof and close to the house. Dogs like to be close to the family unit, so don’t lock them away from the home.
Any training of a puppy must be gentle and dog-friendly. Puppies need special care because they are experiencing everything for the first time. They are very impressionable in the first year and need patience and understanding to set their education on the right path.
Bark Busters trainers are very experienced at dealing with all puppy issues. Our puppy training takes a positive approach; it’s not a ‘one size fits all’.
Bark Busters' Trainer working with a puppy.
Our trainers assess the personality of the dog and tailor the training to suit the puppy’s personality and the owner’s needs.
We will assess the way your puppy is behaving and advise you how to manage common puppy issues, such as toileting and destruction.
Puppies need to be managed, have structure in their life, education, entertainment and the right nutritional diet. They also need regular vet checks to keep them healthy and happy.
Make sure that your puppy encounters only the very best of experiences when it comes in contact with other dogs outside of the home. Bark Busters feels it is not wise to take a young puppy to the dog park. Why? In our 40 years of experience and the training of more than one million dogs, we have found that young puppies are very impressionable and any bad experience they encounter will stay with them forever. If you absolutely feel that you have to take your dog to a dog park, wait until it reaches 12-months of age. Older dogs can cope much better with trauma, than young adolescent dogs.
Some adult dogs can frighten and intimidate a young puppy which can leave them with a lasting adverse impression of other dogs. These traumatic experiences can lead a puppy to grow into a dog-reactive or aggressive dog as they grow and mature. This is not the way you want your dog to start its life -- afraid of every dog it meets or acting out every time it spots a strange dog coming towards it. Bark Busters dog trainers deal with many cases of ‘dog aggression’ that started following a bad experience or incident at a ‘dog park’.
Select which dogs you want your puppy to socialise with carefully based on that dogs temperament. Avoid over-exuberant dogs or those that like to bully or dominate young dogs.
See if you can arrange ‘play dates’ with friends who have calm, friendly dogs that won’t want to beat up on your dog and those dogs that are tolerant of puppies or adolescent dogs. This will pay dividends later and will set your dog’s education on the right path.
The Golden Retriever is one of the most glamorous breeds and get attention wherever they go. They will steal the scene, but won’t embarrass you. In fact, that’s why Goldens were chosen in the popular movies Airbud and Homeward Bound.
This article is based on the findings of Bark Busters, the world’s largest home dog training company, founded in 1989 and now established in seven countries. The information is based on our company’s experience and findings in the training of over one million dogs. The information contained here is based on our research worldwide, as dog training and behavioural experts and in the interest of animal welfare. The information in regards to the popularity of this breed was updated in 2017 after a poll of our international operations worldwide.