Historically developed as gundogs to retrieve downed waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds, the Golden Retriever is a soft-mouthed (won't mangle the game while returning it) breed of dog with a natural affinity towards water. Of medium to large size, the Golden Retriever possesses a dense inner coat that provides the dog with warmth and a water repellent outer coat that lies flat against the body. The official color of the breed is varying shades of gold. The Golden Retriever is a highly intelligent breed that is commonly used to fulfill a wide variety of both working and helping roles in modern society. They can be found in use as hearing dogs for the deaf, guide dogs for the blind, search and rescue dogs, contraband detection dogs, drug dogs and in basically any other role requiring a loyal, intelligent, highly trainable and gentle breed of dog.
Golden Retrievers have become one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States today; ranking 5th on the AKC’s list of “Most popular dogs in the U.S. for 2010”. Despite their high level of popularity and the volumes that have been written about the breed, there is still some mystery surrounding the origin of the breed which has left many still confused as to how the Golden Retriever actually came to be. Not surprising, given the fact that since interest in the Golden Retriever began to rise during the first part of the 20th century, at least two major theories regarding its early history and development have been widely circulated to satisfy the natural curiosity about how the breed was developed.
Before delving further into the individuals involved or into the speculation surrounding the breeds used to create the modern day Golden Retriever, let’s first look at what vacant role the breed was developed to fill. The practice of hunting ducks, geese, or other waterfowl for food and sport known as fowling had long been popular in England. However, it wasn’t until the 1700’s invention of the flintlock fowling piece and the subsequent invention of the percussion lock device in the early 1800’s that the age of sporting arms was born and the centuries old sport of fowling was revolutionized. These firearm improvements allowed fowlers to take down more fowl per hunt, at a greater distance and over increasingly difficult terrain such as marshes and rough water. This increased ability to pluck birds from the sky led to more going lost or unrecovered in the field after being shot during the hunt.
Prior to these improvements, Setters and Pointers were the primary sporting breeds in use by fowlers for bird hunting as they would find the fowl and flush them out for the hunter to down. The drawback of these breeds was that their relatively short coat provided them no protection when moving through the thick brush and heavy grasses of the marsh. Additionally, their relatively light build and low body weight made it difficult for them to trudge through thick and swampy marshes or fight through rough waters in order to retrieve downed birds. Thus there was a need for a specialist retriever and work began on the breeding of a dog to fill this much needed role; one of the many breeds to develop out of this need was the Golden Retriever.
Getting back to the theories concerning who is responsible for the modern day Golden Retriever, we find that the most widely accepted theory concerning the early development of the Golden is that the breed was developed in 1865 by the half Scottish, half English noble Sir Dudley Marjoriebanks (1820 –1894) at his highland estate of "Guisachan" near Glen Affric, in Scotland. He would later be elevated to the peerage as the first Baron Tweedmouth. From this point up until the 1950’s there would be a considerable amount of controversy surrounding which breeds were originally crossed by Lord Tweedmouth to create the Golden Retriever. The most popular theory involved the purchase of an entire troupe of Russian Retrievers by Lord Tweedmouth from a visiting circus; making all modern Golden Retrievers direct descendants of Russian circus dogs.
The most widely circulated version of the story is that Lord Tweedmouth had the aforementioned circus dogs brought to his estate in order to test their effectiveness hunting deer. They so impressed him with their tracking and retrieving abilities that he is said to have integrated them into his Golden Retriever breeding program. It was then believed that the offspring of these circus dogs was out-crossed with a sandy colored Bloodhound to not only reduce their size but also improve their scenting ability; creating the first Golden Retrievers. Thus, all modern Golden Retrievers were the direct descendants of this out-crossing.
Another version of the story is that Sir Dudley Marjoriebanks purchased three yellow dogs in 1868 from a dog trainer with the traveling circus in Brighton. These sheep dogs were said to have been from the area of the Caucasus Mountains and one of them was Nous, the well known first yellow retriever and verified and agreed upon founding sire for the breed. This romantic circus dog story became so popular in fact that it was officially adopted, accepted and published by both the Golden Retriever Club in England and the Golden Retriever Club of America until the 1950’s.
Where did this story come from? No one knows for sure, however, the most prolific advocate of this theory was Colonel The Honorable William Le Poer Trench (1837 – 1920) an Anglo-Irish politician, British army officer, Justice of the Peace, early Golden Retriever breeder and owner of St. Hubert’s kennel. Having become involved with the breed during the latter part of the 19th century, he claimed that his St. Hubert’s Goldens were the original descendents of dogs that he had obtained directly from Lord Tweedmouth at Guisachan in 1883. He stated that it was Lord Tweedmouth’s kennel man that had provided him with the inside information concerning the breeds original circus dog heritage. Colonel Trench also disagreed with the name Golden Retriever and felt the breed should be called the Russian Retriever; in honor of their foreign heritage and coincidentally the breed name he used to promote his St. Hubert line of dogs. Although it is possible that some of his dogs worked their way into the Golden Retriever registry there are no records to support this and it is believed they died out shortly after his own death.
We may never know why he promoted the Russian story as strongly as he did; many today feel that perhaps Colonel Trench’s ego had something to do with it as he may have resented all the credit for the breed going to Lord Tweedmouth. Another reason may have been that he wanted to clearly separate his St. Hubert’s dogs, with their alleged Russian heritage from other notable breeders of the time such as First Viscount Harcourt, (1863 –1922) the British Cabinet minister in charge of managing the United Kingdom's various colonies from 1910 to 1915 and owner of Culham Kennels. Harcourt’s dogs, described as “smaller and darker” than those of Colonel Trench, also reportedly traced back to the original Guisachan bloodlines of Lord Tweedmouth. However, unlike the dogs of Colonel Trench, the dogs of First Viscount Harcourt would continue beyond his death in 1922; a suicide committed at his home on Brook Street in London when he feared being outed by a child’s parents for being a rapist, sex addict, bisexual and pedophile. (Authors Note: You can build a thousand bridges… )
Another proponent of the “Russian theory” was Mrs. M.W. Charlesworth (Abt 1878-1954); a prominent Golden breeder, owner of the celebrated Noranby Kennels and over the course of her 50 year involvement with the breed probably the single greatest force responsible for developing the Golden Retriever in the United Kingdom. She is perhaps as important a figure in founding the breed as was the Marjoribanks family. Mrs. Charlesworth was so taken in by Colonel Trench’s idea that all Golden Retrievers descended from circus dogs that she not only published this information in her widely distributed “Book of the Golden Retriever (1932)”, she championed the story with such fervor that she effectively silenced the voices of anyone who dissented.
Although the public loved the romantic Russian circus dog story, this theory was not universally accepted by all. As some knowledgeable Golden Retriever sporting people had remained doubtful, as evidenced by an article published in the February 1, 1928 edition of The American Kennel Club Gazette by Jacqueline Cottingham in which she formally challenged the idea that Golden Retrievers descended from Russian circus dogs. Another article by written by Mr. A. Croxton-Smith which appeared in the English dog magazine “The Field", also challenged the Russian theory by stating that the grandson of the original Lord Tweedmouth stated that the breed started when the first Lord Tweedmouth purchased “Nous”; the only yellow pup in an unregistered litter of black Wavy-Coated Retrievers, from a cobbler in Brighton. Croxton-Smith also the notable author of ‘Dogs since 1900’ wrote of his interview with Sir Dudley’s grandson (the third Lord Tweedmouth):
"He told me that one Sunday when his grandfather and father were at Brighton in the late '60's, they met a good looking yellow retriever and approached the man who had it. This man, who was a cobbler, said that he had received the dog in lieu of a bad debt from a keeper in the neighborhood and that it was the only yellow puppy out of a black Wavy-Coated (Flat Coats at the time were called Wavy) Retriever litter. Sir Dudley bought the dog and later obtained a bitch of a similar colour in the Border country. Several others were obtained, and to prevent the danger of excessive inbreeding, an occasional outcross was made with black Flat-Coated bitches. The third Lord Tweedmouth assured me that there was never a trace of Bloodhound in them -- they were absolutely purebred Retriever.”
This story would later be corroborated in 1941, with another published letter featured in “The Field”, this time by M.S.H Whitbread who relayed the story of how he was told by the second Lord of Tweedmouth that:
“As a small boy at school near Brighton, his father, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, took him for a walk on the downs where they met a man with a very handsome young yellow retriever. He was a shoemaker and had received the puppy from Obed Miles, the keeper at Stanmer, in payment for a bill. Sir Dudley bought the dog, which was the originator of the Tweedmouth breed. “
All of these doubts as it turned out were well founded, when in 1952 the Majoribanks studbook from 1835 to 1890 was made public and in it there was no specific mention of Russian circus dogs being introduced into the Golden Retriever breeding program. However, there was one mysterious annotation in April of 1868, about a dog named “Sancho”; a dog with a good circus like name that appeared at the bottom of the list for that year. Although, there are no notations about him after this, about him being allowed to breed, or even a simple notation in regards to his origin; which is in stark contrast to the meticulous notes and annotations kept about every other dog bred at Lord Tweedmouth’s Guisachan estate. This means that even if he did purchase a dog from the circus, it never made its way into the future breeding of Golden Retrievers. If in fact “Sancho” was a Russian circus dog this would account for the story, agreed upon by keepers at the estate, that a Russian dog did at one time live at Guisachan.
The records also revealed that the Golden Retriever was from all sporting blood, having been developed through the selective crossing of a Wavy Coated Retriever named ‘Nous’ with a yellow colored Tweed Water Spaniel named ‘Belle’. The studbook also confirmed the fact that ‘Nous’ had been purchased by Lord Tweedmouth in Brighton as evidenced by 1865 notation in the studbook about ‘Nous’ which states “Lord Chichester’s breed. June, 1864, purchd. At Brighton.”. It also provided information about the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel, “Belle” and how she had been obtained by him from a Mr. David Robertson who lived at Ladykirk on the River Tweed; the notation aside her name read “1863, Ladykirk breed.” . Today little information can be found about the extinct Tweed Water Spaniel as the breed, along with most of the information surrounding it has long been lost in obscurity.
One of the few literary references to the Tweed Water Spaniel comes from Mr. Stanley O’Neill, the Flat-Coated Retriever authority of the time. In recounting his memories of the Tweed Water he tells the story of having seen a Tweed Water Spaniel in 1903 when he was a boy while visiting a fishing port with his father who was Superintendent of Grimsby Fish Docks. Of this encounter he states:
''Further up the coast, probably Alnmouth, I saw men netting for salmon. With them was a dog with a wavy or curly coat. It was a tawny colour but, wet and spumy, it was difficult to see the exact colour, or how much was due to bleach and salt. Whilst my elders discussed the fishing I asked these Northumberland salmon net men whether their dog was a Water-Dog or a Curly, airing my knowledge. They told me he was a Tweed Water Spaniel. This was a new one on me. I had a nasty suspicion my leg was being pulled. This dog looked like a brown Water Dog to me, certainly retrieverish, and not at all spanielly. I asked if he came from a trawler, and was told it came from Berwick."
As an adult in the 1920's Mr. O'Neill made further enquiries into the origin of the Tweed Water-Spaniel and was informed by the people of Berwick that they were essentially the same as the Water dogs of the east coast, but in those bred on the Border the browns and yellows predominated.
A reference to possible origin of the breed comes from an 1815 book written by Richard Lawrence in which he states the following:
“Along the rocky shores and dreadful declivities beyond the junction of the Tweed with the sea of Berwick, Water Dogs have received an addition of strength from the experimental introduction of a cross with a Newfoundland dog [Saint John’s Water Dog]…” He goes on to describe its descendant the Water Spaniel was of different colours, but that “the liver-coloured is the most rapid of swimmers and the most eager in pursuit.”
From the original mating between ‘Nous’( the Wavy/Flat Coated Retriever) and ‘Belle’, (the Tweed Water Spaniel) came four yellow female puppies which Lord Tweedmouth named ‘Ada,’ ‘Primrose,’ ‘Crocus,’ and ‘Cowslip.’; these were to become the foundation dogs for all future Golden Retrievers. ‘Crocus’ would be given to the Honorable Edward Majoribanks, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth (1849 – 1909) and ‘Ada’ would be given to Lord Tweedmouth’s nephew, Henry Edward Fox-Strangways fifth the Earl of Illchester, where she would be used to start the Illchester breed of Goldens called Melbury in which black crosses were used freely. From the Illchester line it was found that mating a black male with a yellow female would produce yellow offspring, while the mating of a black female to yellow male would produce a few offspring of each color.
The remaining two pups ‘Primrose’ and ‘Cowslip’, however, would remain with the First Lord Tweedmouth where they would be systematically line bred and out crossed to further refine the breed. In 1872, Lord Tweedmouth acquired another of Mr. Robertson’s Ladykirk breed Tweed Water Spaniels, a male dog named ‘Tweed’ which he mated with ‘Cowslip’ in 1873 to produce another female dog named ‘Topsey’. In order to further improve the breed and increase its’ hunting instincts, ‘Topsy’ was outcrossed with a black Wavy Coated Retriever owned by Sir Henry Meux named ‘Sambo’ in 1877 to produce a female dog named ‘Zoe’. Meux was the original owner of the Meux Brewery in London, which Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth, eventually purchased, and from which he acquired a significant amount of his future wealth.
To further improve the breeds upland hunting ability, he bred ‘Cowslip’ with a Red Setter named ‘Sampson’, owned by his son the Honorable Edward Majoribanks, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth, which produced two dogs, a male and female named ‘Jack’ and ‘Jill’. The male ‘Jack’ (Sampson x Cowslip) would then be bred to ‘Zoe’ (Topsy x Sambo), the granddaughter of ‘Cowslip’, in an uncle x niece pairing in 1884 to produce a male ‘Nous II’ and a female ‘Gill’ both yellow from a litter of four yellow puppies. Gill would then be mated to a male Flat or Wavy Coated Retriever named ‘Tracer’ in 1887 to produce a female named ‘Queenie’; one of ten black puppies. ‘Nous II’ (Jack x Zoe) would then be mated with ‘Queenie’ (Tracer x Gill), another uncle x niece paring, in 1889 to produce ‘Prim’ and ‘Rose’; the last of the retrievers to be recorded in the studbook by Lord Tweedmouth. In 1894 Lord Tweedmouth passed away.
The aforementioned Lord Harcourt, a family friend and regular guest at the Guisachan estate while Honorable Edward Majoribanks, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth resided there, purchased two puppies from him in 1904, both of which were descendents of ‘Prim’ and ‘Rose’. These puppies would become the foundation dogs of Viscount Harcourt’s Culham Kennels or Culham line. Although not yet officially recognized as a separate breed of Retriever, in 1908 Viscount Harcourt’s Goldens would be the first Golden Retrievers to be exhibited at Cruft's and the Crystal Palace. The most notable of which were ‘Culham Brass’ and his son ‘Culham Copper’; the first Goldens to place first in Bench Competition and both of which the vast majority of today’s Golden Retrieves will trace back too; thanks to a breeding between ‘Culham Brass’ and Mrs. Winifred Charlesworth’s founding bitch, ’Normanby Beauty’ in 1908. Although, the name was originally to be ‘Normanby’ in reference to her birthplace of Normanby Hall, a handwriting mistake at a dog show caused the word ‘Normanby’ to become ‘Noranby’ and from then on that’s how it would be known. Her first Golden Retriever, ‘Noranby Beauty’ through her breeding with ‘Culham Copper’ produced the foundation stud ‘Noranby Campfire’ for her esteemed Noranby Kennels.
Mrs. Charlesworth , a pioneer for the breed, would be instrumenta in the Kennel Club of Englands decision to accept the first Goldens for registration in 1903. She would also become one of the founding members of the Golden Retriever Club of England in 1911, which would serve to solidify the breeds existence on English shores. During this time, the breed was known as a Golden or Yellow Retriever, it wasn’t until 1920 that the name "Golden Retriever" was officially adopted. On the establishment of the English breed club Mrs. Charlesworth states:
"In 1910, a small but determined band of enthusiasts laid their heads together to further the interests of the breed which they had worked so hard to bring to the forefront of the battle. having at long last obtained official recognition and separate classification for our favourites at 'the hands of the powers that be,' ie the Kennel Club, we launched on the public a 'new breed' (new since 1870 or so) known as 'Retrievers, Yellow or Golden.' Not content with these concessions to the yearly increasing numbers of Goldens. We felt the time had come when their interests should be fostered and guarded by means of a Specialist Club. Hence the birth of the Golden Retriever Club in 1911"
Over the next fifty years, until her death in 1954, Mrs. Charlesworth would champion the cause of the breed at every available opportunity. She would also stubbornly hang on to the story of about the breed's Russian circus dog origins in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Perhaps this was done because she wanted the breed to be thought of as distinct and special, not as just a yellow flat-coated Retreiver from whence it came. Nearly every Golden Retriever today will have one of Mrs. Charlesworth’s dogs in its pedigree.
Through a family photograph showing a Golden Retriever laying on the floor it is believed that the first Golden Retrievers entered North America as early as 1881. It is believed that Goldens were brought by the family members of Ishbel Maria Marjoribanks, the third daughter of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth who married John Campbell Hamilton-Gordon, 1st Marquess of Aberdeen and Temair. Together they toured all over Canada before finally settling on and purchasing an estate in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia in 1891. They named their newly purchased estate “Guisachan,” after Ishbel’s father’s estate of the same name in Scotland. These Golden Retrievers would have been the first lines introduced on the North American Continent.
The Marjoribanks family also had their hands in the ranching business. Purchased by the 1st Baron Tweedmouth, the family owned Rocking Chair Ranche was located at North Elm Creek in Collingsworth County, Texas. Archibald (“Archie”) Marjoribanks, the youngest son of the 1st Lord Tweedmouth, was sent to Texas shortly after its purchase to work as the assistant ranch manager and bookkeeper. Upon the death of the 1st Baron Tweedmouth the property was ceded to his son Edward Marjoribanks, 2nd Baron Tweedmouth. Not paid by the ranch, Archibald lived instead on a living allowance of allowance of £400 a year and is said to have had little interest in ranching or the proper management of the herds. Known by the locals as ‘Old Marchie’, Archibald felt his time was better spent drinking, gambling and hunting with dogs. One of these hunting dogs was “Lady” a golden retriever or yellow flat/wavy coat thought to have been from the Marquess of Aberdeen’s stock or possibly from a female whelping her puppies that may have been brought down from the British Columbian Guisachan to Texas. A photograph dated as being from either 1891 or 1893 captured ‘Lady’ and Archie sitting together at the ranch; a copy of the photo appears in Gertrude Fischer’s, “The New Complete Golden Retriever” (1984).
Incapable of properly managing the ranch, Archie was blind to huge thefts of stock from both ranch hands and from the senior ranch manager, John Drew. The ranch was eventually sold in 1896, when its debts became too much for the family to absorb, however, not before the Marjoribanks family succeeded in introducing the Golden Retriever to the United States. In the annals of dog breed history this is probably the only example of a single family creating its own strain of dogs and then successfully founding that strain in other parts of the world within a single generation.
Lomberdale Blondin, a Golden Retriever imported from England and owned by Robert Appleton of East Hampton, Long Island would be the first Golden Retriever to be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC), taking place in 1925. He would later import another Golden Retriever, a female named ‘Dan Hill Judy’ which would be mated with ‘Lomberdale Blondin’ to produce the first AKC registered Golden Retriever litter in December of 1925. Although this is the starting point of registration with the AKC for Golden Retrievers, it wouldn’t be until 1932 that the AKC would finally separate Golden Retrievers from Labrador Retrievers at its shows.
The next major player in Golden Retriever history would be Colonel Samuel S. Magoffin, the driving force behind establishing the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) in 1938 and first president of the national club; a club that today, is one of the largest parent breed clubs in the AKC with a membership in excess of 5000. He was also the famed owner of both Rockhaven Kennels and Ginockie Kennels both located in Vancouver; the latter would later be relocated to Denver, Colorado. Shortly after World War I, Colonel Samuel Magoffin, and avid and accomplished sportsman, asked his friend Christopher R. Burton of Vancouver, Canada to recommend him a good gun dog for the hunt, without hesitation, Chris recommended that he get a Golden Retriever. Heeding his friends advice, Colonel Magoffin imported a male Golden Retriever bred by Mrs. K. Evers-Swindell of England named ‘Speedwell Pluto’ (AKC 839660- Sept 1932). Born May 26th, 1929, Speedwell Pluto would soon become not only the American and Canadian Champion, but would go on to become the first Golden Retriever in history to win a Best in Show award in 1933. American and Canadian Champion Speedwell Pluto is considered to be the foundation sire for the Golden Retriever breed in America.
Over 100 years since their inception, the Golden Retriever of today maintains the excellent working dog traits of its early ancestors. Found worldwide, they rank 4th in Stanley Coren’s book “The Intelligence of Dogs”. One of the most popular breeds of dog in the world; the intelligence, working abilities and versatility of the Golden Retriever has helped them to excel in a wide range of different careers. Some of the more popular career paths have been service dogs for the disabled, working dogs- performing either recovery or detection work, sporting dogs, agility dogs and as a popular family pet. Not to mention the fact that their beauty and trainability has made them one of the most popular breeds for use in television and movies. Some of the more notable Golden Retrievers in Hollywood include ‘Buddy’, the star of the movie "Air Bud", ‘Speedy’ from the "Drew Carey Show", Comet from the television show "Full House" and the Bush’s Baked Beans spokes dog, a Golden Retriever named ‘Duke’. A Golden Retriever was also used in the Disney movie “Homeward Bound”.
The Golden Retriever is best described as a large sized, athletic, symmetrically put together, powerful working dog. A well balanced, short coupled hunting and retrieving dog by design Golden Retrievers should be shown in working condition. Fully developing at around two years of age, males should be 23-24 inches at the withers with a weight of 65-75lbs while females are slightly smaller measuring 21 ½ - 22 ½ inches at the withers with a desired weight of between 55-65lbs. The standard calls for dogs to be penalized commensurate to the level of deviation from the accepted standard, either up or down, up to 1 inch, at which point the dog would be disqualified. A relatively square dog, the published guidelines call for the length from breastbone to point of buttocks to be slightly greater than height at withers; or as 12 is to 11.
The head is of the Golden Retriever should be broad; slightly dome shaped, in proportion to the overall size of the body and without exaggerated features. The stop should be well defined but not abrupt, while the occipital crest should be without prominence. When viewed in profile the muzzle tapers gradually from the nose becoming thicker toward the stop and should blend smoothly and strongly into the skull. The nose should be black or brownish black; noses that are pink or seriously lacking pigmentation are highly undesirable. The teeth should meet so that the lower incisors just touch the inner side of the upper incisors; a scissors bite. The medium large, well spaced friendly eyes of the Golden Retriever should outwardly express its intelligence, confidence and friendliness. The preferred eye color is dark brown. The rather short ears should lie so that the front edge attaches well behind and just above the eye; during natural carriage the ears should fall close to the cheek. The ideal length would be that the ear tip would just cover the eye when pulled forward.
The medium length neck should merge gradually into the well set back shoulders, giving the dog a robust and muscular appearance; excessive loose skin under the throat (throatiness) is not desirable. The ribs should be well sprung but should not give the dog a barrel or keg shaped appearance when viewed from the front. As a short coupled dog, the ribs extend to the hindquarters with very little tuck-up. The muscular chest should be deep and well developed; at least as wide as a man’s closed fist including thumb between the forelegs. Brisket should extend down toward the elbow. The uppers arms fit tightly to the body and should be very near the same length as the shoulder blades, placing the elbows beneath the upper tip of the shoulder blades, close fitting and tight to the ribs. The well boned front legs when viewed from the front should be straight and parallel to each other, not throwing either in or out. The medium sized feet should be round, compact, and well knuckled with thick, well cushioned pads.
The back should be strong and level from the withers all the way back to a slightly sloping croup. The hindquarters are strongly muscled and broad. The slope of the croup should be approximately 30 degrees from horizontal. The tail is a natural extension of the spine, thick and muscular at the base, it follows the natural sloping line of the croup. The ideal length of tail is one that extends to, but not below the point of hock. The tail should be carried in a cheerful or lighthearted way either level with the back or with a moderately upward curve; never curled over back or between legs. When standing naturally the femur should join to the pelvis at a near 90-degree angle. The rear legs, when viewed from the rear should be straight and parallel, with well bent stifles and well let down hocks leading to short, strong rear pasterns. Rear feet should mirror those of the front.
Probably the most noticeable feature of a Golden Retriever and the one for which it got its name is its rich and lustrous coat that comes in various shades of gold. Dense and water-repellent, the double coat of the Golden Retriever protects and insulates the dog from the elements while on the hunt. The straight or slightly wavy outer coat should lie close to the body be firm and resilient but not overly course or silk to the touch. There is a natural ruff around the neck, moderate feathering is present on the backs of the forelegs and on the underside of the body, while heavier feathering should be clearly visible on the front of the neck, rear of the thighs and underside of the tail. The coat of the head, paws, and front legs should be uniformly short and even.
The color of the coat should be a nearly uniform shade of gold. The exceptions are that the featherings may be lighter in color than the rest of the coat and aging dogs may have graying or whitening of face or body due to age. Dogs of any other color, with noticeable areas of black, patches of white or other off color hair are highly undesirable and should be penalized commensurately or disqualified outright.
The hallmark of the breed, their natural intelligence when combined with their friendly, reliable, and trustworthy personality has made them one of the most popular and versatile dog breeds in existence today; a loving breed that is loyal to its family and its master till the end. Golden Retrievers are however, not one person or velcro dogs and will typically be equally sociable with those they know and those they have just met. This never met a stranger personality and trusting, gentle disposition means that they typically make very poor guard dogs, as they do not have any inclination to bite or attack ; a trait that was purposely bred out of them. However, as an intelligent and alert breed of dog with a deep throaty bark they have been known to make good watchdogs and more often than not will sound the alarm to let you know someone is around.
Also a breed renowned for being excellent with children of all ages, Golden Retrievers are patient and loving; while not being prone to bouts of aggression as the result of being tugged on. pulled on or otherwise manhandled by youngsters. However, as with ALL breeds of dog it is up to the parents to ensure that play between larger dogs and smaller children is closely supervised to prevent the dog from acting out if it is placed in a situation where it feels it is being hurt and/or needs to defend itself.
Considered to be easy trainable for their intelligence and eagerness to please; Golden Retrievers are quick to grasp concepts during training. As such training sessions should be kept short and entertaining so as the dog does not become bored or lose interest. A Golden Retriever will tire of performing exceptionally monotonous commands without a break or injection of fun. A warm hearted and willing breed there is no need to be overly harsh or dominating during training, as these methods are unnecessary, out of proportion to the breed of dog being trained and will create a dog that is unwilling to perform, mistrustful or hand shy of its owners.
Their trainability, sociability towards all people, willingness to learn and ability to remain calm ( able to sit quietly for hours in a hunting blind) have made them one of the most versatile and most used service dogs. They can commonly be found working as guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, explosive or drug detection dogs, water rescue dogs, water search dogs, cadaver dogs, and lastly as arson detection dogs. They are also a very competitive athletic breed that typically ranks highly in agility sports and obedience events. Care should be taken with when working a Golden Retriever as their desire to please and ability to focus on a task means that they will work until near collapse, so handlers and owners should continually observe the dog to ensure it is not being overworked. As stated previously, the Golden Retriever ranks 4th in intelligence following only the Border Collie, Poodle and German Shepherd Dog.
With an inordinate love for water, Golden Retrievers are natural swimmers and have been known to seize any available opportunity to do so; be it jumping from a boat or taking a refreshing swim in the family pool, it’s difficult to keep them out of the water. Unsurprisingly, this breed also excels at the canine sport of dock diving.
Golden Retrievers are also considered to be a livestock safe breed that is good with other dogs and cats. However, some owners with poultry or pet birds have reported that it is very difficult to break this breeds bird obsession. As such, adult dogs or dogs that have not had to opportunity to be socialized around others species are not recommend for homes with birds. Again, as with all dogs, socialization from a very young age, with other dogs, other species and in a variety of situations will generally determine how the dog will react when it comes into contact with those same species or circumstances as an adult.
An active breed of dog it is important that owners provide a Golden Retriever with adequate exercise so as they dog stays not just physically healthy but mentally healthy as well. Games like catch, fetch, hide and go seek or other events like jogging or walking together not only provide exercise but provide a mutually beneficial bonding experience between dog and owner. This is a breed that naturally likes to track, hunt and retrieve objects; so play to this strength and create fun games you can do together that involve these attributes.
Indoors, Golden Retrievers are prone to adopt a sedentary lifestyle which means that they are considered to be an ok breed for an apartment. However as a breed that is prone to obesity, a home with a larger yard and sufficient outdoor time it preferred. Another point to note is that like most dogs; a Golden Retriever will be forced to adopt the lifestyle of its master, so sedentary humans will create sedentary dogs; in a breed where obesity is already a concern this is probably not the best situation for the dog. As such this breed would do best in a home here it not only has sufficient space but humans that are active and willing to include the dog in their activities. This breed is sometimes described as “crepuscular”; meaning they are more active in the morning and evening with a tendency to sleep during the middle part of the day.
Even more amazing is the fact that this breed is so loving and so versatile that they have even been used as surrogate mothers for other species. The most notable of which would be the situation that occurred at the Kansas City Zoo; in which the day after the birth of three white tiger cubs, their mother stopped nursing them. The zoo owner, a Mr. Tom Harvey, then brought in a Golden Retriever named ‘Isabella’ that had just recently weaned off her own pups to act as a surrogate mother. Shortly after introducing the cubs to ‘Isabella’, she took them on as if they were her own, licking them, caring for them and providing milk.
If you’re looking for a no fuss, no muss breed when it comes to grooming, then a Golden Retriever is probably not for you. As a double coated breed, Golden Retrievers are prone to shedding. This means that some regular brushing is going to be required if you plan on significantly reducing the amount of hair you find on your furniture, your clothes, floating throughout the air, in your house, or in your car.
Golden Retriever coats vary from one dog to the next and range from fairly short to medium long and from straight to curly; so the amount of time spent and brushes used that work great for one Golden Retriever may be too much or too little for the next. As a rule of thumb, plan on spending a couple of hours a week brushing out your Golden Retrievers coat (dogs with a heavy coat may need to be brushed daily). Not only does this help to reduce shedding, but it helps keep the coat healthy by distributing it’s naturally oils evenly throughout. It also provides an excellent way for dog and owner to bond.
It is also important that you use the right tool for the job. The right tool is based on the type of coat your Golden Retriever has. While a flat or slicker brush may work excellent for shorter haired Goldens, for those with longer hair it will only effect the topcoat and may leave the undercoat a matted mess. As you're grooming always check to make sure you are brushing the entire coat from the skin outwards. Golden Retrievers will typically blow their coat or shed twice a year, once in the spring and once in the fall.
While it is true that the Golden Retriever is a water breed that does not mean that he should be over bathed. Bathing to much will strip the coat of its natural oils, causing to become dry, brittle and otherwise unhealthy. If you have to bath your dog it should be done no more than once every other week or so and preferably only once a month. If you absolutely must bathe your dog more frequently try using a dry shampoo that won’t strip the coat of its natural oils.
The Golden Retriever, like many other highly popular breeds of dog has become a profitable and easily marketable commodity. From your basic backyard breeder to large scale puppy mills, many individuals see breeding Golden Retrievers and selling their puppies as a quick and easy way to make money. Concerned with profit and unconcerned with proper animal husbandry practices; these individuals perform no health screening on breeding pairs; thus dogs that may or may not have serious congenital defects are allowed to pass those traits forward. This has lead to a rise in the number of congenital health defects currently being reported for the breed and a reported drop in the overall median life expectancy from 11.4 years (as reported by a GRCA survey conducted in 1999), to some reputable breeders in 2010 reporting the new average is closer to 10.5 years.
By far, the most common cause of death for a Golden Retriever is cancer; a study conducted and published by J.M. Fleming, K.E. Creevy, and D.E.L. Promislow, titled “Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004: An Investigation into Age-, Size-, and Breed-Related Causes of Death”, examined the deaths of 4,029 Golden Retrievers and found that 49.9% of the deaths involved neoplasia; the abnormal proliferation of cells associated with cancer. The most prevalent type being Hemangiosarcoma, noted in 18.5% of cases; it is a rare, rapidly growing and highly invasive type of cancer that affects the lining of blood vessels.
Other diseases that are known to affect this breed include:
As always if you absolutely must have a purebred breed of dog, ensure that you are purchasing from a reputable breeder; one that screens breeding pairs for defects or disorders and that is willing to provide health information relating to past litters. This usually begins by finding a breeder that is in good standing and recognized by the breed’s parent club.