Originally bred as gundogs, the gregarious and amiable golden retriever is one of today’s most popular breeds. Their tolerance, loyalty, and love of children make them fabulous family pets, and their intelligence and trainability also make them ideally suited to therapy and assistance dog roles as well as being superstars in agility and competitive obedience.

  • Height: up to 61 cm (at the shoulder).
  • Temperament: friendly, loving, ‘live-to-please’ family pet.
  • Maintenance: medium to high.
  • Lifespan: 10 to 12 years


Originally bred in Great Britain, the ancestry of today’s gundogs can be traced back to the days of hunting game with bows and arrows. Dogs were hunting companions, and by the 19th century, improvements in guns meant that game had to be retrieved from much greater distances. Golden retrievers fulfilled this role, working effectively over a wide range of terrain, and boldly entering water to obtain shot waterfowl. Bred to work on a one-to-one basis with their handler, it is not surprising that this group of dogs has also become popular amongst pet-seekers.

Developed in Scotland from the 1860s by Sir Dudley Majoribanks, goldens started with a yellow puppy from a litter of black retrievers crossed with a now extinct breed known as the Tweed water spaniel. The resulting breed was first shown in 1906, entered in the ‘any other colour’ retriever category, but became a recognised breed within a few years. By the 1920s and 30s, golden retrievers were growing in popularity in North America, and different lines were being bred for field trials, working, assistance dogs, and showing. In the show lines, American dogs are darker than British dogs.


Size and Appearance

A muscular, medium to large-sized dog with a lustrous coat of gold, the golden retriever has hallmark friendly and intelligent eyes set in a broad head with a straight muzzle and short ears. The feathers of the coat add to the breed’s smooth appearance in motion, and golden retriever fanciers describe the high-held feathery tail as having a “merry action.” The coat colours range from cream to golden, including shades of light gold and dark gold


Golden retrievers are friendly, confident, intelligent, and trustworthy characters. Always eager to please, they are renowned for their kind, calm nature, but their natural exuberance can make them boisterous, meaning they can easily accidentally knock over small children.

Bred to work, they are reliable companions in hunting and field work, also excelling in search and rescue and as guides for the blind. However, they have a boundless love for life and make great family pets, thriving on having a “job” to do such as fetching the newspaper or escorting the children to school. 



Intelligent and gentle by nature, golden retrievers are hard-wired to please their owner, but training from an early age is needed to make the most of their genial disposition. They are outgoing characters, making them easy to train, but they are also lively and can be boisterous. Although a superb family dog, a golden retriever is not a watchdog. They are protective and loyal, but a visiting stranger is more likely to be greeted with a wagging tail rather than a bark.    

Comparatively slow to mature, many golden retrievers maintain a puppyish attitude to life into older age. This can be fun and endearing, but it can also mean getting used to having a playful companion under your feet wherever you go. As capable retrievers out in the field, they are naturally “mouthy” and need to be encouraged to carry appropriate items around to prevent them from putting everything in their mouth. Soft toys, newspapers, or even an old sock make good options.

Due to rapid bone growth and a susceptibility to bone and joint disorders between the ages of four and seven months, golden retriever puppies must avoid playing on hard surfaces. Training and playing on soft surfaces such as grass is recommended until the joints have fully formed at the age of two years.


Overall, golden retrievers are a healthy breed, but they can be prone to joint issues and could be affected by a range of conditions, including:

Interesting Golden Retriever Facts

  • ● Bred to retrieve waterfowl for hunters, golden retrievers love to swim, and they even have webbed toes.
  • ● Their keen sense of smell and ability to locate fallen birds makes golden retrievers ideally suited to search and rescue work.
  • ● Only Border collies, poodles, and German shepherds are considered smarter than golden retrievers.
  • ● Known for their kind nature, golden retrievers have been known to befriend and care for other animals, including ducks and cats.
  • ● Golden retrievers have been in residence in the Whitehouse as the pets of President Ford and President Reagan.
  • ● The first image to be uploaded on Instagram (2010) was a photo of a golden retriever.
  • ● An Australian golden retriever named Charlie holds the record for the loudest bark (113.1 decibels).