If you are looking for a dog that can be left alone in the backyard while your family enjoys daily outings, forget about owning a Golden Retriever. Over the years, Golden Retrievers have been bred to make excellent companions to owners as retrievers in hunting expeditions, as service dogs for people with sight or physical disabilities, or as sniffer dogs working with the narcotics or search and rescue divisions in police departments. As a result, Golden Retrievers need to closely interact with their owners and be regularly included in family activities. Like the popular Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever is known for their intelligence and gentle disposition. The Golden Retriever is a versatile breed that will greet everyone with a wagging tail which soon brightens a dull day. This is a breed that adores children and aims to please you and love everyone. The flip side is that they require lots of companionship to be happy, but it is easy to spend time with a Golden Retriever because they are active dogs – they love to retrieve and can spend hours at the park or beach bringing back a tennis ball or a frisbee.
Golden Retrievers, like other retriever breeds, are slow to fully mature both physically and mentally. At one year of age, they will be at full height but their full weight will be another year or two away. Mentally, Golden Retrievers can remain puppies up to the age of three years but don’t be worried because this means they keep their lovable, playful personality for longer than usual – sometimes for most of their lives – which is why they are often found in hospitals and retirement villages. You can expect your Golden Retriever to be with you for 10 to 15 years. The Golden Retriever is a medium to large dog. The mature male weighs between 32 to 37 kgs and stands from 56 to 61 cm (22 to 24 inches) tall at the shoulder. Females are smaller, weighing between 27 and 32 kgs and standing from 51 to 56 cm (20 to 22 inches) tall. Not all Golden Retrievers look the same and you will find different types and shades of gold. All these types conform to the breed standard. A healthy well-bred dog is the result of good conformation and adherence to the breed standard. Owning a Golden Retriever can open up a whole new world for family involvement. Activities such as showing, retrieving, obedience, tracking and agility can be very rewarding for both the owner and dog. The level of involvement can range from purely social to serious competition.
A kind face and wagging tale under the kitchen table can be all it takes for owners to give in and feed their Golden Retriever the odd scrap of extra food as a treat. But be careful because like Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers love food and must not be overfed. Golden Retrievers are susceptible to hip dysplasia, which can be exacerbated by excess weight, so it is important to monitor food intake throughout the life of your dog. Talk to your breeder about diet and consult your vet for further information.
Medical problems of the breed include hip and elbow dysplasia, eye diseases, heart disease and skin allergies. Hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia (poor development of the hip or elbow joint) affect many dog breeds including the Golden Retriever. If your Golden Retriever is displaying symptoms of hip or elbow dysplasia including limping, soreness, difficulty rising or avoiding stairs and jumping into the back of the car, make an appointment with your vet to have the joints examined and X-rayed. Some Golden Retrievers carry the genes for Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which causes blindness. Cataracts can also be found in Golden Retrievers. When buying a puppy, the breeder should provide certificates showing that both parents’ eyes are clear of these diseases. These certificates are renewed annually. Skin allergies can occur in Golden Retrievers and can be caused by pollen, dust, fleas, lack of grooming and diet. Symptoms range from biting, licking and scratching. Golden Retrievers are susceptible to ‘hot spots’ which appear as open, oozing sores and are often caused by allergies to fleas, diet or stress.
Grooming & Shedding
Regular grooming is essential to maintain your Golden Retriever’s luxurious shiny coat. Grooming not only maintains the coat’s lustre, it also reduces the quantity of hair that is shed and prevents painful matts from developing. Regular grooming should take about half an hour and it is important to brush your Golden Retriever daily while they are shedding hair. If your dog picks up burrs or gets sticks or other foreign bodies entangled in the coat while playing outside it is also necessary to take a few minutes to comb them out sooner rather than later.
If there is one drawback to the beautiful Golden Retriever, it is the amount of hair they shed. If you don’t regularly groom your Golden Retriever, that abundant coat will be left throughout your house.
Your Golden Retriever is a gundog breed and as a result needs daily exercise when fully grown. Running in the park, on the beach, retrieving tennis balls, frisbees or toys and playing with other dogs are all good methods of exercise. In keeping with their original purpose of retrieving waterfowl, Golden Retrievers also love to swim – even when they are young.
As we all know, basic training is an integral part of owning a dog. Your Golden Retriever will be a better companion, more obedient and sociable if properly trained at a young age. It is important that your new puppy has happy and friendly experiences while growing up as a nasty experience can stay with them for life.
Golden Retrievers respond very well to reward-based methods of training. Classes ranging from puppy to advanced obedience level are available at obedience clubs throughout local and regional areas. Young puppies can attend puppy preschool at veterinary surgeries to learn about canine behaviour and gain valuable early socialisation experiences.