The origins of the Golden Retriever can be traced back to Scotland in the late 19th century, where they were bred to retrieve ducks and other game birds that were shot down during hunting parties. The breed is thought to descend from one yellow colored dog which was crossed with a Tweed Water Spaniel. Their offspring were used in a breeding program which included genes from other breeds including Setters, Bloodhounds and Labrador Retrievers.
The aim of these early breeders was to produce a reliable retriever with a very gentle bite so it would bring back the birds undamaged; if you managed to shoot a bird, you didn’t want it to be half eaten when it was brought back to you!
The Golden Retriever was recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1925.
The coat if the Golden Retriever isn’t always “golden”. In fact, it can be a wide range of colors, from almost white to a rich red or mahogany. These dogs have a double coat, with a dense inner coat which keeps them warm and dry, and a long water repellent outer coat. This served them well when they had to retrieve birds from lakes or rivers.
The Golden Retriever is a very attractive dog; its outer coat is wavy, with long feathering on its tail, belly and the back of its legs. They have soft brown eyes which can melt even the hardest heart, and they often look like they are smiling.
They are a reasonably big animal; adults can weigh as much as 75lbs, and stand 22 inches at the shoulder.
The Golden Retriever is the ideal family companion. They have a happy expression, and have a very kindly demeanor. They get on well with people of all ages and other dogs. They are wonderful with children, but their affectionate nature may lead to little people being knocked over as their dog tries to snuggle up to them.
Goldies are intelligent and do very well with positive training methods. Because they are so eager to please their owner, they learn quickly and are very biddable. In fact, the first three dogs to ever achieve the AKC Obedience Champion title were all Golden Retrievers.
If you’re looking for a guard dog, then the Golden Retriever is not the breed for you. They are generally not aggressive, and are as friendly to strangers as they are to their own family. However, they will let you know when you have visitors with a loud bark, which may be all the “guarding” you need.
Because these good looking and sweet natured dogs are so popular, some unscrupulous breeders have been less than careful in choosing the dogs they use to produce their pups. Veterinarians are now seeing an increasing incidence of aggression in the breed, which is a terrible shame.
Goldies can suffer from both hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. These are painful conditions of the hip and elbow joints which can make life miserable for them. Although these conditions can be influenced by such things as rapid growth rates and excessive exercise when young, genetics plays an important role in their development. Responsible breeders screen their dogs before they mate them, so they only breed with those animals with the best hips and elbows. This reduces the chance of their offspring having any problems, but it doesn’t completely eliminate the risk.
Golden Retrievers can also develop cataracts, and again there are tests to detect hereditary cataracts in adult dogs before they are used for breeding.
There is reasonable evidence that some cancers are hereditary. For example, in the United States some Golden Retrievers may have a genetically caused lymphoma. Unfortunately, there are no specific tests for the genes involved in these diseases. Researchers are actively working on developing a way of checking a dog’s risk of cancer before it is bred.
Some Goldies suffer from a skin disease called Ichthyosis, which also appears to have a genetic component. This condition is characterised by excessively dry and flaky skin, which usually shows up when the dogs are very young. Again, there is no specific test for this condition, but a breeder should be able to let you know if they have had any skin problems in their breeding stock.
Goldies can shed their coat quite heavily, so be prepared for some loose hair around your home. A thorough grooming with a wide tooth comb and a firm brush can reduce the amount of sweeping you need to do. Pay particular attention to the feathering on the tails and legs; this can get tangled, and can be uncomfortable for your dog.
These dogs are intelligent, and thrive with mental stimulation. Many dog clubs offer retrieving classes where your Goldie can do what he was bred to do – bring back birds, or even just dummies. They don’t mind, as long as they can retrieve! Activities such as retrieving and agility will keep your dog mentally happy, and avoid boredom related behaviors such as digging or pulling washing off the line.
Because they were bred to work in the field, they also need a reasonable amount of exercise. If their lifestyle is too sedentary, they can become a bit hyperactive and over-exuberant. Burn off that excess energy with a good walk or run every day, and your Goldie will be much happier.
Golden Retrievers work very well with people as guide dogs, therapy dogs, and in the fields of drug detection and search and rescue. They are also very popular as family pets, thanks to their gentle nature and loyal temperament.
The Goldie is the ideal pet for an active person or family who have the time to train their dog, care for its long coat, and take it for regular walks. Don’t take on this breed if you spend long hours at work or you prefer to spend your leisure time in front of the television. Your dog won’t enjoy its lifestyle, and that’s not fair to it.
Before you buy your Goldie, make sure you do your homework with respect to the risk of hereditary diseases in the pup you are interested in. A good breeder will have no hesitation in giving you as much information as you need; after all, they want their pups to go to the best possible home and have a long and happy life with its new family.
If you decide a Golden Retriever is the right breed for you, then you’ll enjoy your dog’s loyalty and companionship for 12 or more years.