The Ultimate Australian Guide to Golden Retrievers
Golden Retrievers are a recognisable and universally loved breed of dog. Originally bred for hunting, Golden Retrievers have since become adept at various tasks, from service dogs to lively, kid-friendly pets.
Golden Retriever Breed History
Like many breeds, Golden Retrievers had a touch of legend to their origin. Over a century ago, the dogs were widely thought to be descended from a Russian breed. Reportedly, a British lord named Tweedmouth purchased the Russian dogs from a circus and brought them to his estate in Scotland.
Satisfied with their hunting skills but wanting to improve their scenting abilities and reduce their size, Tweedmouth eventually introduced a Bloodhound into the mix. According to the legend, that’s how the Golden Retriever came into existence.
The true origins of the breed were revealed in the 1950’s when a descendant of Lord Tweedmouth made his studbooks available. It turned out that no circus dogs were involved. Instead, the earliest progenitors of the breed were Nous, a Yellow Retriever purchased by Tweedmouth in Brighton, and a Tweed Water Spaniel named Belle.
Nous and Belle produced the litter from which all modern Golden Retrievers originate. Opposing opinions exist, stating that the breed may be older than the late 19th century when Nous and Belle’s direct offspring lived. However, no other theory has been popularly accepted.
When it comes to Australia, the first registered Golden Retrievers came into the country in 1937. The breed became popular, as was the case with most of the Western world. Today, Golden Retrievers are among the favourite companion dogs in Australia.
Golden Retriever Appearance
Golden Retrievers have a symmetrical, balanced build. When properly developed, the dogs have a muscular neck without loose skin. Their chest is deep and wide but never barrel-shaped, while the ribs should be well-sprung and positioned low. The Golden’s backline is strong and sloped, ending up in a muscular tail extending to the hock.
The legs of a well-developed specimen should be powerful and able to endure plenty of running and swimming. Each leg should be straight, ending in catlike, round feet with strong claws and thick pads.
Undoubtedly, the head is the most recognisable feature of a Golden Retriever. They have a kindly and soft expression with strong jaws and a wide muzzle. Their ears are medium-length and situated behind and above the eyes.
The Golden’s eyes are what makes the breed so endearing and beautiful. They should be dark to medium brown, round, and well-aligned. Notably, the Golden Retriever’s eyes are considered expressive and intelligent-looking.
Golden Retriever Coat Colour and Grooming
Golden Retrievers have a wavy or straight coat with an oily, dense, and short undercoat. This is another defining feature of the breed and can come in various shades of gold, from pale, through creamy, to an intense, rich, and darker colour.
The undercoat is soft and provides good temperature regulation, making the dogs decently equipped for most climates and weather types. Due to the their swimming-prone nature, the coat is water-repellent.
Like most double-coated breeds, Golden Retrievers tend to shed hair, especially during spring and autumn. To maintain their signature look and prevent excessive shedding, the dogs should be brushed at least once weekly, and once daily when the shedding becomes more intense.
The Golden will require bathing at least two to four times a year. However, if they spend plenty of time outside, the dog can be bathed twice a month at most. The frequency will largely depend on brushing. If brushed regularly, there will be no need for more than occasional baths.
It’s worth noting that the coat of a Golden Retriever can overgrow, especially in areas with rich feathering like the chest and legs. It would be best to trim the coat to remove any unkempt or overgrown fur, but shaving isn’t recommended.
Golden Retriever Size
Golden Retriever newborns weigh up to 450 grams. But they don’t stay at that weight for long since Goldens can grow about 10% in size weekly.
As puppies, Golden Retrievers will gain size and weight rapidly. They’ll weigh around 4.5 kg at eight weeks old and reach up to 14 kg at four months. As adolescents, Goldens can easily weigh more than 20 kg.
The breed reaches maturity at around one year of age, possibly a few months earlier. The Golden will reach full size and stop growing entirely when it’s 18 months old at most.
As mature dogs, Golden Retrievers are classified as medium to large size, comparable to Huskies, Labradors, and Standard Poodles. Males will be about 60 cm high and weigh a bit under 35 kg. Females are slightly smaller, reaching a height of 55cm and a weight of 30 kg.
It’s worth noting that Mini Golden Retrievers exist. As adults, they weigh up to 16 kg – less than half a true Golden’s weight. However, Mini Golden Retrievers aren’t pure-breeds but a mix of a Golden and a smaller dog like a Cocker Spaniel or Poodle.
Golden Retriever Breed Pros and Cons
Golden Retriever Pros
Most of the pros associated with Golden Retrievers come from their friendly and sociable nature. Of course, the breed has other advantages as well:
- Great companion dogs
- Exceptionally loyal
- Caring, intelligent, and well-tempered
- Playful and young at heart
- Easily acquire skills
- Can be trained without issues
Golden Retrievers develop a firm attachment to their owner and other family members. They are extremely tolerant and make for wonderful babysitters while showing unwavering loyalty. The Golden will always aim to please and display a friendly attitude to the entire family.
The intelligence and mild manners of the Golden Retriever makes them excellent assistant dogs. They can even be trained for more complex tasks and situations and may show selective disobedience when necessary.
For instance, a Golden Retriever guide dog might refuse to cross the road under unsafe conditions, even when issued the appropriate command. Obviously, such feats are only possible with proper training.
Despite being capable of serious work, Golden Retrievers maintain a youthful and playful attitude up to the age of four and beyond. At the same time, Goldens will quickly learn skills like tracking, obedience, and agility. This is especially true if training starts early enough.
Golden Retriever Cons
While being perfect companions, Golden Retrievers do display some shortcomings:
- Can shed hair everywhere
- Don’t tolerate being left alone
- Require plenty of activity and exercise
- May chew household items
- Hefty food requirements
- Several health risks
- Unsuitable for flats
As mentioned, Golden Retrievers have a double coat and plenty of hair. Since they can shed a lot, the runaway hair can represent an issue, particularly for people with allergies. This problem can be countered to some extent by regular grooming.
The Golden’s deep connection and loyalty to the owner has a flip side: They can’t stand being left alone and will see every instance of it as abandonment. For that reason, having a Golden Retriever usually calls for dog sitter services.
On the other hand, spending the whole day with a pet might be too much for some. Golden Retrievers enjoy walking long distances, playing with their owners, and an occasional swim. It would be best to provide them with high-intensity daily exercise lasting for a minimum of one hour.
Without proper exercise, the Golden can lose some of its manners and become restless. In other words, this breed isn’t for owners without enough time and energy to commit to their pets.
Since retrievers were historically bred to – as the name says – retrieve game fowl, it’s no wonder they instinctively pick up various objects. But when your Golden is teething, they won’t only pick things up. The pup might start chewing on any unfortunate object that attracts its attention.
Quality training should break the chewing habit relatively easily, and toy bones are always a good solution. However, if your Golden Retriever continues to chew, chances are they’re lacking sufficient exercise or mental stimulation.
On the subject of chewing, Golden Retrievers will require plenty of food. The breed is relatively large and the dogs have a healthy appetite. Owners who want their pup to eat quality food might feel the financial strain.
Unfortunately, one of the downsides of Golden Retrievers is quite severe. The breed can develop several health issues that may cause various complications. It’s worth mentioning that Goldens aren’t as prone to health issues as certain other breeds. Still, regular vet check-ups and proper insurance would be advisable.
Finally, due to their size and high energy, Golden Retrievers are a poor fit for flats, especially smaller spaces. A house would be much more suitable, and gardens are a must for the most part.
Golden Retriever Personality
Golden Retrievers draw much of their appeal from their charming personality. Granted, not every dog from the breed will have the exact same personality – many aspects will depend on their environment and training as well. But certain traits will be consistent across most dogs of this breed.
Generally speaking, Golden Retrievers show self-confidence and high alertness. They are eager to play, work, and interact with their owners. As fantastic family dogs, Goldens also show plenty of patience with children and will be gentle and playful towards them.
This breed isn’t only capable of learning new skills fast – they actually enjoy training. Golden Retrievers will be especially successful in obedience training due to their eagerness to please people. The same trait makes Goldens great performers in various disciplines.
Overall, Golden Retrievers have a positive, loving, and easy-going personality. But that doesn’t mean they’ll be passive. A Golden Retriever will look forward to joining in with every kind of activity, from long runs to playing games with kids. And when they’re not running about, they might try to sit in their owner’s lap.
Golden Retriever Health
For the most part, Golden Retrievers are healthy dogs with a decent average lifespan of up to 12 years. However, some dogs can suffer from several issues ranging from light to severe:
- Eye issues
- Hip dysplasia
- Heart disease
Golden Retriever Skin Problems
Golden Retrievers are particularly prone to specific skin issues like atopy and hot spots. Both issues represent inflammatory conditions.
Atopy is a genetically predisposed condition that occurs due to exposure to allergens, with mold, mites, and pollen being the most common culprits. Extreme itching is the main symptom of atopy and will usually develop before the Golden turns six. While the symptom doesn’t sound so bad on its own, it can lead to self-harming behaviour like excessive licking, scratching, or even chewing.
As a result, the dog could lose hair or develop different types of rashes. The skin damage can lead to secondary infections, commonly yeast and bacterial.
Hot spots aren’t genetically conditioned but are the result of the environment. This condition includes localised skin infection or inflammation due to trapped moisture. The Golden’s thick coat prevents the moisture from escaping, which leads to hot spots. Naturally, the condition will be more likely be present in dogs that swim often.
Golden Retriever Hypothyroidism
While not particularly common, hypothyroidism is known to affect Golden Retrievers. This disorder can be caused by inflammation of the thyroid gland or as a secondary symptom of certain diseases. Dogs with hypothyroidism may show lower energy levels, gain weight without an apparent reason, and develop skin conditions and infections more often.
Fortunately, this endocrine disorder can be managed with particular supplements. While the supplements will be a life-long necessity, they’ll effectively suppress all major symptoms.
Golden Retriever Ear Infections
Golden Retrievers often develop ear infections for several reasons:
- Their ears hang loosely, trapping moisture which may cause infections and inflammations.
- Excess moisture in the ears can be the result of bathing or swimming.
- Any allergies the dog may have can result in ear infections as a secondary issue.
Ear infections in Golden Retrievers can be treated by proper ear cleaning. There are specific products for that purpose which contain special ingredients to promote better ear drying.
Golden Retriever Joint Issues
Elbow and hip dysplasia unfortunately represent relatively common problems in Golden Retrievers. Hip dysplasia is usually inherited and develops in the hip joints. Most dogs that suffer from the condition will develop it in their later years, but some might be born with it. If left unchecked, the issue can lead to arthritis.
The symptoms of hip dysplasia can range from a general reluctance to perform quick movements like jumping or running to lameness and bunny hopping while running. The condition is manageable using medications and supplements. In more extreme cases, surgery can provide a solution.
Elbow dysplasia refers to several inherited conditions, with the most common symptom being elbow pain triggered by movement. Elbow dysplasia can result in degenerative joint disease. Surgery is considered the only reliable way to treat the issue and has a particularly good prognosis if performed on younger dogs.
Golden Retriever Eye Conditions
Golden Retrievers can suffer from eye conditions like progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and pigmentary uveitis.
PRA is an eye disease caused by genetic mutation. It causes retinal degeneration and can result in blindness. Goldens older than three and up to nine years old can develop this condition. The disease can’t be treated reliably, although gene therapy methods are being researched.
Pigmentary uveitis is an inherited condition characterised by benign cysts in the eye’s uvea. The cysts may lead to inflammation which causes scarring between the eye lens and the iris. This condition usually doesn’t show up in younger dogs.
Although pigmentary uveitis can be medically treated, it will often progress over time, eventually causing blindness.
Golden Retriever Care
Besides brushing, bathing, and trimming, proper care for Golden Retrievers includes eye, ear, and teeth cleaning, toenail care, and proper flea and tick protection.
Golden Retriever Eye, Ear, and Teeth Cleaning
The best way to clean the pup’s eyes would be with a cotton wool ball dabbed in a small amount of mineral oil. Only the area around the eyes should be wiped with special care so as not to get any oil into the eyes themselves.
Ear cleaning can be done either with mineral oil or white vinegar diluted in warm water. In either case, the cotton ball shouldn’t be drenched with the cleaning liquid. In the case of ear mites or infections, a few drops of mineral water inserted into the ear canal should help. Crucially, the mineral water should be left inside for no longer than a minute before drying the ear with a fresh cotton wool ball.
Like all other dogs, Golden Retrievers require proper dental care. It would be best to brush your pup’s teeth a minimum of two times weekly. Additionally, taking the dog for a professional check-up once a year would be a good idea.
The toothpaste used for cleaning should be intended for dogs specifically. The process will be very similar to brushing an infant’s teeth.
Golden Retriever Toenail Care
Toenail trimming is relatively straightforward, barring two issues: You’ll need to get your Golden accustomed to the routine, and you’ll need to be careful not to harm them accidentally while trimming.
When it comes to introducing toenail trimming, the process will require as much time and patience as any other type of training. The best way to do it is in five steps:
- Show the clippers to your dog
- Touch the Golden’s paws with the clippers
- Make the clippers click near the dog’s paw without clipping a nail
- Trim a small part of a nail
- Finally, progress towards trimming the nails properly
Each of these steps should be followed until the dog gets accustomed to the routine. Of course, it should be accompanied with treats for good measure. Ideally, once you start trimming, you should use sharp clippers to avoid excess pressure and make the process faster.
If the task seems too overwhelming, you can always opt for a professional groomer to finish the job. Note that Golden Retrievers that spend plenty of time outside might not require nail trimming – rough surfaces should take care of nail care.
Golden Retriever Flea and Tick Protection
Golden Retrievers thrive while playing, walking, or running outside. This makes proper flea and tick protection necessary unless you live in a metropolitan downtown area with little to no greenery.
Already existing fleas and ticks can be dealt with using specialised anti-flea shampoos and combing. But prevention is the best option by far. Luckily, many flea and tick powders are currently available. Apply your product of choice to the dog monthly, and they should be safe from pesky bugs.
Golden Retriever Feeding
Golden Retrievers enjoy being fed twice a day with a cup of dry food per meal being the ideal measure. Of course, food amounts will depend on various factors like activity level, age, size, and the dog’s overall metabolism rate.
Since Goldens love eating, they might be too eager to finish their meals. If allowed to eat too quickly, they may experience bloating, digestive issues, and vomiting. Slow feeder bowls are an excellent solution to this problem.
Golden Retriever Suitability with Children and Other Pets
Golden Retrievers are exceptionally friendly and good-natured. As such, they’ll get along with kids and other pets without issues. In fact, Goldens have been known to befriend cats. Naturally, any previous traumas might influence the dog’s temperament, causing them to be unfriendly towards certain animals. However, they should always be completely suitable for children and people in general.
The only issue with Golden Retrievers when it comes to children is the breed’s playful nature. When a young pup comes into contact with a small child, they might push the kid to the floor due to their exuberance and eagerness to play.
Golden Retriever Australian Rescue Groups and Breeders
Australia has plenty of rescue groups and breeders dedicated specifically to Golden Retrievers. Here’s a selection of such services:
Golden Retriever Summary
Getting a Golden Retriever is a rewarding experience for dog owners who know what they want. If you’re an active person with a propensity towards the outdoors and a love towards play, this breed will make an excellent companion.
Most of all, the Golden is a family dog and will be ideal for any household. Relatively low-maintenance, loyal, and extremely friendly, this dog will quickly become a part of the family.