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Flat-Coated Golden Breed Description

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Breed Organization

Golden Retriever Club of America

Native Country
Great Britain

Other Names
Golden Retriever, Goldens

Life Expectancy
Approximately 11-13 Years

Litter Size
Average 6-10 Puppies

Breed Group

General Description

The Golden Retriever is a large, strongly-built breed with a dense water-repellant wavy coat. As a dog with origins in pedigree breeding, and due to its widespread historical popularity, some regional variations have emerged in the breed; therefore, there are three sub-types of the Golden Retriever that reflect the typical variations in dimensions and coat. However, all Golden Retrievers are blonde, yellow, or gold in color and all sub-types are susceptible to the same health problems.

British type Golden Retrievers are prevalent throughout Europe and Australia, and are distinguished from the North American lines by the official breed standards. The muzzle of the British dog is wider and shorter, and its forehead is blockier. Its legs are shorter, its chest is deeper, and its tail is slightly shorter. Due to these features, a British type usually weighs more than an American or Canadian. Males will be between 56 and 61 cm (22 and 24 in) at the withers; females will be slightly shorter, at between 51 and 56 cm (20 and 22 in). Acceptable or expected weights are not specified in the UK standard, but the KC standard calls for a level topline and straight hindquarters without the slight rear angulation found in American lines. The eyes of the European type are noted for their roundness and darkness, which is in contrast to the triangular or slanted composition of their American counterparts. A Golden Retriever of British breeding can have a coat color of any shade of gold or cream; red or mahogany are not permitted colors of coat. Originally, cream was an unacceptable color in the UK standard, but the standard was revised in 1936 to include cream. At the time of this revision, it was agreed the exclusion of cream as a color was a mistake, as the original "yellow" retrievers of the 19th century were actually lighter in color than was permitted by the standards that were used before 1936. As with American lines, white is an unacceptable color in the show ring. The British KC standard is used in all countries except the USA and Canada. Golden Retrievers have muscular bodies with great endurance, owing to their origins as hunting and gundogs.

American Golden Retrievers are taller than the British type, but retain its thick coat. The American Goldens are lankier and less stocky than British types. Males will stand between 23 and 24 in (58 and 61 cm) in height at the withers; females will be 21.5–22.5 in (55–57 cm). Their coat is dense and water-repellent, and comes in various shades of lustrous gold with moderate feathering. When trotting, they have a free, smooth, powerful, and well-coordinated gait; as the dog runs, its feet converge towards the centre of the line of balance. The American standard also makes requirements about the proportion, substance, head and skull, neck, body, topline, forequarters, and hindquarters; in these respects, the American type Retriever is the same as Golden Retrievers that conform to other national standards. American breeders of Golden Retrievers sometimes import their dogs from Britain, in order to take advantage of the temperament and appearance of the British types.

The Canadian Golden Retriever has a thinner coat and stands taller than other varieties of Golden Retriever. As with American Golden Retrievers, Canadians are often taller and leaner than their British counterparts. However, Canadian retrievers differ in the density and color of their coats, which are commonly thinner and darker than those of Americans.

Breed Standard

Head: Well-proportioned, finely chiseled. Broad skull. Pronounced stop. Powerful muzzle. Black nose. Strong jaws.
Ears: Set on at about eye level, medium in size.
Eyes: Widely spaced, dark brown. Dark edges of eyelids.
Body: Powerful, well-balanced. Neck moderately long, cleanly cut, and muscular. Chest well let-down. Well-sprung ribs. Short, strong back.
Tail: Set on and carried level with the topline. Reaching to the hock. Does not curl at the tip.
Hair: Flat or wavy with abundant feathering. Dense, waterproof undercoat.
Coat: Any shade of golden or cream. Should not be red or mahogany. Sparse white hairs allowed only on the chest.
Size: Dog: 56 to 61 cm. (22-24 in).Bitch: 51 to 56 cm. (20-22 in).
Weight: Dog: 26 to 31.5 kg. (57.5-69.5 lb).Bitch: 25 to 27 kg. (55-59.5 lb).


The Golden Retriever was developed in Scotland in the nineteenth century by Sir Dudley Marjoribanks (later to become Baron Tweedmouth) from Flat-coated Retrievers judiciously crossed with Tweed Water Spaniels and some other British dog breeds. Prior to the 1952 publication of the very detailed stud book which had been meticulously maintained by Marjoribanks, a number of romantic tales were published about the origins of the breed.

In the 1860s Marjoribanks set out to create what to his mind was the ultimate breed of retriever at his Scottish estate Guisachan. He started by acquiring a yellow-colored Flat-coated Retriever dog called Nous. Nous had been whelped in June 1864 and was the only yellow pup in an otherwise all black-colored litter. Whilst uncommon, occasionally liver, brown, golden or yellow-colored purebred Flat-coated Retriever pups are whelped to matings of two black parents. It is the pedigree of Nous that was the source for the romantic tales of the heritage of the Golden Retriever. One early account claimed Nous was purchased from a Russian circus trainer in Brighton, another claimed he was bought from a cobbler, and yet another claimed a gypsy. The stud book states that Nous was a Flat-coated Retriever bred by Lord Chichester on his Stanmer Park estate near Brighton.

In 1868 Nous was mated to a Tweed Water Spaniel bitch named Belle, who is recorded in the stud book as being whelped in 1863 and being of "Ladykirk breeding". The litter from this mating consisted of four yellow pups, Primrose, Ada, Cowslip and Crocus. The best bitch from this litter, Cowslip, was mated to a Tweed Water Spaniel called Tweed with the mating producing a bitch pup called Topsy. Cowslip was subsequently mated to a Red Setter called Sampson, that mating produced a dog pup called Jack. Topsy was mated with a black Flat-coated Retriever called Sambo and a bitch pup from that litter, Zoe, was mated back to Jack and two pups from that mating were retained, a dog called Nous II and a bitch called Gill. Gill was mated to a black Labrador Retriever called Tracer, and a bitch pup from that mating, Queenie, was mated back to Nous II; all Golden Retrievers descend from this mating. The progeny from these various matings varied in color from pure black to light cream, but it was the golden colored ones that were retained and mated to each other, forming the foundation stock of the Golden Retriever breed. Marjoribanks is also known to have used a sandy-colored Bloodhound and another Labrador in subsequent years of the breeding program.

In 1952 Marjoribanks's great-nephew, Giles Fox-Strangways, 6th Earl of Ilchester, teamed up with Elma Stonex and together they studied Marjoribanks's stud book. In 1960 their research was published, presenting all of the evidence required to counter all tales of Russian ancestry. The stud book, which covers the period from 1868 to 1890, is preserved in the library of the Kennel Club in London.

In the early days Golden Retrievers were called the 'Flat-coated Retriever, Golden', initially the Golden Retriever was considered a color variety of the former breed. In 1903 the Kennel Club recorded the first examples, listing them in the same register as Flat-coats. In 1904 a Golden Retriever won a field trial and in 1908 the first examples were exhibited at conformation shows. In 1911 a breed club was formed for the breed in England, the Golden Retriever Club, and they were given a new name, the 'Yellow or Golden Retriever'; from this point they were increasingly seen as a separate breed from the Flat-coated Retriever. It was not until 1913 that the Kennel Club began recording them on a separate breed register from the Flat-coated Retriever and in 1920 the 'Yellow or' was dropped from the breed name and they were officially called the 'Golden Retriever'.

One early twentieth century enthusiast of the breed, Winifred Charlesworth, was instrumental in the establishment of the breed club as well as its separate Kennel Club recognition. It was she who drew up the first breed standard, which was adopted by the Kennel Club and with only minor amendments and remains largely unchanged. She bred and exhibited the first Golden Retriever Show Champion, was a strong advocate for maintaining the working instincts of the breed, and she is credited with popularising it at field trials and introducing it to shooting sportsmen.

In the years after the First World War its popularity increased markedly and in the 1920s and 1930s it spread through much of the Western world. The Canadian Kennel Club recognised the breed in 1927, the American Kennel Club in 1932; the first examples were registered in France in 1934 and Australia in 1937. The worldwide popularity of the breed meant it did not suffer the misfortunes many British dog breeds did during the Second World War due to British wartime restrictions on the breeding of larger dogs, with ample quality breeding stock available globally to ensure none of its characteristics were lost.

Since the 1940s its popularity has continued to grow, and it has become one of the most recognised and most frequently registered dog breeds in the Western world.


The Golden Retriever is considered an intelligent, gentle natured and very affectionate breed of dog. As is typical with retriever breeds, the breed is generally calm and biddable, being very easy to train and extremely keen to please their master. The breed is known to make excellent pets and family dogs, being generally extremely tolerant of children and keen to accompany any member of the family in a range of activities. Due to their affable natures, the breed is often completely devoid of guarding instincts.

The breed usually retains many of their gundog traits and instincts including an excellent sense of smell and a strong instinct to retrieve; even among those not trained as gundogs it is typical for Golden Retrievers to present their owners with toys or other objects. Compared to other retriever breeds the Golden Retriever is typically quite slow to mature.

He is not suited to apartment life unless he gets lots of exercise. He hates being left alone. He requires brushing once or twice weekly, as well as combing during the shedding season.


The Golden Retriever is one of the most commonly kept breeds of companion dog in the Western world, and is often among the top ten dog breeds by number of registrations in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada. It is a frequent competitor at dog shows; separate show lines of the breed have been developed. The dogs can be trained as guide dogs and therapy dogs, and may compete in obedience trials and other dog sports.

The Golden Retriever is still used as a gundog by sportsmen, both as a hunting companion in the field and for competing in field trials. It is used more for retrieval of land-based gamebirds such as grouse and partridge than for wildfowl hunting. Those used as gundogs are usually from working lines specifically bred for field use; dogs from pet or show lines are rarely suitable. A Golden Retriever with a traditional dense double coat is well suited to working in cold and wet conditions, as the coat provides water resistance and insulation. Compared to other retriever breeds, the Golden Retriever is not a strong swimmer; its long coat causes it to sit low in the water when swimming.

The Golden Retriever is much less commonly used by sportsmen as a hunting companion than the Labrador Retriever. One reason is that the breed is generally quite slow to mature, particularly compared to the Labrador; often when a Golden Retriever is still in basic training a Labrador of the same age has already completed a season of hunting.

Another is its long coat, which requires more maintenance and grooming than that of the Labrador, particularly after working in muddy conditions or close cover, as their long hair is more prone to picking up dirt and burrs. More Golden Retrievers are bred as pets or for the show ring than for hunting, so it can be hard for sportsmen to find pups bred from proven working lines


Golden Retrievers are a generally healthy breed; they have an average lifespan of 12 to 13 years. Irresponsible breeding to meet high demand has led to the prevalence of inherited health problems in some breed lines, including allergic skin conditions, eye problems and sometimes snappiness. These problems are rarely encountered in dogs bred from responsible breeders.

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