Golden Retriever – Golden boys and girls

Breed facts:Gundog group

In association with the Kennel Club, Dogs Monthly takes an in-depth look at that quintessential mellow yellow all-rounder, the bonny ‘Golden’.

Known as a ‘gentle extrovert’, the Golden Retriever is one of the most popular breeds due to its amenable nature and attractive appearance. Eager to please, loyal and loving, Goldens make great all-round companions and family pets. History Unlike many breeds, the development of the Golden Retriever in historical terms is fairly recent and thanks to the painstaking research carried out by breed historians the history is quite defined and documented. The breed originated from a series of matings carried out by Lord Tweedmouth from 1864 onwards.
The starting point was his acquisition of a good-looking yellow-coloured Flat Coated Retriever, which he took to his estate at Guisachan, near Inverness in Scotland. He mated this dog to a Tweed Water Spaniel, a breed now long extinct, and then bred on from the offspring of this mating, using the occasional outcross to an Irish Setter, a second Tweed Water Spaniel and a black Flat Coated Retriever. Lord Tweedmouth’s specially bred dogs proved to be grand workers, biddable and attractive. Puppies from the matings were given to friends and family, notably His Lordship’s nephew, Lord Ilchester, who also bred them.
The dogs bred true to type, and so the forerunners of the breed as it is known today were established. It was not until 1908 that the breed came into the public eye. Lord Harcourt had formed a great liking for the breed and had gathered on to his estate at Nuneham Park, Oxford, a collection of the dogs descended from the original matings. He decided to exhibit them at the Kennel Club (KC) Show in 1908, where they created great interest. They were entered in a class for Any Variety Retriever and described as Yellow Flatcoated Retrievers. The term ‘Golden Retriever’ was first coined around this time, and has been attributed to Lord Harcourt.

Golden Retriever
Golden Retriever

Family life
Noted for their gentle and lovable nature, Goldens make wonderful family pets, as reader Sarah Thomas testifies: “I think that my Rin has a sixth sense with small children and the elderly as he is very patient and calm and will just sit and let them love him. There is a nursing home behind our house, and one Saturday afternoon Rin managed to escape from the garden – we looked everywhere for him and found him 20 minutes later in the home. One of the bedrooms doors was open and we discovered Rin sat next to an elderly lady, watching television with her while she stroked his head and fed him biscuits! “With me and family members, however, Rin can be quite boisterous, and if you don’t keep him in line he very quickly takes the role as pack leader. “We also have a Bengal cat, who hates dogs but knows how soft Rin is – he may be a little ‘hyper’ sometimes, but he wouldn’t hurt a fly. If the cat runs, though, Rin does think it’s a game and will chase him in play. “I personally think that Golden Retrievers are suited to a variety of people as, in my experience, they make fantastic working dogs and amazing family pets. They do, however, need people who are going to be able to spend lots and lots of time with them, and they require space to run and exercise. Goldens like to be part of the family and not watch from the sidelines – they want to join in with everything. “The Golden Retrievers I have been privileged enough to meet have been friendly, gentle and very playful.”


  • Large size
  • Gregarious, happy outlook
  • Great all-rounder
  • Adores people
  • Ideal family dog
  • Town or country living
  • High exercise requirement
  • Good-tempered
  • Eager to please
  • Laid-back yet keen to learn
  • Gentle, biddable & attractive
  • Medium-maintenance coat
  • Good retriever & sporting dog

KENNEL CLUB BREED STANDARD Thinking of getting a Golden? Here’s what to look out for:

A breed standard is the guideline which describes the ideal characteristics, temperament and appearance of a breed, and ensures that the breed is fit for function. Absolute soundness is essential. Breeders and judges should at all times be careful to avoid obvious conditions or exaggerations which would be detrimental in any way to the health, welfare or soundness of this breed. From time to time certain conditions or exaggerations may be considered to have the potential to affect dogs in some breeds adversely, and judges and breeders are requested to refer to the Kennel Club website (www. for details of any such current issues. If a feature or quality is desirable it should only be present in the right measure.

Symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, level mover; sound with kindly expression.

Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany. A few white hairs on the chest only is permissible.

Biddable, intelligent and possessing natural working ability.

Kindly, friendly and confident.

Head & skull
Balanced and well chiselled; skull broad without coarseness; well set on neck, muzzle powerful, wide and deep. Length of foreface approximately equals length from well-defined stop to occiput. Nose preferably black.

Dark brown, set well apart, dark rims.

Moderate size, set on approximate level with eyes.

Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite (teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws).

Good length, clean and muscular.

Forelegs straight with good bone; shoulders well laid back, long in shoulder blade with upper arm of equal length placing legs well under body. Elbows close fitting.

Balanced, short-coupled, deep through heart. Ribs deep, well sprung. Level topline. Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

Loin and legs strong and muscular, good second thighs, well bent stifles. Hocks well let down, straight when viewed from rear, neither turning in nor out. Cowhocks highly undesirable.

Round and cat-like.

Set on and carried level with back, reaching to hocks, without curl at tip.

Gait & movement
Powerful with good drive. Straight and true in front and rear. Stride long and free with no sign of hackney action in front.

Flat or wavy with good feathering, dense waterresisting undercoat.

Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog, and on the dog’s ability to perform its traditional work.

Training & exercise

Says breeder Margaret Woods: “Goldens are usually easily trained provided the whole family are consistent and don’t confuse the puppy with conflicting commands and standards. They are intelligent and will soon learn who is the boss, so it is advisable to read up on the subject of training and join a class because you can’t beat hands-on help. “Golden Retrievers were originally bred to pick up game in the shooting field, so their sense of smell and their retrieving instinct is strong, whether this is a freshly shot pheasant, the odd ‘rancid rabbit’ or your favourite slippers! Although they will bark at someone at the door, I would not expect them to guard their territory. “Exercise-wise, although they will happily walk for hours, they are equally content with half an hour twice a day.”

Where to get a Golden puppy Contact Golden breed clubs (see ‘Useful contacts’ on page 40) to enquire if they have details of members with available puppies. You can also ask for advice in choosing a puppy and how to look after him, as clubs are keen to promote good ownership as well as the breeding of healthy pups. To this end, you are more likely to be able to source breeders who have their stock tested for hip, elbow and eye problems, and who will offer an ‘after sales’ service in providing advice on caring for and training your pup should you require any.

5 Golden facts

Goldens have a double coat (smooth top coat and dense undercoat) which is easily kept in order with brushing two or three times a week, using a slicker brush and metal comb. Says reader Sarah Thomas: “As my Golden, Rin, loves fuss and attention, he loves to be groomed with a thick brush and then a fine comb to get out any loose hair or tangles. If I sit down when grooming him he does insist on sitting on my knee – I think he thinks he is smaller than he is! “I found that Golden Retrievers shed hair a lot, but their coat actually grows quite slowly – so although they need brushing often, you only really need to take them to be trimmed at a professional groomer’s once or twice a year.”

Goldens are generally a healthy breed, and, advises the Golden Retriever Breed Council, as long as they are fed and exercised correctly should live long, healthy and happy lives.
Like many breeds, however, they are subject to some genetic disorders – including hip and elbow dysplasia and eye problems – and for some of these, health schemes, organised jointly by the KC and British Veterinary Association (BVA), are in operation. It’s advisable that prospective owners buy only from breeders who have had the puppies’ parents BVA/KC health screened. Breeders that take part in the hip-scoring scheme have their dogs X-rayed (after 12 months of age) to determine the degree of hip dysplasia. A panel of specialists scores the X-ray plates and each hip is assessed independently and a score is given, for example 8 and 9 = 17. Some people quote the combined score (17), while others give the score for each side (8 and 9). The best score you can get is 0-0 (rare), while the worst is 53-53 (also rare). The average score for the breed is a combined value of just under 20. Scoring for elbow dysplasia has only been recently introduced. Again X-ray plates are checked by specialists and a score is given for each elbow from 0 to 3, with 0 being clear and 3 being badly affected. Eye problems that can affect some Goldens include progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and hereditary cataract (HC), both of which affect sight. Other eye conditions, which don’t affect sight, are multifocal retinal dysplasia (MRD) and posterior polar cataract (PPC). Breeders are strongly recommended by the KC to have their breeding stock eye-tested. Golden Retrievers can also suffer from food allergies and, occasionally, skin problems.

Golden Retrievers are not usually fussy feeders. They can be greedy so you need to be careful not to over-feed or obesity will result. Says owner Sarah Thomas: “My Golden, Rin, is a very good eater. He normally has a bowl of biscuits for breakfast and a smaller amount for lunch and a tin of meat for tea. Rin is a real opportunist and will eat anything he sees, so I have to be careful not to leave anything within his reach. One day I left a frying pan on the back ring of a deep range cooker, cooking some beef. I went to open the front door and when I came back, Rin had reached the frying pan and eaten all but two pieces of diced beef that were still cooking in the pan with the hob on!”

Height & weight
The height at the withers should be 56-61cm (22-24ins) in dogs and 51-56cm (20- 22ins) in bitches. Weight-wise, Goldens should be 27-36kg (60-80lb) depending on size and fitness.

Goldens tend to be quite longlived, with 11-16 years being the norm.

Useful contacts
Berkshire Downs & Chilterns Golden Retriever Club Ms B Lewis (secretary), tel. 01908 564296.
Eastern Counties Golden Retriever Club Mrs S Ross (secretary), tel. 01255 886326.
The Golden Retriever Club Mr C Donahue (secretary), tel. 01270 763849.
Golden Retriever Club of Northumbria Mrs A C Byrne (secretary), tel. 01207 544367.
Golden Retriever Club of Scotland Ms McGugan (secretary), tel. 01655 760394.
Golden Retriever Club of Wales Mrs Prosser (secretary), tel. 01685 371761.
Midland Golden Retriever Club Mrs J Ryder (secretary), tel. 01538 300076.
North West Golden Retriever Club Mrs S Baldwin (secretary), tel. 0161 368 0310.
Northern Golden Retriever Association Mr P Smithies (secretary), tel. 0161 653 3050.
South Western Golden Retriever Society Ms F Coward (secretary), tel. 01425 653146.
Southern Golden Retriever Society Mrs A Stephenson (secretary), tel. 01276 473320.
Ulster Golden Retriever Club Mr A Titterington (chairman), tel. 028 4483 9167.
Yorkshire Golden Retriever Club Mrs K Greenwood (secretary), tel. 01943 464876.