If ever there was a dog that filled the title of “America’s Sweetheart” it would be the Golden retriever.
For decades the Golden has occupied a top ten spot on the American Kennel Club’s most registered list and a place in the hearts of many a dog lover. The key to the Golden’s popularity is hardly a secret: combine good looks with admirable intelligence, an unwavering devotion, and then add a heart of… well… gold, and you have one of America’s most beloved dogs.
It’s no wonder the Golden retriever is one of America’s most popular (and recognizable) breeds year after year.
History Of The Golden Retriever
The Golden retriever has humble roots, originating in mid-19th century Scotland. The breed was developed as an answer for sportsmen’s need for a dog that was equally adept to retrieving game fowl from both land and water.
The breed’s foundation stock included wavy coated retrievers, newfoundlands, a now extinct breed called the tweed water spaniel, and even the bloodhound.
Today’s English-bred Goldens are often lighter in color and heavier in body than their American counterparts, but essentially the same dog in all other respects.
A large dog, the Golden retriever usually stands between 22 and 24 inches at the shoulder and weighs in between 65 and 85 pounds.
The breed’s dense double coat, water repellent on the outer fur with a softer undercoat, can range in color from cream to gold to rust. Any areas of white or black are disqualifications in the show ring.
Golden Retriever Personality
The Golden’s personality is perhaps his most endearing asset. Happy go lucky by nature, Goldens make great family dogs as they love children and have incredible patience.
They are also gentle with other animals and have very low prey drives in general. It is not unusual for Goldens to form special bonds with animals beyond their own species. Because of their friendly nature, Goldens make wonderful service and therapy dogs, but, for that same reason, are very poor guard dogs.
As if being good looking and charismatic wasn’t enough, the Golden retriever is also famous for his above average intelligence and trainability. This intelligence, combined with a desire to please, explains why the breed exceeds in so many roles beyond its original title of gun dog.
Today’s Golden is a popular choice as a service dog, a search and rescue dog, a narcotic detection dog, and a therapy dog. Their size makes Goldens able to physically complete a number of tasks and their dispositions make them non-threatening and even approachable in public venues.
Outside of these serious roles, Goldens also excel in obedience competitions, agility events, and tracking sports.
Grooming And Shedding
Despite being a double coated breed, Goldens don’t require an exceptional amount of grooming.
A daily brushing to keep their undercoat from matting is sufficient in most cases, although dogs in warmer climates may require more frequent, thorough brushings to keep them comfortable.
Shedding, especially in more moderate climate, can be expected. Dogs that are not brushed at least a few times a week can develop mats and skin conditions such as “hot spots”.
Being a large sporting breed, a Golden retriever will do best in a home where he has access to regular exercise.
Puppies are energetic and a Golden should not be considered “mature” until two or three years of age.
Even a mature dog will need daily walks or, even better, a chance to run daily in a fenced in yard.
Dogs not given access to regular exercise may become bored or even destructive, so exercise of some form is greatly encouraged.
For being such a popular breed, the Golden retriever is relatively healthy. The major health concern in Goldens, like in many large breeds, is hip dysplasia.
Hip dysplasia is a condition where the head of the femur is misshapen and does not fit correctly in the hip joint. The uneven wear of the head of the femur in the joint causes pain and inflammation and may eventually cripple a dog if left untreated. Surgery is an option, but can be expensive.
Prospective owners are encouraged to purchase puppies from responsible breeders who have their dogs checked and certified for clear hips by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA).
In addition to hip dysplasia, heart problems are also a concern for Goldens. Cardio-myopathy and other heart defects are something that should be looked for during annual vet exams and dogs that have trouble breathing or seem overly exhausted after only moderate physical activity should be tested.
The Golden retriever is truly one of the dog world’s most beloved breeds, and with good reason. A pretty face, a sharp mind, and a heart of gold… the Golden is the total package.
It’s no wonder so many have fallen for his charms. The Golden retriever is sure to reign as “America’s Sweetheart” for a long time to come.