The perfect hunting dog
During the nineteenth century there was an ongoing quest among English country gentlemen to breed
the perfect hunting
dog. Many sought this holy grail by acquiring and breeding good hunting dogs, and using outcrosses to other breeds in an effort to achieve their aim. The result was that the exact origins of several of the retriever breeds were unclear due to these somewhat haphazard or occasionally secretive methods.
Not so the Golden Retriever! One man – the first Lord Tweedmouth – like many of his sporting counterparts, set out to breed a good gundog, but in contrast to the others he carefully documented his breeding strategy. He began by buying a yellow retriever-type called ‘Nous’ from an unregistered litter of otherwise black wavy-coated
retrievers. ‘Nous’ was later bred to a Tweed Water Spaniel by the name of ‘Belle’. The resulting litter produced four bitches who became the basis for a breeding
programme. Over the years several outcrosses, to black wavy-coated retrievers, an Irish Setter
, and later a sandy-coloured Bloodhound, occurred as Lord Tweedmouth sought to improve and fix his new breed. His vision was to produce a more vigorous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, but one that would still be gentle and trainable.
The first Goldens were accepted for registration by the Kennel Club of England in 1903. At that time they were known as ‘Flat Coats – Golden’. By 1904 the Golden was beginning to make his mark in field trails, and in 1908 the first examples stepped regally into the show ring. In 1911 he was recognised as a separate breed, being described as ‘Retriever (Golden or Yellow)’. In 1913 the Golden Retriever Club was founded and the breed name was officially changed to Golden Retriever in 1920.
Active and fun-loving
Although the Golden has been bred through the years to make an excellent companion to people, a prospective buyer needs to bear in mind that a Golden puppy can be pretty unruly, chewing and retrieving anything he can get his little teeth
on. Once he reaches maturity, however, although remaining active and fun-loving, he will also develop an exceptionally patient air about him as befits a dog bred to sit quietly for hours in a duck blind until it is time to retrieve. Because of this, perhaps more so than many other breeds, he needs to interact with his people and it is important that he lives with his owners. A Golden relegated to the backyard while his family is in the house is a very unhappy dog.
Bring in the clowns
As is common with the retriever breeds, the Golden is slow to mature fully both mentally and physically. At a year he will have his full height, but his full weight will be another year or two in coming. Mentally he will remain a puppy for possibly up to two or three years and may retain a playful and clownish personality for most of his life.
Although he takes a while to ‘grow up’, a Golden is highly intelligent and exceptionally trainable due to his desire to please. As with most dogs, however, harsh and rough methods of training will cause a Golden to ‘shut down’, whereas a positive method of training will reap huge rewards.
Because he is a sporting breed, an adult Golden will need plenty of exercise in order to help prevent his tendency towards obesity. Due to his hunting background most Goldens love to swim
and it’s an excellent form of exercise. Remember though that if he is using your pool you will need to clean the filter more often due to the hair, and be sure that he knows how to get out of the pool. It’s not a good idea to leave him unattended with access to the pool either.
A Golden’s crowning glory is his dense and waterproof coat which may be straight or moderately wavy. This coat must be groomed regularly to help reduce the amount of overall shedding and prevent painful mats from forming. If groomed
regularly, once or twice a week, the whole procedure should only take 30 minutes. A daily brush while he is shedding will not only control the amount of hair left to fall on the furniture but also make your Golden feel like a Golden! When it comes to colour
the standard allows for ‘any shade of gold or cream’ but frowns on the colours of white, red or mahogany.
Easy does it
Because of his kindly and easygoing nature, the Golden is a popular breed not only with families but puppy farmers as well, who breed without regard to temperament or good health
! When seeking a Golden puppy be very selective as the choice you make now will be one you live with for the next decade or so, so choose carefully.
Before getting your Golden Retriever you will need to:
Seek out reputable breeders – go and see their dogs, ask plenty of questions, and meet the prospective parents (or at least the mother) of your puppy.
Once home your Golden will need:
• An appropriate diet
, rich in all the essential vitamins, minerals, proteins and fats needed by a rapidly growing puppy.
• Your puppy’s breeder
should provide you with a diet sheet, and it is wise to follow this to start with. As the puppy grows older it is a good idea to seek advice from your veterinarian
on the right diet to feed your dog.
• You and your veterinarian will need to complete your puppy’s course of vaccinations that will protect him against several fatal diseases.
• Socialising classes – vital for meeting people, dogs and other animals and building a well-balanced dog both physically and mentally.
Famous Golden Retriever owners
Oprah Winfrey – Luke, Layla and Grace
Pamela Anderson – Jo Jo
Robin Antin of Pussycat Dolls – Sugar
Jackie Chan – Kones and JJ
Tom Cruise – Chloe and Luke
America Ferrera – Buddy
Nick Jonas – Elvis
Ashton Kutcher – Mr Bojangles
George Michael – Hippy
Golden Retriever fact file
Gundog – FCI Group
Flushing and retrieving
Seek a reputable breeder
Average life span:
10 to 13 years
Dogs 56-61cm, Bitches 51-56cm
Is the breed a natural watchdog?
Attitude to strangers:
Flat or wavy with good feathering. Dense water-resistant undercoat
Any shade of gold or cream. Not red or mahogany!
Does coat mat or tangle?
Yes, if left unattended
Special trimming for show ring:
A little judicious tidying up
Regular brush to remove dead hair
Is professional grooming needed?
Moderately active requiring exercise every day
Adult quantities for dry food:
From approximately 300g daily depending on brand
Ease of training:
Eager and willing to please but needs a gentle hand
Good family dog?
Town or country?
Obesity, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, heart problems, skin allergies
Patient, active and fun-loving
What the breeders say…
We asked the following breeders some pertinent questions about the Golden Retriever: Marycke Ackhurst of Quillquest Golden Retrievers, Lorinda van der Westhuizen of Ardala Kennels, Monica Lloyd of Lurasia Kennels, Chrisna Pienaar of Chrisri Kennels and Barbara Brown of Simaxdal Kennels.
What personality traits can our readers expect from a Golden Retriever?
Golden Retrievers are active dogs who love to interact with humans and other animals. They are loving, highly intelligent, trainable and willing to please.
Monica & Lorinda
Golden Retrievers are great ‘people dogs’ and are very good with children. They are friendly and always wear a happy smiley face. They are very easy to train because they are one of the top five most intelligent dog breeds.
The Golden Retriever is adventurous, lively and energetic, yet gentle and friendly to both friend and stranger. They are wonderful companion and family dogs, great with children and they love water and food!
A constant loving smile, endless loyalty and ever-lasting patience.
What type of person should NOT own a Golden Retriever?
They are not suitable for people who do not want to share almost every aspect of their lives with their dogs; people who prefer dogs to keep a distance; want dogs to perform a guarding duty; prefer dogs to be outside or are very house-proud and avid gardeners; people that are not willing to train and exercise their dogs regularly. And families with young children have to think VERY CAREFULLY. Although Golden Retrievers are generally well suited to children, a young puppy and child is a challenge most people should think about twice. Not only will the puppy knock over small children (or even big ones), but they may mouth hands, bite clothes, destroy toys
, dummies, bottles and everything that gets left within reach. One has to take into consideration the amount of time realistically available to train and exercise a puppy. Also remember that children and puppies should rarely be left unsupervised; not only for the children’s sake, but also for that of the puppy. Golden Retrievers’ need for attention is very high and young, dynamic families often do not have the time this breed requires.
Monica & Lorinda
Owners should not have a prize-winning garden
– Golden Retrievers are natural diggers. Owners should not expect a guard dog when buying a Golden Retriever. Even though Goldens will protect you because they love you, they will not protect your possessions. Goldens are happiest when they can be with you, so if you do not allow dogs in the house, don’t even consider a Golden.
People that are not the active outdoor type, and people that spend most of their time at the office or at work. If you don’t have quite a large property and lots of time to devote to your Golden Retriever, it is not the breed for you.
A never-at-home workaholic.
What do you actively look for in people who buy puppies from you?
Puppy owners who want a dog to share their life; are willing to put the time and effort into training their puppy and adult dog; who are interested in the breed because of its abilities and temperament, not its reputation. People that would like to do something with their pet.
Monica & Lorinda
Someone who is looking for a companion. These dogs need to be part of the family and all family activities. Also someone who knows and understands the breed and who doesn’t just want a Golden because of their good looks.
Homes where our puppies will be treated as a part of the family, homes where the family members are animal lovers and will have lots of time and energy to invest in their puppies. They must be responsible dog owners that will take the dog’s best interests at heart when it comes to exercise, training, feeding and veterinary care.
Kind, endearing owners with time to love their dog.
What do you do to eliminate genetic disorders in your kennel?
Hip and elbow grading, and annual eye testing including dogs past their breeding
age. Research pedigrees as thoroughly as possible.
Monica & Lorinda
We have our breeding dogs’ hips and elbows x-rayed (at one year of age) for hip and elbow dysplasia, and we do not breed with them if they do not have an acceptable score. To prevent eye disease (retinal atrophy and cataracts), which Goldens are prone to, we have our breeding dogs’ eyes tested once a year to reduce the prevalence of this eye disease in pups.
At Chrisridogs we screen our adult dogs for hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia and we have their eyes tested before we breed from them. We select our bloodlines we breed from carefully and we have also imported dogs from other countries to introduce new and better genetics to our existing bloodlines.
I do not bred from dogs with poor hip and elbow results.
Any suggestions for new Golden Retriever owners on keeping their dogs stimulated (physically and mentally)?
Training! Goldens are exceptionally clever dogs and are really eager to please their owners. Keeping their minds active is incredibly important in order to have a well behaved, happy and well balanced dog. They are happiest doing what they were originally bred to do – retrieving. They also need to be exercised regularly. I have a variety of toys available for my dogs and a regular supply of chewies of all sorts to keep them entertained.
Monica & Lorinda
Mentally: Golden Retrievers respond well to positive reinforcement obedience training. They are very easily trained because they are food motivated and ‘live to please you’. Training your Golden is fun for both parties!
Physically: Golden Retrievers are natural swimmers from a very young age, so if you have a swimming pool allow your Golden 15 minutes SUPERVISED swimming sessions. Golden Retrievers are natural retrievers and you have no idea how much fun ‘chasing a stick’ can be for hours on end. Please remember only MODERATE exercise for pups that are not fully grown, as excessive exercise may be part of the cause of hip dysplasia.
Physically Goldens are fairly easy dogs – food and water daily and a brush every now and again. Their mental needs are a different story. They need much attention and company – they do not like to be on their own, and they have a lot of energy they have to get rid of every day. Take your Golden along when possible, even if it is just a short trip to the shop. If you have to leave your Golden home for a short while, give him something nice to chew on that will last a long time; a big beef bone works like a charm. Also make sure that he has lots of toys and chew things to entertain himself while you are gone. Golden Retrievers are very clever, so take your puppy for training. The more they learn the better stimulated and socialised
they are. Repeat what you have learned at puppy school once or twice during the week at home. Allow your Golden Retriever to take part in as many family activities as possible.
Daily walks, lots of cow hooves to chew on, ball games and provide a companion dog.
Is there anything else you think is important about the breed (and specifically its care/grooming) that our readers should know about?
Please be diligent in watching your Golden Retriever’s weight. Once neutered or spayed, the energy requirements of dogs drop dramatically. Please keep an eye on your dog to maintain ideal weight, thus being able to palpate the ribs easily. Being overweight causes a number of health problems and does nothing for the wellbeing or happiness of the dog. Once spayed or neutered, Golden Retriever coats become excessive and also change in texture and lose most of its self-cleaning ability. This coat also sheds constantly and the coat requires far more regular grooming and trimming to keep a neat appearance and maintain coat health.
Monica & Lorinda
Please be mindful of ticks and fleas! Both these parasites cause potentially fatal diseases in dogs. Do NOT use tick and flea collars on Goldens. They are chewers and ingesting collars may cause poisoning. Goldens do shed much, so reduce the amount of hair in your house by brushing them often. Once a week would suffice but most Goldens do enjoy the extra attention and love being groomed.
Golden Retrievers have long coats and they do shed, so brush your dog twice a day during shedding periods to get rid of loose hair. Invest in a good quality waterproof canine car seat cover before you get your puppy so there is no excuse to leave him at home. Goldens love to carry things around and sometimes puppies will chew on anything they can find, so pack away valuables and don’t leave your shoes and underwear on the floor. Their coats need regular brushing.