The Golden Retriever is a large-sized breed of dog bred as gun dogs to retrieve shot waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds during hunting and shooting parties, and were named 'retriever' because of their ability to retrieve shot game undamaged. Golden Retrievers have an instinctive love of water, and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards. They are a long-coated breed, with a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth in the outdoors, and an outer coat that lies flat against their bodies and repels water. Golden Retrievers are well suited to residency in suburban or country environments. Although they need substantial outdoor exercise, they should be housed in a fenced area because of their instinctual tendency to roam. They shed copiously, particularly at the change of seasons, and require fairly regular grooming.
The breed is a prominent participant in conformation shows for purebred dogs. The Golden Retrievers' intelligence makes them a versatile breed and allows them to fill a variety of roles – common ones being guide dog for the blind, hearing dog for the deaf, hunting dog, detection dog, and search and rescue participant. The breed's friendly, gentle temperament means it is unsuited to being a professional guard dog, but its temperament has also made it the third-most popular family dog breed (by registration) in the United States, the fifth-most popular in Australia, and the eighth-most popular in the United Kingdom. Golden Retrievers are rarely choosy eaters, but require ample exercise (of two or more hours a day). The breed is fond of play but also highly trainable.
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, the three subtypes of the Golden Retriever reflect the typical variations in dimensions and coat. However, all Golden Retrievers are blonde, yellow, or gold in colour and all subtypes are susceptible to the same health problems. Golden Retrievers also are very smart dogs that are loyal and friendly to their caregivers.
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 stand between 56 and 61 cm (22 and 24 in) at the withers; females are slightly shorter, between 51 and 56 cm (20 and 22 in). Acceptable or expected weights are not specified in the UK standard, but the Kennel Club standard calls for a level topline and straight hindquarters without the slight rear angulation found in American lines.
The eyes of the British 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 colour of any shade of gold or cream; red or mahogany are not permitted. Originally, cream was an unacceptable colour in the UK standard, but the standard was revised in 1936 to include cream. At the time of this revision, the exclusion of cream as a colour was agreed to as a mistake, as the original "yellow" retrievers of the 19th century were actually lighter in colour than was permitted by the standards used before 1936. As with American lines, white is an unacceptable colour in the show ring. The British Kennel Club 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 stand between 23 and 24 in (58 and 61 cm) in height at the withers; females are 21.5 to 22.5 in (55 to 57 cm) tall. Their coats are dense and water-repellent, and occur 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 center 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 to take advantage of the temperament and appearance of the British types.
The Canadian Golden Retriever has a thinner and darker coat and stands taller than other varieties. As with American Golden Retrievers, Canadians are often taller and leaner than their British counterparts.
Coat and colour
As indicated by their name, their coats occur in light golden to dark golden colours. The topcoat is water-resistant and slightly wavy, and sheds in small amounts throughout the year. The undercoat is soft and keeps the retriever cool in summer and warm in winter; it sheds in the spring and fall. It usually lies flat against the belly. The Golden's coat should never be too long, as this may prove to be a disservice to it in the field, especially when retrieving game. Golden Retrievers have mild feathering on the backs of their fore legs and heaver feathering on the fronts of their necks, backs of their thighs and the bottoms of their tails.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard states the coat is a "rich, lustrous golden of various shades", disallowing extremely light or extremely dark coats. This leaves the outer ranges of coat colour up to a judge's discretion when competing in conformation shows. Therefore, "pure white" and "red" are unacceptable, as is black. The Kennel Club (UK) also permits cream as an acceptable coat colour. Judges may also disallow Goldens with pink noses, or those lacking pigment. The Golden's coat can also bea mahogany, referred to as "redhead", although this is not accepted in the British show ring. As a Golden grows older, its coat can become darker or lighter, along with a noticeable whitening of the fur on and around the muzzle. Puppy coats are usually much lighter than their adult coats, but a puppy with darker ear tips may indicate a darker adult color.
Golden Retrievers vary in colour, with a fair-haired dog shown here beside a mahogany one
The coat is "rich, lustrous golden of various shades"
A four-month-old white golden retriever
A light golden puppy
A dark golden coat
The temperament of the Golden Retriever is a hallmark of the breed, and is described in the standard as "kindly, friendly and confident". Golden Retrievers make good family pets, particularly as they are patient with children. They are not "one-man dogs" and are generally equally amiable with both strangers and those familiar to them. Their trusting, gentle disposition makes them a poor guard dog. Any form of unprovoked aggression or hostility towards either people, dogs or other animals, whether in the show ring or community, is considered unacceptable in a Golden Retriever and is not in keeping with the character of the breed, nor should a Golden Retriever be unduly timid or nervous. The typical Golden Retriever is calm, naturally intelligent and biddable, and with an exceptional eagerness to please.
Golden Retrievers are also noted for their intelligence. The breed ranks fourth in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs – following the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd – as one of the brightest dogs ranked by obedience-command trainability.
Typical Golden Retrievers are active and fun-loving animals with the exceptionally patient demeanour befitting a dog bred to sit quietly for hours in a hunting blind. Adult Goldens love to work, and have a keen ability to focus on a given task. They will work until they collapse, so care should be taken to avoid overworking them.
Other characteristics related to their hunting heritage are a size suited for scrambling in and out of boats and an inordinate love for water. Golden Retrievers are exceptionally trainable—due to their intelligence, athleticism and desire to please their handlers—and excel in obedience trials. They are also very competitive in agility and other performance events. Harsh training methods are unnecessary, as Golden Retrievers often respond very well to positive and upbeat training styles.
Golden Retrievers are compatible with other dogs, cats, and most livestock. They are particularly valued for their high level of sociability towards people, calmness, and willingness to learn. Because of this, they are commonly used as guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Health and lifespan
Golden Retrievers are known to have genetic disorders and other diseases. Hip dysplasia is common in the breed; when buying a puppy, the pedigree should be known and be examined by the OFA or by PennHIP for hip disease. Obesity is also common in the breed because Golden Retrievers love to eat. Puppies should eat about three cups of food a day and adults three to five cups, depending on the food and how active the dog is.
Common health problems
Cancer, the most common being hemangiosarcoma, followed by lymphosarcoma, mast cell tumour, and osteosarcoma, was the cause of death for 61.4% of American Goldens according to a 1998 health study conducted by the Golden Retriever Club of America, making it the breed's biggest killer. A 2004 survey by the UK Kennel Club puts this number at 38.8%. Although most puppies are screened for the disorders before being sold (by reputable breeders), hip and elbow dysplasia afflict one-fifth of dogs. Eye diseases are also possible in the breed; cataracts are the most common eye disease, but they can also be afflicted with progressive retinal atrophy, glaucoma, distichiasis, entropion, corneal dystrophy, and retinal dysplasia.
They may suffer from heart disease, especially subvalvular aortic stenosis, and cardiomyopathy and joint diseases, including patella luxation, osteochondritis, panosteitis, and cruciate ligament rupture. In addition to the heavy shedding they experience (and their constant lighter shedding throughout the year), Golden Retrievers can suffer from skin diseases; the most prevalent skin problem is allergies (often leading to acute moist dermatitis or "hot spots"), with the most common allergy being to fleas. They can also suffer from seborrhoea, sebaceous adenitis, and self-inflicted lick granuloma. Haemophilia and Lyme disease is possible, although the latter is not typically detected until the dog reaches the late stages of kidney failure.
Golden Retrievers require regular grooming and occasional baths. They should be groomed at least once a week, and every day during heavy shedding. They should be bathed every two months. Their coats shed somewhat during the year, but are known to shed profusely twice a year. They also need to have their ears cleaned regularly, or ear infections might occur. While shedding is unavoidable, frequent grooming (daily to weekly) lessens the amount of hair shed by the animal. Severe shedding resulting in bald patches can be indicative of stress or sickness.
The Golden Retriever's eagerness to please has made it a consistent, top performer in the obedience and agility rings. Its excellent swimming ability makes it proficient at dock jumping. A natural retrieving ability means it is also competitive in flyball and field trials.
The first three dogs ever to achieve the AKC Obedience Champion title were Golden Retrievers; the first of the three was a female named 'Ch. Moreland's Golden Tonka'.
Since Golden Retrievers are so trainable, they are used for many important jobs, such as guide dogs for blind people, drug or bomb sniffing at airports, or helping to rescuing people from earthquakes and other natural disasters. This breed is also used in water rescue/lifesaving, along with the Leonberger, Newfoundland and Labrador Retriever dogs.
Origins and history
The Golden Retriever was originally bred in Scotland in the mid-19th century. At that time, wildfowl hunting was a popular sport for the wealthy Scottish elite, but the existing retriever breeds were inadequate for retrieving downed game from both water and land. Retrieving from both land and water was necessary because the hunting grounds of the time were pocketed with marshy ponds and rivers. Consequently, the best water spaniels were crossed with the existing retrievers, resulting in the establishment of the breed today known as the Golden Retriever. The Golden Retriever was first developed near Glen Affric in Scotland, at "Guisachan", the highland estate of Dudley Marjoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth. For many years, what breeds were originally crossed was disputed, but in 1952, the publication of Marjoribanks' breeding records from 1835 to 1890 dispelled the myth concerning the purchase of a whole troupe of Russian tracker sheepdogs from a visiting circus, instead it details a careful line-breeding program. Commonly, the breed is said to have originated from the Russian tracker.
Improvements in guns during the 1800s resulted in more fowl being downed during hunts at greater distances and over increasingly difficult terrain, leading to more birds being lost in the field. Because of this improvement in firearms, a need for a specialist retriever arose, as training setter and pointer breeds in retrievals was found to be ineffective. Thus, work began on the breeding of the dog to fill this much-needed role.
The original cross was of a yellow-coloured retriever, 'Nous', with a Tweed Water Spaniel female dog, 'Belle'. The Tweed Water Spaniel is now extinct, but was then common in the border country. Marjoribanks had purchased Nous in 1865 from an unregistered litter of otherwise black wavy-coated retriever pups. In 1868, this cross produced a litter that included four pups; these four became the basis of a breeding program which included the Irish Setter, the sandy-coloured Bloodhound, the St. John's water dog of Newfoundland, and two more wavy-coated black retrievers. The bloodline was also inbred and selected for trueness to Marjoribanks' idea of the ultimate hunting dog. His vision included a more vigorous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, one that would still be gentle and trainable. Russian sheepdogs are not mentioned in these records, nor are any other working dog breeds. The ancestry of the Golden Retriever is all sporting dogs, in line with Marjoribanks' goals. The Golden Retriever was active and powerful and had a gentle mouth for retrieving games while on hunts.
Organisations other than clubs are dedicated to Golden Retrievers, such as breed-specific adoption sites. One such organisation is the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland, which in August 2013 assembled 222 Golden Retrievers at the historical home of the first Golden Retrievers.
Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by The Kennel Club of England in 1903, as Flat Coats – Golden. They were first exhibited in 1908, and in 1911 were recognized as a breed described as Retriever (Golden and Yellow).
In the United States
It took another 14 years for the breed to be recognized in America, and in 1925, the American Kennel Club did so. In 1938, the Golden Retriever Club of America was founded.
The Honourable Archie Marjoribanks took a Golden Retriever to Canada in 1881, and registered 'Lady' with the AKC in 1894. These are the first records of the breed in these two countries. The breed was first registered in Canada in 1927, and the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario (GRCO) was formed in 1958. The cofounders of the GRCO were Cliff Drysdale, an Englishman who had brought over an English Golden, and Jutta Baker, daughter-in-law of Louis Baker, who owned Northland Kennels. The GCRO in later years expanded to become the Golden Retriever Club of Canada.
In July 2006, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland organized a gathering of Golden Retriever enthusiasts at the ancestral home, Guisachan House. A photograph taken by photographer Lynn Kipps to commemorate the occasion captured 188 Golden Retrievers, so holds the record for most Golden Retrievers in one image.
Liberty, the presidential pet of President Gerald R. Ford, and Victory, the presidential pet of Ronald Reagan, were Golden Retrievers. The breed has also featured in a number of films and TV series, including the Air Bud film series, Full House, Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey and Homeward Bound II: Lost in San Francisco, Fluke, Napoleon, Up, Pushing Daisies, The Drew Carey Show, and Cats & Dogs. Cash from The Fox and the Hound 2 was also a mix of this breed, as was Whopper from Pound Puppies.
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