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Breed Guide & Insurance Plan: Golden Retriever

By Christy True and medically reviewed by JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM
published: December 24, 2020 - updated: April 24, 2023 • 6 min. read

Introduction to Golden Retrievers

Known for being intelligent dogs with a friendly temperament and enduring loyalty, Golden Retrievers are among the most popular dog breeds in America. These beloved dogs have beautiful golden-color coats and are great family dogs because they are trustworthy, naturally athletic, and want to please people.


Size of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are medium- to large-sized dogs, but as with most dogs, males tend to be larger than females. It takes about one year for a Golden Retriever to reach its full height and about two years to reach a mature weight.

As you can see in this chart, there can be a lot of size variation among Goldens as they grow and develop into adults.

Weight Chart

Age3 Months 6 Months 1 year2 years
Male Golden Retriever16-43 lbs.29-72 lbs.65-77 lbs.65-80 lbs.
Female Golden Retriever16-33 lbs.27-61 lbs.55-90 lbs.55-90 lbs.

When fully grown, male Golden Retrievers are about 23 to 24 inches tall, and females are between 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall. Overall growth can be affected by genetics, diet, and at what age the dog is spayed or neutered.

Characteristics of Golden Retrievers

As you get to know a Golden Retriever’s personality, here’s what you can expect based on his or her breed characteristics.

Breed CharacteristicLevel (High, Medium, Low)
Affectionate with PeopleHigh
Good with KidsHigh
Good with PetsHigh
Need for ExerciseHigh
Energy LevelHigh
Intelligence LevelHigh
Able to Be TrainedHigh
Amount of BarkingMedium
Amount of SheddingHigh

In addition to these well-established characteristics, Golden Retrievers are also very skilled working dogs that are excellent at tracking, hunting, and sniffing. This makes them prime candidates for positions as therapy dogs and law enforcement dogs. Because of their outstanding agility, Golden Retrievers often perform well at dog competitions. They are also generally obedient dogs with positive attitudes, which means that they are easy to train.

However, Golden Retrievers are not necessarily the most adaptable dogs because they are sensitive, don’t like being left alone, and tolerate hot and cold weather only moderately well.

History of Golden Retrievers

Dudley Marjoribanks, also known as Lord Tweedmouth, developed the Golden Retriever breed in the Scottish Highlands in the mid-to-late 1800s. He was a hunter who desired a hunting companion dog with a great nose and was attentive and loyal as a family dog at home. Marjoribanks kept detailed records of his breeding pursuits and tried to breed various types of animals. To achieve the Golden Retriever, he crossed a Yellow Retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel and also had an Irish Setter and Bloodhound in the mix. With a precise blend of dogs in the breeding plan, the Golden Retriever breed received an improved sense of smell and a more moderate size.

The breed first attracted hunters’ attention but was later embraced for its versatile showmanship and exceptional companionship. In 1908, a Golden Retriever first entered a British dog show, and the breed soon made its way into Canada and the U.S. Golden Retrievers were recognized as a breed by the Kennel Club in England in 1911 and by the American Kennel Club in 1932.

There were once rumors that Golden Retrievers were descendants of Russian circus dogs, but this was disproven in the 1950s when one of Marjoribanks’ descendants provided access to the breeder’s handwritten records. In the U.S., the popularity of Golden Retrievers picked up in the 1970s and 1980s. The dogs have been major characters in film and television, with starring roles in the TV show “Full House” and the movie “Air Bud.” The American Kennel Club currently ranks this breed’s popularity at #3 out of 196.

Golden Retrievers Standard Information

Golden Retrievers are active, coordinated, eager, self-confident, and alert. With a symmetrically-aligned body, these dogs are hunting dogs by nature and have a hard-working and powerful appearance.

Purebred Golden Retrievers exhibit the following physical characteristics, which define the breed standard for this type of dog.

Golden RetrieverHead:

  • Broad skull
  • Deep and wide fore face
  • Straight muzzle that blends smoothly into the skull
  • Friendly and expressive dark-brown or medium-brown eyes
  • Short ears
  • Pink or low-pigmentation nose
  • Bite with the outer side of lower incisors touching the inner side of upper incisors

Neck, Topline, Body:

  • Medium length neck
  • Laid-back shoulders
  • Sturdy and muscular
  • Strong and level backline
  • Balanced body
  • Thick and muscular tail base


  • Muscular and well-coordinated
  • Upper arms same length as shoulder blades
  • Dewclaws normally left on
  • Medium-size and compact feet


  • Broad and muscled
  • Legs straight when viewed from the rear


  • Dense and water-repellent
  • Straight or wavy
  • Outer coat firm and not coarse or silky


  • Various shades of gold, with possibly lighter feathering
  • May gray or whiten with age
  • No black or any other color


  • Free, smooth, and coordinated movement
  • Legs do not turn in or out
  • Good reach

Trainer Tip

“Golden Retrievers are loving, fun, smart dogs and when not bred for hunting, can make great therapy and service dogs. They’re also excellent at tracking, hunting, and sniffing so they are sometimes recruited to work in law enforcement. This breed is easy to train and wants nothing more than to please you. They are also natural athletes and do well in dog sports such as agility and competitive obedience. Make sure they get plenty of exercise, including playtime with toys and mental enrichment with focused, fun training. — Sarah-Anne Reed, holistic dog trainer, and owner of Pack Dynamics, LLC ®.

Caring for Golden Retrievers

Golden Retriever at play

Golden Retrievers are a real joy to care for because of their fun, positive, and outgoing personalities. Here are some tips for caring for a Golden Retriever.

Best Living Environments:

  • Family home with a fenced-in yard
  • Farms and ranches with wide-open spaces
  • Residential areas near parks and trails
  • Moderate climates

Type of Exercise:

  • Jogging
  • Hiking
  • Retrieving a ball or frisbee
  • Playing with other dogs at dog parks

Mental Enrichment:

  • Provide a toy to chew or carry in the mouth
  • Tire Goldens out with at least two 30-minute exercise sessions per day
  • Allow Goldens supervised play with other dogs and children
  • Praise Goldens for a job well done

Training Strategies:

  • Introduce agility courses and obedience training
  • Train Goldens alongside other dogs for socialization
  • Start training as a puppy if possible
  • Limit treats because Goldens love to eat

Grooming Tips:

  • Brush fur daily to prevent tangles
  • Bathe at least once per month
  • Brush teeth daily or at least three times per week
  • Trim nails monthly if they aren’t worn down naturally from work or play
  • Check ears weekly for redness or odor that indicates an infection

Common Health Problems of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retriever

Even with their healthy appearances and high activity levels, Golden Retrievers are not immune to many health problems that affect dogs. In fact, Goldens are prone to many health problems, but you can help control these potential issues with loving care and being prepared with a pet insurance policy.

These are some of the most common health issues that arise with Golden Retrievers:

  • Hip dysplasia, a hereditary orthopedic disease
  • Ticks, fleas, and other parasites in the coat
  • Different types of cancer, especially hemangiosarcoma (cancer of the blood vessel walls)
  • Periodontal disease
  • Obesity
  • Bloat
  • Cataracts and glaucoma
  • Skin allergies (‘atopy’)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Heart disease
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Hemophilia, a type of bleeding disorder
  • Liver disease

The average life expectancy for a Golden Retriever is 10 to 12 years. However, taking your Golden to a vet for an annual checkup, keeping up with routine at-home care, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise can extend your pet’s life for several more years. These are also ways to extend your Golden’s mobility to ensure a happier life and avoid surgery that could leave a Golden less mobile and more prone to obesity.

Diet and Nutrition for Golden Retrievers

Good nutrition is essential in the care of a Golden Retriever because these active dogs need high-quality food to sustain their energy levels. Goldens tend to become overweight when given too many treats or table scraps, so provide these foods sparingly and monitor the dog’s weight regularly. In fact, you can skip the table scraps entirely because they tend to be high in fat and calories.

Adult Golden Retrievers typically eat three cups of food per day, which comes out to an average daily cost of $2 to $2.25 and an average monthly cost of $60 to $67.50 for food. A Golden’s meals are usually split into two meals per day – one in the morning and one in the evening.

Recommended types of dog food for Golden Retrievers include Wellness Complete Health Large Breed Adult, Taste of the Wild Southwest Canyon, Blue Buffalo Wilderness Grain-Free Chicken, and Earthborn Holistic Grain Free Large Breed. It is a good idea to keep filler ingredients out of your Golden’s diet, such as corn, soy, and rice because these contribute to weight gain without much nutrition. As your Golden gets older and less active, you will need to reduce the amount of daily food provided to prevent overeating and obesity.

Where to Adopt or Purchase Golden Retrievers

Golden Retriever in car

The Golden Retriever Club of America provides resources about this breed of dog on its website and allows you to search for Goldens and learn about responsible breeders here too. The American Kennel Club offers an online marketplace that provides search results for Golden Retriever puppy litters in various places across the country. Reputable Golden Retriever breeders include Bowden’s Goldens in Oxford, Maine, Golden Sunrise Retrievers in Toledo, Ohio; and Sweet Gold Farm in Enumclaw, Washington.

There are also Golden Retriever rescue groups available and listed by region on the Golden Retriever Club of America National Rescue Committee’s website. Adopt a Pet, North America’s largest nonprofit pet adoption website, and PetFinder also offer listings of adoptable Goldens. You can set an alert to be notified when a Golden Retriever becomes available for adoption near you.

Related Breeds

Golden Retrievers are members of the Sporting Group of dog breeds, which includes dogs that are naturally active, likable, skilled at hunting, and that make good companions. Other Sporting Group dogs include the American Water Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, English Setter, Labrador Retriever, and Weimaraner.

People interested in Golden Retrievers may also like other breeds that make good family dogs, are highly intelligent, and good around kids. Other breeds that fit into these categories include the Alaskan Malamute, Beagle, American Staffordshire Terrier, and Boston Terrier.

Pet Insurance for Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are beloved family members and deserve the level of care and attention you would give any loved one. Since many of the health conditions that Golden Retrievers experience are genetic, it is wise to get pet insurance for Goldens of any age – from the youngest puppies to senior dogs.

Healthy Paws insurance plans cover accidents, illnesses, cancer, emergency care, genetic conditions, and alternative care so that your Golden can live the healthiest life possible. With our easy claims process and top-rated customer service team, you can take your Golden Retriever to any licensed veterinarian you trust when your pup isn’t feeling well and take preventative measures for better overall health.

Christy True and Tomas
By Christy True

Christy has been writing about pets for Healthy Paws for 21 dog years. She previously worked in journalism, hence her penchant for writing about offbeat animal studies and the latest viral pet trends. She has been owned by several dogs, and right now, Tomas, a Mexican street dog rescue, is staring at her because he wants a walk. Outside of work, she can usually be found sliding down a mountain near her home in Bend, Ore.

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joanna pendergrass
By JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer in Atlanta, GA. After graduating from the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine with her veterinary degree, JoAnna completed a 2-year research fellowship in neuroscience at Emory University. During this fellowship, she learned that she could make a career out of combining her loves of science and writing. As a medical writer, JoAnna is passionate about providing pet parents at Healthy Paws with clear, concise, and engaging information about pet care. Through her writing, she strives not only to educate pet parents, but also empower them to make good health decisions for their pets. JoAnna is a member of the American Medical Writers Association and Dog Writers Association of America.

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