What’s The History Of Golden Retrievers?

Golden retrievers have their roots set in 1864, after a series of matings between a yellow flat coated retriever and the now extinct tweed water spaniel were carried out by Lord Tweedmouth on his Guisachan estate in Inverness-shire, Scotland. 

Later down the line, the offspring was again crossed with Irish setters, bloodhounds and black flat coated retrievers, resulting in a good looking, hard-working dog. For many years, the golden retriever remained relatively unknown, with puppies only given to Lord Tweedmouth's friends and family who continued to breed them. 

It was almost 50 years after the original golden retriever puppies were born that the breed was first seen and loved by the public, thanks to Lord Harcourt - a friend of the Tweedmouth family - who showed them at a Kennel Club event in 1908. However, it wasn't until the 1920s that the breed was officially given its own identity and named 'golden retriever' on the official Kennel Club register.  

golden retriever puppy

Today, the golden retriever is one of the UK’s most beloved breeds. In fact, it was the 4th most popular gundog breed in the UK in 2018, according to Kennel Club records. Of the 91,194 gundog puppies registered to the organisation that year, golden retrievers accounted for almost 10% of the total figure (7,794 puppies).

What Do Golden Retrievers Look Like?

The golden retriever is typically of a large build with a long, soft coat; these dogs are very elegant in appearance. Show breeds are usually pale in colour, whereas working strains are known to have a rich, reddish-gold coat that lightens as it feathers, akin to their ancestors, and they tend to be of a lighter, more athletic build. Similarly to their labrador cousins, golden retrievers’ heads are broad in the skull with relatively short ears. 

This breed is renowned for its very soft mouth, which is ideal for retrieving shot game undamaged, and should be powerful enough to jump while carrying large game species, such as brown hares. 

Golden Retriever Traits And Characteristics

The golden retriever is an incredibly popular breed for families all over the world, as it’s typically very friendly, good natured, playful, and intelligent. These dogs are renowned for being easy to train and, once out of puppyhood, they usually adopt a very settled temperament. It’s unusual for golden retrievers not to get along with people or other animals.

Today, they are widely used as guide dogs, detection dogs, and therapy dogs to name just a few roles held by this working dog breed.

golden retriever puppy lying in sunny grassy field

If you’re wondering ‘how long do golden retrievers live?’, the average life expectancy for this breed tends to be 10 years+. However, there are some health problems occasionally experienced by these dogs, including:

  • Seizures
  • Subaortic stenosis
  • Eye disorders
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Mast cell tumours
  • Osteosarcoma
  • Hemangiosarcoma
  • Lymphoma

Veterinarians may also routinely test for heart, thyroid, hip, eye, and elbow issues to pick up potential signs of these conditions as early as possible.

Are Golden Retrievers Hypoallergenic?

Golden retrievers are not hypoallergenic. If you’re wondering ‘how much do golden retrievers shed?’, the answer is rather a lot. They shed their coats lightly throughout the year, with two periods of heavy shedding each year. This means that golden retrievers aren’t always suitable for those with allergies, and they can be quite high maintenance, leaving behind lots of dog hair.

How To Groom A Golden Retriever

Golden retrievers need their coats brushing every 1-2 weeks, or before they are bathed. You may also need to trim your dog’s hair every now and again to prevent it looking unkempt, and to prevent any potential tangling around their claws.

This breed can be more prone than other dogs to dental problems, so it’s important to clean your retriever’s teeth and gums regularly.

When it comes to ear care, make sure you’re cleaning your dog’s ears at least once a month, and speak to a vet for advice if you think your dog may have an ear infection.

How Much Exercise Does A Golden Retriever Need?

Golden retrievers tend to be very playful and energetic, meaning they require a lot of exercise every day - aim for around 90 minutes at least, in the form of play, walks, and letting them off the lead to run and fetch. 

adult golden retriever standing on rock in the sunshine

Puppies won’t need quite as much exercise, and it’s important not to over-exert their legs. In fact, it’s important not to overexercise golden retrievers of any age - as a large breed, they can be prone to joint problems. 

Golden Retriever Nutrition Requirements

We spoke to experts at Chudleys about the ideal diet for working dog breeds, such as the golden retriever. They said:

“As a nutritionist, one designs a diet first and foremost to meet all the nutrient requirements to support a long, active and healthy life.”

“For working breeds, fundamental nutrient requirements vary very little, if at all. There may be subtle trend differences between the breeds in terms of certain conditions that are more prevalent in one particular breed over another that may be helped by using appropriate functional nutrition.”

Why Golden Retrievers Make Good Gundogs

With the popularity of showring golden retrievers at events like Crufts, it is common for people to stereotype this breed as one with few working qualities. However, this is not the case, and despite being a rarity in the field, golden retrievers can make excellent gundogs. 

Golden retrievers tend to have very soft mouths, which means they can be very proficient at picking-up game. Although these dogs are considered to be relatively easy to train, they do require a more thorough, step-by-step approach than would be used on a labrador. They mature a little later than labradors and can be quite stubborn, while their hunting style is also a little different to labs’, as they are known to carry their head higher off the ground, relying more on air scent.

What’s more, finding golden retriever puppies with good working lines is becoming increasingly difficult, making them more expensive to source. 

Find out more about the different retriever breeds that make gundogs in our breeds hub.