Country of Origin, History of the Breed
Like many of the sporting breeds, the Golden Retriever was developed in Britian in the 1800s. The dog was bred on the Guisachan Estate in Scotland, which was owned by Lord Tweedmouth. Here, the Golden Retriever initially evolved from crossing a yellow Retriever of flat-coat ancestry with a local and now extinct breed known as the Tweed Water Spaniel – a Retriever with a tightly curled coat.
Lord Tweedmouth’s goal was to breed a hunting dog that would be stronger and more active than other Retriever breeds in existence at the time. As a rugged, medium-sized dog, the breed was valued for its ability to hunt on land and in water. Sportsmen admired the dog's athletic ability and diligence while their families enjoyed the gentle, friendly nature of the pet. By the late 1800s, the Golden Retriever was well known in North America.
A General Description of the Dog
The Golden Retriever is a strong, medium sized dog with a moderately round skull and ears that are triangular, pendant (hanging) and fall approximately to the level of the jaw. In the American line of Golden Retrievers, the eyes are set farther apart and are slanted and triangular in shape, compared to the British line. Males have a broader skull and muzzle and a thicker neck than females. The dog’s medium to dark brown eyes have a deep and gentle expression with a spark of intelligence. The body is slightly longer than tall and is well angulated in the rear. The powerful dog gaits with fluid movement; its thick, muscular tail is carried level with the back and is almost always wagging.
The Golden coat is dense and water-repellent with a thick undercoat. The outer coat is firm and resilient and can be straight or wavy; the legs, underbelly, neck and tail are feathered with longer, lighter hair. As the name suggests, the coat color can range from cream to gold, but must not border on red or mahogany. With the exception of greying or whitening of face or body due to age, any white marking, other than a few white hairs on the chest, are not permitted in the breed standard.
The AKC standard states that males should be 23-24 inches in height at withers; females 21½-22½ inches.
Male: 65-75 pounds;
Female: 55-65 pounds.
Temperament of the Dog
The Golden Retriever is a delightful dog with an excellent temperament both as a gundog or family pet. The playful, affectionate, trustworthy dog has an amiable personality that endears him to young and old alike. As the Golden Retriever matures, its personality develops patience and perseverance.
Although not generally a boisterous breed, this pet will announce visitors and is a good choice for a first pet provided that the owner is capable of managing a dog of this size and strength.
Golden Retrievers are valued as hunting dogs because they can sit for hours in a concealed hunting area, and they can retrieve wild game in cool water or wooded areas. Its steady, agreeable temperament makes it a dependable guide dog for the blind; its concentration and tracking skills make the Golden a success as a Search and Rescue dog; and its gentle nature and loving ways lend themselves to therapy work.
Temperamentally, there is little difference between the sexes in Goldens. Neither sex is harder to housetrain, and both are equally intelligent and affectionate. Both are excellent with children, and both make excellent companions. Problems of aggressiveness, which males of other breeds may exhibit, rarely occur in the Golden.
Better suited to an indoor or outdoor lifestyle?
As companion animals, this breed retains an active physical presence and enjoys playing indoors as well as outside. They are suited to both indoor and outdoor environments.
Are they suited to homes with kids?
The dog’s affable, gentle nature makes it an ideal choice for a home with children and other pets.
The Golden Retriever is an intelligent and highly trainable dog. In addition to being adept hunters, this breed has been trained as guide dogs for the blind, assistance dogs for the disabled and their keen noses have earned them worldwide recognition as sniffer dogs.
The dog responds best to reward-based methods and enjoys working for treats and praise. The Golden will enjoy training accompanied by ‘play time,’ consisting of age-appropriate toys or ‘fetching’ activity. Retrievers do well in obedience training due to their focus on their trainer. Training must be gentle and consistent, never harsh, even for the dog that is easily distracted.
However, firmness is also necessary, for a 70-pound dog with bad manners is a nuisance. Early socialization and puppy classes are important for a Goldie pup who must learn to curb his natural friendliness to other dogs and his exuberance for greeting people.
This energetic dog requires an abundant amount of daily exercise. Bred as a hunting and sporting dog, the Golden enjoys games of fetch, swimming and playing with other dogs. Golden Retrievers also enjoy ‘hide-and-seek’ games and will quickly perceive how the game is played and what is expected.
Golden Retrievers enjoy running along with an owner, but breeders recommend waiting until the dog is fully grown before engaging in running activity, or you can permanently damage the dog’s joints. Owners should keep in mind that puppies should not have exercise forced upon them, especially if they are under eighteen months of age.
The Golden Retriever has a smooth coat of medium length that is easy to groom. The coat responds well to a palm-sized comb or brush, containing firm bristles. Attention should be paid to the dog’s undercoat as it has greater density than the outer coat
Golden Retrievers also benefit from regular brushing, once daily if possible. Brushing helps to promote a shiny, healthy coat and decreases shedding. The owner needs to check nails and have them trimmed if there is no natural wear. Feet can be trimmed of excess fur to expose nails and prevent slipping when the dog walks. Excess fur can be trimmed around the footpads but not between the pads themselves (to prevent chafing).
Golden Retrievers who hunt on land and are allowed to swim require special attention. Running in the woods can cause small foreign bodies such as burrs and other flora to become lodged under the eyelid or in an ear causing the surface of the eye and the ear to become irritated and inflamed.
Health and Care
A generally healthy dog to begin with, careless and indiscriminate breeding has taken a toll on the Golden, making the breed susceptible to progressive retinal atrophy, an eye disorder that causes blindness; entropion; epilepsy; osteochondrosis; Von Willebrand's Disease, a bleeding disorder; cataracts; heart problems; and skin conditions. A poorly bred pup is also likely to suffer from aggression or other behaviour problems.
Goldens are highly susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, conditions that can be triggered or exacerbated by too-rapid growth of puppies. The breed tends to put on weight easily and a combination of a healthy balanced diet and regular exercise is needed to keep the dog slim and fit.
Cancer (it is the #1 cause of death in all Retrievers and is especially common in Goldens).
Early Spay -Neuter Considerations
Those of us with responsibility for the health of canine athletes need to continually read and evaluate new scientific studies to ensure that we are taking the most appropriate care of our performance dogs. This article provides evidence through a number of recent studies to suggest that veterinarians and owners working with canine athletes should revisit the standard protocol in which all dogs that are not intended for breeding are spayed and neutered at or before 6 months of age.
A study by Salmeri et al in 1991 found that bitches spayed at 7 weeks grew significantly taller than those spayed at 7 months, who were taller than those not spayed (or presumably spayed after the growth plates had closed).(1) A study of 1444 Golden Retrievers performed in 1998 and 1999 also found bitches and dogs spayed and neutered at less than a year of age were significantly taller than those spayed or neutered at more than a year of age.(2) The sex hormones, by communicating with a number of other growth-related hormones, promote the closure of the growth plates at puberty (3), so the bones of dogs or bitches neutered or spayed before puberty continue to grow. Dogs that have been spayed or neutered well before puberty can frequently be identified by their longer limbs, lighter bone structure, narrow chests and narrow skulls. This abnormal growth frequently results in significant alterations in body proportions and particularly the lengths (and therefore weights) of certain bones relative to others. For example, if the femur has achieved its genetically determined normal length at 8 months when a dog gets spayed or neutered, but the tibia, which normally stops growing at 12 to 14 months of age continues to grow, then an abnormal angle may develop at the stifle. In addition, with the extra growth, the lower leg below the stifle likely becomes heavier (because it is longer), and may cause increased stresses on the cranial cruciate ligament. In addition, sex hormones are critical for achieving peak bone density.(4) These structural and physiological alterations may be the reason why at least one recent study showed that spayed and neutered dogs had a higher incidence of CCL rupture .(5) Another recent study showed that dogs spayed or neutered before 5 1/2 months had a significantly higher incidence of hip dysplasia than those spayed or neutered after 5 1/2 months of age, although it should be noted that in this study there were no standard criteria for the diagnosis of hip dysplasia.(6) Nonetheless, breeders of purebred dogs should be cognizant of these studies and should consider whether or not pups they bred were spayed or neutered when considering breeding decisions.
A retrospective study of cardiac tumors in dogs showed that there was a 5 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma , one of the three most common cancers in dogs, in spayed bitches than intact bitches and a 2.4 times greater risk of hemangiosarcoma in neutered dogs as compared to intact males.(7) A study of 3218 dogs demonstrated that dogs that were neutered before a year of age had a significantly increased chance of developing bone cancer .(8) A separate study showed that neutered dogs had a two-fold higher risk of developing bone cancer.(9) Despite the common belief that neutering dogs helps prevent prostate cancer, at least one study suggests that neutering provides no benefit.(10) There certainly is evidence of a slightly increased risk of mammary cancer in female dogs after one heat cycle, and for increased risk with each subsequent heat. While about 30 % of mammary cancers are malignant, as in humans, when caught and surgically removed early the prognosis is very good.(12) Luckily, canine athletes are handled frequently and generally receive prompt veterinary care.
The study that identified a higher incidence of cranial cruciate ligament rupture in spayed or neutered dogs also identified an increased incidence of sexual behaviors in males and females that were neutered early.(5) Further, the study that identified a higher incidence of hip dysplasia in dogs neutered or spayed before 5 1/2 months also showed that early age gonadectomy was associated with an increased incidence of noise phobias and undesirable sexual behaviors .(6) A recent report of the American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation reported significantly more behavioral problems in spayed and neutered bitches and dogs. The most commonly observed behavioral problem in spayed females was fearful behavior and the most common problem in males was aggression .(12)
Other Health Considerations
A number of studies have shown that there is an increase in the incidence of female urinary incontinence in dogs spayed early (13), although this finding has not been universal. Certainly there is evidence that ovarian hormones are critical for maintenance of genital tissue structure and contractility.(14, 15) Neutering also has been associated with an increased likelihood of urethral sphincter incontinence in males.(16) This problem is an inconvenience, and not usually life-threatening, but nonetheless one that requires the dog to be medicated for life. A health survey of several thousand Golden Retrievers showed that spayed or neutered dogs were more likely to develop hypothyroidism .(2) This study is consistent with the results of another study in which neutering and spaying was determined to be the most significant gender-associated risk factor for development of hypothyroidism.(17) Infectious diseases were more common in dogs that were spayed or neutered at 24 weeks or less as opposed to those undergoing gonadectomy at more than 24 weeks.(18) Finally, the AKC-CHF report demonstrated a higher incidence of adverse reactions to vaccines in neutered dogs as compared to intact.(12)
I have gathered these studies to show that our practice of routinely spaying or neutering every dog at or before the age of 6 months is not a black-and-white issue. Clearly more studies need to be done to evaluate the effects of prepubertal spaying and neutering, particularly in canine athletes.
Currently, I have significant concerns with spaying or neutering canine athletes before puberty. But of course, there is the pet overpopulation problem. How can we prevent the production of unwanted dogs while still leaving the gonads to produce the hormones that are so important to canine growth and development? One answer would be to perform vasectomies in males and tubal ligation in females, to be followed after maturity by ovariohysterectomy in females to prevent mammary cancer and pyometra. One possible disadvantage is that vasectomy does not prevent some unwanted behaviors associated with males such as marking and humping. On the other hand, females and neutered males frequently participate in these behaviors too. Really, training is the best solution for these issues. Another possible disadvantage is finding a veterinarian who is experienced in performing these procedures. Nonetheless, some do, and if the procedures were in greater demand, more veterinarians would learn them.
I believe it is important that we assess each situation individually. For canine athletes, I currently recommend that dogs and bitches be spayed or neutered after 14 months of age.
The average life span of a Golden Retriever is ten to thirteen years, though there are reports of some dogs living until the age of twenty to twenty-five years, with healthy breeding and life style.
CHOOSING A REPUTABLE BREEDER
Choosing a reputable breeder is very important.. There are three options open to you in choosing this person.
PET SHOP or DEALER. The worst possible choice.
BACKYARD BREEDER. Also a poor choice.
SERIOUS HOBBY BREEDER. The very best choice.
THE BREEDER SHOULD
1. Belong to the Golden Retriever Club of America and also a local Golden Retriever Club, or an all breed club.
2. Be involved in showing his/her dogs in the breed ring, the obedience ring, in hunting tests/field trials, agility, tracking, or in a combination of any of these.
3. Be able to show you a clean environment: healthy, well-socialized puppies: and a dam with a good temperament.
4. Give you a period of time in which to allow you to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to determine its state of health.
5. Provide you with a record of the dates and types of vaccinations and de-worming done, feeding instructions, a 3-to 5- generation pedigree and AKC papers.
6. Give you written instructions on feeding, training and care.
7. Be able to show you proof that both the sire and dam of the litter have had their clearances.
8. Ask you what kind of dogs you have had in the past, and what happened to them, whether or not you have a fenced yard; and whether or not the dog will be allowed to be a house dog and member of the family.. Sincere breeders will be a bit hesitant to sell you a puppy until they know more about you.
9. Provide some sort of written contract and / or condition of sale. Any warranty of quality or health of the dog, and any warranty against development of hereditary problems should be in writing. The warranty should be absolutely explicit and a signed copy should be provided to each party.
10. Make it clear that his/her responsibilities continues long after you have taken your puppy home, in fact as long as the dog is alive.
If your breeder meets all of these requirement you are in good hands.