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Is a golden retriever the right dog for you?

Golden retriever runs in leaves.

The Golden retriever is a high-energy, intelligent dog whose willingness to please make it an ideal dog for families and first-time owners.

Intelligent, loyal, and eager to please, the golden retriever is ranked third on the American Kennel Club’s list of the most popular dog breeds, right behind Labrador retrievers and German shepherds.

What is it like to have a golden retriever puppy? And what happens when that puppy grows up? Do golden retrievers shed much? These are just a few of the facts we’ll cover in our guide to goldens.

Breed characteristics

First bred as hunting dogs, goldens now are most popular as family pets.

Females stand 21.5 to 22.5 inches high, and males are a bit taller, at the height of 23 to 24 inches. The average female golden weighs 55 to 65 pounds, while the average male weighs in at 65 to 75 pounds.

Golden retriever colors vary from light cream to a dark golden red. That is just a shade lighter than a golden Irish, which is a cross between the golden retriever and the Irish setter.

Health issues

Golden retriever puppies eat from metal food bowls.

If you’re buying a golden retriever puppy, be sure to check the health of the parents first.

Is a golden a good dog to buy? The answer depends on how reputable the breeder is, and on the health clearances from the puppy’s parents. Insist on seeing the parents, and insist on viewing health certificates.

Hip, heart, and eye health certificates aren’t a guarantee that health problems won’t arise. But it is vital to get one before you purchase a puppy and fall in love!

There are a few common golden health problems; symptoms vary by condition. Cancer, cataracts, sub-aortic stenosis, epilepsy, skin allergies, hypothyroidism, and hip dysplasia are the most common medical issues, while separation anxiety is the most common problem with behavioral health.

Since genetics partly determine the price of a golden, you will pay more for a dog with healthy, certified parents. Even with health certifications, there are no guarantees. Serious health issues can be expensive. For example, Embrace Pet Insurance quotes the average golden retriever hip dysplasia surgery cost at anywhere between $1,700 and $4,700.

The average life expectancy of a golden retriever is ten to 13 years, although some dogs have longer or shorter lives.


Goldens have a reputation for being sociable, friendly, and fun to be around if they are properly trained, socialized, and get the exercise they need. Like many other dogs that thrive on companionship, golden retrievers don’t respond well to loneliness. If left alone for long periods, they’re likely to develop anxiety and turn to destructive behaviors in an attempt to soothe themselves.

This breed typically gets along well with the entire family, including other pets and young children. Most well-socialized goldens will alert their families when visitors are at the door but will greet new people with a friendly attitude. If you’re looking for a protective guard dog, a golden probably shouldn’t be your first choice.


The typical golden retriever has a beautiful coat with long, water-repellent guard hairs on top and a fluffy, warm, water-proof coat underneath.

While the dogs shed year-round, daily brushing does wonder in keeping tangles and mattes from forming, plus it gives your dog a beautiful glow. As winter turns to spring, goldens shed most of their thick, warm undercoat. This calls for more intensive grooming sessions, either at home or with the help of a professional.

Like other dog breeds, the dogs need to have their nails trimmed regularly, plus they need to have their tear ducts wiped, and their ears kept clean. Teach your golden puppy to accept toothbrushing, and they’ll enjoy better dental health.

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Golden retriever puppies are intelligent and highly trainable, partly explaining why golden retriever service dogs are so popular. Training should begin as soon as your golden retriever puppy comes home. Start immediately with basic crate training and obedience training. Once your puppy learns basic commands, you can move on to more advanced training.

Since goldens are active, high-energy dogs, you’ll be glad that you took time for basic obedience. A golden retriever won the first-ever AKC National Obedience Championship in 1995, according to the Golden Retriever Club of America.


Golden retriever plays fetch.

Golden retrievers have lots of energy and enjoy long walks and playing fetch.

If you’re active, then a golden retriever will likely make a fantastic companion. While these dogs have a reputation for being laid-back and easygoing, they do need plenty of exercise each day.

Walking, running, and playing fetch top the list – and as water-loving dogs, the dogs enjoy swimming, too.

If you’re looking for a dog that’s happy with life as a quasi-couch potato, consider a dog breed that needs less exercise. Low energy options include Pugs, Basset hounds, and English bulldogs. Of course, you also might adopt an older golden since these dogs do slow down as the years pass by.

Finding a Golden Retriever

If you’re hoping to buy a golden retriever, be sure to work with a responsible breeder rather than a puppy mill.

Rather than buy a puppy, consider getting a dog from a golden retriever rescue such as PawMaw, GRREAT: Golden Retriever Rescue, Education, and Training or Golden Retriever Rescue Resource.  You also can search for goldens on

Bring home a great family dog

Boy feeds golden retriever ice cream.

With their friendly natures, golden retrievers are excellent dogs for kids.

So, is a golden retriever a good first dog? Although goldens are large, high-energy dogs, their friendly nature, intelligence, and willingness to please make them an ideal choice for many first-time dog owners.

With help from a professional trainer, adorable golden puppies grow up to be friendly, warm-hearted dogs that bring joy to their families.  

Lauretta Williams is one of the co-founders of, a website dedicated to creating happy endings by reuniting people with their lost pets.

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