It’s been a year since we brought home our first family dog, a golden retriever puppy. I had always wanted one. It just took a little (lot) of convincing for my husband to get on board! I found a puppy on my son’s birthday and drove half way across the state to go get him and bring him home just as the kids were getting off the bus.
It’s been a learning curve ever since and I’ve done a lot of researching on the breed in the mean time.
If I had to sum up the personality of the breed in one word it’d be “friendly”. These dogs are never happier than when they are right in the mix of things, with their people.
Goldens are possibly the friendliest breed. They love meeting new people, they love playing with other dogs. They make ‘ok’ watch dogs. They like to keep an eye on the neighborhood. Mine will bark at anything he sees that looks suspicious, like a garbage bag that has blown into the yard. But they are horrible guard dogs. If someone breaks into your house your golden is likely to give them an enthusiastic greeting. They also aren’t big barkers. Mine rarely barks. Which is 90% a good thing but can be a problem in that he quietly runs to the basement door when he has to relieve himself, which has gone unnoticed with messy results.
These dogs are rarely aggressive. This is hugely important to me, because I live in a neighborhood with a lot of small children. Children that often come to the door to play with my children. I can’t have an aggressive dog that see’s strangers as a threat. But if you want an imposing guard dog, a golden is definitely not for you! Goldens were bred in Scotland to be hunting dogs, retrieving fowl in swampy conditions. In most lines the strong hunting genes have been muted in favor of looks and personality. But they still have a relatively strong prey drive. They will go crazy and drag you half way down the street in pursuit of a SQUIRREL!
Mine inadvertently terrified a few of the neighborhood kids when they ran away and he gave chase.
We bought a gentle leader collar early on, to curb his pulling on walks. These are very strong dogs so you really need to train them well and/or get a specialized collar to reduce pulling on walks.
Goldens are very enthusiastic eaters. Mine wolfs down his food within 60 seconds and sniffs around for more. If you have a golden you’ll have to be careful to not overfeed them. Many will happily eat their way into a doggy-weight problem. Mine is currently a good five pounds overweight, at 80 pounds. It’s really hard to cut back on treats when they beg with the world’s cutest canine face.
So along with a careful diet, you’ll also need to provide a lot of exercise. As hunting dogs, they were meant to spend a lot of time running and swimming though challenging conditions.
A dog that isn’t properly exercised is likely to become overweight, develop health problems, and exhibit destructive behavior like digging or chewing up your couch.
Goldens, as a large breed, can also develop problems with their hips. So you don’t want to run them too hard until they are mature, about a year and a half. I like taking mine to a local nature reserve where he can swim and run on soft grass. But a brisk daily walk around town works too!
Goldens are very social dogs. If you can’t provide a lot of interaction, a golden probably isn’t for you. I jokingly call mine my “shadow” because he is almost never more than a foot away from me. He wants to be near me, all the time. When I leave he lays by the door until I come home. If I’m sitting down he wants to be cuddled up to me. This is not the type of dog that will take well to being an outdoor dog. This is a family dog, that needs a lot of interaction.
Golden’s rank at the top as great family dogs. They are very patient and gentle with young children.
So, we covered all the “good”. Golden’s are extremely friendly, sweet, loyal, gentle and easy going. They are highly trainable, among the most intelligent of the dog breeds. They are also just gorgeous. I may be biased but I think they are the most beautiful dog breed. Not only that, but they have wonderfully soft fur that is pleasant to pet.
Now what about the bad?
Golden’s are notorious for health problems. From allergies to cancer. Mine has had chronic ear infections, as the long floppy ears trap moisture. You’ll want to feed your dog a premium dog food. We opt for grain free. I’ve heard of golden’s living healthy lives of up to 17 years. So take good care of your dog and hope for the best.
The beautiful golden coat is very thick and sheds like crazy. I vacuum 2-3 times and easily fill the canister with an insane amount of dog fur. Their coat also produces an oil that helps makes them water repellant and it attributes to a strong “doggy” odor. They aren’t the stinkiest dog, but they definitely need a regular bath. Their long fur can also require regular brushing and the removal of matted fur.
They don’t have stinky breathe and they aren’t quite big enough to slobber, so that’s a plus!
Golden’s are very “mouthy”. They love to chew so make sure you provide plenty of chews toys. Ours will run off with our shoes, though he know better than to chew them up! We really had to work with ours when he was a small puppy because he always wanted to chew on our hands with his sharp puppy teeth. It’s something he grew out of, thankfully.
Golden’s are wonderful dogs. So much so that I don’t think I would ever get a different breed. If you can deal with some of the challenges, you will truly find a wonderful companion and best friend.