- Characteristics and Temperament of a Golden Retriever
Dogs in general are pack-oriented animals. They need to interact with their pack on a regular basis to be secure. Golden's in particular have been bred through the years to make an excellent companion for people - whether it is to sit quietly in a duck blind until it is time to retrieve or as a service dog or in any other capacity. Because of this, they, even more so than some other breeds, need to interact with their people. Golden's are particularly forgiving dogs and will allow you to make many mistakes while still wanting nothing more than to please and be acknowledged for it with a scratch behind the ear. As a testament to their desire to please, the first three dogs to obtain Obedience Trial Championships were Golden Retrievers. Because Golden's are such people-oriented dogs, it's important that they live WITH their owners. A Golden relegated to the backyard while his family is in the house is an unhappy Golden. It is imperative that your Golden be regularly included in family activities. Once fully grown, they are a robust dog and will enjoy many activities with you such as walking, hiking, jogging, hunting, etc. As is common with the retriever breeds, this is a breed slow to fully mature both mentally and physically. At a year of age, they will have their full height, but their full weight will be another year or two in coming. Mentally, they remain puppies for a long time (up to two or three years of age) and many retain a very playful and clownish personality for most of their lives. Because of their kindly and easy going nature, Golden's are a popular breed. Many people, in hoping to cash in on this popularity, breed Golden's without regard to their temperament or other good attributes. You should be very selective in picking out a puppy from a breeder. Your best sources for Golden's are from a breed rescue organization that carefully screens its dogs, or from a reputable breeder who is dedicated to the overall improvement of the breed. The choice you make now will be one you live with for the next decade, so choose carefully.
Because of the Golden's coat, you _must_ regularly groom your dog. Such grooming will also help reduce the amount of overall shedding and prevent painful mats from occurring. You should be sure to start grooming in puppyhood even when it's not strictly necessary so that he quickly learns to enjoy the process and not to put up a fuss. If you groom regularly, about once a week or two, the whole procedure will take about 1/2 hour. Brush a little daily while your dog is shedding and that will help control the amount shedded. Also if your Golden picks up burrs and other nasties while outside, take a few moments right away after you return to comb them out. Start with a thorough brushing. Use a pin brush on the featherings, chest, ears, and tail. Use a slicker on the rest of the body. After brushing, you can use a comb to remove more loose coat. Use this opportunity to check for fleas, ticks, and incipient skin problems. Golden's seem to be especially prone to hot spots. Inspect and clean ears at this time too, and trim your dog's nails. If you plan to bathe your Golden, brush him thoroughly first: wet tangles only become tighter and painful. Always use a shampoo formulated for dogs since shampoos for humans will dry the skin out. Golden's are double coated breeds and should not be bathed often to avoid losing the undercoat. In many cases, you can simply wash the legs and undersides if they are dirty, wait for the dirt to dry and brush it out, or (after brushing) rinse the dog off with plain water and no shampoo. A properly textured and maintained coat should clean up easily. Golden's with the proper coat texture should not have problems with matting if they are regularly groomed. However, a coat that is softer and silkier than the desired standard will mat easily: some owners have reported the overnight appearance of mats. Smaller mats may be picked out with a metal comb, if the dog is patient enough. Larger mats will need to be removed. Don't use scissors as it is too easy to injure the dog if he moves at the wrong time. Commercially available are mat breakers (check the mail order catalogs) which can safely cut through mats and make them easy to remove. Places to look for mats include behind the ear, along the feathering, especially in the rear, and the tail. For dogs with persistent problems, you may need to brush the problem areas more frequently, or even trim them to some extent. It may help to find a groomer you like and trust and ask them for advice. Since mats grow larger, and tighten the trapped fur, they are eventually painful to your dog. They also serve as an excellent area for fleas and skin irritations to start, so keeping your dog mat-free is important. Tips: Using a flea comb is a good way to check for fleas on your dog, remove undercoats, keep tabs on the skin's condition and minimize mats, all in one! If you get your puppy from a breeder, ask the breeder to demonstrate grooming techniques (most good ones will insist on doing so anyway).
- How much do they shed?
Golden's shed a lot. They have an abundance of coat as well as feathering and they will produce a more or less constant amount of hair in your house. Some of this can be alleviated with regular and thorough brushing, but if you have an aversion to dog hair in your house, a Golden will not be a good choice.
- Are they good with kids?
Most Golden's are wonderful with kids, especially when they have been regularly exposed to well-behaved children as puppies. However, they are large and excitable and may easily knock children over if they jump up to lick their faces or propel a toddler along with a solid whack of their tails. Never leave very young children and dogs together unattended. Just as the dog could easily accidentally hurt the children, so could they hurt him by poking him in the eyes or ears or pulling his tail.
- How much exercise do they need?
They are a sporting breed and as such need plenty of exercise. They will benefit best from regular periods of high intensity activity once they are fully grown. This includes a quick session of fetching, romping with other dogs, running along the beach and so on. You do need to be careful with puppies under 18 months or so; while they need exercise, it must not be forced or sustained. For example, you cannot take them jogging or biking with you until they are fully grown, or you will damage their joints
- How about swimming?
Most Golden's love to swim, and it's excellent exercise for them, even when young. Introduce them to water and let them explore on their own. If they are unsure about the water, you might get in and swim out a bit to encourage them, but let them take their own time. Younger puppies might be more standoffish to water than they would be in another month or two; that's normal. Never toss a dog into water that doesn't want to go in! Sometimes a water crazy older dog is perfect to have along to help teach your dog to appreciate swimming. You might also try tossing in a toy for him to get, but be prepared to go out and retrieve it yourself if he doesn't! If you have a swimming pool, just remember that the dog hair in the pool will mean you need to clean the pool more frequently if you dog goes in it a lot. Be sure that your dog knows how to get out of the swimming pool; it's not a good idea to leave him unattended with access to the pool.
- Do they bark a lot?
Not typically, but they can if they are bored.
- How do they do in hot weather?
As long as they have access to shade, free moving air, and water, they will do just fine in the heat. Don't exercise them in the heat of the day, and be sure you have water with you when you do exercise them later.
- They're supposed to be good in the obedience ring, aren't they?
Golden's are typically very eager to please their owners. This translates into their being both relatively easy to train for obedience and to having a good attitude in the ring. While not all Golden's make good competitive obedience dogs, you will see many of them in the obedience ring.
- Are they any good as hunting dogs? In field trials?
Golden's do not do as well as Labradors in the field trials which are, in all fairness, biased toward the sort of work the Labrador was bred to do. But many Golden's make excellent hunters in real hunting situations.
- Is there a split in hunting and show lines? What should I look for?
There is something of a split between show, field, and even obedience lines. As with any sport that becomes highly competitive, the specialization intensifies. With Golden's, that means the show dogs will have more coat and bone and be more laid back. The field dogs generally have less coat, more drive and be intensely "birdy" (interested in birds) with good noses. The obedience dogs often have less coat and a high drive but may or may not be birdy. You should consider carefully the differences between the different lines when picking your own dog out so that there are no surprises. Looking at the parents and any of their previous offspring is a good approach. But no matter which lines you are interested in, you should try to find the puppies that are well balanced with correct structure and conformation as the base. Whether you are interested in pet, show, hunting, etc., will determine other characteristics that you want But an unsound dog does not make a good show dog, hunting dog, obedience dog, or pet!
- Do males or females make better pets (what are the differences)?
Besides the physical differences, personal preference is probably the only big one here. Many people think that the males are slightly more "teddy-bear like" than the females. Neither should show any type of aggression (including dog aggression). If left unaltered, females will sometimes show a change in personality when they are coming into heat and when they are in heat. Most often, they seem to become a bit more clingy. During this time, they may not tolerate males sniffing around them or they may be extremely interested in males. If a male is left intact and used for breeding purposes and there is another intact male and a bitch in heat, the males might show some competitive aggression. However, neutered males and females will mostly differ in size (the females will be smaller) and their individual personalities. Both males and females are good with children. For your best predictor of personality, be sure to ask about and try to meet and interact with the puppy's sire and dam. There are tests that can be done to help determine the puppy's dominance, independence, and abilities. Be sure to ask your breeder about these. Also, socializing the puppy and general obedience training are always important.
- Why do your two Golden's look so different?
The Golden is supposed to be a mid-to-large size dog, suitable for sitting in a duck blind all day with, as well as small enough to be able to haul over the side of a boat all wet (after a retrieve). The standard has a range of acceptable sizes, for females it is 21 1/2-22 1/2 inches at the shoulder, for males it is 23-24 inches at the shoulder, with an inch allowance either way. So, just in size, if you have a small female (which could be 20 1/2 inches, about 45 pounds) and a large male (which could be 25 inches, about 95 pounds) there is a BIG difference. Now, if you add variations in coat, which may come from the "type" of breeding, you can get quite a physical difference. Through the years, breeders have bred for different qualities. Some breeders are interested purely in physical appearance for show purposes. Since "big and hairy" looks stunning in the show ring and wins, these breeders have bred for those characteristics. Other breeders have bred only for field ability. Since the smaller (and often darker coloured) dogs have been the ones that are faster and flashier in the field, these breeders have tended to breed for those characteristics. There are other types, as well, but these are the most common. Just because a dog is of the "conformation" type does NOT mean that it cannot work in the field, just as being of the "field" type does NOT mean that that dog cannot win in the show ring.
- When do they grow up?
Physically, Golden's are completely mature by 2 years of age. Mentally, well, that depends on the individual, but usually not before 3 years of age. Even though Golden's are physically mature by 2, you may notice changes in them well past that time. Remember, by nature Golden's are fun-loving and happy-go-lucky, so their perceived maturity may be less because of it.