The Versatile Golden Retriever

So you are interested in acquiring a Golden Retriever because you think it is a friendly and good looking dog breed and you have heard that it behaves well with children. Well you are right in that the Golden is one of the best family-oriented dogs in the world as well as being one of the best looking and friendliest of the retriever dog breeds.

However, to simply limit the Golden’s description to child-friendly and good looking is to do the dog breed a major disservice. The Golden Retriever is one of the most versatile dog breeds known to man. This retriever is a good hunting dog, guide dog for the blind, narcotics dog, as well as an outstanding competitor in agility, retriever field trial, and obedience competitions.

The versatile Golden manages all this while being an outstanding family dog. The list of superlatives that can be used to describe this breed are endless, but we can limit ourselves to: gentle, confident, loyal, cheerful, trustworthy, active, friendly, intelligent, eager to please and responsive to training. It is these last three characteristics that enable the Golden to be trained to such a high-level for work and competition.

The origin of the Golden can be traced back to mid-19th century Britain. A Scotsman, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks later Lord Tweedsmuir, developed the breed both as a land hunting dog and a water retriever. The breeding records show that the Golden has a mixture of sporting dog breeds in its lineage.

These breeds include the wavy-coated Retriever, the yellow Tweed Water Spaniel, the Irish Setter and the sandy-colored Bloodhound. The resulting line of Golden Retrievers was officially recognized as a pure-bred breed in Britain in 1913 and by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1925.

The Golden’s water-repellant coat may be a rich shade of gold or a lighter cream color. The coat is easy to care for and only requires weekly combing and brushing except when shedding.

Male Goldens are fairly large and stand 23 to 24 inches tall at shoulder height and weigh from 65 to 75 pounds. Females are smaller and stand 21.5 to 22.5 inches tall at shoulder height and weigh from 55 to 65 pounds.

The popularity of the Golden is not due to its prowess as a hunting dog or its ability to be trained to a high-level for work and competition. It is largely based on its popularity as a family-oriented dog breed. The Golden was ranked 2nd out of 154 dog breeds in 2004 AKC registrations.

It isn’t, however, all smiles and chuckles when raising a Golden. The Golden Retriever remains goofy and puppy-like for several years. This can be amusing but it can also be frustrating. Young Goldens tend to be overly exuberant and you must supervise young toddlers around them in order to avoid toddler knock down.

Therefore Goldens should be socialized and obedience trained when they are puppies. On the other hand, young children also must be supervised as the Golden is so docile it will let them do almost anything to it – even dress the dog up like a doll.

Goldens also have a tendency to mouth everything and everybody so they should be provided with lots of toys to carry around. The friendly Golden, with its constantly wagging tail, will clear coffee tables wherever it walks.

Goldens should be given regular exercise, not too vigorous, several times a day when they are young. After the Golden is fully grown it can be taken jogging, hiking or biking. These retrievers love to swim whenever possible and if given enough exercise can adapt to most living conditions.

If you are seriously interested in acquiring a Golden Retriever then you should check with your national pure-bred dog organizations such as the American (www.akc.org) or Canadian Kennel (www.ckc.com) Clubs to look for conformation shows in your area.

Make sure you talk to owners and breeders at these shows to see if your lifestyle is really suited to this breed. Additional information on Goldens and on specific shows and competitions in your area can be found by checking with the national Golden Retriever Clubs.

In the US it is the Golden Retriever Club of America (www.grca.org) and in Canada it is the Golden Retriever Club of Canada (www.grcc.net). Both of these umbrella organizations will point you to the local chapter closest to your home that will be able to provide you with information on reputable breeders. They can also provide you with information on Golden Retriever rescue organizations in case you wish to obtain an adult dog.

The national Golden Retriever clubs are dedicated to improving the bloodlines of Golden’s and eliminating and reducing the incidence of inherited diseases. These clubs will encourage you to ask the breeder for the health clearances appropriate for Goldens.

Goldens are a fairly robust and healthy dog breed that can be expected to live for 10 to 14 years. Unfortunately, because of the dog breeds popularity some backyard breeders and puppy mills are producing defective and even aggressive representatives of the breed.

Common health problems include: inherited musculoskeletal disorders such as hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia; eye diseases such as progressive retinal atrophy and juvenile cataracts; sub aortic stenosis (SAS) heart disease and hypothyroidism.

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