By Kathleen Knowles
Introduction: The ninth in the series of Dogs as Pets
Choosing a dog to become a family member is a big decision. You must determine whether you want a mix-breed dog or a pedigreed one. A mix-breed dog is exactly what it implies, more than one breed of a dog mixed together. A pedigreed dog is one breed only with nothing but that breed in the pedigree going back for generations. What size is right for you? Should you buy a long-haired dog or a short-coated one? A big dog or a small dog? In this series, we will examine pure-bred breeds only. So far, we have looked at several breeds. This time we will examine the Golden Retriever as a pet.
The Golden Retriever
The Golden Retriever is perhaps one of the most recognizable as well as one of the most popular breeds of dogs in America, ranking 3rd among all American Kennel Club breeds, and is a member of the Sporting Group (Group 1). There is plenty of evidence for the reason for the breed’s popularity. Hailing from Scotland, their name alone reveals the reason for their development. The breed was developed in the Scottish Highlands by Dudley Majoribanks, known as Lord Tweedmouth. The breed is a cross of the now extinct, Tweed Water Spaniel, the Irish Setter, and the Bloodhound. Lord Tweedmouth wanted a gun dog, suited for the rainy climate in the Highlands.
The Golden was first seen in Great Britain in 1908 and then arrived in America. The Golden’s popularity began immediately upon its arrival, and certainly has not declined since. However, the breed’s popularity really took off in the 70s.
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Goldens are medium-sized dogs bred to retrieve waterfowl undamaged due to their soft mouths. They stand 23-24 inches at the shoulders (females 21.5-22.5 inches) and weighing 65-75 pounds (females 55-65 pounds). Their life expectancy is about 10-12 years.
Besides being excellent hunting and field dogs, it is not uncommon to see them used as guide dogs for the blind, service dogs, and emotional support dogs. Goldens are one of the breeds most seen in the Obedience rings at dog shows due to their extreme intelligence and desire to please. They are also very competitive in agility. According to Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs, they rank as the fourth most intelligent breed behind the Border Collie, Poodle, and the German Shepherd.
They are sturdy, muscular, and known for the beautiful dense golden double-coated, water repellent coat with a feathery tail. The color can be golden, dark golden, or light golden. No other colors are acceptable. Their heads are broad, ears short; the eyes have a look of friendliness and intelligence, and their muzzles are straight.
The temperament is one of friendly, merry, and affectionate. Golden Retrievers are easy to train as they are very eager to please their masters. They are playful and energetic and loyal. This makes for a devoted and wonderful family dog. They generally get along with dogs as well as cats. They love water, so don’t be surprised if they are willing to jump into any pond or body of water you pass by! They are not noisy barkers. Although not known for their guarding instincts, they will alert when strangers are near.
Goldens are a breed that likes to be active. They love to hunt as they are bird dogs at heart. Swimming is a favorite activity as well as a good game of fetch. If exercise is provided daily, they can adapt to any type of living situation.
As with any breed, there will be some grooming involved. Due to its double-coat, there is considerable shedding. Brushing about once a week with a slicker brush will keep them looking nice and limit the hair you find around your home. They will need their nails trimmed, an occasional bath, and teeth brushed regularly. The Golden is a “floppy-eared” dog. It is recommended their ears be checked and occasionally cleaned to prevent infection.
They should be fed high-quality dog food in order to be certain they are receiving all the nutrients they need to keep them healthy and happy.
Although the breed is basically healthy, there are conditions one should be aware of. Some health problems that might come up are skin allergies, cancer, Cataracts, hip and elbow dysplasia, hypothyroidism, and heart disease. Although all of these conditions are possible, most Goldens will live a healthy life if proper care is taken.
All in all, Golden Retrievers make a great family pet; devoted, active with the extra added benefit of a hunting dog. They are certainly a companion who will be loyal and loving their entire lives.