The Golden Retriever is a medium/large gun dog, that was originally bred to retrieve shot water fowl such as ducks and other game birds, during a hunt. The name Retriever refers to the breeds ability to retrieve shot prey, undamaged in its soft mouth. Golden Retrievers love water and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards.
During the 19th century, wild fowl hunting was a popular sport amongst the noble men of Scotland, but existing Retriever breeds were inadequate for retrieving downed game from both water and land. This was necessary because the hunting grounds of the time were pocketed with marshy ponds and rivers, as a consequence the best Water Spaniels were crossed with the existing retrivers, creating the breed we know today as the Golden Retriever.
The Golden Retriver was first developed near Glen Affric, in Scotland, at ‘Guisachan’ the highland estate of Dudley Majoribanks, 1st Baron Tweedmouth (a Scottish businessman and Liberal politician), the breed is thought to have originated from the now extinct Russian tracker dog.
With the improvement of guns during the 1800s, more fowl were being downed, from increasing distances and over difficult terrain, meaning more birds were being lost in the fields. This is why a new breed of dog was needed, one which could handle all terrain and bring back downed birds.
The original cross was of a yellow coloured Retriever called ‘Nous’ and a Tweed Water Spaniel female called ‘Belle’. The Tweed Water Spaniel is now extinct, but was common in Scotland at the time. Majoribanks purchased Nous in 1865 from an otherwiseblack wavy coated litter of pups. His aim was to produce a more rigourous and powerful dog than previous retrievers, but one that would still be gentle and trainable.
Golden Retrievers were first accepted for registration by the Kennel club in 1903, as Flat coats-Golden, they were first exhibited in 1908. It was seventeen years later when the breed was recognised by the American Kennel club in 1925, in 1938 the Golden Retriver club of America was founded. In 1999, Golden Retrievers were ranked second for American Kennel club registrations.
British type Golden Retrievers are prevalent throughout Europe and Australia. The skull is broader and the forequarters more muscular than in other types, the muzzle is balanced and chiseled. The coat is usually lighter in colour than in the American type. Male Golden Retrievers stand between 22 and 24in (56 to 61cm) at the withers, females are a little smaller between 20 and 22in (51-56cm). Acceptable weights are not specified in the UK standard, but the Kennel club calls for a level topline and straight hind quarters.
American types are taller and less muscular, the male stands at 23 to 24in (55 to 61cm) in height at the withers, females are 21.5 to 22.5in (55 to 57cm) tall. Their coats are darker in colour, and occur in various shades of lustrous gold with moderate feathering. When running they have a free smooth powerful and well co-ordinated gait, as the dog runs its feet converge towards the centre of its line of balance. The American standard also as requirements about the proportion, substance, head, skull, neck, body, topline, forequarters and hindquarters.
The temperament of the Golden Retriver is one of the hallmarks of the breed, it is described by the standard as kind, friendly, and confident. Golden Retrievers make excellent family pets, particulary as they are good with children. The typical Golden Retriver is calm and naturally intelligent withexceptional eagerness to please, their trusting and gentle nature makes them a poor choice for a guard dog.
Golden Retrievers get on well with other dogs, cats and livestock, they are particulary valued for their high levels of socialibility towards people, calmness and willingness to learn. Because of this, they are commonly used as guide dogs, mobility assistance dogs and search and rescue dogs.
The average lifespan for Golden Retrivers is about 11 to 12 years.
Golden Retrivers are known to have genetic disorders and other diseaes, hip dysplasia is common in the breed. When buying a puppy the pedigree should be known and the dog should be checked for the disease by a vet. Obesity is also common in the breed, because Golden Retrievers love to eat, puppies should eat about three cups of food a day, and adults three to five cups, depending on the food and how active the dog is.
As with most dog breeds cancer is the number one killer, responsible for over half the deaths recorded, the most common of these are hermangiosarcoma ( a blood related cancer), lymphosarcoma (caused by malignant lymphglands) and mast cell tumour (bone marrow cancer).
They may also suffer from heart diseases, joint diseases and skin diseases, the most common skin diseases are caused by allergies. Golden retrievers require regular grooming and occasional baths, their coat may shred somewhat during the year, but they are known to shred profusely twice a year. They also need their ears cleaning on a regular basis, to stop infection from occuring.