At the turn of the 20th century, the golden retriever had developed a reputation as a supurb retriever of waterfowl. Through the decades the breed morphed into a multi-purpose dog. The golden retriever of today guides the blind, assists the handicapped, sniffs out drugs and explosives, engages in search and rescue missions, comforts both young and old in hospitals and nursing homes, serves as a companion hunter and, most importantly, a family companion.
Goldens are friendly, loyal, intelligent and simply huggable. True to their retriever heritage, goldens are very "oral" and love to mouth arms, hands, shirt tails, sleeves, socks, shoes, and toys of all types. Left unsupervised, they may shred valuable items so owners learn quickly to "golden-proof" their surroundings just as they would "baby-proof" their homes for toddlers.
According to the Golden Retriever Club of America's written breed standard, males are typically 23-24 inches at the shoulder and weigh 65-75 pounds, while females are 21.5-to 22.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh 55-65 pounds. The standard outlines in detail specific traits of value in safeguarding the integrity of the breed. The standard is available on the GRCA website.
The popularity of this breed exploded over the past few decades and now, the golden consistently ranks in the top five breeds registered with the American Kennel Club. This explosion in popularity has its drawbacks. As with any popular commodity, mass marketing conducted by unscrupulous or uninformed groups of people produces an inferior product. Through the years, puppy mills and backyard breeders have flooded the market with goldens that are inferior in structure, health and temperament. Often these dogs suffer crippling illness, irritable or aggressive temperaments and even a lack of instinct to retrieve.
Even specialty breeders, in their zest to produce the ultimate dog in the area of hunting, obedience or conformation, sometimes fail to focus on the all-around good nature typical of the breed. These overzealous dogs may be difficult household companions.
All that said, buyer beware. Take the time to sort through the breeders and find one who, upon careful consideration, planned a litter based on soundness of structure, temperament and health of the parents with an eye toward producing an all around healthy, happy puppy. The breeder should be accessible to the new owners. In turn, the new owners should remain in contact with the breeder. In this way, the breeder can track the success of the breeding program.
In addition, potential puppy buyers should keep in mind that the golden is a sporting dog capable of hard work in the field so exercise is a must. Also, their coat requires attention to avoid matting. Typically, the breed sheds coat twice a year leaving tufts tumbling throughout their surroundings. Finally, just as a child is guided into adulthood with a firm, but loving hand, so must a puppy be guided. Be willing to read books, talk to the breeder and the veterinarian to learn how to guide this new family addition in the right direction.
After doing your homework, should you decide on a golden, let me welcome you to the wonderful world of being owned by a golden reriever. Once that precious puppy crawls into your heart, you will be forever hooked.