Five Questions About Golden Retrievers, Answered

By: Orvis Staff


The golden retriever is a true family dog who loves the outdoors.
Photo by Dirk Vorderstraße, via Wikipedia, used by CC BY 2.0

The happy-go-lucky Golden Retriever is the star of the show—quite literally, in many cases—and anyone who has ever owned one can tell you why. They’re a friendly, highly coveted dog breed with a well-known reputation for being the perfect pet. You’ve seen them in movies, competing in agility, at the dog park, and in the show ring. This breed is everywhere, so what’s so special about them? Ask a Golden owner and they’ll likely tell you “everything.”

Are Golden Retrievers Smart?

Not only is the Golden Retriever near the front of the pack for popularity, he also ranks as one of the smartest dog breeds. In an intelligence test that ranked dog breeds based on a number of factors, including their working and obedience intelligence—or their ability to learn and repeat skills from a trainer—the Golden Retriever ranked at number four. They are eager and hardworking in nature and possess a quick wit. Where did they get this drive to succeed? Breeders have spent generations selecting for specific traits, which has ingrained the ability to learn and the desire to please into the Golden Retriever. This means the Golden Retriever, as a breed, is expected to perform admirably in the show ring and at home. The breed standards require the Golden be highly trainable and obedient, ready to work, and a wonderful family dog.

You’ll find the polite, trainable Golden Retriever working as a guide dog and in other capacities. He has a keen sense of smell, and thus many Golden Retrievers work in law enforcement or as search-and-rescue dogs.

But with their intelligence come a few drawbacks. Even Goldens in the home need plenty of mental stimulation and can become destructive if bored. They are also known to outsmart their owners by figuring out sneaky ways around the rules.

Are Golden Retrievers Labradors?

While there are similarities between them—including ancestry—Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are two different breeds. Both dogs were bred to work, enjoy the water, and possess a strong love of people—but have distinct differences in personality and appearance.

The most obvious difference is in appearance. While they are similar in size within an inch or two, the Golden Retriever has longer fur and a looser stance than the sturdy Lab. And the Golden’s feathered tail is as recognizable as its perpetual smile.

Temperament-wise, Golden Retrievers are more sensitive than the Labrador Retriever. They need positive reinforcement and joyful recognition of their hard work, and they desire an abundance of attention. They can experience separation anxiety if left alone too long, which can mean a higher maintenance dog.

Do Golden Retrievers Have Hair or Fur?

The Golden Retriever has a medium-length coat with feathering at the legs, stomach, and tail, but is this coat made of hair or fur? Technically, dog hair and fur are the same thing—though some dog breeds are considered by breeders and the AKC to possess ‘hair’ because the coat grows longer or may shed minimally, like the Poodle or Afghan Hound’s coat. Dogs considered to have hair rather than fur usually lack an undercoat, which can result in less shedding.

Every dog’s genetics determines how long its coat will grow before it stops. Hair—human, dog, or otherwise—grows in cycles with phases of growth, resting, and shedding. The hair on a short-coated dog will grow to a genetically predetermined length before shedding, likewise for a long-coated dog. The difference is that a long-coated dog has a slower growth cycle, resulting in longer hair and less shedding. Even long-haired dogs and humans have a limit because hair growth is cyclical and will shed in order to make room for new hair to grow from the follicle at the beginning of a new growth period.

The Golden Retriever has a medium length double coat, usually referred to as ‘fur,’ that sheds extensively. Regular grooming year-round, with extra during seasonal shedding, can help control stray fur.

Are Golden Retrievers Good Guard Dogs?

A Golden Retriever may make a good watchdog to alert you to newcomers, as the loyal breed will bark when a stranger approaches. However, their gentle and friendly nature means they lack the inclination to guard. You’re more likely find your Golden Retriever greeting a new person with a wagging tail, regardless of the visitor’s intent.

Are Golden Retrievers Good Apartment Dogs?

With plenty of exercise and attention, the Golden Retriever can happily call an apartment ‘home.’ They are able to relax at home as long as they’re getting enough exercise throughout the day. They are working dogs, so they have plenty of energy to burn—and it takes more than a quick walk outdoors. Goldens need plenty of time to run and play—an hour at least—and this time is best spent outside with their human companions alongside them.

The breed is known for its intense loyalty to family, and if left alone for long periods, Goldens may suffer from separation anxiety. Symptoms of separation anxiety include destructive behaviors and barking—neighbors won’t appreciate the noise, and landlords will be frustrated by property damage, so Golden Retrievers will need quality time to exercise both body and mind. They are also fond of food and are known to overeat, leading to obesity and other health concerns, so exercise is important. Long walks, games of fetch, agility, and hikes all keep the Golden Retriever happy and healthy.

The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dogs because of his high intelligence, friendly demeanor, and loyalty. He is a steadfast breed who wants nothing more than to please his people. If your idea of the perfect dog is a smart, friendly, lovable family member who wants to stick close by your side, the Golden Retriever is what you’re looking for. You get the whole fantastic package with this breed. That is, if you can put up with the inevitable dog fur.

Wondering if a Golden Retriever is right for you? Check out our Dog Breed Selector to find out which breed is best for your lifestyle.

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