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Land of Pure Gold
Golden Retriever Information


During the nineteenth century, there was an ongoing quest among the British gentry for the perfect hunting dog. As a result, most of today's retrievers and many other hunting dogs have their roots in these early efforts. Many attempted this goal by acquiring and breeding good hunting dogs, using outcrosses to other breeds in an effort to bring in other desirable qualities. Sometimes this worked, more often it did not. That the exact origins of several of the retriever breeds is unclear is due to the somewhat haphazard or occasionally secretive methods used at the time.
The origin of the Golden Retriever, in contrast, lies in the careful work of one man, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks (later the first Lord Tweedmouth) who also set out to breed a good hunting dog. A colorful folk tale has him buying Russian circus dogs, reportedly 100+ lbs., 30 inches at the shoulder, pale blonde and extremely intelligent as the foundation for his breed. This fanciful story even appears in the GRCA's Yearbook as late as 1950. However, examination of his Stud Book, covering the years from 1835 to 1890 and finally made publicly available in 1952, records no such purchase but instead details a careful line-breeding program unusual at that time and place for dogs.

In 1865, Lord Tweedmouth purchased a yellow retriever "Nous" from an unregistered litter of otherwise black Wavy-Coated Retrievers. Nous was later bred with "Belle", a Tweed Water Spaniel, and the resulting litter produced four bitches that were instrumental to his breeding program. One of them, "Cowslip," he bred back to for over twenty years. Over the years, several outcrosses, to black Wavy Coated Retrievers, an Irish Setter, and later a sandy-colored Bloodhound occurred as he sought to improve and fix his new breed. The coat textures of the Goldens of this time reportedly varied, as did the color, which ranged from fox red to light cream.

The Wavy-Coated Retrievers were the ancestors of today's Flat-Coat Retriever and they in turn were developed from crossing setters with the lesser St. John's Water Dog of Newfoundland. The Tweed Water Spaniel, now extinct, came from early water dogs crossed with land or field spaniels to develop Water Spaniels. These spaniels were developed in the Tweed River area and were described by contemporaries as a small liver-colored retriever ("liver" at the time signifying any shade from yellow to brown).

The Kennel Club of England accepted the first Goldens for registration in 1903. At the time, they were registered as "Flat Coats -- Golden". By 1904 the first Golden placement at a field trial was recorded. Among the first shown in conformation were Culham Brass and Culham Copper. In 1911, they were recognized as a separate breed, at first called "Yellow or Golden Retrievers," but within several years the "Yellow" was dropped from their name.

The first Golden in Canada seems to have been brought over by Hon. Archie Marjoribanks in 1881. The Canadian Kennel Club first recognized the breed in 1927. In 1928, Mr. M.M. Armstrong of Winnipeg took an interest in the breed and his Gilnockie kennel was started. At his death, Gilhockie was transferred to Col. Samuel Magoffin's kennel in Denver, Colorado, and from this he eventually imported his first Golden, Am/Can CH Speedwell Pluto.

The Golden Retriever Club of Canada was formed in 1958 with the original name of the Golden Retriever Club of Ontario. In 1960 it became the Golden Retriever Club of Canada and to this day has grown steadily.

Goldens have been in the US since about 1890, with the earliest recorded dog being Hon. Archie Marjoribanks's "Lady" in 1894. The first AKC registered Golden was Robert Appleton's Lomberdale Blondin. But there was no serious interest in them until about 1930 when Magoffin's import, CH Speedwell Pluto, captured widespread interest. The Golden Retriever was subsequently recognized by the AKC in 1932. At that time, they were a rare breed.

In 1938, a group of Golden Retriever fanciers formed the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) which is today among the largest of the parent breed clubs in the AKC, numbering over 5000 members.

Characteristics and Temperament

Dogs in general are pack-oriented animals. They need to interact with their pack on a regular basis to be secure. Goldens in particular have been bred through the years to make an excellent companion for people - whether it is to sit quietly in a duck blind until it is time to retrieve or as a service dog or in any other capacity. Because of this, they, even more so than some other breeds, need to interact with their people. Goldens are particularly forgiving dogs and will allow you to make many mistakes while still wanting nothing more than to please and be acknowledged for it with a scratch behind the ear. As a testament to their desire to please, the first three dogs to obtain Obedience Trial Championships were Golden Retrievers.
Because Goldens are such people-oriented dogs, it's important that they live WITH their owners. A Golden relegated to the backyard while his family is in the house is an unhappy Golden. It is imperative that your Golden be regularly included in family activities. Once fully grown, they are a robust dog and will enjoy many activities with you such as walking, hiking, jogging, hunting, etc.

As is common with the retriever breeds, this is a breed slow to fully mature both mentally and physically. At a year of age, they will have their full height, but their full weight will be another year or two in coming. Mentally, they remain puppies for a long time (up to two or three years of age) and many retain a very playful and clownish personality for most of their lives.

Because of their kindly and easy going nature, Goldens are a popular breed. Many people, in hoping to cash in on this popularity, breed Goldens without regard to their temperament or other good attributes. You should be very selective in picking out a puppy from a breeder. Your best sources for Goldens are from a breed rescue organization that carefully screens its dogs, or from a reputable breeder who is dedicated to the overall improvement of the breed. The choice you make now will be one you live with for the next decade, so choose carefully.

Medical Problems

Hip Dysplasia

The term hip dysplasia means poor development of the hip joint, and describes an inherited developmental disease in young dogs of many different breeds. Unsound hip joints are a common problem in many breeds, and hip dysplasia can be a serious problem in any dog that is to be trained for a demanding activity.

Hip dysplasia may be diagnosed by x-ray between six months and one year of age, but this is not entirely reliable, and dogs intended for breeding should be x-rayed when fully mature. Two years of age is considered to be the minimum age for accurate determination of sound hips.

Eye Disease

Some Goldens carry genes for Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA) which is a progressive deterioration of the light-receptive area (retina) of the eye, and may result in complete blindness at a young age.

Hereditary cataracts are also common eye problems in the Golden Retriever. Examination by a Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary to determine if the cataract is of concern from a genetic standpoint. If there are any questions, the dog should not be bred.

Golden Retrievers used for breeding stock should be examined annually until at least eight years of age or longer, as hereditary eye problems can develop at varying ages.

Dogs that have undergone examination by a Board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and found to be free of hereditary eye disease can be registered with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). Note that not all forms of cataracts disqualify a dog from getting a CERF number; you should ask to see a copy of the paperwork the vet filled out (the original is sent to CERF).

The breeder should be able to show you the paperwork on both parents for eye examinations. It's important to verify that the dogs are being examined annually and not just once. If the breeder has older dogs, ask if they are still being examined as well.


Seizure disorders may arise from a variety of environmental factors including viral infections, other diseases and trauma. While an isolated seizure does not necessarily constitute a problem, dogs subject to recurring seizures should not be bred. Veterinarians can prescribe medication to control recurring seizures, however medication is not always completely effective. Epilepsy generally does not affect a dog's health or longevity, but all such dogs should be immediately neutered and not used for breeding stock: if it's hereditary, you don't want to pass it along to the pups'; if not, pregnancy increases the risk of a seizure, endangering both her and the pups' lives.

Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS) SAS, a hereditary heart disease, is known to occur in the Golden Retriever breed. There is no registry for screenings for SAS, however, breeders have begun to have their dogs screened by Board-Certified Veterinary Cardiologists, and OFA is setting up a Heart Registry program as of mid-1996. The usual screening is auscultation (listening to the heart with a stethescope). If there is any suspicion in the cardiologist's mind, an echocardiogram is run to rule out any problems. The typical proof that a breeder has had their breeding stock screened for SAS is a letter signed by a Board-Certified Veterinary Cardiologist indicating that the animal is, in their opinion, free from SAS.


Hypothyroidism is characterized by atrophy or malfunction of the thyroid gland. Clinical symptoms include obesity, lethargy, and/or coat problems. Affected animals may also have various reproductive problems including irregular or absent heat cycle and lack of fertility in both male and female.

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is by laboratory tests measuring levels of T3 and T4 (produced by the thyroid gland) in the blood. Treatment consists of daily administration of oral thyroid supplement. When treated successfully the prognosis is excellent and the dog's lifespan is normal. Lifelong thyroid supplementation may be required.

Many clinically normal, healthy Goldens may test slightly under the accepted range of "normal" T3 and T4 levels and it is quite possible that the normal values for this breed may be slightly lower than the values used for the general canine population. There are some dogs that will have epileptic attacks when hypothyroid and stop seizuring when put on thyroid. While there is a link, the hypothyroid condition does not cause epilepsy, and the dog should still be monitored for epilepsy.


Skin allergies are very common in Golden Retrievers and the offending allergens are numerous - a flea bite, airborne pollen, dust, mold, food. Symptoms can range from constant biting, licking and scratching to constant, chronic ear infections. In many cases diet can play a large role in the allergic dog. If you suspect you have an allergic animal, consult with a canine allergist to determine the actual extent of the problem.

Allergies coupled with low thyroid levels are commonly seen and it is often worth testing for the other if you see the one in your dog.


ecause of the Golden's coat, you must regularly groom your dog. Such grooming will also help reduce the amount of overall shedding and prevent painful mats from occuring.

You should be sure to start grooming in puppyhood even when it's not strictly necessary so that he quickly learns to enjoy the process and not to put up a fuss.

If you groom regularly, about once a week or two, the whole procedure will take about 1/2 hour. Brush a little daily while your dog is shedding and that will help control the amount shedded. Also if your Golden picks up burrs and other nasties while outside, take a few moments right away after you return to comb them out.

Start with a thorough brushing. Use a pin brush on the featherings, chest, ears, and tail. Use a slicker on the rest of the body. After brushing, you can use a comb to remove more loose coat. Use this opportunity to check for fleas, ticks, and incipient skin problems. Goldens seem to be especially prone to hot spots. Inspect and clean ears at this time too, and trim your dog's nails.

If you plan to bathe your Golden, brush him thoroughly first: wet tangles only become tighter and painful. Always use a shampoo formulated for dogs since shampoos for humans will dry the skin out. Goldens are double coated breeds and should not be bathed often to avoid losing the undercoat. In many cases, you can simply wash the legs and undersides if they are dirty, wait for the dirt to dry and brush it out, or (after brushing) rinse the dog off with plain water and no shampoo. A properly textured and maintained coat should clean up easily.

Goldens with the proper coat texture should not have problems with matting if they are regularly groomed. However, a coat that is softer and silkier than the desired standard will mat easily: some owners have reported the overnight appearance of mats. Smaller mats may be picked out with a metal comb, if the dog is patient enough. Larger mats will need to be removed. Don't use scissors as it is too easy to injure the dog if he moves at the wrong time. Commercially available are mat breakers (check the mail order catalogs) which can safely cut through mats and make them easy to remove. Places to look for mats include behind the ear, along the feathering, especially in the rear, and the tail. For dogs with persistent problems, you may need to brush the problem areas more frequently, or even trim them to some extent. It may help to find a groomer you like and trust and ask them for advice. Since mats grow larger, and tighten the trapped fur, they are eventually painful to your dog. They also serve as an excellent area for fleas and skin irritations to start, so keeping your dog mat-free is important.

Tips: Using a flea comb is a good way to check for fleas on your dog, remove undercoats, keep tabs on the skin's condition and minimize mats, all in one! If you get your puppy from a breeder, ask the breeder to demonstrate grooming techniques (most good ones will insist on doing so anyway).

How to Scratch a Golden Retriever

1. Scratching a Golden Retriever in this spot will cause the head to turn to the side being scratched.
2. Scratching the ear will also cause the head to turn to the side being scratched.
3. The back is a good place to scratch a Golden Retriever. This will usually cause the dog to twist from side to side.
4. Scratching a Golden Retriever on the chest will cause the head to turn from side to side.
5. When scratching the hip, a Golden Retriever will sometimes turn its head towards the back of its body in an upward motion.
6. A lot of dogs do not like you to touch their paws. You should get a dog used to having their paws handled when they are puppies. This will help when clipping their nails.

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