Golden Retriever

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    History & Overview

    The origins of the Golden Retriever dog go back to the nineteenth century. At that time Setters and Pointers were often trained to retrieve and do other work. It was not until 1840 that dog breeding enthusiasts decided to make a new breed which would only be used to find and bring back wounded and dead game.

    The aim was to create a dog with brains, first-rate nose, tender mouth, stamina, but with less disposition to hunt than Setters and Spaniels. It was believed that the best retrievers were bred from a cross between the Setter and the Newfoundland, Labradors and the Water Spaniels known for their remarkable ability to retrieve game from the most inaccessible places.

    The systematic yellow line-breeding in Scotland laid the firm foundation of the Golden Retriever as a breed. The first Golden Retrievers were exhibited under the name of “Flat-coats, Golden” in England in 1908.

    The early Golden Retriever dogs were bigger, often longer in the leg, with heavy ears. These Golden Retriever dogs were noted for excellence in water and delightful disposition and trainability. When the breed standard had first been drawn up by the Golden Retriever Club (UK) in 1911, the cream had been excluded as a permissible color, and in the 1920s light-coloured dogs were not popular. Color tended to be darker, and light ones were frowned on by some judges until 1936 when the Golden Retriever breed Standard was altered to include cream and shades of gold and cream.

    The first Golden Retriever, born from British parents, was registered in the United States with the American Kennel Club in 1925. Canadian and American Champion speedwell Pluto, owned by S.S. Magoffin, was one of the great pillars of the Golden Retriever breed in North America.

    He was the first Golden Retriever to win a Best in Show. His record also included two Sporting Group Firsts. The Golden Retriever Club of America held its first licensed field trials near the Ozaukee Country Club. Stilrovin Nitro Express (Nite), owned by Ralph G. Boalt, became the first Golden Retriever dog to win top honors in the first year of open competition.

    Since 1945, specialty shows have been introduced that include conformation judging, field trials, obedience trials and tracking. Working certificate tests are held for those Golden Retriever owners who wish their dogs to compete in hunting stakes but who do not have the time or interest to pursue field trials.

    Whoever it was that wrote about a dog being man’s best friend must have had a Golden Retriever in mind. This very social breed does very well with children also. Don’t mistake the size of this dog for being an excellent watchdog. The Golden Retriever has never met a stranger it didn’t like. Their pleasant personality is one reason Golden Retrievers are trained to work with the blind.

    The Golden Retriever is reliable. He learns quickly and remembers fully, learning anything a patient owner can teach him. He is an easy-going, almost imperturbable pet at home, perfect for children to romp with. Once he learns his place, he keeps it. The Golden is sturdy enough to protect himself against children’s abuse and even-tempered enough to take rough handling in his stride. In general, he is an excellent watchdog. The Golden Retriever is a supreme family, service and sporting dog because his intelligence, beauty, loyalty and steady nerves are all fundamental characteristics of the breed.

    Type and Conformation

    Type and conformation are closely related, yet each has distinct meaning and importance in the overall picture.


    Type, in a broad sense, is what separates one breed from another in shape, size, use, performance, and temperament. For example, Alaskan Malamutes are sled dogs built to pull; Fox Terriers are dogs bred to run into earth and flush a fox out of its burrows. Golden Retrievers are primarily swimming dogs used by hunters to recover game in water and upland fields. In a more limited sense, type applies to the specific traits of an individual dog as an example of its own breed, such as expression, character, coat texture, or color.


    Conformation has to do with body structure, i.e. how the bones, muscles, and ligaments fit together to best accomplish a specific function.


    To be outstanding, a purebred dog must possess good type as well as a sound conformation. Most have moderate degrees of both, and some are strong in one quality and weak in the other. A golden retriever might display good type through a beautiful head, a lustrous coat and an outgoing personality, but his feet might be badly splayed. Every judge has his preferences. The improvement of the Golden breed depends on the ability of breeders to recognize and promote good quality.

    In conformation, the body of a mature Golden Retriever should have more length than height to allow room for the ribs to extend well back and provide free action. Variation in movements, as observed in field trials, are the results of differences in conformation which relate basically to angulation and balance. Balance in Golden Retrievers has to do not only with the proportions of head size, neck, depth of chest and the ratio of the body to legs, but also to the angulation on both ends. Angulation is the bend in any or all of the joints and their influence on efficiency. If the front fails to match the rear, the Golden Retriever will not move properly.


    Intelligence, loyalty, friendliness, trustworthiness, devotion and responsiveness are qualities among others that seem unique to Golden Retrievers, and that won its ever-growing popularity as a great family and therapy dog.

    Typical is the Golden that lives for his family, befriends the cats and neighborhood dogs, plays with the children, and waits for the arrival of the school bus with remarkable punctuality; that welcomes guests with a paw shake, yet stands his ground with detachment at the arrival of suspicious strangers. Typical is the Golden Retriever that takes treatment in the veterinarian office with unquestioning tolerance; that patiently and proudly allows visitors to view newly born pups. Typical, too, is the Golden Retriever that guides his blind owner in assignments where initiative and common sense are of primary importance.

    As a breed, Golden Retrievers are not intended to be watchdogs, but they possess a keen awareness of the unusual. Most Golden Retrievers will alert their owners by barking or showing signs of uneasiness. Signs of aggressiveness should not be tolerated, and any tendency to growl at other dogs should be disciplined on the spot. Shyness should be avoided.

    At A Glance

    Other Names:


    Country of Origin:

    Great Britain




    FCI Classification: Group 8: Retrievers, Flushing Dogs and Water Dogs. Section 1 Retrievers. With Working Trial
    AKC Classification: Sporting Group


    Medium to Large (23 – 24 inches at the shoulders)


    Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany. A few white hairs on chest only are permissible.

    Litter Size:


    Life Span:

    10 – 12 years

    Grooming Requirements:

    Waterproof, dense undercoat coat requires weekly brushing and combing to prevent matting.




    Friendly and intelligent with a desire to please. An excellent choice for a family with children. Beauty in motion.

    Social skills:

    Golden Retrievers are generally good with other animals.

    Suitability for Children:

    The Goldens love children.

    Exercise Needs:

    Golden Retrievers should be exercised about 90 minutes every day.

    Train Ability:

    Golden Retrievers are easily trained. Early training is recommended to curb the overly friendly nature of Goldens.

    Health & Behavioral Issues:

    Portosystemic Shunt

    Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) is an inherited or acquired condition in dogs and cats when the blood flow is diverted from the liver which results in the accumulation of toxins in the liver and its disfunction. The disease occurs in Yorkshire Terrier, Maltese, Himalayan and Persian cats and other breeds.

    A portosystemic shunt is an abnormal vessel that allows blood to bypass the liver. As a result, the blood is not cleansed by one of the bodies filters: the liver, which results in neurological diseases. Dogs with PSS have small liver, large kidneys, and stones in bladder or kidneys.

    First signs of PSS are usually found in young puppies and may include loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhea, pica (hunger for non-food substances), depression, lethargy, frequent urinating, excessive thirst, weakness, poor balance, blindness, seizures, and intolerance of protein-rich food. The exact causes of PSS are unknown.

    Surgery is the best treatment for a shunt. Many dogs become normal and require no medication or diet control providing the surgery did not have any complications and was performed before the atrophy of the liver.

    Most Golden Retrievers with congenital portosystemic shunts show clinical signs before 6 months of age. Where signs are subtle, the condition may not be diagnosed until much later. Shunts are significantly more likely to be found in female than male dogs.

    Retinal Dysplasia

    Retinal Dysplasia (RD) is a congenital, local or generalized malformation of the Retina that may result from trauma, a genetic defect, or damage caused by a viral infection, such as herpesvirus and parvovirus. Most forms of retinal dysplasia in dogs are inherited. The Retina is a layer of nervous tissue which covers the back of the eyeball where the sensation of vision occurs.

    The whole eye is just a container for this tissue that supplies the eye with the necessary nutrition and focuses light on the Retina. Retinal dysplasia is an abnormal development of the Retina. Light microscopic examination of affected eyes will show folds and rosettes within the outer retinal layers. Heritable retinal dysplasia is the most common form and has been described in many breeds of dogs.

    Retinal folds rarely cause serious vision problems as they are usually just small blind areas which may not be noticed by the dog. However, large areas of dysplasia (geographic dysplasia) may lead to visual impairment and dogs with retinal detachments may become totally blind. Congenital cataracts, often accompany the retinal dysplasia.

    Retinal dysplasia is a congenital defect and does not progress as the dog ages. Some dogs will not have any symptoms and can only be identified with an ophthalmic examination. More severely affected puppies may be partially or totally blind. Retinal dysplasia can be found through specialised eye exams performed by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) certified ophthalmologists.

    In most cases, retinal dysplasia is hereditary. Also, prenatal infections with herpesvirus and parvovirus, radiation exposure, toxins and trauma may lead to it. The herpes infection in puppies usually results in severe eye inflammation with subsequent retinal dysplasia. There is no effective treatment for RD. The only way to prevent it is to make sure that the active carriers of RD gene do not breed. All breeding dogs should be registered with the Canine Eye Registry Foundation and should be evaluated before being bred, and then tested yearly by certified eye specialists.

    Hip Dysplasia

    Hip Dysplasia is a progressive degenerative condition of the pelvic joint that can lead to severe lameness and pain in large breed dogs. It can be very debilitating, but with the help of several ingenious surgical techniques, the function of the leg can be restored-sometimes almost to normal capacity. Hip dysplasia occurs when the head of the femur (the upper bone in the hind leg) does not fit into the socket, or acetabulum, of the joint properly. Patients that develop this condition are often first seen for the problem when they are relatively young.

    Atopic Dermatitis (Eczema/ Atopy)

    Atopy dermatitis is the predisposition to allergic disease in response to environmental allergens. One of the most common sources of allergens causing atopy is the house dust mite. Tree, grass and weed pollens can also cause this disease. Flea allergic dermatitis and parasitic infections such as sarcoptic mange (scabies) and demodectic mange also cause allergic-type reactions.

    Crusted red spots affecting the ear flaps, outer aspect of elbows and hindlimbs with intense itchiness, sometimes with family members affected, is typical of sarcoptic mange. Itching with hair loss, crusting and scaling affecting the lower part of the back and tail base, often with a sudden spinning round to nibble, is indicative of flea allergy dermatitis. Foot licking, recurrent ear inflammation, face rubbing, itching of the armpits and groin in a young animal is very suggestive of atopy.

    However, the diagnosis of allergies is a complicated task. The investigation of a suspected allergic dog should include rigorous treatment for external parasites and secondary bacterial and yeast infections which often complicate and contribute to the itch. A diagnosis of food intolerance is made in 2 – 10% of ‘itchy’ dogs.

    It can be controlled without using drugs and is worth ruling out by introducing an elimination diet followed by a dietary challenge to confirm the diagnosis. Elimination diets are time-consuming and require considerable owner commitment. It can be up to 3 months before the dog stops scratching. Once other causes of itch have been ruled out, specific tests to detect allergic antibodies to environmental allergens can be undertaken to confirm the diagnosis of atopy.

    Unfortunately, dogs rarely ‘grow out’ of their allergies, and most atopic dogs require lifelong therapy. Various treatments are available, and your veterinary surgeon will recommend the best regime. Unfortunately, many atopic dogs are prone to recurrent secondary bacterial and yeast infections which will require intermittent or ongoing therapy as well as treatment to control the underlying allergic disease. An atopic dog can be difficult to treat and expensive.

    Veterinary dermatologists recognise that certain breeds are predisposed to develop allergic skin disease and that the tendency to develop atopy is often inherited. Therefore, affected animals should not be used for breeding. The breeders of atopic animals should be informed if a particular sire and dam produced affected offspring, and this should influence decisions regarding future breeding.

    Nodular Dermatofibrosis

    Nodular Dermatofibrosis is a health disorder when lumps form on the dog skin. These lumps can grow and, in severe cases, they measure between 0.1 to 2 inches. Those on the feet often ulcerate or cause foot deformities and lameness. This skin disorder is usually associated with underlying canine kidney or uterus cancer (in unspayed female dogs).

    If you noticed lameness and any unusual growths on the dog’s legs, and that your dog drinks and urinates more than usual, has blood in the urine, lost his appetite, vomits and loses weight, then kidney, uterus cancer or intestinal polyps should be considered as a possible cause of these symptoms. Although the diagnosis is relatively simple, there is no treatment for this condition. It is thought to be hereditary.

    Affected dogs should NOT be bred. The mean age at the first detection of nodular dermatofibrosis in dogs is 3 – 5 years. Therefore it is essential for the young dogs to be tested for microscopic kidney lesions as early as 1 year of age before the dogs are used for breeding to detect possible disease carriers. The most commonly affected breed is German Shepherd but has also been reported in Golden Retrievers and some other breeds.

    Aortic Valve Stenosis

    In the mildest form, the condition is undetectable and will not cause any problems for the dog. However, the defect may still be passed on to offspring. The challenge for breeders and veterinarians is to identify affected Golden Retrievers with very mild or no clinical signs of the disorder.

    Congenital Subaortic Stenosis (SAS)

    The Canine Congenital Subaortic Stenosis (SAS) is a heart condition when the arteries of the middle muscular layer of the heart (myocardium) narrow thus creating obstructions to the normal blood flow in the heart. The narrowing of the arteries develops due to abnormal formations on the arteries walls. These malformations substantially increase the risk of a sudden death which usually occurs in the first three years of life.

    Signs of SAS may include exercise intolerance, labored breathing, increased rate of respiration, cough, fatigue, fainting or collapsing. Breeds that are at the highest risk of SAS are Golden Retrievers, Rottweilers, Newfoundlands and German Shepherd dogs. The disorder is often linked to endocarditis – inflammation of the lining of the heart and its valves. Subaortic stenosis tends to progress and often needs to be treated surgically to remove the blood outflow obstruction.


    Dermatophytosis is a fungal skin infection caused by dermatophytes (Microsporum canis, Microsporum gypseum, or Trichophyton fungi) that affects humans and animals. Infected animals release infective spores in the environment, which will then contaminate other animals or humans. Infected animals usually develop immunity, so the infection will spontaneously disappear after a few weeks to months.

    Young dogs up to one-year-old and dogs with a weakened immune system, having other health disorders (for example, diabetes) or infected with ringworms, are most frequently affected. In cats skin, lesions are more frequent, in dogs more severe. Male dogs are most often affected. If your dog has alopecia (hair loss) or skin lesions, inflamed hair follicles (facial folliculitis), acute abscess of a hair follicle due to infection by Staphylococcus (furunculosis) on legs and paws, nailbed and nail infection, skin irritation, scaly skin, itching, then dermatophytosis should be considered as a possible cause of these skin disorders.

    Dermatophytosis in dogs reveals in different forms and can often mimic other skin diseases. Diagnosis is based on clinical signs. Often additional laboratory tests are needed for a final diagnosis. A systematic diagnostic procedure can prevent a wrong diagnosis and allow for the right treatment.

    Treatment consists of the application of different antifungal medications, rinses and shampoos:

    • Lime sulfur
    • Enilconazole rinses
    • 2% miconazole/chlorhexidine shampoo
    • Itraconazole
    • Lufenuron
    • Other medications

    The cure may take from 2 to 4 months. The use of desinfectants such as bleach or enilconazole has been proven effective to destroy the spores in the environment.

    Studies show that infected cats appear to cause substantial environmental contamination and spread Microsporum canis, contaminating house air and surfaces. Dogs seem to contaminate surfaces, but they never pollute the air.

    Since dogs and cats live more and more in contact with humans, and a lot of dogs and cats are carriers of dermatophytes, dermatophytosis is the most important risk of developing a “mange” in humans.

    Video Credits: Animal Planet, Discovery Channel


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