A Guide to Golden Retrievers

November 6, 2018

Affectionate, intelligent and devoted, Golden Retrievers are a distinctly lovable breed. Their sweet disposition makes them superb companions! If you’re considering bringing a Golden Retriever into your home, we have all the information you need to make informed decisions regarding their care. We’ve included details about this breed’s physical characteristics, playtime needs, grooming tips, nutrition, and more. At the bottom of this guide, you will find a comprehensive list of all the health conditions we test for here at Embark, as well as recommendations for treatable diseases from our veterinarians.

Your Guide to Golden Retrievers

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), Golden Retrievers are serious workers when it comes to hunting and field work. They are also frequently selected as guides for the blind, and in search-and-rescue operations. When not on-duty, these pups have an endearing love of life!

If you are looking to adopt a Golden Retriever from an animal shelter or find a breeder, it’s important to look for breeders that can provide detailed health records for their puppies (and parents!) as well as genetic testing for health conditions. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and their Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) maintains a voluntary database of Golden Retrievers and their health screening results.

Fun facts

Here are some fun facts about Golden Retrievers, according to Pet Air UK, Pawed In, and Country Living Magazine:

  • They are the third most popular dog breed in the United States!
  • Golden Retrievers were originally bred as gun dogs to retrieve shot waterfowl during hunting and shooting parties – hence the name retriever.
  • They’re often used in police units as drug detection dogs.
  • The Guinness World Record for loudest bark is held by a Golden named Charlie at 113.1 decibel.
  • No two Goldens – or two dogs for that matter – have the same nose print.
  • Golden Retrievers instinctively love to swim. They’re always up for a game of fetch in the lake.

Physical characteristics

The Golden Retriever has a wonderful golden coat, which is how they earned the first part of their name! According to the AKC, the Golden Retriever’s broad head, with its friendly and intelligent eyes, short ears, and straight muzzle, are hallmarks of the breed. Intact Golden Retrievers are usually 22–24 inches and weigh anywhere between 65 and 75 pounds once full grown. Female Golden Retrievers are slightly smaller at 21-22 inches and 55 to 65 pounds.

Ever wonder why some Golden Retrievers are nearly red, like an Irish Setter, while others are nearly white? Embark does, too, and is in the process of investigating the genetics of coat color intensity using Golden Retrievers with Embark!

Bringing your new Golden Retriever home

Your dog’s first week at home should be calm and quiet with a consistent routine from the very first day. Give your new family member ample time to adjust to their unfamiliar surroundings. They will need to become acquainted with both you and their new home. As you can imagine, the transition can certainly be a lot all at once! If your new Golden Retriever friend is a puppy, be sure to take some extra precautions by keeping electrical wires, household plants, and other easily-accessed items out of their reach.

Picking a name for your pup is a very interesting task; there are so many names to choose from. Once you’ve landed on the right one, repetition is key! Studies show that names with one or two syllables will catch your dog’s attention the fastest. Check out our list of the most popular dog names of 2018 if you are in need of some ideas!


According to the ASPCA, a balanced diet is vital to your dog’s growth and health. Feeding your Golden Retriever a diet of commercial dog food is satisfactory and can be more convenient. Portion control is important in these food-motivated dogs! PetCareRx recommends both dry kibble and wet food. Dry food helps to keep your pup’s teeth clean of tartar by scraping the surface of the teeth and canned food provides additional moisture in your dog’s diet. Remember to factor in the calories of both food types when you measure out your dog’s meal! If you want to make sure your dog is getting exactly what he or she needs, he best thing you can do  is to talk to your veterinarian.



The AKC recommends your Golden Retrievers get plenty of exercise! If not exercised regularly, they may develop undesirable behaviors and gain excess weight. These dogs make great hiking and cycling companions. Golden Retrievers love to be active alongside their favorite people. Due to their strong retrieving instinct, when being exercised outside of a fenced in yard, your pup may need to be kept on a leash to avoid distractions.

Click here for some tips on running with your dog.


According to the ASPCA, Golden Retrievers require a substantial amount of grooming in order to maintain their thick and lustrous coat. Daily brushing will help prevent knots and tangles and will reduce the amount of fur that accumulates around your home. Your pup’s nails will require regular trimming if they are not worn down naturally through outside play and activity.

Health & aging

Your best friend can still live a full and happy life with the proper care and activity. According to Animal Planet, Golden Retrievers have a lifespan of about 10-12 years and they are considered to be a senior at 8 years old.

Do you know your pup’s birthday? If not, you might choose their date of adoption as a special day to celebrate them! Click here for birthday ideas.

Getting your pup tested with Embark will arm you with as much information as possible to ensure your dog is healthy while potentially avoiding preventable diseases.

Embark tests for the following health conditions that could affect your Golden Retriever:

Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy 1: This retinal disease causes progressive, non-painful vision loss. Over time, some dogs with PRA can develop what are termed “tox cataracts.” These are thought to occur with buildup of reactive oxygen species and other toxic metabolites released from the degenerating retinal cells. This can lead to other complications and requires close monitoring in consultation with your veterinarian.

Golden Retriever Progressive Retinal Atrophy 2: This second type of retinal disease also causes progressive, non-painful vision loss. The first symptoms of progressive retinal atrophy Golden Retriever type 2 are poor vision in dim light, which eventually progresses into complete blindness.

Ichthyosis: This skin disorder gets its name from the thick, darkly pigmented scales of skin (“ichthys” is Greek for “fish”) that affected dogs display on their noses, paw pads, and muzzles. Over time these scales can get so thick that they can crack and cause fissures, leading to considerable discomfort. Ichthyotic dogs also typically have large, greasy flakes of dandruff, but unlike dogs with dry skin, they aren’t itchy. 

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis: This form of lysosomal storage disease can cause juvenile to adult-onset neurologic signs, depending on the affected gene.

Sensory Ataxic Neuropathy: A progressive, nonpainful neurologic condition, affected dogs often begin having signs such as an uncoordinated gait and reduced or absent reflexes. Unlike other neuropathies, they typically do not show muscle wasting and thankfully do not appear to be in pain. However, the disease does progress. Through pedigree analysis, SAN has been traced back to a single female Golden Retriever. Because SAN arises from a mutation in mtDNA, it is only inherited through the maternal line.

Muscular Dystrophy (DMD Golden Retriever Variant): Characterized by non-painful muscle weakness and wasting, early diagnosis and supportive treatment can slow the pace of this progressive muscle disease. Recent advances in gene therapy have also shown promising, though these are not yet used in clinical practice.

Osteogenesis Imperfecta, Brittle Bone Disease: A disease of bone strength and flexibility, affected dogs often present to the vet for spontaneous bone fractures, tooth fractures and loss, and joint pain; these symptoms can be managed supportively but require close monitoring.

Osteochondrodysplasia, Skeletal Dwarfism: A form of skeletal dwarfism, this causes affected dogs to have abnormally short legs but a normally sized body due to abnormal fetal skeletal maturation.

Recommendations from our veterinary team on treatable diseases above:

Ichthyosis can be well-managed with skin-improving supplements such as fish oil and Vitamin A. Talk to your veterinarian about appropriate dosages for your dog! Soothing anti-dandruff shampoos can also be very helpful in managing this itchy flaky skin condition.

What we have our eye on for the future:

Otitis: Ear infections are most common in floppy-eared dog breeds or dogs who love the water, including the English Springer Spaniel, Cocker Spaniel, Labrador Retriever, and Golden Retriever. Ear conformation or moist conditions can lead to trapping of moisture and debris as well as decreased air circulation within the ear canal, promoting bacterial and yeast infections. Infections can also occur secondary to food or environmental allergies. Most ear infections can be treated medically; however, if left untreated, chronic ear infections may require surgical treatment.

Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM) is inflammation of the powerful muscles of the temples and top of the head that are used in chewing to close the jaw. MMM is an immune-mediated disease in which the unique muscle protein is found in the masticatory muscles, and nowhere else in the body, is attacked. Initially, the muscles to become painful and swollen and the eyes may appear to bulge. Opening the mouth is particularly painful and may lead to anorexia. As MMM progresses, the muscles will atrophy (shrink).

Hemangiosarcoma: Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood vessels, and as such often occurs in organs with high blood flow such as the spleen. Hemangiosarcomas are most commonly diagnosed via abdominal ultrasound. Surgery and chemotherapy is often the only option to treat hemangiosarcoma.

Pigmentary Uveitis: Pigmentary uveitis (PU) which is synonymous with Golden Retriever uveitis, affects Golden Retrievers only, and its hallmark sign is pigment deposition on lens of the eyes (on its capsule). PU has familial associations, typically affects both eyes, and does not appear to be associated with any underlying systemic disease.

Retinal Dysplasia: Often found on a puppy’s first eye exams, Golden Retrievers can have several forms of retinal dysplasia. While these do not always cause vision impairment or loss, these are disqualifying syndromes for OFA eye certification.

A Guide to Golden Retrievers
5 (100%) 1 vote