If you’re looking to get your first dog, a golden retriever is one of the best choices out there! When looking for a new furry friend, there are many breeds to choose from, so what makes a golden retriever such a great first time dog?
Golden retrievers are great first time dogs because of their loyalty to their owners and their easy going nature. They are eager to please, which also makes them an easy dog to train. Golden retrievers are active animals that love people and will make a happy and loving edition to any household.
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History of the Golden Retriever Breed
The golden retriever breed actually started in Scotland. They were bred to be hunting dogs, but more specifically, as bird dogs. These beautiful dogs are extremely intelligent, loyal and social which made them especially desirable as companions for hunters.
They started out as a cross between a Tweed Water Spaniel and a yellow-colored retriever. However, as the breed evolved, they became their own mix and developed features all their own.
The breed continued to evolve until President Gerald Ford brought his golden retriever named Liberty to the White House and Americans fell in love with her. It was soon after, that Golden Retrievers became the third most popular dog in America.
Now with a little backstory out of the way, let’s get to the 15 reasons Golden Retrievers make great first time dogs.
1. They Are Extremely Loyal
Golden retrievers bond quickly with their owners. Once that happens, they work very hard to make sure to please. This intense bond is what drives their loyalty. It’s even widely known that golden retrievers will rescue their owners from danger.
There are many instances where a golden retriever was able to save their owners or their neighbors from fires or other dangers. For example, there was a dog named Angel, who saved the life of his 11-year-old owner Austin by getting between him and a charging cougar in their backyard in Canada.
Angel was able to stop the cougar from attacking Austin even though the dog himself was injured. Austin was saved and Angel the golden retriever survived.
Golden retrievers will protect those they consider friends or family. It’s this loyalty that will cause a golden retriever to bark at a stranger, even though it isn’t in their nature to bark often.
2. They Are Good With Kids
Golden retrievers make great family pets. They have a bunch of qualities that make them perfect around babies and kids. They are intelligent and happy dogs who are always ready to play.
Goldens are perfect around babies because of their patience and obedience. They have a deep instinct to protect their families. This instinct means they’re more likely to bond quickly to newborn babies in your family.
They also mature slowly, even after reaching their full size and weight. This means they’ll almost age with your children. They’ll continue to act like puppies, which is great for your kids. In addition, they have gentle mouths. This means they will take treats and toys from your kids very carefully.
If you’re worried about how your golden retriever will react to a newborn baby in the family, there are a few things you can do in order to make the transition easier.
- Socialize the dog. From the moment you get the dog, and if you think you’ll have kids one day, make sure you socialize the dog. It works best when you start socializing them from the time they’re puppies.
- Introduce sounds and smells. When you have a baby, there are going to be new sounds and smells that could confuse or scare a dog that isn’t used to them. When you find out you’re having a baby, start bringing in those new sounds and smells in small doses. This will help get your golden retriever used to the new changes that will be coming soon.
- Introduce the baby’s smell. Once the baby is born, you’ll want to introduce the baby’s scent to the dog. This is best while the baby’s still in the hospital. Have someone bring back a blanket or an item of clothing that the baby has used or worn. This will help the dog meet the baby before the baby is actually home.
3. They Are the Perfect Size
Golden retrievers are a great size for a first time dog. They don’t get too big, but they’re also not extra small. The average size of an adult female golden retriever is around 55-65lbs (25-29kg). An adult male will average 65-75lbs (29-34kg).
As a puppy who is ready to be adopted, they will weigh roughly ten pounds (4.5 kilograms). It’ll take them 18 months to reach their full adult size.
When a puppy is born, they’re only about 14 to 16 ounces (397 to 454 grams). However, when a puppy reaches the age of four months, it will be roughly 30lbs (13.6kg). By eight months, it could be 50lbs (22.7kg). In fact, golden retriever puppies grow about 10% larger each week.
For their height, a male can be anywhere from 23 to 24 inches (58.4 to 61 centimeters) tall. Females will be around 21.5 to 22.5 inches (54.6 to 57.2 centimeters).
4. They Live Long Lives
While they may not live as long as a tiny dog, they still live longer than other breeds of their size. Their average lifespan is 10 to 12 years.
There have been records of some golden retrievers who reach ages ranging from 17 to 19. In fact, the oldest golden retriever in history has lived to be 20 years old! According to her family, even though she’s slower and a bit unstable these days, they’re already planning for her 21st birthday.
5. They Are Easy to Train
Another reason a golden retriever makes an excellent first time dog is that the breed is so easy to train. What makes them easily trainable is their eagerness to please their owners.
They quickly pick up on standard obedience training. Not only that, but you can also teach them things such as the names of different objects, or how to put their own toys away.
While goldens are easy to train, it can take a while for them to emotionally mature. Most golden retrievers won’t reach emotional maturity until they’re about two or three years old. Sometimes this makes training a bit more difficult because they just want to play. However, these dogs are so intelligent that it’s truly worth it in the end.
6. They Are Quiet Dogs
Golden retrievers are generally quiet and calm animals, compared to other dogs of their size. As mentioned earlier, they will bark when they see strangers out of loyalty to their owners. However, they are quick to wag a tail and make a new friend as long as their owner approves of the person.
Since they’re not regular barkers, you’ll know that if your golden retriever is barking, it’s for a good reason and something you should probably pay attention to.
7. They Love Other People and Animals
Because of their love for their owners, they are quick to warm up to other people and animals who are close to you. Although, the dog’s environment and emotional state also play important roles in their personality overall.
Discover how to train your Golden Retriever by playing games: 21 games to play with your Golden that will make them smarter and better behaved!
What it comes down to is that if the golden retriever is well-loved and cared for, they will love you and the people in your life. They’ll also get along well with the other animals in your household because of how friendly and playful they are.
8. They Are Very Active
Golden retrievers have a lot of energy, which makes them incredibly active. They love activities that involve running and letting out that energy. When the breed was first developed, they were made for hunting. This plays a role in the energy levels of the breed today.
They need regular exercise, or they become restless. If you have an active lifestyle and a big yard, golden retrievers will thrive. They pick up on the rules of new games very quickly and easily because of how intelligent they are.
They’re always playful, even well into their adult ages. Golden retrievers need at least 40 to 60 minutes every day of heavy exercise. This can be obedience training, agility, walking, playing fetch or other games.
Find out how big of a house or apartment a golden retriever needs in my article here.
9. They Are Obedient
Their obedience comes from their desire to please their owners. They want to make you happy, so you can train them to do almost anything.
Dogs are pack animals, much like the wolves, they descended from. When training your golden retriever, you’ll want to establish that you’re the leader of the pack. You want them to see you as the alpha in their pack. This will ensure that they listen and obey you first, before anyone else.
You also need to be consistent and give each command the same way. Dogs can get confused, just like people do. In addition to that, you want to make sure that whatever you’re teaching them sticks. Saying a command two different ways will confuse the dog and frustrate you.
Establish the rules for your golden retriever as soon as possible and be sure to enforce them consistently. As with small children, routine and consistency are the best ways to ensure everything in your home runs smoothly.
10. They Have a Great Temperament
This breed of dog has a great temperament for a first time dog owner. Golden retrievers are happy-go-lucky and always looking to please. They’re also trustworthy and outgoing.
They definitely like to have fun! They’re playful and love water. Swimming is a favorite pastime for golden retrievers. As mentioned earlier, even though they have tons of energy, they are gentle with children and will watch out for them.
All of this combined gives golden retrievers one of the best temperaments for a first time dog owner or families with youngsters. However, as with all breeds, personality can differ from dog to dog.
11. They Adapt to Their Environments With Ease
Golden retrievers are extremely adaptable. They’re able to withstand a variety of environments, which make them a great first time pet.
Golden retrievers are able to adapt to hot or cold weather. That said, it’s still suggested that you don’t expose them to extremes of either hot or cold.
Their ideal living environment is somewhere that allows them plenty of exercise. They also don’t like to be left alone, so they’ll be happiest when they get to spend as much time with you as they can.
Find out what happens if your Golden is left home alone too often in my article Is Your Golden Retriever Lonely? (How to Tell & What to Do!)
12. They Are Attentive
Golden retrievers have a natural attentiveness to not only their owners but to others as well. It’s this trait that makes them excellent service dogs. They pick up on the subtle cues which is what makes them so good at helping their owners.
As service dogs, they’re strong enough to pull their owners up if necessary, and they’re intelligent enough to understand what certain items are needed for their disabled owners. They’re very dependable dogs!
13. They Are Playful and Loving
This breed of dog loves to love their humans. They enjoy cuddling, and as mentioned before, they love to play. Since they were made to hunt birds, games of fetch are their favorite and one of the best ways to satisfy that instinct.
They keep their playfulness well into adulthood. The energy they have when they play is similar to a puppy. They’ll love playing any games you are able to teach them.
Find out which toys are a Golden retrievers favorite in my article: The 19 Best Toys Golden Retrievers Will Actually Play With!
14. They Are Well-Mannered
Because of their eagerness to please their humans, golden retrievers can be very well-mannered. If trained properly, they’ll be quite well-behaved. My golden retriever named Sunny is extremely polite and lady-like. It’s really quite amazing!
They watch their owners closely and are able to pick up on the things that you love or dislike and adjust their behavior to fit.
15. They Work Hard
No matter what the task is, the golden retriever breed is hardworking. This quality is what makes them so good at being service dogs.
There is a reason that Golden retrievers are the dog of choice when it comes to things like search and rescue operations, working for law enforcement, hunting, tracking and so much more!
Oftentimes, they’ll enjoy working as much as playing. It’s likely that they’ll find any task you give them to be a game for them to play. Just make sure you provide them with real playtime as well!
Reasons Why A Golden Retriever Might Not Be The Best Dog For You
Now, it doesn’t matter how great these dogs are. A golden retriever isn’t the right fit for everyone. In fact, below, you’ll find five reasons why a golden retriever might not be the right first dog for you.
They Do Not Tolerate Living Outdoors
While golden retrievers are made for the outdoors, they aren’t meant to live outdoors or spend long periods of time outside by themselves. They love to be with you and their families and will likely have significant anxiety issues if left alone for too long.
They’ll likely cause unwanted damage to your yard and property if left alone outside for too long. Having your golden retriever as an outside dog will result in digging, chewing and possibly even aggression. They can be needy dogs, and spending time with their owners everyday will keep this negative behavior at bay.
They Shed — A Lot
Golden retrievers shed a lot. While grooming habits can help keep the shedding down, you won’t be able to eliminate it completely.
While Golden retrievers shed year round, they shed very heavily twice a year. This extreme shedding happens in the fall as it starts to get cold and again in the spring as temperatures warm up. It’s nearly impossible to tell just how much a golden retriever will shed because it depends on their particular coat and how regularly they’re groomed.
Stress can also contribute to an increase in shedding. Changes in their environment or the family can cause your dog to get stressed.
So shedding could be a deal breaker for you. However, if shedding isn’t something you’re worried about, there are a lot of different grooming techniques you can use to help keep the shedding to a minimum.
- Create a brushing schedule. By committing to a regular brushing schedule, you’ll be able to remove any dead hair from your dog’s body. This will prevent it from ending up on your floor or couch. It’s ideal to brush your dog every day, but if you can’t do that, a good brushing at least three times a week will help keep the shedding somewhat under control.
- Feed a balanced diet. You’ll want to feed your golden retriever a healthy and balanced diet. This will make sure that their coat is shiny. It’ll help prevent their fur from matting and getting tangled. You’ll want to feed them a diet that’s high in protein. Not only will this keep their coat healthy, it’ll work to prevent any allergies that could cause an increase in scratching and shedding.
- Don’t over bathe your dog. There’s actually a possibility of over bathing your dog. This can result in rashes on the skin as well as increased shedding. All you need to do is bathe them when they’re dirty. Use a shampoo that’s not harsh on their skin and fur. I’d suggest a dog shampoo like this one at Amazon.
You Cannot Give Them the Active Lifestyle They Need
Golden retrievers need to have an active lifestyle in order to release their abundant energy. This breed is known for being calm and well-mannered, but without a lot of regular daily exercise, they won’t be able to maintain that.
Golden retrievers need at least half an hour of exercise twice a day in order to be healthy and happy. A fenced yard can help with this if you have a busy schedule or can’t simply walk your dog twice a day.
However, it’s important to remember that golden retrievers also don’t like being left alone for long periods of time. The best exercise for your dog will be playing games with them, such as fetch. They do, however, like walking, hunting, hiking, and swimming as well.
They Make Terrible Guard Dogs
Because the golden retriever breed is pretty laid back, they make terrible guard dogs. They’re just to friendly and loving to scare away most bad guys.
Although Golden retrievers have what it takes physically to become great guard dogs, they just aren’t aggressive enough for that particular job. When they bark, they’re barking more out of a friendly greeting than trying to scare off a potential thief.
Even though they might bark at a threat, they’re not generally biters. When they do bite, it’s usually quite gentle. This makes them great for families with kids, but not so great as a guard dog.
Goldens will bark to raise the alarm if they sense a threat, but they bark to alert their owners, not to warn an intruder that they’re about to attack. They may also run, in order to bring help if someone is hurt or in danger.
They Will Not Stay Puppy-Size Forever
As mentioned earlier, Golden retrievers grow fast. So even though they start out small and cuddly, they’ll reach their full-adult size by the time they’re 18 months old.
Many people are looking for dogs who they hope will remain small and cute. That just simply isn’t the case with a Golden retriever. While they will remain cute, they won’t stay small.
If you’re looking for a small dog, a golden retriever won’t be the best fit for you.
Things to Consider Before Getting a Golden Retriever
If you end up deciding that a golden retriever is the right dog for you, there are going to be a few things you’ll want to keep in mind.
Like with all bigger dogs, golden retrievers have a few concerning health issues to consider. While all dogs have their own list of breed-specific health concerns, golden retrievers have a list all their own.
Cancer is one of the biggest health concerns for dogs, not just golden retrievers. Roughly 56% of females get cancer, and roughly 66% of males get cancer. With golden retrievers, Hemangiosarcoma is a type of cancer that is most common among this breed. It’s aggressive and fast-growing.
There are other types of cancer that are found in golden retrievers, but the key to fighting it is finding it as soon as possible. Regular check-ups with the vet can help with that.
Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common health problems in larger dogs. This is basically a deformed or diseased hip joint. It can cause a lot of pain for the dog. It’s easy to diagnose, and a vet can typically spot it quickly.
The symptoms are usually stiffness, trouble getting upstairs, lack of motion in hips, and a strange stance. Vet bills for this kind of thing are usually very expensive. They could run anywhere from $3,500 to $7,000.
Heart problems are another common health issue with larger dogs. In golden retrievers, subvalvular aortic stenosis (SAS) is the most common. This is when the aorta narrows, it results in less blood flow to the heart. This could lead to a lot of complications; worst of all is death. You’ll want to call your vet if you notice sleepiness, weakness, or trouble breathing.
There is an undercoat that some dog breeds have (Golden retrievers included) that insulates the dog’s body. This can be a home for a variety of bacteria that could be harmful to your dog. These bacteria can cause rashes or other allergic reactions.
There are a few particular skin conditions that golden retrievers are susceptible to, and these include granulomas, sebaceous cysts, and lipomas. These are typically non-cancerous, but it’s best to bring them to the vet’s attention so they can monitor your golden retriever.
Believe it or not, but sometimes neutering a golden retriever has negative effects. It’s been discovered that neutering or spaying a golden retriever too early can result in cancer or joint disorders. Consult you veterinarian to determine what is the best age to spay or neuter your golden.
Though the health problems listed above are the most common, there are others that could happen to your golden retriever:
- Bloat – This happens when the dog’s stomach distends and twists. This cuts off blood flow and puts pressure on other organs. This is a deadly disease that comes on fast and can kill.
- Ear infections – Golden retrievers are prone to having waxy inner ears, which result in more ear infections than other breeds. Find out how to care for your Golden’s ears in my article here.
- Hypothyroidism – This is low thyroid activity. This results in weight gain and other complications. Common symptoms are lethargy and decreased appetite.
- Cataracts – This causes a film over the eyes and makes it difficult for the dog to see. This can come from disease, trauma, or old age. It can also be something the dog is born with.
They Are Not Hypoallergenic
There are some breeds out there that are considered hypoallergenic, but the golden retriever isn’t one of them.
Many people make the mistake of believing that they’re allergic to the hair or fur of the dog. That’s not actually true. When you’re allergic to an animal, you’re allergic to the dander, which is the flakes of dried skin they shed.
Furthermore, when you’re allergic to an animal, you’re most allergic to the saliva or urine of that animal. When a cat or dog licks their skin, it dries there, and when the skin flakes off, it goes with it. This is what you’re truly allergic to.
So, if you have animal allergies, a Golden retriever probably isn’t for you.
When you’re looking for your first dog, Golden retrievers should be high on your list as they make great first time dogs. They’re loyal, gentle, and wonderful with kids.
They’re adaptable and well-mannered. They’re also smart and easy to train. Hopefully, this article has helped you to decide if a Golden retriever would be the right edition to your household.
You won’t find a more loving dog, anywhere!
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- Huffington Post: Science Explains Why Golden Retrievers Are Awesome
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- Gold Ribbon Rescue: Top Ten Reasons to NOT Get a Golden
- Hills Pet: Golden Retriever Dog Breed Information and Personality Traits
- Pets WebMD: Cataracts in Dogs
- Merck Vet Manual: Hypothyroidism in Animals