Is Your Golden Retriever Too Small? (Let’s Find Out!)

Golden Retrievers have become an iconic symbol of canine perfection in American culture; what’s not to love about this beautiful, loyal, and charismatic dog? Since Golden Retrievers are typically classified as a large dog breed, you may have noticed that your dog is not growing to the popular size most commonly associated with the breed. Is it possible that your Golden Retriever is too small?

A standard Golden Retriever measures 20-24 inches tall on average when fully grown; therefore, any size below this is considered small. The most common reasons that your Golden Retriever may be too small are imbalances in diet and exercise, as well as genetic traits inherited from the parents.

This article will explore the standard size of a Golden Retriever throughout its lifespan and possible reasons why your Golden Retriever may fall under this size. A size guide and growth chart will also be compiled to help measure if your dog is still within the growing process, or is small based on a number of possible factors that may explain the abnormality. 

Before we get started, take a look at this video that traces the growing process of a Golden Retriever from puppy to adulthood: 

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How Tall and Heavy Should a Golden Retriever Be?

The Golden Retriever is a large, fluffy, and rambunctious dog that is well-known for its loyalty, beautiful golden color, and expert hunting skills that stem from its origins in the highlands of Scotland. Golden Retrievers are consistently ranked in the top ten best large dog breeds in the world.  

Golden Retrievers are generally considered to be a medium to large dog that can get quite heavy but much like people there are variances between each dog and what is considered “normal size” runs in a range from slightly below average to slightly above average.

What you really want to know is if your Golden falls below the accepted average range.

Golden Retrievers are moderately tall with the standard weight of a large breed: between 60-75 lbs. When people think of a Golden Retriever, the image of a large, golden-coated, friendly dog comes to mind but did you know that there are three types of Golden Retrievers recognized by kennel clubs? The three types of Golden Retriever are:

  • Canadian Golden Retriever
  • British Golden Retriever
  • American Golden Retriever

A fourth variety is known as a miniature Golden Retriever but this variety is not commonly recognized due to mixed breeding with a smaller breed such as a Cocker Spaniel or a Poodle. Apart from the unrecognized miniature breed, the three main types are very similar with some small differences in size, color, and weight.

First, let’s figure out which type your golden is, then take a look at the average height and weight for that particular type in the Golden Retriever size charts below.

Golden Retriever Size Guide

Golden Retrievers are a large dog breed but they are not on the scale of a St. Bernard or a Great Dane by any means. It can be said that this dog is at the very beginning of the classification for large dog breeds. Each type comes with a standard range of sizes and weights, let’s take a look at each type:

Canadian Golden Retriever  

The Canadian Golden Retriever is the lesser-known of the three types. This breed is known for its short and thin coat when compared to the feathery coat of the American and British breeds, as well as some major differences in size and weight. The Canadian Golden Retriever typically stands between 23-24 inches for males and 21.5-22.5 inches for females. 

The weight range for the Canadian Golden Retriever falls between 65-75 lbs for males and between 60-70 lbs for females. 

British (English) Golden Retriever

The British Golden Retriever is the oldest known breed of the three types and this is the breed that comes to mind when you think of the light golden coat that characterizes the breed as well as a thick and broad skull with a muscular build. This type usually stands a bit shorter than the Canadian variety between 22-24 inches for males and between 20-22 inches for females. 

This type typically weighs slightly less than the Canadian type even though the British variety is slightly bulkier than the Canadian and American types. 

American Golden Retriever

The American Golden Retriever is a cultural symbol of the American family even though it can be said that the British Golden Retriever is the resemblance that many think of when they picture the breed. The American type is less bulky and muscular than the Canadian and British types, with a darker shade of gold to its coat.

Males stand between 22-24 inches and females between 21.5-22.5 inches. 

The weight of the American variety hovers just below the standard weight of the Canadian variety. 

Note: As previously mentioned, the miniature Golden Retriever is not recognized as a type by the American Kennel Club (AKC) or any other international classification system. With that said, this breed typically stands between 14-20 inches and weighs between 20-45 lbs for both males and females.  

These are the general adult measurements and weights you can expect for an adult Golden Retriever across three types and a sub-type. Since there are many variations and factors that can affect the size and weight of a Golden Retriever, let’s take a more in-depth look at the growth patterns of Golden Retrievers.

Golden Retriever Growth Chart

Golden Retrievers undergo rapid development from birth to adulthood. No matter which of the three types, you can expect your Golden Retriever to be fully grown within 12 to 18 months with height fully established at one year and mature weight between 18 to 24 months.

Since there are numerous developments up until the point of adulthood, the following chart will trace these developments across the three types with height and the weight corresponding to the dogs age.

Note: The following charts are based on average sizes in both height and weight for males which signify the maximum standard in each category. Females will be slightly shorter and weigh slightly less.

Golden Retriever Height by Age

AgeAmerican Golden RetrieverBritish Golden RetrieverCanadian Golden Retriever
Birth-6 monthsGrowing – American Golden Retrievers take time to grow in this stage and do not typically start to grow rapidly until the 6-12 month markGrowing -British Golden Retrievers acquire muscle mass as early as one month after birthGrowing – Canadian Golden Retrievers remain small in the first few months before rapid development at the two-month mark
6-12 monthsStill Growing – American Golden Retrievers begin to gain weight and reach maximum height by the one year mark in most circumstancesStill Growing British Golden Retrievers continue to grow and acquire extra mass during this timeStill Growing Canadian Golden Retrievers undergo a rapid growth spurt during this time frame
12-18 monthsFully Grown – American Golden Retrievers typically reach a maximum height at 12 monthsFully Grown -British Golden Retrievers can reach maximum at the one year mark in some circumstances depending on dietFully Grown -Canadian Golden Retrievers will typically be at their maximum size at this point in time

Now, let’s take a look at a rough estimated average weight across the three types at the same time period.

Golden Retriever Average Weight by Age Chart

If you think your Golden Retriever is too skinny, take a look at this table to see how your pup compares to the average.

AgeAmerican Golden RetrieverBritish Golden RetrieverCanadian Golden Retriever
7 weeks7 lbs (3.17 kg)7 lbs (3.17 kg)8 lbs (3.62 kg)
2 months8 lbs (3.62 kg)8 lbs (3.62 kg)10 lbs (4.53 kg)
9 weeks10 lbs (4.53 kg)11 lbs (4.98 kg)12 lbs (5.44 kg)
10 weeks13 lbs (5.89 kg)14 lbs (6.35 kg)15 lbs (6.80 kg)
11 weeks15 lbs (6.80 kg)16 lbs (7.25 kg)17 lbs (7.71 kg)
3 months19 lbs (8.61 kg)20 lbs (9.07 kg)22 lbs (9.97 kg)
4 months27 lbs (12.24 kg)28 lbs (12.70 kg)30 lbs (13.60 kg)
5 months37 lbs (16.78 kg)38 lbs (17.23 kg)40 lbs (18.14 kg)
6 months42 lbs (19.05 kg)43 lbs (19.50 kg)44 lbs (19.95 kg)
7 months45 lbs (20.41 kg)46 lbs (20.86 kg)48 lbs (21.77 kg)
8 months52 lbs (23.58 kg)53 lbs (24.04 kg)55 lbs (24.94 kg)
1 year65 lbs (29.48 kg)66 lbs (29.93 kg)68 lbs (30.84 kg)
18 months70 lbs (31.75 kg)72 lbs (32.65 kg)75 lbs (34.01)

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!

As you can see, the Canadian Golden Retriever grows the quickest both in weight and height during the last phase between 12-18 months. If your Golden Retriever is smaller than this by only a few inches or pounds, this could be directly related to some sort of fixable problem related to diet, exercise, or possible illness.

Watch Brady grow up! 8 weeks to 1yr old

Let’s take an in-depth look at some of the possible reasons your Golden Retriever is not as big as it should be.  

What Is Causing My Golden Retriever to Appear Small?

The only real way to know if your Golden Retriever is too small is to notice a problem with height or weight when the dog is a fully grown adult. If your dog is under 18 or even 24 months in age, your dog could very well still be in the development process.

If your Golden Retriever is over 18 months old and well-under the average measurements in the growth chart and size guide, it could be related to any of the following:

  • Poor diet
  • Inadequate exercise (Golden Retrievers need a lot)
  • Prolonged stress or anxiety
  • Genes
  • A smaller breed
  • Old age

Each of these possible problems presents challenges to the development process and the degenerative attributes that can present themselves with senior dogs. Let’s take a detailed look at each.

Diet

When it comes to dogs, growth is typically measured in both height and weight with weight being the primary indicator of growth. What you feed your dog goes a long way in establishing how well the development process can play out.

Golden Retrievers are very active dogs, particularly during the developmental stage, therefore, this dog needs to eat a lot of calories to gain the proper amount of weight in relation to its activity levels. 

A growing Golden Retriever needs roughly 1,200 calories per day if they are in situations where the available activity is limited, and 1,700 calories per day if they are allowed to be normally active. If your Golden Retriever is not getting this amount of calories based upon its activity levels, the stomach and organs can shrink which can in turn cause your dog to appear much smaller than what is normal. 

The type of food you are feeding your Golden Retriever can also lead to the decreased size. Cheaply made dog foods that utilize processed materials with little or no nutritional value are not doing your dog any favors. Essential vitamins and nutrients are needed for your dog to grow properly, just like they are for human babies.

If your Golden Retriever has a nutritional deficiency caused by unhealthy food, proper growth and development will be stalled (we’ll discuss more about proper nutrition further below). 

Exercise

Exercise helps your dog grow muscles and improve bone and joint function. Have you ever wondered why puppies and young dogs are incredibly active? This is a biological function just as much as it is a sign of your dog’s happiness.

Golden Retrievers need between 3-4 hours of activity each day to grow their muscles and allow their bones and joints to set properly. Little to no exercise will prevent this process. 

Too much exercise can be bad if your dog’s diet is not good. Exercise can also have the reverse effect with a developing Golden Retriever; this can damage muscles and joints which will be unable to grow properly due to stress and injury. So exercise is good but don’t over do it.

A couple pups getting good exercise in the pool!

Anxiety

Stress and anxiety can cause a loss of appetite leading to stunted growth. If your Golden Retriever experiences lots of anxiety and stress-related to people, other dogs, or fear, this stress can lead to a loss of appetite in your dog. Decreased activity levels are also common in stressed dogs.

Separation anxiety is the number one cause of stress for developing dogs. If you leave your dog alone for long periods of time, have you ever come home to a destroyed house? This is a sign that your dog may be suffering from this condition, which can lead to loss of appetite and prolonged inactivity, which can stunt growth.

Genetics

There could be an abnormality in your Golden Retriever’s genes that causes smaller sizes than normal. All dogs descend from similar genomes related to wolves and increased cross-breeding.

Although your Golden Retriever may have been advertised as a purebred, constant tinkering with dog sizes and mixes has made distinguishing purebreds from other mixed lines a problem in recent years. 

There could be a genetic disorder in your Golden Retriever’s recent lineage. It is also possible to have a purebred Golden Retriever that just happens to have a DNA strand that corresponds to smaller sizes than other purebreds. It doesn’t mean that your Golden Retriever is not purebred, it just doesn’t grow to the natural sizes as what is normally seen with Golden Retrievers.  

Small Breed

As previously mentioned, there is a popular breed of dog that is known as a miniature Golden Retriever. Although Golden Retriever is part of its name, this breed is commonly mixed between a Golden Retriever and a Cocker Spaniel or Poodle to produce a small dog that looks like a tiny Golden Retriever. 

If you didn’t buy a miniature Golden Retriever from a breeder that specializes in this type, you could be mistaken in thinking otherwise. The miniature Golden Retriever looks exactly like the real thing but this breed is not recognized as part of the Golden Retriever line. 

Age

As a dog ages, it’s common that its overall size will reduce based on the loss of muscle mass and bone health. If your Golden Retriever is older, this is a normal occurrence and not much can be done to treat this issue. Be sure to inquire about the age of a dog before you purchase it. 

It is also common to simply be unaware of a Golden Retriever puppy’s growth pattern at a young age. Always remember that a Golden Retriever will continue to grow up until 18-24 months after birth. 

These are just some of the common reasons why your Golden Retriever may appear too small. Now that we have explored a range of issues that can cause abnormal growth patterns, let’s explore some possible ways that you can help your Golden Retriever to grow to its proper size. 

Is There Anything I Can Do to Help My Golden Retriever Grow Larger?

A golden retriever puppy size comparison to an adult golden retriever
Comparing a golden retriever puppy and full-size adult

Food is the number one component that dictates how well and fast a dog will grow during the developmental stage. But it’s not as easy as selecting a well-rated dog food brand and calling it a day; there is a wide range of nutrients that a dog needs to grow to its normal size.

Proper Diet for a Golden Retriever

Protein is the number one nutrient that will ensure that your Golden Retriever not only grows to its maximum potential but will also guarantee your dog a healthy life. All dogs descend from wolves which regularly hunted for meat as their primary food source; Golden Retrievers still have this instinct to consume mainly protein leftover from their ancestors. 

Proteins such as beef, poultry, lamb, and fish in pure form (not processed) give Golden Retrievers the nutrition they need to build muscle, strengthen and lengthen bones, and to grow and maintain vital organs including the brain.

If you don’t want to feed your dog whole proteins, be sure to opt for brands that are complete and balanced to ensure that adequate amounts of preferably fresh proteins are included. 

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Is My Golden Retriever Too Small?

You can certainly feed your Golden Retriever a dry food diet, granted the dried food meets the recommended guidelines set out by the Association of American Feed Control Officials. Always check the labels to be sure the feed contains at least 0.03 ounces (1 g) of protein per the body weight of your Golden Retriever. 

Grains and vegetables are also important to a dog’s growth, so be sure that your chosen feed contains an adequate amount of non-processed grains and veggies. 

Note: I’ve heard of many vegetarians who try to put their dog on an all vegetarian diet. Please don’t do this. Dogs are carnivorous and need meat in their diet. Instead, try a responsibly sourced grass-fed protein source like Castor & Pollux Grass Fed Lamb available from Amazon. This grain-free kibble has no artificial preservatives or flavors and will give your golden the nutrition she needs to grow.

Incorporate Resistance and Strength Training Exercises Into Your Golden Retrievers Activities

Golden Retrievers descend from the Scottish highlands of the UK where the breed was originally used for hunting purposes. This means that your Golden Retriever loves to run and remain active. We previously discussed how Golden Retrievers need adequate amounts of exercise to strengthen muscles and joints. 

Therefore, if your dog seems too small, resistance training and strength training are two techniques you can try to bulk your dog up. 

If you live near an area with high inclines and hills, you can regularly train your Golden Retriever to run up and down the hills which will use gravity as a form of resistance to build muscle. The more muscle your dog builds, the more toned and filled out it will become which will increase size.

Golden Retrievers frequently were tasked with carrying game and other animals collected from hunting on their backs during the 19th century. This means that your dog may be naturally predisposed to carrying weighted items on their back. If not, you can always train your Golden Retriever in this task.

A weighted vest like this one (Amazon) is a great tool used to increase your dog’s strength with walks and runs but only add this if your dog is already in good shape and is 8 months or older. This is not something you’d want to use on a small, developing puppy.

Increased muscle tone and upper and lower body strength can be achieved with this method, which will also help to increase your Golden Retriever’s muscle growth rate.  

Consult With Your Veterinarian

If you are at a loss as to what is causing your Golden Retriever to appear smaller than what is normal, you may need to consult with your veterinarian to get a professional assessment.

There could be an underlying illness that can be preventing your Golden Retriever from eating the proper amount of food or having the desire to exercise. A veterinarian would be able to diagnose such an issue. 

A veterinarian could also have some ideas as to why your Golden Retriever appears smaller than normal, especially if your dog is still in the growing process.

If your Golden Retriever is actually a miniature Golden Retriever, your vet can perform tests or consult manuals to look for signs that your dog is not a purebred Golden Retriever.

You would be surprised at how many people think a miniature is a real Golden Retriever. Knowing that there is a difference between the two can help you figure out if your Golden Retriever is naturally small or not. 

Could My Small Golden Retriever Have Been the Runt of the Litter?

We have explored a wide range of possible reasons why your Golden Retriever appears to be smaller than normal–but it could just simply be that your dog was the runt of the litter.

A runt of a litter is one puppy that is smaller and weaker than the rest of the litter after birth. A Golden Retriever that was the runt of its litter will not grow to the full size expected of the breed–but a runt is still a purebred and not considered a miniature Golden Retriever. 

The runt of the litter will typically suffer from inadequate development based on a severe lack of nutrition during the puppy stage due to the fierce competition of other puppies receiving milk from the mother.

The stress of the situation combined with the lack of nutrition manages to stunt the growth of a runt that carries over into the later growing period as well. 

If this is the case, there isn’t anything you can do to make your Golden Retriever grow more but it is worth a shot incorporating some of the above-mentioned measures to increase growth.

It isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm if your Golden Retriever was the runt of the litter; runts will appear smaller than normal but can certainly go on to live perfectly normal and healthy lives. 

Conclusion

There are a number of different factors that can affect Golden Retriever growth; therefore, it is definitely a valid point to wonder if your dog is too small when compared to other Golden Retrievers.

Before taking any action, always be sure that your Golden Retriever is purebred and not a miniature Golden Retriever which is a mixed breed and naturally small.

The two primary factors that may lead to smaller Golden Retriever sizes are improper diet and lack of exercise.

If none of the above-mentioned methods work to correct these possible imbalances, always consult your veterinarian.  

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Bryan Mullennix

Bryan's a freelance travel photographer and happy dog dad. He currently lives in Las Vegas with his wife, his son, and two dogs Nom Nom & Speck.

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