13 Things to Consider Before Buying a Golden Retriever
I was born a dog lover, but my love for golden retrievers didn't really begin until 1997 when Duke joined our family. For almost twenty years, golden retrievers have remained one of my favorite dog breeds.
If you're thinking of adding a golden retriever to your family, I don't blame you. However, there are thirteen things I think every potential golden owner should be aware of.
1) They Have Energy
While it seems the breed has developed a reputation for being somewhat of a 'couch potato', golden retrievers were originally bred as a sporting dog and because of this, are naturally energetic animals.
With proper exercise, most golden retrievers can adapt to any living situation, including an apartment (source).
Meeting your golden's exercise needs is extremely important. An unexercised golden with pent up energy may develop behavioral problems or bad habits. There are many ways to satisfy your golden retriever's exercise needs such as long walks, jogging or running, hiking, playing a vigorous game of fetch or chase, swimming or canine sports such as agility. If you enjoy cycling you can train your golden to safely trot beside you or in the winter your golden can accompany you on snow shoeing or cross country skiing adventures. Doggy daycare is another great way to drain some of your golden's energy while also providing them the opportunity to socialize with other dogs.
Before buying a golden, ask yourself if you are ready and able to meet their exercise requirements. Remember, golden retrievers are slow to mature and may act like a puppy well into their senior years (source).
How much exercise do you provide your golden with daily?
2) They Were Born to Fetch
I remember sitting on a footbridge one summer with my first golden, Duke. I was dangling my feet over the side and not surprisingly, my sandal fell off and dropped into the creek below. Before I even realized what had happened, Duke stood up, trotted down the stone steps, waded into the creek, collected my sandal and brought it back to me. When our eyes met, it was clear that Duke and I were equally surprised by his actions. It's just one of those moments where you realize, as a retriever, these dogs were born to fetch.
This natural retriever instinct is linked to the breed's tendency to carry items in its mouth (source). This may be a harmless habit such as picking up a toy and prancing about when s/he is excited, but it can also be a problematic chewing issue. In addition to mental and physical stimulation, proper obedience and plenty of toys should help combat chewing.
3) They Shed
Twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring, golden retrievers will experience their most heavy shedding. Light-moderate shedding occurs all year.
With a golden in the house, you will always have dog fur around (source), even with regular dusting and vacuuming. As a golden owner, you may find yourself purchasing clothes, bedding and even furniture that matches your pooch's fur and you will suddenly understand why Costco sells lint rollers in bulk.
Nothing will completely eliminate shedding. However, to minimize shedding and to keep a golden's coat looking its best, they should be brushed a minimum of once a week. Daily brushing is ideal. If you own a golden, a good quality brush is an excellent investment. Do not shave your golden retriever (source). Bathing can also help with shedding.
One of the many things I love about golden retrievers is that their grooming needs, while more demanding than other breeds, are not difficult and can easily be done at home by the owner. Grooming is a great way to bond with your golden.
If dog fur isn't your thing, you may not be cut out for life with a golden.
4) They Are Prone to Waxy Ears
Unfortunately, golden retrievers are prone to waxy ears. This tends to be a result of poor air circulation due to their long ears (source).
Although it is not always the case, waxy ears can be the symptom of a more serious problem such as an infection (bacterial or yeast) or mites. "If left untreated or if not treated correctly and consistently, ear problems can become chronic and affect the dog's quality of life" (source).
The most common cause of ear infections in golden retrievers is yeast. After swimming or bathing, take the time to dry your golden's ears (source). Effort should also be made to keep ears clean. There are solutions available for purchase or that you can make at home that in addition to cleaning and soothing your golden retriever's ears will also change the pH level, creating an environment yeast should not thrive in.
Do you use home remedies for your golden's ears?
5) They Love Food
Golden retrievers love food. Unfortunately, the breed has a tendency to overeat and because of this, they can easily become overweight or even obese.
In addition to ensuring your golden is properly exercised and fed a high-quality diet, you will have to master self control, practicing tough love and not caving to the sad puppy dog eyes your golden is giving you every time you eat.
6) They Love Water
As with anything, there are exceptions but generally speaking, golden retrievers have a natural love for water.
Regular trips to a nearby beach for a game of fetch and the chance to swim will almost certainly be appreciated by your golden. If regular trips to the beach aren't possible, consider purchasing a hard plastic kiddie pool or even a sprinkler for your golden to play in. Not only does this play to their love for water, it can also help keep them cool in the summer.
7) They Love Mud
If a golden can't find water, mud will do.
8) They Are Not Aware of Their Size
Adult golden retrievers typically weigh between 55-75lbs (source), but don't tell them that. And while golden retrievers are seemingly unaware of their actual size, for people, the "combination of their size, enthusiasm, playfulness, and desire to be very close to their owners makes them seem larger than they are" (source).
Be prepared for your full grown golden to think s/he is a lap dog.
9) They Have Powerful Noses
One of the reasons golden retrievers are used for tasks such as drug-detection and search and rescue is because of their keen sense of smell.
Golden retrievers have a tendency to follow their nose, so for their own safety, they should not be allowed to roam freely (source).
10) They Are Intelligent
Today, golden retrievers are still used by hunters. They are also used by search and rescue teams and police and serve as guide dogs and therapy dogs. One of the reasons for this is because golden retrievers are extremely intelligent.
While a golden's intelligence does tend to make them quick learners (source), it does not necessarily make the breed easier to raise. A golden's mind must be properly stimulated. Mental stimulation is just as important as physical exercise and can be achieved through sport, obedience, games or puzzle toys.
11) They Are a Garden's Enemy
If you're working on an award winning garden, a golden retriever may not be the right breed for you. While the likelihood of digging increases with boredom, golden retrievers, in my experience seem to be attracted to gardens.
As I mentioned, golden retrievers love mud, so in addition to digging, golden retrievers also have a tendency to play, sleep or roll in flower beds.
12) They Are Not Watch Dogs
While there are certainly exceptions, as a general rule, golden retrievers are not watch dogs.
Golden retrievers are friendly by nature and tend to be more suited towards the 'welcoming committee' than 'neighborhood watch'. Though they may bruise a new guest with their powerful, rapidly wagging tail.
But again, there are exceptions and a golden retriever's intelligence and loyalty should never be under estimated.
13) They Are Family Members
"As a family pet, especially with children, the breed has few equals" (source). But golden retrievers are more than just a family pet, they are loyal best friends and loving family members.
Although the breed is capable of living outdoors (source), golden retrievers were bred to work closely with humans (source) and do best living indoors as part of a family. At times, the breed's desire to be with their family may even come across as needy. There are days my golden does not leave my side - she will follow me from room to room and stay within arm's reach regardless of what I am doing. In my experience, if you're looking for your golden, s/he is probably at your feet. Be careful, they are a tripping hazard.
If you've ever seen the heart-breaking stare of a golden retriever watching its family leave on an outing, you'll likely agree, this is not an independent breed, happy to be left alone all the time.
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