A lot of my friends had dogs when I was a kid, and I have to admit that some of these pooches scared me a little. But not Bruce, a gorgeous golden retriever who would saunter gently up to meet me whenever I visited, butting his head against my leg for a pat, and covering me with wet kisses. To me, he was a like a big teddy bear, friendly, cuddly and even-tempered.
It’s not surprising that the golden retriever is one of the most popular dogs in North America, and has been for years. Intelligent, amiable and willing to learn, goldens often become working dogs and are frequently seen assisting the visually impaired, doing search and rescue work, or lifting the spirits of hospital patients or seniors in the role of therapy dogs.
Like many other breeds, the golden retriever was initially bred for wildfowl hunting. According to the American Kennel Club, the breed originated in Scotland in the late 19th century as a cross between the original yellow retriever and the Tweed water spaniel, which is now extinct. The result was a dog ideally suited to not only retrieving game on dry land, but also fetching waterfowl shot down in the many lakes and rivers found in the Scottish Highlands.
Today, golden retrievers make wonderful family companions. They stand around 2’ high at the shoulders and can weigh 55 to 75 pounds. Because they’re reliable and trustworthy, they’re usually good with children. Aggression, fear or timidity are not characteristic of the breed, and are most likely the result of negative training methods or poor socialization. Keep in mind, though, that goldens are active dogs, so they need plenty of regular outdoor exercise. They’re also smart, which means mental stimulation is important for their well being. Games and toys that make your golden think will keep him at the top of his form.
Because the golden has a relatively long, dense, feathery coat and sheds seasonally, he needs regular grooming and should be brushed at least a couple times a week. His coat is naturally water-repellent but may collect snowballs in the winter, especially between the toes — try carefully trimming the feathery hair on his feet. With his rich golden coat and cheery disposition, this breed is sure to remain a family favorite for many more years to come.