Complete Guide To The Golden Retriever: Food, Exercise, Grooming, and More

One of the most popular dogs in America, the Golden Retriever, seems to check all the boxes. This adorable, fun-loving, family-oriented dog is content to spend time with his family or adventure through the woods working as a bird dog. The Golden Retriever is energetic and requires enough exercise to satisfy his high-energy drive. But, with the proper care and attention, the Golden Retriever can be a long-lived and loving family dog, perfectly blending into your family.

Golden Retrievers are not only one of the most popular breeds that walk through the doors of my veterinary practice but they are also one of the most popular dog breeds in the world. I’ve worked with more than a few Golden Retriever breeders over the years and currently own one as well. The following info is partially based on my experience with hundreds of these dogs.

My Husband With Our Golden Retriever Zuzu

How Big Do Golden Retrievers Get?

Male23-24″ at the shoulder65-75 lbs
Female21-22″ at the shoulder55-65 lbs

There is a tremendous amount of variety in the size of Golden Retrievers. I’ve seen dogs that look healthy at both 100 lbs and down to 35 lbs. I believe that the above measurements should be the standard and that irresponsible breedings produce dogs outside of this range.

A dog that is too small may have metabolic issues that make it that way. A dog that is bigger will always have a harder time orthopedically as they grow older.

What Do Goldens Look Like?

One of the main features that attract owners to the Golden Retriever is the long and silky fur. The fur is medium length and comes in all shades of golden blond. Some Golden Retrievers appear to be almost white, while others are a rusty golden red color. The fur is straight and silky, and generally smooth.

The Golden Retriever breed has been split into two main groups. Some breeders tend to develop their dogs more for hunting and to work as a bird dog. These athletic dogs tend to have a shorter coat with thinner fur. They are also generally stronger and thicker. Comparatively, other Golden Retrievers are bred to be more of a teddy-bear pet. These varieties will have shorter, fluffy fur. Golden Retrievers that are used as a show dog will have darker, more silky fur. Their bodies tend to be leaner and thinner too.  

How Much Grooming Does A Golden Retriever Need?

All that beautiful golden fur on a Golden Retriever does come with a high price. Expect to have extensive grooming hours invested in your pet if you add a Golden Retriever to the family. This dog requires regular brushing and bathing to keep the coat clear, shiny, and mat-free. The Golden Retriever is also a profuse shedder, with more fur coming out with seasonal changes. If you like to have a spotless and fur-free house, this is not the dog for you.

The Golden Retriever also enjoys all outdoor play, running into deep brush, and swimming. This behavior can make the fur mat and become dirty faster than usual. If you have a very adventurous and athletic dog, expect to wash and groom your dog more often to keep the dog’s fur clean and tangle-free. Swimming in salt and fresh water can bring in dirt and mud, which must be removed to keep the coat healthy. 

How Much Exercise Does A Golden Retriever Need?

Golden Retrievers are highly active dogs and like to stay engaged both physically and mentally. This breed is the type of dog with plenty of energy, likes to have a job, and wants to work. This work ethic is part of why Golden Retrievers make not only excellent birding dogs and hunting companions but also service dogs. If you plan to adopt a Golden Retriever, be prepared for daily exercise and activity.  

Taking a vigorous or extended walk every day will help to keep your dog happy and healthy. Plan on an hour-long walk or hike. This activity will not only help get some energy out of your Golden Retriever but will give him plenty of stimulation as he can interact with other dogs, people and pick up plenty of smells along the way. Golden Retrievers also like to run and can be a perfect jogging buddy for your daily exercise. Of course, a rousing game of fetch will also keep your Golden Retriever happy.

Because this breed of dog is intelligent and likes to work, the Golden Retriever excels at dog agility competitions. Teach your dog how to run an agility course, participate in flyball, or work through obedience training. Not only will these activities help to keep your dog healthy and fit, but they will keep his mind engaged and his brain active as he has to work to figure out new challenges and puzzles.  

What Kind of Dog Food Is Good For A Golden Retriever?

For Alaskan Malamute puppies, you will need to make sure you don’t feed them too much too fast. It’s easy because they are usually chow hounds, but you want to control their growth. Growing too fast can cause some early bone and joint problems that are easily avoided.

Best Puppy Food For Golden Retrievers:

Best Adult Food For Golden Retrievers:

Please don’t listen to the folks at the pet store trying to convince you to buy a grain-free diet for your dog. There’s zero science behind that and vets are actually seeing diseases now related to feeding grain-free foods.

It’s very important they remain at their optimal weight throughout their life. As Goldens age in my practice, it’s quite common to see them get overweight as their owners don’t realize that they don’t need as many calories on a daily basis as they age. Have your vet go over with you exactly where to feel to know when your dog is too big.

Is It True That Grain Free Diets Are Bad For Golden Retrievers?

YES!!!!! A study from the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2018 found an increased correlation between Golden Retrievers being fed a boutique, grain-free diet developing dilated cardiomyopathy. This is an acquired heart disease not typically associated with Goldens.

The chief culprit was taurine deficiency due to a lack of proper nutritional balance. If you’ve been feeding your current Golden Retriever a grain-free diet, you might discuss with your veterinarian having a cardiologist do a cardiac ultrasound to assess the heart. You can measure taurine levels, but low taurine levels don’t automatically mean that the heart is affected.

How Long Do Golden Retrievers Live?

10-12 years based on info from the AKC

What Health Problems Can Golden Retrievers Have?

I see so many Golden Retrievers in my veterinary practice and unfortunately I see them a lot for the following health issues. The breed itself is so overbred (a huge reason to go to a reputable breeder for the best possible dog) that certain health conditions are fairly synonymous with the breed:

  • Allergies/Atopic Dermatitis
  • Cancer
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Arthritis
  • Obesity
  • Hypothyroidism

Where Can I Find Out More About The Golden Retriever?

Golden Retriever Club of America

AKC Breed Page

Me With An Awesome Golden Retriever Litter

Where Can I Find a Golden Retriever?

Breeder Referral From Golden Retriever Club of America

AKC Puppy Page

See a great-looking Golden Retriever out in public? Chase down that owner and ask them for the breeder info! Most proud owners will be happy to share.

Special Considerations

If you are getting a Golden Retriever because you want a protective guard dog, you may want to look for a different breed. These dogs are not particularly good watchdogs and seldom bark. Certain Golden Retrievers may give you a warning that a stranger is approaching, but others are happy to welcome any stranger into your home.  

The Golden Retriever is a very people-oriented dog and thrives on social interaction and praise. The dog likes to please his or her owners, which explains why they are so good at obedience and service work. Be sure that you dedicate enough time and energy to your dog. If left to their own devices and without proper attention, exercise, and mental stimulation, this dog can become frustrated, lonely, and destructive.  

Be cautious of this large dog around small children. While generally, the Golden Retriever has a fun disposition, full of affection, young dogs have plenty of energy. Their exuberance and energy can easily knock a small child over, or frighten a young child, even if the dog is only trying to play.