Golden Retriever Breed Standard
The Golden Retriever breed standard shows us what to look for in a Golden Retriever and helps breeders retain the distinctive qualities and characteristics of the breed. That doesn’t mean that every Golden Retriever should look exactly the same.
Instead, the breed standard is the written blueprint of the ideal specimen of a Golden Retriever. It gives breeders guidelines in their efforts to achieve the most desirable traits in their Goldens.
In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) officially recognizes about 130 breeds of dogs. It has an official breed standard for each breed.
Comprehensive breed standard books discuss everything important about a dog. These include each breed’s size and shape, the color, markings, and feel of its coat. They even explain how the dog should move and behave. Here’s a word picture of the ideal Golden Retriever, summarized from the AKC Golden Retriever breed standard.
Golden Retriever Breed Standard — General Appearance
The Golden Retriever is described in the breed standard as a “powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg.” This is the first impression you have of a Golden Retriever when you take a look at him. Everything needs to be in proportion, designed for a gundog to do his job efficiently.
A Golden Retriever should be able to keep going all day over rugged terrain, and he’s built to do just that.
The AKC Golden Retriever breed standard goes on to describe the Golden Retriever as “displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident.” Yep, sounds like a Golden!
A Golden Retriever’s height at the shoulder should be 22 to 24 inches (56-61cm) for males, and 20 to 22.5 inches (51-56 cm) for females. The Golden Retriever should be slightly longer in body than height.
As a general rule, the weight of an adult Golden Retriever male ranges from 65 to 75 pounds (30-34 kg), and a female from 55 to 65 pounds (25-30 kg).
Golden Retriever Breed Standard For a Golden Retriever’s Head
Of course, the shape of the head doesn’t affect a dog’s ability to be a good pet. But it’s the way the head is proportioned (and the facial expressions) that defines the Golden Retriever.
A Golden’s head should be neither too narrow nor too broad. In keeping with a dog who uses his mouth to retrieve game, his muzzle should be wide, with strong jaws. The eyes mirror the dog’s personality and character.
Those are the elements which make a Golden retriever what he is–intelligent, trusting and fun-loving. According to the Golden Retriever breed standard, a Golden’s eyes should be dark brown, though medium brown is OK, too. They shouldn’t be slanted or almond-shaped. The dark brown eyes, with dark rims, should be set well apart. It’s that dark color, along with the shape, that gives the Golden Retriever his sweet, intelligent expression.
The ears should be placed well behind and just above the eye, and fall close to the cheek.
The Golden Retriever breed standard explains that when you pull your dog’s ears forward, the tips of his ears should just cover his eyes. (My kids never got tired of trying this on our Golden!) A Golden’s nose should be black or brownish black. His dark nose balances nicely with his dark eyes.
If your Golden stays outside a lot in really cold weather, his nose might fade to a lighter shade. But don’t worry. This “snow nose” is temporary, and will return to its original dark color when warm weather returns.
A Golden’s teeth should have a complete scissor bite, which means the upper teeth should closely overlap the bottom ones. That’s important, because he has to be able to carry birds in his mouth without damaging them.
Golden Retriever Breed Standard — Moving On Back
A Golden Retriever’s neck needs to be muscular and just the right length to help him carry game over rough ground, often jumping and swimming while doing so.
The AKC Golden Retriever breed standard term “no throatiness” means there should be no loose skin around his neck.
A Golden Retriever should have a deep (but not barrel-shaped) chest. His legs need to be strong and muscular to help him in running and swimming. They should be straight–never bowlegged.
A Golden’s feet should be round and catlike–not long like a rabbit’s foot. Rounder feet are known to be stronger and will also help your dog be more surefooted. His thick pads and strong claws form “running shoes” for covering hard ground in a hurry. His tail is his glorious banner.
It floats straight out or curls up slightly at the end. “Carried with a merry action,” as the Golden Retriever breed standard describes, means it’s wagging almost all of the time. It does a great job of dusting the coffee table!
Golden Retriever Breed Standard For the Coat
The Golden’s gorgeous coat should be neither coarse nor silky, and can be either straight or wavy.
He should have good feathering on his legs and underside to help protect him when he’s running through briars.
His undercoat is short, dense, and somewhat oily, providing great insulation and waterproofing for swimming in cold lakes and romping in the snow.
The Golden Retriever breed standard advocates any shade of golden, from cream to a rich, lustrous gold.
The AKC singles out very pale coats as being undesirable, but these are quite popular in the U.K.
Golden Retriever Breed Standard For Action and Attitude
A Golden Retriever’s long, smooth strides carry him along with efficient, well-coordinated action. That helps him cover a lot of ground quickly, and with a minimum of effort.
In general, The Golden Retriever’s temperament is described in the Golden Retriever breed standard as “friendly, reliable and trustworthy.” A Golden Retriever should be confident, outgoing, and friendly with all people–including strangers and children. He should also get along well with other dogs.
We had two Goldens for a month, as we rescued Ruby from the dog pound. She got along great with Peaches, little Bitsy, and the kids (even lively Travis, seen here). But she had such a craving for youthful companionship that she kept jumping the fence to visit the elementary school down the street. We found her a more suitable home with friends in the country.
Of all the qualities discussed in the AKC Golden Retriever breed standard, the Golden’s temperament is by far his greatest quality. That built-in gentleness and sweetness is what has drawn so many of us to the breed.