Field Golden Retriever vs. Show Golden Retriever (7 Differences)

Want to know the difference between field golden retrievers and show golden retrievers?

Yes, they’re both golden retrievers that make great family pets, but there are some differences (such as their size and personality) that you should consider if you’re looking to get a golden retriever.

In this post, I’m going to break down seven differences between these two styles of golden retrievers.

Let’s dive in!

Field Golden Retrievers vs. Show Golden Retrievers Overview

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the differences between these two styles of goldens, let’s make a few things clear…

First, these are both golden retrievers, they’re just different styles of the same breed.

And because they’re the same breed, they’re more similar than they are different.

However, they are bred for different purposes, and those purposes influence all of the factors that we’ll discuss here.

Second, let’s clear up some terms.

The term “field bred” and “field” mean the same thing, and the terms “conformation” and “show” also mean the same thing.

And finally, these differences are generalities, not hard set rules.

Every dog is an individual and can be on any end of the spectrum for the factors we’re talking about here.

Now let’s talk about the differences between these two styles…


Field Golden Retriever:

Field bred golden retrievers are bred to hunt.

They’re meant to be in the field all day retrieving gunned down fowl.

They’re bred for a specific personality and drive.

Show Golden Retriever:

Show golden retrievers are bred for a specific look.

They’re bred to look like what the judges at conformation events expect them to look like based on the breed standard.

Size & Body Type

athletic field golden retriever
The athletic body type of a field bred golden retriever

Field Golden Retriever:

Field bred golden retrievers are athletes.

They’re smaller and slimmer, and have body types that help them run, jump and swim all day.

Their heads are usually “wedge-shaped.”

Show Golden Retriever:

Show golden retrievers are bigger, thicker, stockier, and “big-boned.”

They often tend to have heads that are more blocky.


Field Golden Retriever:

Since field bred golden retrievers are bred to hunt, they typically have more driven personalities.

Like all golden retrievers, they’re loving and aim to please.

Show Golden Retriever:

Show golden retrievers tend to be more sociable.

They’re typically friendlier and, like all golden retrievers, they too aim to please.

Both breeds are also usually good with other dogs.

Click here to learn more about golden retrievers’ personality.

Energy Levels

Field Golden Retriever:

Since field golden retrievers are bred to hunt all day, they have tons of energy.

Typically, they have more energy than show golden retrievers.

Show Golden Retriever:

Show golden retrievers typically have less energy than field golden retrievers, but don’t underestimate them.

All golden retriever puppies, no matter which style, have tons of energy, and just because show golden retrievers typically have less energy than field bred goldens, they can still be quite the handful.


show golden retriever vs field bred golden retriever coat
The long, thick coat of a show golden retriever

Field Golden Retriever:

Field bred golden retrievers typically have darker coats in shades from gold to red.

They’re usually shorter than conformation goldens.

Because they have shorter coats, they have less volume of fur to shed, so it may feel like they shed less.

Show Golden Retriever:

Show golden retrievers have long, beautiful coats with long feathers.

They’re typically light gold to gold in color.

Since they have such full coats, they shed excessively, so get used to it being all over the house.

Click here to learn more about grooming golden retrievers.

Training Needs & Abilities

Field Golden Retriever:

All golden retrievers, especially field goldens, are very smart, love to please people, and love treats and praise, so they naturally take well to training and enjoy it.

If you don’t train them, their brainpower will usually manifest itself in something mischevious, like chewing up shoes or stealing socks.

Field golden retrievers love training and they need lots of it.

Show Golden Retriever:

Just like field goldens, show golden retrievers make great students because they are intelligent people-pleasers that love treats and praise.

However, they may need slightly less work than field goldens because they weren’t bred for such drive and the need for a job.

Are they good with families & children?

Field Golden Retriever:

Field golden retrievers typically make great pets, however, they need lots of attention and can be mouthy (after all, they are bred to carry game in their mouths).

They can be a little on the rough and tumble side, but are very loving and devoted to their families.

Show Golden Retriever:

Since show golden retrievers are typically a little calmer, need a little less training, and are a little more friendly, you could make a case that they make better family dogs.

However, both styles of goldens make great family pets.


Field Golden Retriever:

Obviously field golden retrievers make good hunting dogs, but their drive and energy also make them good search and rescue dogs.

They’re also good at sports such as agility and dock diving.

Show Golden Retriever:

In addition to excelling in dog shows, show goldens, or dogs from show golden lines, are often therapy dogs or service dogs.


field bred golden vs conformation golde

Field bred golden retrievers are athletes that were bred to work all day, while show golden retrievers are dogs that are bred for a certain look.

They’re both wonderful dogs and with the right training, can make great family pets.

Have any questions about field bred vs show golden retrievers?

Have you owned one of these styles?

Let me know in the comments below!

And if you know someone who’s thinking about getting a golden retriever, please share this article with them!

P.S. If you liked this article, you’ll also like our Complete Guide To Golden Retrievers.

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68 thoughts on “Field Golden Retriever vs. Show Golden Retriever (7 Differences)”

  1. I have 2 “Show” Goldens, mom and son. We started or trained our female late in field work for hunt tests. She was almost 2. She hated the conformation ring but I wanted to give her job that she enjoys. Our breeder connected us with a couple “field” golden trainers and the rest is history. She has her HRC Started and Seasoned Title. She also has her AKC JH and WCX title as well as CKC JH. She is also on her way to SH. Her son is not quite 2 yet, got his first Started pass this year and has lots of drive. I understand the comments about field vs show, but there are exceptions. Training is constant. This all done by both me and my husband, not a Pro.

  2. I have 3 Goldies, 2 from Scotland one from Devon, my old boy never really worked, my other two have picked up about 300 birds this season. Working Goldies are tough stubborn and very intelligent. My big boy ten and a half, he is amazing, he will go into anything comes out with bloody cuts all over his face, but always gets his bird. For those who don’t know Goldies are both ground and air scenting that’s why they are great hunters. There is nothing like sending your dog out for a bird, he is 300 yards away he stops sits down and looks at you and asks for instructions you tell him where to go and when to hunt. You are part of the team he trusts you and you trust him.
    They are working dogs that love to work, on a shooting field they are totally animated they just switch on watch everything and unlike me miss virtually nothing. Working on a shooting field with a pair of Goldies is as near to perfection as you can get.
    All mine are pets and house dogs, my big boy is asleep on his bed at the side of me my youngster is in his cage (house).
    Their names are MUSKET, FIFE AND DRUM.

  3. I had a dark red field golden. He was typical talker, thinner legs, a great athlete, always busy inside or outside. He made up his own game of hiding his ball somewhere then prancing through all rooms searching for it, after hiding it. He was so pleased with himself when he found it. He was a clown. He dug a hole on the beach as he watched the tide coming in- when it willed his hole he laid his front body in it until he saw the next wave coming…then he dug again. I have had 5 goldens, this one was almost 12 and old age took him but the others were. Taken by cancer – trued to save them all but could not. I have a 5 yr old golden sweet dog now.

  4. Is a curly coat more common
    in field retrievers? I think our 2 year old seems to be a field retriever except for her color – English cream.

  5. My 15-year-old daughter has a 16-month-old field, red Golden Retriever. About 15-20 years ago, her Father, me, had a Shutzhund 3 trained German Shepherd imported from Düsseldorf. As a devout mountain biker, I would take my shepherd on the rails-to-trails with me for some level exercise. He was attached to the bike with one of those rear-swingarm, Springer-type bike leashes. We would ride for a total of about 10 miles with two stops, one at a creek, and another for water from a bowl. He was in heaven.

    The question is whether the 60-pound, female “Field” Golden Retriever will make a good biking companion for my daughter. Please set aside that we are still a bit early to start biking with her dog. We will wait until my daughter’s dog reaches maturity at 24 months. Thereafter, given the proper amount of patience and training, do you have a sense whether a female, Field, Golden Retriever is well-suited for this activity?

    • Hi Paul, I am no expert but I have a 2 year old field retriever. He’s on the smaller side coming in at 48 pounds soaking wet but he LOVES all things mountain. I’ve taken him up 14-ner’s, 11 mile morning hikes, overnight back packing trips, ski trips, and paddle boarding he loves it all! I am just now getting him geared up for some bike activities but so far, he is absolutely loving it and has made an excelent companion for me as a single 25 year old active female. If your daughter’s retriever seems to enjoy it and enjoys other activies such as the above, I’d say they’re perfect for this kind of companion activity!

    • I have a 2 year old field golden. Yes and Yes…they are smart.
      He can train them to do anything…does not take long. They are to smart,
      You can’t fool them. Love treats, Small Charlie’s in your pocket and She do anything. Loves kids….one thing they can be stubborn, she loves to eat paper and won’t listen. But she so sorry…..after. Good luck

  6. I have a female field line Golden, 2 yr. She has tons of energy, looks as in the picture in the article and is a real beauty (in my eyes ;-); She was a handful as a puppy but we learnt to be a team and are doing musical freestyle now where she earnt her first beginner title. Besides, we are doing lots of walks, retrieve, frisbee for fun, dock diving in natural settings at rivers for fun. So far training. At home, she is very quiet, does not bark and is the cuddliest dog one can imagine although she does not follow us all the time around the house since we trained her to be from time to time on her own and relax alone. The only thing I cannot confirm from the article: not wary of strangers – she LOVES all humans without any exception – a bit too much to our taste 😉

  7. I was told by a breeder in England, 15 years ago that the English Cream were bred to dilute the Red Goldens because of their high Cancer rate!

    1: Field Goldens were bred to herd, they have long noses to guide. Thick coats for warmth.

    2: Bench Goldens were bred to hunt (water fowl) short squatter noses and coarse hair that dries quickly.

    Color had nothing to do with their abilities, or temperament. The color is due to breeding.

    Different experts opinion.

    This makes much more sense.

  8. I have a 5 years old female show or conformation golden. She is short, stocky, has a blocky head, and a coat that is so hick and full. She has incredibly long and full leg and tail featherings. I got her as a puppy from a breeder in Dewinton, Alberta, just south of Calgary. She is the sweetest girl and is a therapy dog. We visit at the Alberta Children’s Hospital as well as another city hospital in Calgary.

  9. We have a 10m old female field and she is amazing. She herds our chickens on command and will catch one being so gentle not to injure just naturally with the intention level. Definitely high energy….balls are great, still super loving and snuggly. And also super mouthy with certain people. For me – it’s like affection, but can sub with toys or sticks. She never does it to my husband so obviously training can help with it. Naturally wants to please and do good, love the field!

  10. Our Golden / Yellow Lab mix Tucker seems to be a mix of both types. He has the energy of a field, for about a half hour, and the coat of a show golden. He is a “people dog,” but plays well with any dog that will play nice with him. Because of his short burst energy curve, his full name is “Tucker Doubt.”

  11. I wish I knew what kind of golden I have! She is a rescue we got her at 6 months, she is now 8 1/2 months and is amazing!!

  12. Wow, this is interesting… I never knew there WAS a difference like this between Goldens. I’ve done a lot of volunteer work with Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael, CA and have never heard them mention this distinction. I’m guessing it’s because all their dogs are show goldens, as they are therapy dogs. Volunteering there is still on hold due to Covid, but if I ever get to go back, I’ll ask them about this.

  13. We have a 20 month old Field Male, and he is the best dog we have ever owned! So smart, wants to please, wonderful personality, and very loving!
    I honestly think you cannot go wrong with any golden retriever, field or show!❤️

  14. In choosing your puppy and its breeder, absolutely make sure that the parents have all the recommended health screenings: hips, elbows, eyes, heart, and DNA testing. This applies to BOTH field-type and show-type Goldens.

  15. Thank you for this article. I have a one year old field female and didn’t know there was there two types but your description is spot in and explains my girl. I have an issue with her not dropping the ball. She loves it and will chase for hours but I can’t get her to drop when she brings back. She is not good focused at all which is wonderful. Any tips?

    • We had this problem with our field golden. I trained it out of her by having really enticing treats in my hand when playing ball. Tell her to drop it and then immediately give her the treat and praise like crazy. Do this every time she brings it back. Once you feel like she’s getting good at it don’t give the verbal command. Just wait for her when she brings the ball back. Don’t touch her or reach for the ball, just wait. The instant she drops it praise like crazy and jackpot her with treats. Overtime you’ll be able to feed intermittently until the treats aren’t needed at all. I find making eye contact when giving commands really helps too. Good luck!

    • Mine was the same. Family visited for Thanksgiving and my son’s. Girlfriend said oh that’s an easy fix. She threw the ball he got it and came back as always. Then she said ignore him, don’t make eye contact. He dropped it at her feet. Since then he drops every time.

  16. We have a show female and a field male Golden. They are both wonderful pets!! Thank you for your article!! It describes our two perfectly!!

  17. I have more of a question than a comment. Not sure how old this is or if anyone would answer but I’ll give it a shot. I’m looking for a golden and originally wanted a field golden but can’t find a Reputable breeder near me. We actually I found one and she has over a 2 year wait list. I found a good show breeder but I run 1-1/2 miles in the morning and evening and want to do agility. Would a show golden be good? We also like to go to state parks with kids and hike on trails.

  18. Wow, thank you so much for the clarification! My retriever (Lucky Baker…our troublemaker) is very large and very fluffy, after reading this I now realize I have a Show Golden. He definitely has energy, but I love when we go for a 2 mile walk and 1/2 way through he lays down and good luck getting him to move!!!

  19. Excellent article describing the difference between show and Field Goldens. I am on my 4th Field Golden. When I was young, I begged my parents for a Golden. I didn’t know there were different types of Goldens back then. When my dad brought home a little redhead for my 13th birthday, I was in love and hooked! Forty years later, I’m still in love with Field Goldens. 🙂 I love their endless energy and their love of life.

  20. We have had goldens for years. I currently have a dark red field golden. I am trying to find a dark red field puppy. Any places that you know of that I might check? Thank you in advance.

    • I got mine from a breeder in Grand Rapids, Michigan about 2 years ago that we found online.
      I’m in the Northeast, and there aren’t any breeders in this area

      • There are many responsible breeders of field-bred Goldens in the Northeast.

        Suggest you all become familiar with and Retriever Training Forum. Just Google and you will find these sites.

    • Hi Lorraine. I’m an established breeder. Please email me if you’re still interested in a puppy from my next litter due around Jan 3rd, 2021.

    • I have a 9 mo. Red field. I am 77 year old. Frail female. Wrong dog for me. She is very energetic too much for me, I would like her to have a good family where she can prosper in. She has a birth deformity which is a missing front right paw but is very robust and fast. She needs love and exercise. Please respond

  21. I have a 19 week old golden. After having 2 larger goldens this one is projected at 50/55lbs. The vet said she was going to be lean and athletic. She already retrieves and jumps and catches flying objects. She steals sox like nobodies business but never tears up what she steals. She is very high energy and very mouthy. She is not dark. She fits your field golden description perfectly except for her coloring.

  22. I just recently learned that I rescued a field golden. I always thought he looked part Irish setter. A friend I recently met, was an AKA judge and ,former dog trainer business for 35 years. Her husband, a veterinarian. Cooper was 4 when i got him and is now 7. People constantly comment how much energy he has. Always thinking he is maybe 2. However, when I got him, he was very aggressive toward people and bit one lady on the hand. He diffidently is in the protect and guard mode, protecting me constantly. Stands near me, watching someone go by, while moving around to always be between me and another person. His aggression has improved. I am elderly and widowed, so his attentiveness is comforting. I am always training him for different skills and teaching new commands .

  23. My first dog was a defiantly a “show” golden retriever/rough coat collie/ Newfoundland mix. She was a rescue and a fabulous dog. Large and beautiful. When it can time to get another dog I decide on another rescue and called my friend who was a member of the Autumn Valley Golden Retriever Rescue. We where place with Emma, a two year old field golden. She came with papers and was microchip. She was red and petite with a long narrow nose. When we got her my two adopted from China daughters said “Hey mom, finally there is someone in the house who looks like you..” I am Irish. Our Emma is the most chill dog I have ever met. I love telling people she is a Field Golden from the UK.

  24. I have a field golden. When I first got her I didn’t know there was two different styles. After having her for a couple weeks, I knew she was different from normal goldens. Since she is my first I didn’t have any former insight. I eventually found plenty of information on her style, which definitely fits her personality. I’m always asked what breed she is, when I tell people she’s a purebred golden retriever they don’t believe me, or at least thinks she’s mixed. I then have to explain the two different styles of the breed. I’ve come back to this post several times since getting her over a year ago. You explained everything perfectly. Thank you!

  25. We’re on golden 4. Alternating field and show (not on purpose). I had noticed these differences but didn’t realize it was such distinct categories! Our field puppies were definitely prone to mischief when they weren’t properly entertained and engaged. First show style was a rescue and he was a great boy. The current show girl has been much more laid back as a puppy (shes 13 months now)

  26. Great article. I have one of each and your description fits each one of mine perfectly. I would love to share this article but was unable to from the FB post I read it from. My family has a total of 7 goldens,, so we are golden lovers !! Do you mind emailing this article to me at

  27. We are on our 4th golden. The first three were show goldens and our current one is a field type. They have all been excellent family dogs. Our field retriever loves to carry chew toys all over the house, retrieve them and likes to play with us, mainly tug of war. He loves walks and never gets tired. He excels at wanting to chase rabbits, squirrels, chipmunks, birds, etc. He sees (smells) these long before we do. He is a very lovable dog and craves attention. The largest difference between a field retriever and a standard golden is the lack of shedding hair, a most welcome benefit! We love goldens and the only other dogs we would consider are labradors. Your differences in these two types of goldens are spot on, great information.

  28. I’ve had both “Field” and “Show” Golden’s. Our Field Golden was defiantly more mouthy with a endless amount of energy. We provided endless walks and many, many hours of Frisbee and she would never ever get tired. Our Show Golden was quiet and was very loving and social. She would always flip over for belly rubs and even people who didn’t like dogs, loved her. She was my best dog ever an I mean ever!


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