9 Golden Retriever Characteristics That Will Surprise You

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How well do you know your beloved golden retriever?

Sure, everybody knows they’re sweet and playful, but these nine characteristics reveal there’s a lot more to them than most people think!

From duck-like feet, to color-changing eyes, to holding multiple world records, golden retrievers are quite dynamic.

But unfortunately, not all of the qualities listed here are good.

#8 is upsetting (and bewildering), but scientists are working on it!

Keep on reading to learn more about these interesting golden retriever characteristics.

#1: Golden Retrievers Have Webbed Feet

Golden retrievers were bred to retrieve gunned down birds back in the 1800s in Scotland.

They were sometimes required to swim through marshes and wetlands, and one of the characteristics that helped them succeed at that is their webbed feet.

The first golden retrievers were a mix between a Tweed Water Spaniel and a wavy-coated retriever, which gave them these webbed feet.

It’s not very obvious that they have them, since they keep their toes close together and their feet are furry, but next time you clip your golden’s nails, check it out!

#2: Golden Retrievers Have A Double Coat

golden retriever characteristic #2: double coat

In addition to their webbed feet helping them swim through the water, their double coats helped keep them warm.

This double coat is made of a smooth, waterproof topcoat, and thick, fluffy undercoat.

The waterproof topcoat obviously keeps the water out, while the down undercoat keeps them warm.

This let them successfully hunt in the cold northern waters without worrying about getting too cold.

But it’s not just the cold their double coat keeps them safe from.

It also helps regulate their body temperature in the heat.

Caring For Your Golden Retriever’s Double Coat

There are two main things golden retriever owners need to know about taking care of their dog’s double coat.

#1: Never Shave Your Golden Retriever

Your golden retrievers’ double coat regulates their body temperature in both hot and cold weather, so never shave them — even if it’s 100 degrees out.

We humans regulate our body temperatures through our skin, which is why it feels nice to wear a tank top in the summer.

But dogs are different.

They mostly get rid of body heat through panting.

So when you shave their coat, you’re robbing them of their natural protection against external temperatures.

Bottom line: never shave your golden.

#2: Brush your golden retriever often

Goldens can get mats in their undercoat, which is when their fur twists up into a tight, tangled ball.

They can be painful and lead to skin problems, but regular brushing can help prevent them.

Brushing them often can also help them shed less and keep their coats soft and fluffy.

#3: Golden Retriever Puppies Can Have Blue Eyes

weird golden retriever characteristic:  a blue eyed golden retriever puppy

If you have a golden retriever, you know those soft, sweet brown eyes very well.

But did you know that they might’ve been blue when your golden was first born?

Golden retriever puppies don’t open their eyes until they’re two weeks old.

But even when they do open them, they’re not fully developed.

The dark blue color is because of a lack of pigment, but it quickly changes to brown as they get a little older.

And speaking of getting a little older…

P.S. Getting a golden retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook!

#4: Golden Retrievers Are “Puppies For Life”

Golden retrievers take a long time to mature.

Some people say golden retrievers mature at two years old, while others claim they’re mature at four.

And then some people say their golden never grew up and was a sweet, playful puppy all their life!

No matter when they “officially mature,” here’s what we know:

  1. Golden retriever females mature faster than males
  2. Golden retrievers love to play, even when they’re older

I was just at my friends house last week and her nine-year-old golden kept bringing me toys to play with her!

And my golden, Oliver, is two and a half and he’s still 100% puppy.

But don’t let this playfulness fool you, #5 is also true…

#5: Golden Retrievers Can Be Protective

Yes, golden retrievers are sweet, loving, goofy dogs — but don’t underestimate them!

They love their families fiercely and will protect them if they have to.

It also helps that they’re big enough to intimidate most would-be attackers, they have a scary bark, and they’re athletic.

Check out this story of Sadie protecting her family:

Sadie The Golden Protects Her Mom [VIDEO]

Isn’t that awesome?!

Of course, golden retrievers are no german shepherds, and they won’t be getting recruited to the military any time soon, but they can protect their families.

#6: Golden Retrievers Have The World’s Loudest Bark

Charlie, a golden retriever from Australia, has the Guinness World Record for loudest bark.

His bark was measured at 113.1 decibels at the Purina Bark in the Park event in Australia.

Can you imagine going to an event where they try to get dogs to bark as loud as they can?

yeah thats gonna be a no for me dawg

It’s a good thing golden retrievers are mild barkers because that would be painful to deal with all the time.

In other news, Charlie isn’t the only world-record-holding golden retriever!

Finley, a golden retriever from Upstate New York, can gather and hold six tennis balls in his mouth at once.

finley the world record holder for most tennis balls in his mouth
image source

That’s impressive!

#7: Golden Retrievers Are The 4th Smartest Dog Breed

Again, don’t let their goofiness fool you!

According to Dr. Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, they’re the fourth smartest dog breed.

Here are the top five:

  1. Border Collies
  2. Poodles
  3. German Shepherds
  4. Golden Retrievers
  5. Doberman Pinscher

To put that in perspective, they’re about as smart as a 2 or 2.5-year-old human and can learn over 165 words.

Pretty impressive, right?

But just because they’re smart doesn’t mean owning a golden is easy.

It’s great because their brains make them relatively easy to train.

They’re quick learners and love challenges.

But because they’re so smart, they can get bored easily, which can lead to them being mischievous, like Archie the golden retriever who loves to steal everything.

Archie The Golden Retriever Steals Everything [VIDEO]

Have you ever seen a more adorable thief?!

#8: Golden Retrievers Are Very Susceptible To Cancer

In one study, Purdue and the Golden Retriever Club of America analyzed the cause of death in 420 golden retrievers.

61% of them died from cancer.

According to the Veterinary Cancer Society, 25% of all dogs will get cancer.

So on average, golden retrievers are more than twice as likely than other breeds to get cancer.

It’s terrible, but there’s a twist…

The 61% only applies to American golden retrievers.

According to this study, less than 40% of European golden retrievers died from cancer.

It’s significantly less, but still way over the average for all breeds.

However, we do have some hope.

Over 3,000 golden retrievers are enrolled in the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study to help veterinarians and scientists understand why this is the case.

They’re taking note of these dogs’ lifestyle, diet, weight, environment, and genetics to see if they can find patterns as to why so many goldens get cancer and other diseases.

You can learn more about this study at their website here:


Alright, enough of this sadness — let’s finish this list off with some good news!

#9: Golden Retrievers Can Live To 20 Years Old

oldest golden retriever 20 year old augie

In 2020, Augie became the oldest golden retriever by celebrating her 20th birthday!

There have been many goldens that lived into their late teens, but Augie is the first golden to eclipse the big two-oh.

That’s almost twice the expected lifespan of golden retrievers, which 10-12 years.

Although this pretty lady was blessed with exceptional genes, there are some things you can do to help your golden live a long life.

Here are five of them:

Tip #1: Choose a breeder that breeds healthy dogs

If you’re buying a dog from a breeder, choose a breeder that health screens their dogs and has proof that they’re healthy.

Choosing a breeder that breeds healthy dogs might sound obvious, but many people put more emphasis on their budget than whether or not they’re actually getting a healthy puppy.

Your budget is obviously important, but also consider the future implications of getting a dog from a cheap breeder.

Now, if you’ve rescued your golden retriever, this tip won’t apply, but the next few will…

Tip #2: Feed your dog a high-quality food

What you choose to feed your dog is one of the few things you can control when it comes to their health.

Like choosing a good breeder, good food is not cheap.

But you’ll save money on vet bills down the line (not to mention saving your dog from health issues and yourself from heartbreak).

Talk to your vet and see what they recommend, but you can also read these articles about golden retriever puppy food and adult golden retriever food.

Tip #3: Keep your dog’s weight under control

Speaking of food, golden retrievers love food so much that they are prone to obesity.

Of course, obesity can lead to all sorts of health issues like joint problems and heart problems, so it’s really important to keep your dog’s weight under control.

You can do that by giving them plenty of exercise and feeding them the recommended amount.

Tip #4: Groom your dog regularly

We talked about taking care of your golden retriever’s coat earlier, but grooming them is much more than that.

It’s also taking care of their ears, nails, teeth, and paws, which can all add up to having a healthy dog.

Plus, when you’re brushing your golden you can touch them all over and potentially notice a small lump before it turns into a big problem.

Which leads us to the next tip…

Tip #5: Have a good relationship with your vet

Reading blogs and asking for advice in Facebook groups from people who aren’t experts and have never met your dog is not exactly the best plan to keep your golden healthy.

Have a good relationship with your vet and let them get to know your dog well.

They’ll be able to steer you in the right direction and tell you what’s best for your golden retriever.

See more tips and facts about your golden retriever’s lifespan here (but don’t forget to go see your vet!).


characteristics of a golden retriever

Golden retrievers are such fascinating dogs!

They’re sweet, yet can be protective.

Beautiful, yet have webbed feet to help them swim and hunt.

Goofy, yet one of the smartest breeds.

What’s your favorite characteristic of your golden retriever?

Let me know down in the comments!

And if you liked this article, you’ll love this ultimate guide to raising a golden retriever puppy.

P.S. Getting a golden retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook!

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