Are Golden Retrievers High Maintenance? Here’s The Truth

If you’re considering a Golden Retriever, you may have been wondering this:

Are Golden Retrievers high maintenance?

Many people consider Golden Retrievers to be high maintenance because of their exercise, social, grooming, and health needs.

They can also be lower maintenance than other dogs because of their ability to be trained, adaptability to different living situations, and friendliness to dogs, other animals, and people.

But not all Golden Retrievers are the same, and not all people are the same, so the answer here depends.

To help you decide for yourself, this article will look a little deeper into some of the reasons Golden Retrievers might be considered high maintenance, including: 

  • Energy and exercise
  • Shedding and grooming
  • Mental enrichment needs
  • Attachment to their family
  • Anxiety issues
  • Health problems

All Golden Retrievers Are Not the Same

are golden retrievers high maintenance

Before discussing each category, it’s important to recognize that even though all Golden Retrievers are from the same breed, there can be a lot of variety.

Temperament and personality can vary immensely from Golden to Golden, and that fluctuation can lead to certain dogs that are what some people might consider high maintenance.

Genetics can play a huge role in whether or not a dog is more lowkey or high-strung.

Some Goldens are from field lines, which means they are bred to be true hunting companions able to work in the field alongside a hunter.

Others Goldens are bred to be performance dogs who can compete in canine sports such as agility, dock diving, and flyball with great intensity.

These dogs have lots of energy and a drive to work.

Some breeders are producing dogs who can succeed as conformation show dogs, while others aim to create the perfect family pet.

There are also irresponsible breeders out there who are breeding Golden Retrievers who may have known health or behavior issues, which may make those individuals more high maintenance. 

It’s important to find a responsible breeder who prioritizes health and stable temperament, no matter what purpose the puppies they’re producing might fulfill.

All that to say, Goldens can range from a chill therapy dog to an energizer bunny narcotics detection dog, and anything in between.

So while the term high maintenance may not apply to every Golden Retriever, there may be some Goldens who fit that vibe more than others.

Energy and Exercise

Most Goldens need 60 to 90 minutes of exercise per day.

Young dogs and particularly energetic individuals may need two hours or even more.

Depending on your energy levels and lifestyle, that may seem like a lot.

This is certainly not a breed known for being lazy, though they do enjoy a good snooze after a long walk, hike, or swim.

It’s common for senior Golden Retrievers to require less exercise, but many Goldens enjoy being active even into their old age.

For some Goldens, a leashed walk around the neighborhood isn’t going to cut it and they may need something more to feel content.

Off-leash exercise is one of the best ways to tire out a Golden Retriever, as it gives them the freedom to really move their bodies.

If you don’t have places where you can safely let your dog off-leash, you can check out Sniffspot, where you can rent a property to let your dog run.

You could also try hitting up a trail with your dog on a harness and 20-foot leash, which will give them more space to explore, while still keeping them safely leashed.

Goldens can also make excellent running or biking companions, and many love to swim any chance they get.

So if all this sounds like a lot of work to you, then you might find Golden Retrievers’ energy levels to be high maintenance.

Shedding and Grooming

Golden Retrievers have a thick double coat and shed all year long.

This means they need to be brushed several times a week to help remove the dead fur and prevent mats.

They also “blow their coat” twice a year, usually during spring and fall, during which the shedding can be excessive for a few weeks.

You’ll have to get used to hair on your clothes, furniture, and even in your car and food.

If you get a Golden Retriever, you’ll need to get a good brush to make grooming easier and quicker.

The good news, though, is that a Golden’s coat doesn’t require extensive or fancy grooming — just brushing and a little trimming here and there.

A sanitary trim helps keep their rear end clean while they potty, and some owners may choose to have a groomer trim around their ears, tail, and feet to keep them looking fresh.

And while that long, feathered coat is stunning to look at, it can also attract burrs and stickers while outdoors, which will need to be brushed out.

There are certainly breeds with much higher grooming needs, such as Poodles and Old English Sheepdogs.

But there are also breeds with coats that require very minimal grooming, like Greyhounds and Vizslas.

For some, a Golden Retriever’s shedding and grooming needs might feel like a lot of work, especially since it is year-round.

Compared to other breeds, Goldens seem to be more middle of the pack, rather than high maintenance, but it really comes down to your personal preferences.

swimming golden retriever

Mental Enrichment Needs

In addition to physical exercise, Golden Retrievers also need a consistent mental workout.

They are a highly intelligent breed, and in order to be well-behaved, they need to be given outlets for their mental energy.

Positive reinforcement training is one of the best ways to exercise their brain.

Their smarts combined with their strong desire to interact with their owner make training so great for Goldens.

Whether it’s practicing good manners, learning new tricks, or taking a fun class like nosework or agility, training can wear a Golden Retriever out in a way that physical exercise alone cannot.

You can also play some brain games such as hide and seek, where a family member hides and your pup has to use their senses to locate them.

Variations of hide and seek include hiding a treat or a favorite toy and encouraging them to sniff it out. 

Puzzle toys can also offer some good mental stimulation, as the dog has to work to get the food out of the toy.

If a Golden Retriever isn’t given adequate enrichment, they might become bored and make their own games such as going through the trash or re-landscaping your yard.

All dogs, no matter the breed, need mental exercise, and how much a particular Golden Retriever needs can vary depending on their genetics and personality.

But most Goldens are going to be on the moderate to high side of the scale in this category.

Family Attachment

One of the reasons Golden Retrievers are so popular is because of how loving and affectionate they can be with their human family.

Their favorite thing is to spend time with you, which is sweet.

But some people might find them a little clingy or needy.

They tend to follow you around even if you’re just going to the bathroom or grabbing your phone.

Some might struggle if confined in a separate room where they can’t see or be next to you.

It’s important to teach a Golden Retriever how to be okay while away from their humans, so they don’t become stressed out when left alone.

Separation anxiety is sadly not uncommon within this breed, which is where a dog shows distressed behavior in the absence of their owner.

For some people, they might find a Golden’s shadow-like tendencies to be endearing, but for others, they might seem emotionally high-maintenance.

While some breeds might be more independent, Golden Retrievers need a strong connection with their humans.

Does that make them high maintenance? 

You can be the judge!

Anxiety Issues

Golden Retrievers are unfortunately not immune from developing anxiety issues, which can make living with them feel a lot harder.

To be clear, any dog of any breed can experience anxiety, so it’s not a problem unique to Golden Retrievers.

As previously mentioned, Goldens can develop separation anxiety.

This issue is very challenging for both the dog and the humans, and you may need to work with a veterinary behaviorist or Certified Separation Anxiety Trainer to resolve it.

Separation anxiety might also mean you have to move around your schedule or arrange for special care so that your dog isn’t left home alone, as you work on a treatment plan.

Some people might consider seeking out help from a specialist and making plans around the needs of their dog to be high maintenance.

Another common anxiety issue in Golden Retrievers is noise phobia, which is an excessive fear of a sound and results in a dog showing intense signs of stress.

Storms and fireworks are often the main culprits when it comes to noise phobia, but any sound can trigger extreme panic.

Similar to separation anxiety, you may need to get medication from your vet or a veterinary behaviorist to help your dog better cope with their noise phobia.

You may also find yourself canceling plans to stay home with your dog when a storm rolls in, so you can comfort your pup and make sure they don’t harm themselves accidentally.

Goldens can also struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder, where the dog displays signs of anxiety all or most of the time. 

They may struggle to truly relax and might find it challenging to be in certain environments or situations at home or out in public.

This can be very tough for an owner and certainly can feel like the dog is high maintenance.

Again, anxiety is not unique to Golden Retrievers, and certainly not all Goldens have anxiety, but it can happen.

Health Problems

Golden Retrievers have so many qualities that make them near perfect, but sadly, they are not the healthiest of breeds.

Vet bills and special accommodations can make Golden Retrievers seem high maintenance.

Some of the most common health issues within the breed are cancer, hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, and digestive issues.

You might find yourself seeking out expensive treatments after your pup receives a cancer diagnosis.

If your Golden has a joint disorder, you might need to control your dog’s activities and get a ramp for the car to protect their hips or elbows.

Allergies and digestive issues can mean elimination diets and working with a veterinary nutritionist, all while dealing with an itchy dog that has chronically runny poop.

All of this can be extremely draining for both dog and human, and you might feel like your Golden Retriever is high maintenance, requiring a lot of time, money, and energy.

Seeking out a Golden from a responsible breeder who health tests every dog they breed, and only breeds dogs who are healthy, can help decrease the likelihood of these issues, but there is no guarantee.

I know this section is hard to read, but it’s important to be aware of potential problems that might arise during your Golden’s life.

So, Are Golden Retrievers High Maintenance?

high maintenance golden retriever

The final answer is: it depends!

It depends on you as an owner and your personality and lifestyle.

And it depends on the temperament and behavior of each individual Golden Retriever.

You might find a Golden Retriever from field lines completely over the top and unlivable, while for another person, that dog is exactly what they’re looking for.

Perhaps a Golden Retriever from a breeder who is producing dogs to be wonderful therapy dogs is right up your alley, yet for another person, that dog is a little too lowkey and boring.

Goldens are certainly not the lowest maintenance dog breed out there, just going by the shedding alone!

But in the end, it depends on the individual person and the individual dog, and how well they match up.

If you still think that a Golden is the dog for you, then read this article next about male vs. female Golden Retrievers.

P.S. Getting a Golden Retriever puppy? Check out the Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook here.

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About the author:

Alisa Healy is a professional dog trainer in the Chicago suburbs, with a wide range of training experience from shelters to in-home training to dog sports. She is a Karen Pryor Academy Certified Training Partner and is passionate about helping people and dogs live fulfilling, harmonious lives together.

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