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The Golden Retriever is a large-sized breed of dog bred as gun dogs to retrieve shot waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds during hunting and shooting parties, and were named 'retriever' because of their ability to retrieve shot game undamaged. Golden Retrievers have an instinctive love of water, and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards. They are a long-coated breed, with a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth in the outdoors, and an outer coat that lies flat against their bodies and repels water. Golden Retrievers are well suited to residency in suburban or country environments. Although they need substantial outdoor exercise, they should be housed in a fenced area because of their instinctual tendency to roam. They shed copiously, particularly at the change of seasons, and require fairly regular grooming.


The breed is a prominent participant in conformation shows for purebred dogs. The Golden Retriever is popular as a disability assistance dog such as being a guide dog for the blind and a hearing dog for the deaf. In addition, they are trained to be a hunting dog, a detection dog, and a search and rescue participant. The breed's friendly, gentle temperament means it is unsuited to being a professional guard dog, but its temperament has also made it the third-most popular family dog breed (by registration) in the United States, the fifth-most popular in Brazil and Australia, and the eighth-most popular in the United Kingdom. Golden Retrievers are rarely choosy eaters, but require ample exercise (of two or more hours a day). The breed is fond of play but also highly trainable.


The Golden Retriever is a large, strongly built breed with a dense, water-repellant wavy coat. As a dog with origins in pedigree breeding, and due to its widespread historical popularity, some regional variations have emerged in the breed; therefore, the three subtypes of the Golden Retriever reflect the typical variations in dimensions and coat. However, all Golden Retrievers are blonde, yellow, or gold in colour and all subtypes are susceptible to the same health problems.


British-type Golden Retrievers are prevalent throughout Europe and Australia. The skull is broader and the forequarters are more muscular than in other types. The muzzle is balanced and well chiseled. The coat is generally lighter in color than in the American types. Males stand between 22 to 24 in (56 to 61 cm) at the withers; females are between 20 to 22 in (51 to 56 cm). Acceptable or expected weights are not specified in the UK standard, but the Kennel Club standard calls for a level topline and straight hindquarters without the slight rear angulation found in American lines.


 The eyes are round and dark, which is in contrast to the triangular or slanted composition of their American counterparts. British Golden Retrievers can have a coat colour of any shade of gold or cream; red or mahogany are not permitted. Originally, cream was an unacceptable colour in the UK standard, but the standard was revised in 1936 to include cream. At the time of this revision, the exclusion of cream as a colour was agreed to as a mistake, as the original "yellow" retrievers of the 19th century were actually lighter in colour than was permitted by the standards used before 1936. As with American lines, white is an unacceptable colour in the show ring. The British Kennel Club standard is used in all countries except the USA and Canada. Golden Retrievers have muscular bodies with great endurance, owing to their origins as hunting and gundogs.


American types are lankier and less muscular than other types, males stand between 23 and 24 in (58 and 61 cm) in height at the withers; females are 21.5 to 22.5 in (55 to 57 cm) tall. Their coats are darker in color and occur in various shades of lustrous gold with moderate feathering. When trotting, they have a free, smooth, powerful, and well-coordinated gait; as the dog runs, its feet converge towards the center of the line of balance. The American standard also makes requirements about the proportion, substance, head and skull, neck, body, topline, forequarters, and hindquarters; in these respects, the American-type Retriever is the same as Golden Retrievers that conform to other national standards. American breeders of Golden Retrievers sometimes import their dogs from Britain to take advantage of the temperament and appearance of the British types.


The Canadian Golden Retriever has a thinner and darker coat and stands taller than other types. Males stand 23 and 24 in (58 and 61 cm) in height at withers; and females 21.5 to 22.5 in (55 to 57 cm). Weight for males is between 29–34 kg (65-75 lb); and females between 27–32 kg (60-70 lb).


As indicated by their name, their coats occur in light golden to dark golden colours. The topcoat is water-resistant and slightly wavy, and sheds in small amounts throughout the year. The undercoat is soft and keeps the retriever cool in summer and warm in winter; it sheds in the spring and fall. It usually lies flat against the belly. The Golden's coat should never be too long, as this may prove to be a disservice to it in the field, especially when retrieving game. Golden Retrievers have mild feathering on the backs of their fore legs and heavier feathering on the fronts of their necks, backs of their thighs and the bottoms of their tails.


The American Kennel Club (AKC) standard states the coat is a "rich, lustrous golden of various shades", disallowing extremely light or extremely dark coats. This leaves the outer ranges of coat colour up to a judge's discretion when competing in conformation shows. Therefore, "pure white" and "red" are unacceptable, as is black. The Kennel Club (UK) also permits cream as an acceptable coat colour. Judges may also disallow Goldens with pink noses, or those lacking pigment. The Golden's coat can also be mahogany, referred to as "redhead", although this is not accepted in the British show ring. As a Golden grows older, its coat can become darker or lighter, along with a noticeable whitening of the fur on and around the muzzle. Puppy coats are usually much lighter than their adult coats, but a puppy with darker ear tips may indicate a darker adult color.


The average lifespan for a Golden Retriever is about 11 to 12 years. They are susceptible to specific ailments, so should be taken to a veterinarian for yearly checkups.
Golden Retrievers are known to have genetic disorders and other diseases. Hip dysplasia is common in the breed; when buying a puppy, the pedigree should be known and be examined by the OFA or by PennHIP for hip disease. Obesity is also common in the breed because Golden Retrievers love to eat. Puppies should eat about three cups of food a day and adults three to five cups, depending on the food and how active the dog is.


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