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13 Golden Retriever Pros and Cons To Consider Before Buying

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

Golden Retrievers are among the most popular dogs. Over the last decade, they predominantly feature as the 3rd most popular breed according to AKC statistics. Their popularity is mainly due to their social nature, great appearance, and broad appeal. But before you adopt a Golden Retriever based on cute videos online, you need to know the pros and cons of owning one.

Golden Retrievers’ biggest pros are their friendly nature, which is defined by their affectionate and peaceful character, eagerness to please, and easy trainability. However, Goldens also have some cons to consider before buying, such as their heavy shedding, exercise needs, and love of food.

Golden Retriever ownership can be very fulfilling if you are aware of the nuanced upsides and downsides of life with one. In this article, I will go over everything positive and negative about raising this breed, so you can make an informed decision and evade future regret.

Golden Retriever Pros and Cons. A Golden Retriever Puppy.

What Are the Pros and Cons of a Golden Retriever?

The advantages of owning a Golden Retriever have to do with the Retriever’s nature, appearance and empathy. And the drawbacks are relevant to their quirks, needs, and contextual incompatibility.

You can derive plenty of social benefits and feel a sense of personal connection with these dogs, but they can also take a significant chunk out of your schedule.

Like all breeds, one should weigh up a Retriever’s advantages and disadvantages. In the below table, you can see the individual pros and cons of owning a Golden Retriever.

Golden Retriever ProsGolden Retriever Cons
Golden Retrievers are excellent family dogsGolden Retrievers are food-motivated
Golden Retrievers are smartGolden Retrievers are heavy shedders
Golden Retrievers are friendly and peaceful dogsGolden Retrievers can suffer from breed-specific health conditions
Golden Retrievers are great with childrenGolden Retrievers are not good guard dogs
Golden Retrievers have an average to long lifespanGolden Retrievers are prone to separation anxiety
Golden Retrievers are good lookingGolden Retrievers need lots of space
Golden Retrievers are great company for outdoor fun 
Golden Retriever Pros and Cons

With the pros and cons covered, we can now dive deeper into each advantage’s nuances. We’ll do the same with the disadvantages later, so you can offset and minimize the drawbacks of owning a Golden Retriever. But first, let’s look more closely at the pros.

Golden Retriever Pros

Golden Retrievers are excellent for people with a traditional sense of beauty since these dogs are considered gorgeous. They are also fun to play with and offer unconditional love and affection. Here are the reasons behind Golden Retrievers’ popularity.

Golden Retrievers Are Excellent Family Dogs

Golden Retrievers are good family dogs. They are certainly not one-person dogs as they share their unconditional love for all the family. They are among the most popular dog breeds worldwide because of their pleasant personality.

Golden Retrievers are predisposed to social assimilation and can draw positive attention even from strangers. They don’t have a threatening appearance and get friendly reactions from people. These, in turn, feed their perception of humans.

National Kennel Clubs and dog researchers define dog breed personality using several traits. Below is a list of Golden Retriever traits that give them the credit of having a pleasant personality:

  • Affectionate and friendly
  • Playful (lively)
  • Calm and non-aggressive
  • Sociable (outgoing)
  • Trainable (Intelligence and eager to please)
  • Adaptable (easy-going)
  • Protective (caring)
Golden Retriever With Her Pups. Golden Retrievers are Good Family Dogs.

Golden Retrievers Are Smart

If you have not owned various dogs, you might take your dog’s ability to internalize commands for granted. Different dogs learn at different paces, and intelligent dogs are easier to raise because they understand commands better.

Golden Retrievers aren’t as popular as Labrador Retrievers, but they are more intelligent than them. Author Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, positions the Golden Retriever as the fourth smartest dog breed, whereas the Lab comes in seventh place.

Goldens are fast learners and thus highly trainable. They easily grasp commands and tricks you teach them. It is known that the framework of cognitive abilities in dogs is similar to ours and that our canine friends have the intelligence of a two-year-old child.

In real life, here’s what that means:

  • You only need to repeat commands less than five times to have your Golden understand them. That means you’ll housebreak your Retriever easily, and they will learn commands quickly.
  • You won’t have to deal with canine stubbornness. Experts suggest that the Golden Retriever will obey commands the first time you say them, 95% of the time or better.

Psst! Do you want an easy training schedule for your dog? Check out this post, Golden Retriever Puppy Training Schedule: Month by Month Plan.

Learn About Golden Retriever Pros and Cons In This Video…

Golden Retrievers Are Friendly and Peaceful Dogs

If you’re seeking a dog that won’t be fighting with every other pet in the home or barking at every visitor that shows up at your door, then it’s the Golden Retriever. They are exceptionally huggable and cuddly.

Golden Retrievers are known to be friendly with family and everyone, including strangers and other pets. They love to please people and are playful. They are not barkers and will only bark when necessary, such as to warm their owners of an approaching stranger.

According to multiple studies, they are among the least aggressive dog breeds towards people and other dogs. Golden Retrievers can disarm other dogs with their non-threatening demeanor. Still, you must be careful when you introduce them to other dogs, especially if said dogs are likely to be more aggressive.

There are dog breeds that make the philosophy of “like cats and dogs” a reality because they can’t live with cats. But others, like the Golden Retriever, prove the saying wrong.

Golden Retrievers have abundant love to give to beings of every species. Their sociable and outgoing nature embraces everyone, including cats and other pets in the home.

In fact, the AKC lists Golden Retrievers among breeds that cat owners should consider due to their outgoing nature and adaptability.

Golden Retrievers enjoy making new friends at the park. They also make excellent therapy dogs due to their gentle personality.

Golden Retriever With a Cat. Are Golden Retrievers Good With Cats?

Golden Retrievers Are Great With Children

Dog ownership can be an issue when a dog breed is renowned for its aggression, such as the Pitbull, and the owner plans to have a baby. And if you already have a family, you definitely want a dog who will get along with your kids.

There is no need to worry here then, as Golden Retrievers are pretty good with kids because they aren’t too suspicious of humans. In fact, Golden Retrievers love spending time with children of all ages and tend to be more caring and protective towards them than adults.

Golden Retrievers are calm and don’t threaten kids with their appearance or size. They don’t get easily startled or bite. That’s why they are among Reader’s Digest’s list of dog breeds least likely to bite. Their “soft-mouthed” nature is also compatible with kids, though nibbling must be discouraged.

Always remember that a dog is always a dog, and their high energy can accidentally knock over small kids during playtime. You should always ensure children are supervised at all times around dogs.

Golden Retrievers Have an Average to Long Lifespan

The average lifespan of dogs is indicated as 8-15 years. While some dogs may have a life expectancy as short as 6 years and others a longer one of up to 17 years, Golden Retrievers are somewhere in the middle. But some Goldens can also live beyond their assigned life expectancy of 10-12.

There have been cases of some Golden Retrievers who have lived to the age of 16 plus, but this is rare. Recently a dog in Tennessee became the oldest known Golden Retriever at age 20!

Since no dog owner enjoys seeing their furry friend go over the rainbow after only a few years, owning a Golden Retriever guarantees quite a few years of companionship with your dog.

There are some things you can do to help your dog live longer. These are:

  • Excellent nutrition
  • Sufficient exercise (mental and physical)
  • Regular vet check-ups
  • Weight management
  • Good dental health
  • Avoiding stress
Golden Retriever Puppy Sitting.

Golden Retrievers Are Good Looking

Golden Retrievers were bred as working dogs for temperament and purpose rather than appearance. Nonetheless, they are stunning-looking medium-sized dogs with gorgeous long silky golden coats and sweet smiles.

“Their waggy tail makes them even more adorable, and their expressive eyes depicts happiness and gentleness.”

World of Dogz

Their stunning coat comes in a few different colors, despite having “golden” in their name. They are typically light cream or light gold, gold, or red, with varying shades of gold within each color.

Different regions have their own breed standard, and you can learn about the various types here, Golden Retriever Types: 3 Breed Variations. Or if you want to specifically compare the UK and the American types, head over here, English vs. American Golden Retriever: What’s The Difference?

The AKC breed standard describes the dog as a powerful active dog with a well-balanced body, a strong and level backline, a well-set feathery tail carried with “merry action,” a straight muzzle, short ears, and friendly and intelligent eyes.

It’s no wonder the Golden Retriever is a social butterfly when their beautiful appearance reflects their good-natured hearts.

Golden Retrievers Are Great Company for Outdoor Fun

Golden Retrievers are high-energy dogs requiring between one and two hours of exercise daily. That also implies your dog will keep up with you quite well during a hike or outdoor play with your kids.

Golden Retrievers also make good company during summer vacations at the beach. Since they were bred to retrieve water birds for hunters, Golden Retrievers are natural swimmers, and their webbed feet make it easier for the dog to propel through the water.

Their skill in water will create a lively fetch game in the water as you and your family enjoy your summer escapade by the beach.

Despite the Golden’s many pros, these dogs also have a few cons. Read details on Golden Retriever’s cons below, along with some info on how to counter these pros.

Learn All About The Golden Retriever In This Video…

Golden Retriever Cons

Now that you know the advantages of owning a Golden Retriever, let’s look more closely at the potential drawbacks. As you will see, these disadvantages can be offset with context and caution. So read this section carefully.

Golden Retrievers Are Food-Motivated

Food takes the most significant part of the cost of owning a Retriever, or any dog for that matter. If the dog in question is also a foodie, it means you’ll spend even more because Golden Retrievers love eating and are food motivated. You might then want to rethink your decision.

Nonetheless, you should know two important facts about a Retriever’s extreme love for food:

  • Golden Retrievers respond well to training as they are highly food-motivated. They seem to be hungry all the time due to genetics and environmental causes. However, the exact cause is currently unknown and research is ongoing.
  • A Golden Retriever’s love of food can be managed. You can manage your dog’s appetite by cutting back on treats, feeding correct portion sizes, and a vet-guided diet plan. During positive reinforcement training, use other rewards such as toys, fun games, and praise.

Do you want to know what the best diet for Goldens is? Check out this guide, Best Diet for Golden Retrievers: Nutrition, Types, and More!

Are Golden Retrievers Food Motivated? A Golden Retriever eating a dog biscuit.

Golden Retrievers Are Heavy Shedders

Golden Retriever grooming is one of the roles you bargain for when bringing home a puppy. And although you don’t need to bathe your Retriever often (every 6-8 weeks), you do need to brush his coat regularly because Golden Retrievers are among dog breeds considered heavy shedders.

The Golden Retriever’s heavy shedding also means they aren’t hypoallergenic. And although Goldens shed consistently all year, you’ll need to exercise extra patience during fall and spring when they blow their coats in preparation for extreme heat or cold and leave you a larger amount of loose fur around your home.

“As a friendly caution, don’t go for a Golden Retriever if the sight of fur on your couch, clothes, or carpet will send you screaming your dog’s name!”

World of Dogz

So, what about the doggy smell?

All dogs have a bit of a doggy smell because their skin produces natural oils that tend to smell with time, and their ear glands can give off a yeasty odor. Some dogs also have a strong smell due to medical conditions like skin and dental infections.

When it comes to Golden Retrievers, their doggy smell is mainly due to their double, water-repellent coat that tends to retain odor in both the outer and the finer inner hairs. If your dog is a water magnet, its coat can hold dirt and bacteria, making the smell worse.

So, if you’re sensitive to doggie odor, the lovable personality of the Retriever may have to slip through your fingers.

Golden Retrievers Can Suffer Breed-Specific Health Conditions

Although they’re generally healthy dogs, Golden Retrievers are known to be susceptible to specific health conditions. These include:

  • Hip dysplasiaHip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that starts when the dog grows, resulting in a loose-fitting hip joint which leads to osteoarthritis or degenerative joint disease.
  • Elbow dysplasia – An abnormal development of the elbow joint in fast-growing dogs, usually larger breeds. Elbow dysplasia in Golden Retrievers also leads to chronic arthritis of the joint.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – An eye disease that causes the retina to degenerate slowly, leading to eventual blindness. More than one form of PRA affects Golden Retrievers. However, scientists have identified the mutated genes so screening is advised.
  • Subvalvular aortic stenosisSAS is a canine genetic heart condition affecting Golden Retrievers. Fibrous tissue obstructs the aortic valve leading to fainting, a reduced lifespan, or sudden death.
  • Cancer – The breed is known to be at a higher risk of cancer than other breeds. The ongoing Golden Retriever Lifetime Study attempts to identify the main dietary, genetic, and environmental risk factors for cancer in dogs.

To help your dog stay healthy and happy, the Golden Retriever Club of America recommends the following health screening, especially when breeding Retrievers:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Heart disease
  • Eye disease

Golden Retrievers Are Not Good Guard Dogs

Golden Retrievers aren’t often the breed people choose when looking for a reliable guard dog. People are more inclined to go for the mighty German Shepherd, who makes an excellent protection dog. However, they are more than capable of protecting your property.

They will generally alert you by barking if there’s something they’re not happy about but are more likely to greet an intruder with a waggy tail due to their friendly nature.

Nonetheless, if you have your heart set on this breed, you can train your Golden Retriever to be a guard dog due to their high desire to learn and please their owners. They are also of a decent size to scare away intruders and are fiercely loyal, intelligent, and full of energy to get the job done.

Golden Retriever Yawning. Are Golden Retrievers Good Guard Dogs?

Golden Retrievers Are Prone to Separation Anxiety

As the people-loving and sociable dogs that they are, Golden Retrievers find it challenging to be lone wolves. That means if you leave your Golden Retriever home alone every day when you go to work, you’re most likely to find a pacing, destructive, or self-harming dog one day when you return.

These are all unfortunate symptoms of separation anxiety whereby your dog cannot tolerate being left alone.

Additionally, certain risk factors are associated with canine separation anxiety. These are:

  • You are the only person living with your Golden Retriever.
  • Your Golden Retriever is sexually intact.

There are many things you can do to prevent canine separation anxiety in the first instance. If you want to know how long you can safely leave a Retriever on its own as one of the prevention methods, check out this article, How Long Can Golden Retrievers be Left Alone?

Treatment of separation-related behaviors consists of desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.

Golden Retrievers Need Lots of Space

Golden Retrievers are energetic dogs that need room to play. If your house is too cramped with stuff, your dog might take it upon himself to make his space. Retrievers can wreak havoc in an apartment, especially if not sufficiently exercised and stimulated.

They are excellent for houses with backyards where they can run around and play and have owners who can take them on regular walks.

While you can always take your dog for daily walks or play in dog parks to meet his exercise needs, there are a couple of downsides to keeping a Golden Retriever in limited space:

  • Your Golden Retriever may show destructive behavior. Lack of exercise can cause destructive acts such as chewing furniture due to limited mental stimulation.
  • Your Golden Retriever will be bored and can get depressed. Remember that Goldens are sporting dogs with a high need for mental stimulation. Being in a limited or confined space can make them less engaged and with little variety for activity.

If you’re a Golden Retriever owner with little space, you’ll need to be extra creative with problem-solving games, new tricks, high-concentration games, and a wide range of toys to keep your dog mentally stimulated and happy. You’ll also need to create occasions for extended social interactions with your dog.

Final Thoughts

Golden Retrievers are popular and have a natural tendency to be social. They are loved because of their positive temperament and are considered safe family dogs. Their intelligence makes them quick learners, which reduces the training burden on you.

That said, Golden Retrievers are also heavy shedders and obligate food munchers. They can get too excited at times and dig you a tunnel you never planned to have in your garden!

If you’re considering owning a Golden Retriever, I hope learning about the pros and cons of Golden Retrievers has helped you make an educated decision.

Sharon Waddington
Sharon Waddington is the founder of World of Dogz. With over 30 years of experience working with dogs, this former Police Officer has seen it all. But it’s her trusty German Shepherd, Willow, who steals the show as the inspiration behind this website. As Sharon’s constant companion Willow has played a pivotal role in shaping her passion for dogs. Recently, Sharon has become deeply passionate about the plight of rescue dogs and is an active advocate for dog rescue, striving to make a difference in the lives of dogs in need.

2 thoughts on “13 Golden Retriever Pros and Cons To Consider Before Buying”

  1. Since my daughter moved into her own place, she has been wanting to buy a new puppy, so I did some research to support her. It’s good that you clarified that golden retrievers are peaceful, non-aggressive, and affectionate. I’ll make sure to tell her about this breed because I think it would be perfect for her. I’ll also see if there’s a breeder of AKC Golden Retriever puppies who can assist her.

    • Hi, thanks for your comment. Yes, I love Golden Retrievers, too! Glad you found the article helpful. Don’t forget to consider adopting from a rescue or shelter too, which we always advocate.


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