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Golden Retriever Types: 3 Breed Variations (With Pictures!)

Last Updated: December 10, 2023

Golden Retrievers are well-known for their cute appearances and playful behaviors. They’re perfect for first-timers and experienced dog owners. Their nature can provoke most aspiring dog owners to own them, but before you step out to make your decision, it’s essential to know the types of Golden Retrievers and the type that works best for you. 

American, English, and Canadian Golden Retrievers are extremely popular yet differ slightly in terms of coat, size, color, and temperament. While they’re equally compassionate and loyal, their care plans can vary depending on whether you choose the show, field subset, or opt for a companion dog.

Perhaps, you can’t escape from falling in love with their naughty nature and silly tricks, irrespective of the type. 

In this article, we’ll discuss the following variations with valuable insights based on my experiences:

  • American Golden Retriever
  • English Golden Retriever
  • Canadian Golden Retriever

Let’s find out which type of Golden Retriever works best for you. Or if you already have this fantastic breed, you might be interested to know which type you have.

Types of Golden Retrievers. Various Golden Retrievers (American, English, and Canadian)

What Are The Different Types of Golden Retrievers?

We all know and love the Golden Retriever as a gorgeous, friendly, and loyal dog of medium size, defined by a gentle and affectionate temperament. The breed is extremely popular worldwide and has many uses, in addition to companionship, including:

  • Participating in dog shows
  • Competing in field trials
  • As a sporting gundog
  • As a guide dog, assistance dog, or therapy dog
  • Detection work and search and rescue

Golden Retrievers are dogs with golden fur! Well, that’s a common misconception most of us have about Golden Retrievers. 

If you’ve ever wondered why Golden Retrievers have multiple sub-breeds, you’ve probably mistaken it! The Golden Retriever Club of America stresses that the Golden Retriever is just one breed with a full spectrum of gold colors. 

But what results in numerous types? As Golden Retrievers were bred (in different locations, environments, and conditions) over the years, they evolved into new types. 

As you hop onto a kennel, depending on where you are in the world, you can spot three common forms of Golden Retrievers – American, English, and Canadian. 

Learn More About The 3 Types of Golden Retrievers In This Video…

Golden Retriever Breed History

A bit about how they’ve evolved over the years! 

Golden Retrievers originated in Scotland in the late 19th century. They were developed as hunting dogs by Sir Dudley Marjoribanks (later known as Lord Tweedmouth), who crossed a yellow, wavy-coated dog with a Tweed Water Spaniel (now extinct). 

Sir Dudley had an intense desire to create a world-class Retriever suitable for the Scottish weather and terrain for hunting and retrieving upland and waterfowl. He wanted the perfect gun dog to retrieve the birds from the Scottish wetlands, rivers, and lakes.

History tells us that he purchased a yellow retriever-type dog named “Nous,” from a cobbler in Brighton (believed to be a relative of today’s Labrador Retriever).

Nous was crossed with a Tweed Water Spaniel resulting in several yellow pups that became the foundation for a distinctive line of yellow retrievers, later known as Golden Retrievers.

The UK Kennel Club recognized them in 1913. As they became more popular after the first World War, Golden Retrievers were shipped to America and Canada, where each nation developed them to suit their tastes.  

Various Shades of Golden Retrievers. A Group of Golden Retrievers showing their various shades of gold.

It wasn’t until the late 1920s that Golden Retrievers gained further recognition. The American Kennel Club (AKC) took steps to announce the breed officially in 1925. The Canadian Kennel Club followed and recognized the breed in 1927.

There have been many misconceptions about the breed’s history over the years. Mr. A. Croxton-Smith, the author of “Dogs Since 1900,” conducted detailed studies on the origins of Golden Retrievers and arrived at various findings:

  • Golden Retrievers don’t have Russian origins as was once rumored. 
  • Their traits are pretty similar to those of Water Spaniels (now extinct). 
  • They’re similar to Flat Coat Retrievers as these were added to the lineage. 
  • The Bloodhound and Irish Setter were also added during breeding.

While the history of Golden Retrievers points to the Guisachan House (the home of Lord Tweedmouth) and Nous’s purchase in 1865 (from which the first yellow retriever was founded), their working and hunting abilities were predominant. 

Watch Our YouTube Video About How To Care For a Golden Retriever…

This leads us to the next question – how exactly did people arrive at three types? Which Retriever is the best? Is every kind of Retriever friendly towards humans? Is one Retriever type better at hunting than the others?

In this article, let’s look at each of these commonly seen types of Golden Retrievers and understand why the breed standards are different in the three countries leading to each kind evolving with different features.


Here’s my TL; DR version:

Differences between the three types are relatively minor.

  • Physique: Dogs from UK and Europe tend to have broader heads and heavier bone structures. In contrast, North American dogs are leaner as they were predominantly used in fieldwork and developed thinner coats that were easier to clean after spending hours in the field. Learn more about the differences between field and show Goldens here.
  • Coat colors: Acceptable colors depend on where you are in the world. English Golden Retrievers are lighter in color, from cream (appearing almost white) to traditional medium gold. In contrast, American types vary from a deep red (from the Irish Setter) to a light gold. Canadian dogs range from cream to the darkest gold.
  • Temperament: English Goldens are known to be calmer and less boisterous in contrast to American lines, which are known to have more energy or are more hyper. However, all types are working dogs and need plenty of exercise.

American Golden Retriever

American Golden Retriever


American Golden Retrievers are widely recognized for their typical adherence to the American breed standard

The type acquires its name from where they’re bred – the United States. However, they possess original tenets of Golden Retrievers and are descendants of the original dogs that evolved in Scotland. 

As mentioned above, regional variations developed due to the breed’s widespread popularity.


American Golden Retrievers weigh lighter and appear less angular when compared to their counterparts. They can be identified with thick golden coats of various shades with moderate to heavy feathering. Their darker golden coat color is the main feature that sets them apart from other types.

Here are a few tips to distinguish American Golden Retrievers from the rest:

  • Linear face structure 
  • Deep forehead 
  • Round eyes (a key AKC standard as slant eyes are faulted)
  • Gold color in various shades 
  • Straight or wavy coat 
  • Less bulky in size than UK lines
  • Dense coat with moderate to heavy feathering
VariableMale American
Golden Retriever
Female American
Golden Retriever
Length**23-24 inches 21.5-22.5 inches
Weight**65-75 pounds55-65 pounds
American Golden Retriever size

**A dog might be bigger or smaller than the sizes documented in the breed standard, as they are rough guides.

One thing to note about color if you’re considering entering your dog in the show ring is that white markings (except in old age), other than a few white hairs on the chest, will be penalized. You can read more about this topic here, Can Purebred Golden Retrievers Have White On Them?

Undeniably, this variation of Golden Retriever sheds similar to other types due to being double-coated.

Quick tip: American Golden Retrievers are incredibly active. They were bred for work (initially). So, you can imagine the kind of energy level they can have. 

Like many purebreds, Golden Retrievers are generally healthy dogs. However, all types are prone to cancer, hip dysplasia, cataracts, obesity, and heart issues.

Research shows that 60% of American Golden Retrievers are impacted by cancer. The fascinating Golden Retriever Lifetime Study of 3000 dogs to identify risk factors for cancer and other diseases remains ongoing.


American Golden Retrievers are lively dogs and perfect for people needing a companion to go hiking. They have an immense desire to please and love to work.

One negative is that American Golden Retrievers are known for destructive behaviors if they’re left alone or jobless, especially if they haven’t been sufficiently socialized. However, they’re great to keep you and your family members equipped. 

Before getting an American Golden Retriever, you should also know that the type requires sufficient exercise to maintain energy levels. 

English Golden Retriever

English Golden Retriever Puppy


Golden Retrievers in the United Kingdom are slightly different from those later developed in the United States in the early 20th century. English Golden Retrievers were the starting point for distinguishing attributes and creating a name according to their features, origin, and behavior. 

The UK breed standard defines English Golden Retrievers to appear as a shade of cream or gold. After World War II, Golden Retrievers in the United Kingdom appeared paler and won the audience’s hearts at shows. 

Thanks to Ch Boltby Skylon, born 1951, and Ch Camrose Cabus Christopher, born 1967 (great-grandfather and great-grandson), the lighter coloration is evident in British-style Golden Retrievers in the country today. 

“I’m always fascinated by the lineage of purebreds, and you can find more details of Ch Boltby Skylon and Ch Camrose Cabus Christopher in the Golden Retriever pedigree database.”

World of Dogz

As you read the history, you must have thought about the most common question – why aren’t they named British or UK Golden Retrievers? It’s due to the convenience of people as they quickly connected English with Golden Retrievers, and the type entered GRCA’s Yearbook for 1968 as English Champions. 

So, was it America or Britain that recognized the Golden Retriever first? Here’s the fact:

The UK Kennel Club recognized the English Golden Retriever in 1913 and was the first to acknowledge them. The American Kennel Club (AKC) recognized American Golden Retrievers in 1925.


The British Kennel Club standard is used in all countries except Canada and the USA.

Caution! If you’ve heard someone selling an English Golden Retriever in the name of English Cream or White Golden Retriever, remember that it’s purely a marketing gimmick by some less ethical breeders.


English Golden Retrievers are calmer creatures with several facial features and pleasant appearances. 

If you were to differentiate between the types of Golden Retrievers, look for these physical attributes in an English Golden Retriever. 

  • Broad ‘blocky’ skull
  • Shades of cream or gold
  • Wide and deep muzzle
  • Dark brown eyes set well apart 
  • Flat or wavy coat 
  • A good amount of feathering
  • Heavier bone structure
VariableMale English
Golden Retriever
Female English
Golden Retriever
Length22-24 inches20-22 inches
WeightNot specifiedNot specified
English Golden Retriever size


So, you might wonder if an English Golden Retriever is for you. Well, there’s more to understanding their attributes before making a decision.

English Golden Retrievers are bred both for companionship or work as service or hunting dogs. Hence, they can be great partners to live with. They can drench you in an ocean of love and affection (and you may never be able to get up!).

If you’ve kids at home, English Golden Retrievers can protect you and all your family.

Perhaps, they may need proper training? No problem; they can pick commands in almost no time. English Golden Retrievers are known for their obedient attitudes and trainability. 

As the breed that’s ranked 4th in the world’s list of smartest dog breeds, according to Stanley Coren’s book, The Intelligence of Dogs, there’s no delay in understanding your emotions and commands and following them to the T. 

However, don’t expect them to be quite as energetic as the American type of Golden Retriever. However, they need regular exercise and can live only in the company of family members. 

If you’re planning to bring an English Golden Retriever to your home, keep the following points in your mind:

  • They need regular brushing (a part of the cuddle routine!).
  • They can shed a lot. 
  • They need regular walks. 
  • They need your company (most of the time!).

While they’ve got the same lifespans and other attributes as their counterparts, recognizing minor variations can help you choose the perfect type for your special den. 

For example, this UK study of purebred dogs susceptible to cancer found that 38.8% from a cohort of 927 UK and European Golden Retrievers died of cancer.

Before moving onto the Canadian type, if you want to read more about the differences between English and American Goldens, check out this post, English vs. American Golden Retriever: What’s The Difference?

Canadian Golden Retriever

Canadian Golden Retriever


The origin of the Canadian Golden Retriever dates back to 1881 when Sir Archie Majoribanks brought “Lady” to Canada. He was the son of Sir Dudley Majoribanks, the founder of the Golden Retriever breed developed in Scotland. 

Sir Archie imported Retrievers to Coldstream Ranch in British Columbia, owned by the Marquis of Aberdeen, brother-in-law to Majoribanks.

In 1927, the breed gained recognition, and new clubs emerged in various places like Ontario to promote the breed. 

Eventually, Canadian Golden Retrievers became much more popular in the 1950s as they took part in shows. However, Canada has a vast history of Goldens, starting from 1881 and expanding to numerous places, including Manitoba, Alberta, Quebec, Ontario, and the Maritimes. 


The Canadian Kennel Club defines the Golden Retriever as a powerful, active dog with a dense coat of moderate to heavy feathering. The coat color is described as “ranging from cream to the darkest gold.”

Their coat also sets them apart from American and UK types as it “lies flat against the body and may be straight or wavy.”

“In other words, their coat appears shorter and thinner.”

World of Dogz

Like English and American Golden Retrievers, Canadian types are also known for their excellent water-repellent undercoats. 

It isn’t just enough to identify a Canadian Golden Retriever with its history or basic attributes. You need to know what it takes to be recognized as a Canadian Golden Retriever. 

  • Broad skull, deep and wide foreface
  • Various shades of gold, from cream to dark gold 
  • Straight or wavy dense coat lying flat against the body
  • Moderate to heavy feathering
  • Almond-shaped eyes set well apart
  • Deep muzzle

While they have the lineage of the English Golden Retriever, there are delicate attributes to differentiate between the types of Golden Retrievers available in the market. 

VariableMale Canadian
Golden Retriever
Female Canadian
Golden Retriever
Length23-24 inches21.5-22.5 inches 
Weight 65-75 pounds55-65 pounds 
Canadian Golden Retriever size


There’s a common misconception that the Canadian Golden Retriever combines English and American Golden Retrievers. The concept has developed thanks to the early imports of Retrievers from the UK and the US. 

The truth is that there are also slight differences in their appearances and temperament. 

Let’s look at their key attributes.

Canadian Golden Retrievers can make excellent companions with their calm nature and curiosity to build bonds with humans. Perhaps, you can say they are overprotective. They are undoubtedly loyal at that.

Compared to their counterparts, they’re slightly calmer and enjoy the company of other dogs. 

The most positive aspect about Canadian Golden Retrievers is that most of them need little obedience training due to their intelligence and placid temperament. 

If you live in the suburbs, you should get this type as Canadian Golden Retrievers enjoy going for walks, interacting with humans, and finding new things to be equipped with. Yet all kinds love to retrieve and play fetch due to their breeding history.

Canadian Retrievers and prone to the same health issues as other subsets. I’ve already mentioned the risk of cancer in the breed, but when understanding cancer in Goldens, one thing to note is that the overall cancer incidence is high in all countries.

Golden Retriever With Her Pups

Which Type Is Right For You?

Differences between all three variations are comparatively minor.

American Golden Retrievers are excellent for large families (that can generate high energy levels) and have extra hands to manage the dog. At the same time, the English and Canadian types are perfect if you prefer a slightly calmer dog.  

Irrespective of the type you choose, it’s essential to note their commonalities. All types:

  • Require regular exercise due to their hunting and retrieving ancestry 
  • Are prone to breed-specific health issues 
  • Require regular grooming due to their dense double coats 
  • Make great family pets, whether show or working lines
  • Are known for ease of trainability, friendliness, and sweet nature
  • Have a love of water (which is what they were bred for) – and even have webbed feet

Wait! Before you step out, let me ask you a few questions. Here are some things to consider:

  • How many members live in your family? Large families can go ahead with American Golden Retrievers as there’s always a person to keep them equipped and take them for lots of outdoor walks. 
  • Do you prefer a high-energy or a medium-to-high-energy dog? Canadian and English Golden Retrievers are medium-to-high-energy dogs, while American dogs are high-energy. 
  • Is there anyone at home to keep your Retriever equipped? American Golden Retrievers can lose their cool and destroy things if they aren’t kept busy, as they need to expend their energy. English and Canadian types are keen about someone’s presence, or they can get anxious at some point.
  • What kind of experience do you have with dogs in the past? Canadians and English Golden Retrievers are highly recommended for beginners, while American Golden Retrievers are perfect for people with a history of owning and managing dogs. 
  • What’s your budget? This is a difficult one as it depends on the bloodline, breeder history, and location, amongst other factors. However, British Golden Retrievers can be slightly more expensive than their counterparts. 
  • What is your location? Finding a breeder specializing in American or Canadian lines might be difficult if you’re in the UK or Europe. In contrast, American breeders are known to import their dogs from Britain to get the looks and temperament of the English type.

American Golden Retriever vs. English Golden Retriever vs. Canadian Golden Retriever

Haven’t made up your mind still?

Reading the article to make your decision may be time-consuming. If you’d want to flaunt outdoors with your Golden Retriever, it’s essential to know their specifics. 

Coat Moderate to heavy feathering.
Straight or wavy coat, lying close to the body.
Good amount of feathering.
Flat or wavy coat.
Moderate to heavy feathering.
Straight or wavy, lying flat against the body.
Color “Rich, lustrous golden of various shades.”
“Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany.”
UK Kennel Club 
“Lustrous golden of various shades, ranging from cream to darkest gold.”
Canadian Kennel Club
Size LeanerHeavier bone structure and deeper chestLeaner
HeadLinear appearance
‘Blocky’ head
Broad skull
Energy levelsActiveCalmerCalmer
TemperamentEnergetic Can be overprotective Loving and caring
Health 60% will develop cancer. Also vulnerable to joint issues, eye problems, and obesity.<40% will die of cancer. Also vulnerable to joint issues, eye problems, and obesity.No difference in cancer rate. Also vulnerable to joint issues, cancer, eye problems, and obesity.
American Golden Retriever vs. English Golden Retriever vs. Canadian Golden Retriever

Final Thoughts

Adding a dog to your home can be an overwhelming yet exciting event. Golden Retrievers have pros and cons, like most breeds. However, in general, they are smart, affectionate, loyal, and fun-loving. 

With their three eminent types, it’s better to select the perfect type that can fit the bill and suit your family’s conditions and expectations. Clearly, where you are in the world and breeder availability will have an impact on what you choose. 

Or you may choose to adopt a Golden Retriever (no matter their type) from your local animal shelter or rescue. 

Sowmya Sankaran
Sowmya Sankaran is crazy about dogs, rabbits and birds! An avid rescuer and rehabilitator of dogs and other animals, she runs the Life With Equality Charitable Trust, an animal shelter in Chennai, India. She is also the founder of Petsmond, a pet website, in which she shares her experiences in raising different creatures and paying attention to intricate aspects of their health.

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