A Ray of Sunshine: Golden Retrievers


"Happy go lucky" is how Lisa Peterson, owner of Hounds Around Town in Whitefish Bay describes her Golden Retriever Lars.

“A Golden is just a really nice dog,” she adds.

I looked down at Lars and smiled (an inevitable reaction to seeing a Golden Retriever). Sound asleep, he was taking a little break from being the store greeter and mascot.


In 1864, dog lover and sportsman Sir Dudley Marjoribanks, (later known as Lord Tweedmouth) purchased his foundation sire, Nous, from a man in Brighton, England. Nous was the only yellow puppy out of a litter of black, wavy-coated dogs. Sir Dudley mated Nous to Belle, a light-colored Tweed Water Spaniel (a now extinct breed). From his estate in the Scottish Highlands, Lord Tweedmouth began breeding his yellow retrievers for character, temperament, intelligence and aquatic ability. Being a practical man, he also wanted his dogs to be loyal and willing to work. Several yellow puppies were the basis for Sir Dudley’s yellow retriever line.

In the late 19th century, waterfowl hunting was very popular in Great Britain, and lots of retrievers were being bred. However, it wasn’t until the first dog shows there that body type and color consistency began to be standardized. Golden Retrievers as we know them today were first shown in England in 1908 and were officially recognized as a breed by the UK Kennel club in 1911. In 1920, the breed name was officially changed from Yellow Retriever to Golden Retriever. Some of Marjoribanks’ dogs were brought to this country as early as the 1890s, and Americans took to them immediately. In 1925, the Golden Retriever was officially recognized by the AKC.

There are some differences between British, American and Canadian Golden Retrievers. The British Golden has a wider muzzle, shorter legs and a deeper chest than its American cousin. The coat color should be gold or cream, and never red or mahogany. American Goldens are less stocky with a thicker, darker gold to reddish coat. Canadian Goldens are taller than the Americans with thinner, darker coats. Peterson told me that American Goldens are often bred for hunting ability, while British Goldens are bred more for temperament.


Intelligent, affectionate and versatile. Goldens were bred to please, and for them, everything is fun and exciting! They can actually become depressed if left alone! Highly intelligent, they are easy to train and are good listeners, but like all dogs, they do their best with a firm leader. They are very adaptable, and although they love to run and play outside, they can be happy anywhere! Recognized as good swimmers, they are great in the water. They have webbed feet, a water-repellent undercoat, and a thick neck ruff that keeps them comfortable in both warm and cold conditions. Famously, Goldens have a “soft” mouth in order not to damage their prey when retrieving it. A variety of media outlets say they can hold raw eggs in their mouths without breaking them. The down side of this is that they love to chew and can sometimes be too “mouthy”. Again, training is important. Goldens are not barkers. They are so friendly, gentle and trusting, they do not make good guard dogs.

Golden Retrievers are great hunting dogs but are also very good at other activities such as obedience—they were the first obedience champions in the AKC—rally, conformation, search and rescue and tracking. Goldens take beautifully to service work because they are so adaptable and tolerant. They are also very affectionate and are sensitive to different emotional states, which makes them ideal for therapy and assistance work. Some Goldens can also detect seizures.

Other Animals & Kids

A Golden Retriever is the perfect family pet. They get along well with everyone! Whether around other dogs, cats, kids or livestock, they keep their cool and even care for other animals. Peterson told me that Lars actually has a sense for a child’s safety. He is always careful and gentle and knows his own strength when he is around children.

Health Concerns

Goldens can have hip and elbow dysplasia, other joint problems, cancer and obesity but are generally healthy dogs.

You Can’t Go Wrong With a Golden

Goldens can fit in anywhere and love everybody! In 2016 they were the third most-registered breed with the AKC, and, of course, we see them everywhere! Well-represented in commercials, on TV and in the movies, Goldens are also celebrity favorites. Both Oprah and Jimmy Fallon have Goldens, and they lived in the White House with Presidents Ford and Reagan.

Whether you want to go on a long walk, go to a lake, play in the yard or just snuggle at home, you can’t go wrong with a Golden!

OUR SUMMER LOOK: Is your dog an athlete at heart? Does he/she just leap at the opportunity to play fetch or wrestle with a stuffed animal? Then maybe you and your dog could explore some new activities to do together such as dock diving for instance. You'll never know if you don't try it. Also, Wisconsin offers quite a few wonderful summer events for dogs & dog lovers. Our guide should help entice you, and our events page is also a fantastic resource for locals to explore. Especially on hot summer days.