Understanding the Different Types of Golden Retrievers

If you’ve been thinking about purchasing a Golden Retriever, you’ve probably noticed that they don’t all look alike. Some are short and stocky with long, flowing coats, while others are taller, leaner, and have short, thin coats. The colors of these dogs also vary widely. This can cause some serious confusion when you’re trying to choose a puppy.

What causes these differences? And how can you predict what your puppy will look like when he grows up?

You might be surprised to learn that there are actually three variations of the Golden Retriever breed. The differences between each type of Golden Retriever are primarily cosmetic and have occurred naturally throughout the breeding process. Despite some common misconceptions, all three types of Golden Retriever have the same general temperament and there are no major health differences. No matter which variety of Golden Retriever you choose, you can expect a fun-loving personality, above-average intelligence, athletic build, and extreme loyalty.

When you’re shopping for a new Golden Retriever puppy, it’s a good idea to understand the primary physical characteristics of each type within the breed. This will help you get a better idea of exactly what you can expect from the puppy you choose.

Types of Golden Retrievers

The three varieties of Golden Retriever include British (English), American, and Canadian. Let’s take a closer look at the most common characteristics of each.

1. British (English) Golden Retrievers

The history of the Golden Retriever breed is relatively short. The breed began in the late 1800s in Scotland and was first introduced at a British dog show in 1908. British (or English) Golden Retrievers are considered the breed’s original variety. Their characteristic long, feathery coats are what most people think of when they hear the words “Golden Retriever.”

English Golden Retrievers are characterized by their stocky, muscular build, broad skull, thick neck, and round, dark eyes. They can also have shorter legs and tails, and a chest that’s slightly deeper and wider. Their coats tend to range from a very light cream to a moderate golden color.

The British Kennel Club (KC) sets forth breed standards for English Golden Retrievers. According to the standard, these dogs should have a height that ranges between 22 and 24 inches at the withers for males and 20 to 22 inches for females. English Golden Retrievers are expected to be heavier than the other types, and the breed standard doesn’t state an acceptable weight range. The British standards are used in all countries except Canada and the United States, who each have their own set of standards.

American Golden Retrievers

American Golden Retrievers are descended from British Golden Retrievers. They were imported into the United States through Canada and the differences started to show after years of selective breeding. American Golden Retrievers have the same long, flowing coats as their British counterparts, but they’re often slightly smaller and less muscular than both the Canadian and British varieties. American Retrievers tend to have coats that range from light golden to very dark golden. They have a smaller and thinner head and neck. Their eyes are also lighter-colored and tend to be slanted or triangular-shaped.

The breed standard for American Golden Retrievers is set forth by the American Kennel Club (AKC). According to these standards, males should reach a height of 23 to 24 inches at the withers and a weight of 65 to 75 pounds. Females are smaller, with a standard height of 21 ½ to 22 ½ inches and a weight of 55 to 65 pounds.

Canadian Golden Retrievers

Canadian Golden Retrievers tend to look much different from their American and English counterparts, mostly because their coats are shorter, thinner, and don’t feather out. They’re usually a few inches taller than the other types of Golden Retrievers and may appear thinner and lankier. Canadian Golden Retrievers may also have darker-colored coats than the American or English variety.

Breed standards for the Canadian Golden Retriever are set forth by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC).

Traits Common to All Golden Retrievers

While the typical build and color of Golden Retrievers varies depending on the type, some breed standards are the same across the board. A Golden Retriever’s temperament is perhaps its most important trait. Properly bred Golden Retrievers should be friendly, confident, trusting, and gentle. Goldens who show any type of aggression or are timid or unusually nervous do not meet breed standards.

Golden Retrievers are calm, naturally intelligent, and eager to please. They also have an instinctive love of the water and are extremely easy to train. They’re often fun-loving and active but can also sit quietly for hours while accompanying their owners on a hunt. Golden Retrievers are very social dogs who are good with children, other dogs, and a variety of animals. These personality traits make them excellent family pets and working dogs.

Understanding Golden Retriever Coat Colors

The other major variable you’ll find between Golden Retrievers is their coat color. All Golden Retrievers have coats that fall in the “golden” range, whether it’s a super-light cream color, gold, or a dark golden. According to breed standards, Golden Retrievers should not have coats that are red or mahogany in color.

The acceptable range of colors is particularly important for show dogs. Golden Retrievers with coats that fall outside the breed standard can’t be registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) or compete for titles. While the “right” color of gold is very desirable, you can still find puppies in a variety of different shades.

Beware of breeders who claim to have “rare white” retrievers. Although some Golden Retriever puppies can have a very light, cream-colored coat, a completely white coat is not genetically possible. If you plan to show your dog competitively, you’ll also want to avoid the lighter colored coats. Both the British and American Kennel Clubs consider light coloring a “fault” that could result in penalties.

Unlike Labrador Retrievers, who can have white, black, and yellow puppies in the same litter, Golden Retrievers can only have litters within the same color spectrum. If you’re looking for a Golden in a particular shade, you’ll want to work with a reputable breeder and choose parents who have coloring that’s similar to what you’re looking for. Golden Retriever puppies often get darker as they get older, but you can get a good idea of what their coloring will be after they lose their puppy fur by looking at the very tips of their ears. Puppies with darker ears tend to grow up to have darker coats, so this can be another way to predict your grown dog’s coat color.

Some Final Thoughts

While there are many different varieties of Golden Retriever, the only real difference is the way that they look. Their size, shape, and color may vary, but no matter which type you choose you can be sure he will be highly intelligent, sociable, loving, and easy to train. Your new Golden Retriever will be the perfect family pet and will serve as your loyal companion for years to come.

Scroll to top