Golden Retrievers: Are They A Good Family Dog?


Our family recently went through the search for a new family dog. One of the many options we were considering was the Golden Retriever.

We decided to research Golden Retrievers before making such a big decision and to make sure this dog breed was a good match for our family. 

Before making our decision, we wanted a definitive answer to the question, is the Golden Retriever a good family dog?

As a whole, the Golden Retriever makes a good dog for most families. The Golden Retriever is an affectionate and gentle dog breed and a loyal and trustworthy companion. In addition, these intelligent dogs are easy to train and have a tolerant disposition towards children and other pets.

Golden Retrievers do possess some qualities that may not be well suited for every family. Therefore, a family should understand the traits of the breed and the full cost of owning a Golden Retriever before deciding.

For families with children, this is especially true.

Hold up: I wrote an article on the full cost of owning a Golden Retriever. In this article, I provide an overview of the first-year costs for a new Golden Retriever and the recurring costs to consider annually. Take a few minutes to read that article here:

The Full Cost of Owning a Golden Retriever (Plus Cost-Saving Tips)

Determining if a Golden Retriever is a Good Family Dog  

Let’s take a look at the most common traits that make the Golden Retriever such a well-suited dog to families. As I discuss each trait, I also include certain issues that families should consider for each trait.

If you want to read a more in-depth article on the pros and cons of a Golden Retriever, I suggest taking a look at this article when you have a moment: Golden Retriever Pros and Cons: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Are Golden Retrievers Friendly?

The affectionate disposition of the Golden Retriever is what they’re known for. It doesn’t take much research before coming across such words as loyal, loving, and friendly when describing the Golden Retriever. 

The American Kennel Club describes the breed standard for Golden Retrievers as follows: 

“Friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards other dogs or people in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not in keeping with the Golden Retriever character.”

“Friendly, reliable, and trustworthy, not quarrelsome or hostile” – that’s pretty much the perfect temperament for a family dog, especially a family with (or considering) children. 

How Big Do Golden Retrievers Actually Get?

Golden Retrievers are medium-large dogs.

The height and weight of Golden Retrievers will vary by gender. 

GenderHeightWeight
Male23 to 24 inches (58 to 61 centimeters)65 to 75 pounds (29 to 34 kilograms)
Female21.5 to 22.5 inches (55 to 57 centimeters)55 to 65 pounds (25 to 29 kilograms)
Information courtesy of the American Kennel Club. 

The breed’s size should not pose a significant issue for most family living situations; however, there are some considerations to keep in mind.

Due to its larger size, the Golden Retriever may not be best suited to apartment living (although doable).

The Golden Retriever would do best in a home with a backyard, on an acreage, or a farm, where space is available for the dog to play and exercise.

Family Consideration: Size can be an important consideration if your household has small children or toddlers. Golden Retrievers – especially younger ones – can be exuberant while playing at times. In their excitement, Goldens can forget how big they are relative to small kids and possibly knock them over. Therefore, keeping small children supervised when playing with dogs is always recommended. 

Are Golden Retrievers Kid-Friendly? 

What traits in a dog make it a good companion for kids?

Affectionate, patient, tolerant, loyal, and trustworthy are but a few key ones. And it’s these very traits that the Golden Retriever possesses.

Golden Retrievers also love to play, and their playful personality aligns well with the energy of kids.

The affectionate, gentle, and trustworthy Golden Retriever will fit very nicely in a family dynamic that includes children.

Other than the size issue discussed previously, there should be little concern with the Golden Retriever as a family dog in a home with youngsters. 

In fact, the Golden Retriever is one of the best dog breeds for a household with children. I wrote a detailed article on why Golden Retrievers are so good with kids, and you can read it here:

Golden Retrievers: Why They’re So Good With Kids.

Of course, adult supervision is always necessary when children are playing with a dog, including Goldens Retrievers. 

Family Consideration: If getting a Golden Retriever as a puppy, beware that they have very sharp teeth. Puppy play-biting is normal behavior; however, bite inhibition must be taught before 4.5 months of age. Hands are especially appealing targets. Until your puppy learns what is acceptable to bite; and what is not, training, redirection, and distractions will be required.

Smart Dog Yes, But Are Golden Retrievers Easy to Train?

Golden Retrievers are smart dogs. Canine Researcher Stanley Coren ranks Golden Retrievers fourth in dog intelligence behind the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd.

Top-tier dogs can have intelligence close to a 2 to 2.5-year-old child and learn up to 165 words, with the brightest dogs learning upwards of 250 words. 

You might be wondering what smarts have to do with a good family dog?

Well, that’s because intelligent dogs are easy to train (they catch on to commands fast), and they’re eager to please (they obey). However, keep in mind that Golden Retrievers are a sensitive dog breed and do best with positive-based training methods.

Bailey learned his sit, down, and stand commands in one day.

According to Cohen’s research, Golden Retrievers fall in the top tier of dog intelligence.

Top-tier dogs can learn a new command in less than five repetitions and obey at least 95 percent of the time. In contrast, it takes tier six dogs 100 repetitions, and they obey 30 percent of the time. 

Easy to train, plus obedient is a good trait to have in a family dog. In any dog, I would think. And it’s a trait that Golden Retrievers most definitely have. 

Family Consideration: The Golden Retriever’s high intelligence can be a double edge sword. A Golden with too much time on his paws (ha-ha) may choose to alleviate boredom in mischievous and creative ways. As a result, you may find underwear and slippers stolen, toilet paper shredded throughout the house, and trash thoroughly rummaged through. Training, exercise, and play will help burn off excess energy and provide adequate mental stimulation. 

What About Exercise – I Hear Golden Retrievers are Very Active?

Golden Retrievers are a sporting breed and require a fair amount of exercise.

Goldens were bred to be active and outdoors and make great companions on activities like runs, hikes, bike rides, and camping trips. 

How much exercise depends on age. Puppies up to one year need about 5 minutes for every four weeks of age. Golden Retrievers beyond one year of age require about one hour per day of exercise.

Issues such as advancing age, injuries, or health issues may require that you adjust exercise needs accordingly.

Dogs are individuals, and differences in personalities and breed lines (e.g., show dog versus sporting dog) may also warrant more or less exercise. 

Golden Retrievers are very well suited to active families. Golden Retrievers will also benefit from families with school-aged children through play activities.

Not only will mutual play help meet the exercise needs of your Golden Retriever, but your children will benefit as well. A win, win. 

Family Consideration: Undesirable behaviors in Golden Retrievers are often due to lack of exercise. Busy families that cannot meet the exercise requirements should contemplate other options (e.g., dog walkers) or consider if a lower energy dog might be a better fit.

How Much Upkeep – Are Golden Retrievers High Maintenance?

Golden Retrievers are moderate shedders except for twice per year upon which they shed their double coats. Therefore, shedding during these twice-yearly events will be heavy

Daily brushing is recommended during heavy sheds and once or twice per week for the rest of the year. On the plus side, Golden Retrievers do not require haircuts. 

Owners should brush their dog’s teeth regularly and trim their nails often. In addition, ears should be cleaned frequently and checked weekly for infections.

An occasional bath is also required. 

Ensuring your Golden Retriever remains healthy means regular vet visits and vaccinations kept up to date. No different than any other dog breed. 

Golden Retrievers are mostly healthy dogs. However, they can be prone to health issues such as hip dysplasia, eye conditions, and heart issues.

Choosing a breeder that has tested for these conditions will help avoid these problems down the road.

Feeding requirements for a Golden Retriever are average for dogs this size. They require high-quality dog food and typically eat twice per day. 

Overall, maintenance requirements for Golden Retrievers are about average – upkeep is better than some dog breeds and worse than others.

Shedding is the biggest issue. 

Family Consideration: Families that prefer to maintain ultra-clean homes may find the shedding and amount of hair frustrating. The hair readily clings to clothes and furniture. In addition, untrimmed nails can scratch hardwood floors. Regular brushing and nail trimming go a long way to mitigating these issues. Keep lint rollers on hand to help with hair on clothes. 

In Conclusion

Often chosen by families for its friendly and trustworthy disposition, it is easy to see why the Golden Retriever is a popular breed.

Since 2013 the Golden Retriever has ranked as the third most popular dog breed by the American Kennel Club.

And there is a good reason for such a high ranking. The Golden Retriever is a gentle and loyal companion.

The breed’s playful energy and patience with children, combined with its intelligence and eagerness to please, make it a good dog for almost any family.  

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