Golden Retrievers: A Good Dog For First-Time Owners?

Congratulations, you’re looking at becoming a first-time dog owner. Maybe you’ve narrowed down your list to a few breeds, or perhaps you’ve set your mind on the Golden Retriever from day one.

Regardless, the question is the same; is a Golden Retriever a good dog for a first-time dog owner? 

As a whole, the Golden Retriever is well-suited to first-time dog owners. The friendly and gentle Golden Retriever is eager to please, easy to train, and a loyal and trustworthy companion. In addition, the breed’s high intelligence and good nature make them adaptable to almost any household or lifestyle.

A common mistake that first-time dog owners make is not determining if a dog is a good fit for their lifestyle. Instead, first-time owners often set their minds on a specific breed without assessing if the dog will be a good match for their homes. 

Also, keep in mind that while certain traits are common along breed lines, each Golden Retriever will be unique.

As a first-time owner, be prepared to take a moment and determine your preferences for temperament, intelligence, activity level, size, how the dog is as a puppy, care and maintenance, and health issues.

Your job is to determine if Golden Retriever and their corresponding traits align with your lifestyle.  

Comparing Golden Retriever Traits for First Time Dog Owners

As a starting point, first-time dog owners need to determine the pros and cons of the Golden Retriever and how it fits a person’s lifestyle.

Lifestyle fit is the single most important factor in choosing a dog and it is much more important than the breed of dog.

Consider a family with kids and how that lifestyle might differ from a single person who works 12 hours per day. Each is a markedly different lifestyle and would not be suited to the same type of dog.

For the Golden Retriever, take a moment to review the table below that compares the traits of the Golden Retriever and consider how these traits might fit your lifestyle as a first-time Golden owner.

PersonalityFriendly, loyal, and trustworthy. Kid-friendly, eager to please.Typically not a one-person dog. They love everyone.
IntelligenceSuper smart. Learn fast and are obedient. Easy to train. Smarts can be used for mischievous activities and figuring out how to get into things they shouldn’t.
Activity LevelHighly active. Great for active households that like outdoor activities.Not great for couch potatoes or busy households that have little time for dog care and exercise.  
SizeMedium-large dogs. Not overly big, but not small. Adapt well to most living spaces.It may be too big for smaller apartments or small condos. Size can be hard to control for kids and some adults.
PuppiesLike to play and are highly entertaining. Learn quickly. Sleep a lot for the first month. Puppy breath.Highly active and energetic. Can be rebellious. Puppyhood can last beyond 2 years.  
MaintenanceAverageBig sheds twice a year that require daily brushing. Can drool, hair gets everywhere. 
HealthGenerally healthy dogs. Fewer issues if obtained from a reputable breeder.Can be prone to health issues if not acquired from a reputable breeder.

What Traits Make a Golden Retriever a Good Fit for First-Time Owners?

Golden Retrievers are medium to large dogs and are very well suited to first-time dog owners because of their friendly personalities, exceptional smarts, average maintenance needs, and adaptability. Dog owners who are active and looking for an outdoor companion are particularly well suited to this breed.


Goldens are outgoing, trustworthy, eager-to-please, gentle, and easy to train. They take a joyous and playful approach to life and maintain a young-at-heart, puppyish behavior into adulthood. 

Goldens get along with kids and pets (even cats) and are generally friendly with almost everyone they meet. Golden Retrievers do not bark a lot and typically only bark for a reason, e.g., someone rings the doorbell.

For first-time dog owners who have kids or are planning on starting a family, you’re in luck. The Golden Retriever is a great family dog, mainly in part to its impressive and friendly disposition.  

If your curious as to why the Golden Retriever is such a good family dog, you may find this article interesting:

Golden Retrievers: Are They A Good Family Dog?

The Golden Retriever’s temperament is pretty much the same whether it’s a female or male. Personality is more important than gender, so keep that in mind when choosing a puppy. I’ve personally found all the Goldens in my life – be it female or male – were amiable, affectionate, and loving dogs.


Golden Retrievers are smart. Very smart. Just how smart are they?

According to Canine Researcher Stanely Coren, the Golden Retriever is in the top tier of intelligent dogs. Of those dogs, the Golden Retriever comes in at the fourth spot behind the Border Collie, Poodle, and German Shepherd. 

According to Stanley Cohen, Tier One dogs can learn a command in five repetitions and are obedient 95% of the time.

In terms of a first-time owner, that means someone just learning how to manage and train their first dog is working with a top-level student that catches on quickly and obeys the teacher. 

In a nutshell, Golden Retrievers are not hard dogs to train, which is a definite “pro” for first-time, novice dog owners.

Activity Level

Golden Retrievers are high-energy and very active dogs. They were bred to retrieve waterfowl for hours on end. They love the outdoors. 

So this breed is great for first-time owners who are active. The dog can accompany you on hikes, camping, swimming, bike rides, and runs (no runs before one year of age, though). 

For very busy or inactive people, the Golden Retriever may not be the best choice. A Golden Retriever that does not have its physical, mental, and social needs met can become mischievous and destructive.

There is no lack of activities you can do with your Golden Retriever. However, if you’re at a loss for some ideas or just curious, then take a few minutes to read this article on some good activities for your Golden Retriever: Boredom Busters: 21 Great Activities for Your Golden Retriever.


Golden Retrievers are on the larger side. Specifically, they are classified as medium to large, although a smaller female might be considered a medium-sized dog. 

The height and weight of Golden Retrievers will vary by gender. Males will range from 65-75 lbs. while females will be about 55-65 lbs.

Because Goldens are typically in that “Goldilocks” zone, not too big or not too small, they’re often just right. Unless someone prefers an overly large or small dog, the Golden’s size adapts well to most households.

Provided a Golden is adequately exercised or mentally engaged, they spend a good part of their days just sleeping on a bed or their favorite corner.

Bailey relaxing in his crate after a walk. BAR spends most of the day sleeping after exercise and takes up very little room.

As Puppies

Golden Retrievers make great puppies. Aside from being adorable, they’re super smart. Those smarts make teaching your Golden puppy to go potty a much more simple task.

Because they’re so smart, it also means you can start training on all basic commands very early on. Golden puppies are so intelligent that they’ll pick up on things rapidly, and this lays the foundation for a well-behaved dog later on.


Golden Retrievers are about average for care and grooming. For first-time owners who are not hair phobic and don’t mind brushing your Golden regularly, you’re all set.

All other areas – nails, vet checks, teeth, etc. are not much different from any other dog breed. All dog breeds need baths, their nails trimmed, and teeth brushed. 

As far as food goes, Goldens eat twice per day. So high-quality, nutritious dog food will do the trick.

Talk to our vet for recommendations on types and brands, and follow the weight chart on the dog food bag. Easy peasy.

Vegetables and fruits make great snacks for Golden Retrievers. Just make sure they’re not fed too much, and you choose the right kinds – not all veggies and fruits are good for a dog.


Golden Retrievers are generally healthy dogs. They can be prone to specific ailments, but they can be tested to ensure they are less likely to suffer some issues common to the breed.

Getting your Golden from a reputable breeder who screens for common health conditions associated with Goldens can help mitigate some issues.

Otherwise, to keep your Golden healthy, you will do the same routine as you would for any other dog breed.

Exercise them, check their ears weekly for infection, and brush their teeth often. Make sure their vaccinations are up to date and bathe them on occasion.

What Traits Make a Golden Retriever a Poor Fit for First-Time Dog Owners?

All dogs have traits that may make them a poor fit for some lifestyles and owners. Golden Retrievers are no exception.

Golden Retrievers shed a lot and can be prone to some health issues. Owners must ensure the dog’s physical, mental, and social needs are met, and failure to do so could result in a bored and mischievous dog. In addition, the breed is not a one-person dog and can be too large for smaller living spaces.

Not all dogs are well suited to all people. As noted earlier, a dog’s fit with a person’s particular lifestyle is much more important than a specific dog breed.

Let’s explore why some of the Goldens traits might align well with a first-time dog owner.


Golden Retrievers are amicable and loving dogs. Many owners call them “love sponges” because they seek attention from practically everyone they meet.

First-time dog owners looking for a dog more loyal to one person may have issues with this. Although they may gravitate to one person, they normally will spread their attention and love to everyone.

If you’re looking for a more loyal and protective dog – a more one person or family dog – then consider the German Shepherd, which ranks 2nd in popularity and 3rd in intelligence.


You wouldn’t think a high intelligence in a dog could be a bad thing. Not necessarily.

First-time dog owners beware. Golden Retrievers are intelligent and energetic, so they can get bored if they are not mentally and physically stimulated. And boredom in this breed can mean they’ll find mischievous ways to entertain themselves.

While Golden Retrievers make great house dogs, be prepared for chewed shoes, hats, and slippers, toilet paper shredded and strewn throughout the house, and other bratty hijinks if their high physical and mental needs are unmet.

When you think they can’t find any more creative ways to get into trouble, they do.

Activity Level

Suppose you have little time to exercise your Golden, or you prefer to snuggle with your dog while binge-watching a Netflix show. In that case, first-time dog owners may need to consider looking elsewhere. 

Golden Retrievers are active dogs. The breed needs a lot of physical activity and mental stimulation (play), so be prepared to take your Golden out for plenty of walks during the day. At least an hour, maybe more.

Our Golden Bailey gets a 3.5+ mile walk in the morning, which holds him until late afternoon, and then he gets another 1.5-mile walk. He also gets a few short play and training sessions throughout the day.


If you are more inclined to a smaller or small-medium dog (think border collie), then the Golden may be too big for you. 

An overlooked factor for first-time owners is their living situation. The Goldens size, and energy level, may be better suited to a home with a backyard or large living area, although they’re pretty adaptable.

The Golden Retriever might not do well in an apartment or small condo, although it is doable.

If you’re in an apartment or condo, make sure you know if any bylaws or rule requirements allow dogs and, if so, are there any size limits. Be prepared to train and keep your dog mentally and physically active. Your neighbors will thank you.  

I wrote an in-depth article on Golden Retrievers and apartment living. I discuss the limitations of apartment living and areas to look into. You can find that article here: Golden Retrievers and Apartment Living: Is It Doable?

As Puppies 

First-time dog owners should note that the first two years of a Golden Retriever’s life are typically very active. After that, a Golden Retriever puppy can be very high-energy and very dynamic. It’s part of their charm, but it can also be exhausting at times.

To learn more about how active Golden Retriever puppies are, check out this post:

How Active Are Golden Retriever Puppies? (What You Need to Know)

Moreover, Golden Retrievers can stay in puppyhood longer than most breeds. While endearing some, those expecting a calm adult may not get what they bargained for after two years.

Golden Retrievers have an unparalleled joy for life and carry their puppyish behavior well into adulthood. 

Also, be prepared for puppy biting. All puppies bite, and Golden Retriever puppies are no different.

So, if you’re a first-time dog owner, I caution you to ensure you teach proper bite inhibition to ensure your Golden Retriever has good jaw pressure control as an adult.

To learn about puppy biting in Golden Retrievers, how to handle it, and why teaching bite inhibition is so important, check out this article I wrote:

Golden Retriever Puppy Biting: When it Stops, What To Do


Hair phobic people beware. Like activity, a Golden Retrievers shedding and daily brushing (during their two big sheds per year) may not be suited to a first-time owner.

Similarly, if a first-time owner enjoys an ultraclean home, they may be in for a rude awakening. 

Goldens can drool after drinking from a water dish; their Golden hair is a magnet for everything in the home and routinely gets in food (it’s a condiment). Clothes are especially fond of a Golden Retriever’s hair. 

But before you get scared off, take a moment to read this article: Golden Retrievers: High or Low Maintenance? (Here’s the Verdict). Here you’ll find that aside from shedding, the Golden Retriever is mostly an average maintenance dog.


Golden Retrievers can be prone to health conditions that include elbow and hip dysplasia, eye condition, and certain heart diseases.

Obviously, taking care of an ill Golden Retriever, aside from the heartbreak, is costly and time-consuming.

You can help avoid these issues by getting your Golden from a reputable breeder that has screened for the most common health conditions.

Hold up. If you’re interested in reading about the most serious and costly health issues in Golden Retrievers, I wrote an article on that very topic here: The Most Serious and Costly Health Issues in Golden Retrievers. I also discuss common testing that breeders use to ensure you get a healthy Golden and the average cost of pet insurance.

Final Thoughts

Overall, few dogs are as well suited to first-time dog owners as the Golden Retrievers. However, all dogs come with their unique set of pros and cons, including the Golden Retriever.

The key is to give it some forethought and determine if the dog is suited to your home and lifestyle.

If you decide on the Golden Retriever, feel confident that you are getting an amazing dog that adapts well to any lifestyle.

You’re getting a dog that will make an ideal companion for a first-time owner’s journey into dog ownership.

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