The Golden Family Pet
Updated: May 3
Golden Retrievers are a loving and loyal family pet. They are one of the most popular dog breeds because of their friendly and tolerant attitude; they make an overall wonderful companion for any child and adult. If you are considering a Golden as your next family pet there are a few things that you should know. If you already have a Golden puppy or young adult there are maybe some fun things that you are learning already that you maybe did not expect.
I thought I would reach out to my friend Maggie who is the wonderful dog owner of 10 year old Finn, an absolutely beautiful Golden that I've had the pleasure of meeting this winter. Don't let his age fool you, because as she will explain, he is still full of energy. Finn came into her life when she was 16 years old, from a wonderful breeder that their first family dog came from before him, and he rarely leaves her side. They've grown together, and he's taught her everything she knows about taking care of another being as well as herself.
Watching this boy running around with a group of other dogs I could see for myself that he is still so active and such a sweet boy!
Below are my thoughts, opinions, and research into the breed from my experience with our 3 year old Golden, Riley. As well as the opinions and experiences of Maggie with Finn.
This breed is a working dog, originally bred to do as it's name suggests, retrieve. This means that they have a high level of energy that needs to be released in a productive way so that they do not do so on their own in less desirable ways; jumping up, running around the house, counter surfing, chewing furniture, digging, and otherwise never calming down.
Exercise is the obvious solution to this dilemma! One 30 minute walk a day is likely not enough for this breed. An adult could need two or three walks to drain the excess energy. A general rule to follow is an hour+ a day for the average golden. Of course this should be increased or decreased as it seems necessary for your dog. This can also be done with a treadmill if trained properly and done so safely. I will be posting about our treadmill experience in the future!
Finn is still very active and high energy at 10 years old! He hikes anywhere from an hour to three hours a day with only the occasional day off. In the hotter months of the summer they switch to mostly swimming to keep him cool, but he could swim for hours; eventually Maggie has to make him stop! He keeps up with his one year old Aussi brother, Fox, with no problem. Of course he’s not quite as zoomy anymore, but he climbs up onto big rocks or ledges and hops down without difficulty. (This point can be proven by checking out their instagram and seeing their amazing photos!)
The only thing that has posed a challenge for Finn are long city walks on concrete; it’s harder on his joints these days. Finn is lucky to have many lakes and beaches around for soft hiking and walking ground. If you are stuck in the city with an older golden though, try to find somewhere soft for your old pup to get their exercise in.
Anyone who claims that their Golden is out of control simply does not provide them with enough exercise that they both need and crave! How do you know if your Golden is being exercised enough? You will very likely just know. If your dog is running around the house, being destructive, or has a short attention span, then you likely are not properly satisfying your dogs need for exercise. Ensure with your vet that your dog has a clean bill of health if their behaviour seems odd or different than usual.
Check out my post about Calming Your High Energy Dog for more ideas :)
As pure and majestic as they appear on the outside, Golden Retrievers are prone to many issues.
By bringing a Golden into your life, you have to be willing and able to care for their every need. You should be aware of what issues might become present in your dog and the best action is to be proactive, caring for these issues before they appear!
Below are only a few (certainly not all) of the most common health problems experienced specifically in Golden Retrievers and a few of our own solutions to these problems based on what we've individually learned.
Weight Gain has been an ongoing challenge for Finn; he has always been quick to gain weight. As a Golden Retriever this is very common, but his love for food, stocky build, and fluffy coat make it difficult to catch sometimes. Maggie says that if she could go back and do it all over, she would have learned more about how much food he needs (and doesn't need!), the importance of food quality, and more about joint health.
Just the same as humans, it is more difficult for Finn to lose the weight now rather than when he was younger. But that doesn't mean that it can't be done or that you should let weight gain in senior dogs slide. Keeping their weight in check when they're older is more important than ever because excess weight is hard on their joints, and joint health is so important.
Finn has always been very active but last year, without paying enough attention, his weight got a little out of hand, even with his daily hikes. By switching his food to something with higher quality and fresher ingredients he was able to lose 10 pounds within two months at most! He now eats 1/3 of his daily food raw and it's been a great addition to his diet.
Hip Dysplasia is a debilitating form of arthritis that occurs in the breeds hips that can develop into a permanent disability; if left untreated it can come to the point that your dog may not be able to walk at all. Supplements for joint support are a great additive to be added to your Golden's to keep already healthy joints strong and maintained. Maggie explains further below what she adds into Finns diet for joint support!
Skin Conditions can develop because of the breeds beautiful long outer coat and dense undercoat - a perfect home for disease-ridden bacteria. 50% of Goldens develop allergies which can lead to serious infections.
Cancer is unfortunately so common in Golden, in fact it is the most common in this breed. While only 1 out of 3 dogs in the world will have cancer, 60% of Goldens die from cancer.
Supplements and Diet
A lot of the above issues can be treated or avoided by adding supplements to your Golden's food! Maggie shared some great advice on what she gives to her boy, Finn to care for his overall health:
In terms of supplements, we feed him omega 3,6, 9 daily, based on our vet’s recommendations, as there’s more evidence that omegas are good for joint health than any other supplement, which I did not know before this last summer! We literally give him human pills in his food, he eats so fast he doesn’t notice it’s there.
However, if you have a pickier golden (uncommon but not unheard of) there are pill pocket treats you can buy, or you can pop it in some banana or whatever your dog enjoys. He also gets green lipped mussel powder daily which has omega 3, glucosamine and helps keep the fluid filled sacs in their joints nice and healthy. We keep glucosamine supplements on hand always for extra high activity days, and pumpkin powder for when his tummy is upset or needs a little bulk to his stool.
On top of his meals and supplements, we give Finn some extra fresh foods like sardines, eggs, blueberries, greens, bone broth (we freeze it in ice cubes, any type is good as long as there’s no onion!), and goat’s milk (probiotics). All of these have been amazing additions to his diet and could benefit any dog at any age.
I highly recommend giving an older golden raw marrow bones as they age, at least once a week ideally! The bones are sturdy enough that they don’t break down or pose any danger (but generally I’d recommend giving them with supervision to be sure). Finn has never allowed me to brush his teeth, but he loves his bones and they are amazing for dental health for dogs. At 10 years old, his vet is always amazed by his dental health and how little plaque he has on his teeth! Marrow bones are rich and fatty though, so if you’re giving large bones I would limit it to once a week. Finn typically gets small or medium sized bones up to twice a week.
Golden Retrievers are absolutely wonderful dogs, and their is truly nothing poor to be said about their behaviour in general, as long as he or she is properly trained and exercised!
Our boy Riley is so sweet, loving and gentle, he is also goofy and makes us laugh. He gets many walks and we also use the treadmill to drain excess energy.
He is on a raw food diet with supplements. As a retriever you may be surprised to hear that fetch is not his favourite game! However, he will chase his sister in the backyard for hours and he loves to go for a run with his Dad.
Maggie says this about Finn:
"My favourite part about my golden boy is his sweet smile and his emotional intelligence. For years he has been my unofficial emotional support dog. He is so sensitive to how I am feeling, so I try to do the same for him. He is such a lovebug, he goes from person to person greeting them and sneaking in as many pets as he can. Finn’s cuddly nature has not changed with age.
I absolutely love my sweet boy and will continues to love him more and more every single day for as long as we have left. I’m so lucky to have had him all these years and I will do everything in my power to keep him as healthy, active, and loved as possible so he can have the best life every day for as long as he lives."
A Golden will make an absolutely wonderful addition to your home, and as long as you're prepared to care for their every day needs, you will have a best friend for many many years. Caring for another being is no simple task, and it is to be taken on responsibly, thought out with care, and executed with purpose.
I wish that everyone would have the pleasure of having a Golden beautifully impact their life one way or another!
A HUGE thank you to Maggie and her boy Finn for their input on this. If you want to bless your instagram feed, follow @FinnandFoxHFX < click for link.