Can you picture a large, golden-colored dog romping through your backyard, sleeping on your couch, playing with your children and joining your family with whatever they are doing? If so, you might be the perfect candidate to get a Golden Retriever as a pet. Golden Retrievers, often simply called Goldens, are as friendly and fun-loving as they are beautiful. If you are thinking about getting a puppy or an older dog, here are the things you need to know to properly take care of your new Golden Retriever.
How to Set Up for Your Golden Retriever
- Make sure your home is safe for a dog. It is important to puppy-proof your home before you bring your new dog home. This is true even if he is not a puppy; even older dogs can get into trouble in a new environment. It will take some time for you to know what he will and will not get into. Make sure that you remove cords that he might chew on, take glass items off of low tables where he might knock them off or try to chew on them, and put away items that you don’t want your dog to take. Yes, this includes your shoes!
- Provide your Golden Retriever with a place to sleep. You might envision your dog sleeping on your bed with you, and that is fine, but it is best to also offer him a place away from others. Many people choose to buy a crate for their dogs. It will need to be large enough for him to stand up and turn around in easily. (Read our article on how to crate train your dog for tips on getting your Golden Retriever accustomed to his new crate.) You also might decide to get a dog bed, which will be a good place for him to go when he doesn’t want to be bothered.
- Purchase food and water bowls. You will need to choose food and water dishes that won’t be knocked over easily. Since a Golden will likely pick up food dishes and carry them around when they are empty, choose a material that he won’t be able to chew through easily. Also, don’t buy a ceramic bowl that he could drop and break.
- Think about how you will keep him in your yard. Even if you plan to train your dog to stay in the yard with you, during the training process, you will need a way to keep him contained. Also, any dog can decide to take off after a rabbit or some other wild animal that runs through your yard. A fence is best. Another option is to consider an invisible fence. Or you can install a tether so your dog can go outside to relieve himself. Do not plan on leaving your Golden Retriever outdoors unattended or for long periods of time.
- Buy a leash and collar or harness. You will need to teach your new furry friend how to walk nicely on a leash. Purchase one that is six feet long for training. You should also choose a collar. A buckle collar is one option, and a martingale collar is another. Choke collars and prong collars should generally be avoided. You can also choose a harness, which puts less pressure on Golden’s neck and can even prevent pulling in some cases.
- Purchase a dog brush and other grooming supplies. With medium-length fur, your Golden Retriever will need to be brushed regularly, and you should also keep his nails trimmed. So, consider buying dog nail clippers, dog shampoo, and other grooming needs. If you will be taking him to a groomer regularly, you don’t need anything other than the brush.
How to Feed Your Golden Retriever
- Choose a high-quality dry dog food. You can ask your veterinarian or the breeder or rescue for a recommendation. Note that if you want to switch her over to a different type of food, you should do so gradually over a period of a few weeks to minimize stomach upset. For a puppy, buy a large breed puppy food; for an adult, you can choose an adult food. Older dogs can benefit from food made for senior dogs.
- Look on the package to determine how much to feed your dog. Find your dog’s age and weight on the chart on the bag and divide that amount of food by the number of times you would like to feed your dog each day. Puppies under 6 months of age should generally eat three times per day and older puppies and adults should eat twice per day.
- Mix extras into your dog’s food if desired. You can mix canned dog food, chopped plain cooked chicken breast, low-salt cottage cheese, canned pumpkin, or plain yogurt into her food. Use only a little of the extras; it’s just to add taste and interest. If you begin doing this, your dog will probably not want to eat plain food, so make this decision knowing you will have to keep up with it later.
- Give your dog treats occasionally. It is fun to feed your Golden treats; just don’t let them become a large part of her diet! A couple of dog biscuits or some dog jerky each day will make her eager to come to you when you call. Also, you can break up dog “cookies” into smaller pieces to use for training.
- Be sure she has fresh water at all times. She will likely drop dog kibble and dog fur into her water dish frequently, so wash it out at the end of each day and refill as needed so that it is always full of fresh, clean water.
How to Handle Your Golden Retriever
- Pet your Golden Retriever firmly and avoid his face. Dogs don’t usually like to have their faces touched, and when you are getting to know your new dog, he might not want you to pet his head. Don’t put your face in any dog’s face, including your own Golden’s. If he begins licking his lips or yawning, it is a sign that you are too close, so back up.
- Pat his side gently. Another way to pet your dog is to pat his side. Use firm but gentle pats. This will tell your dog that you are ready to play, so only do this when you are willing to let him expend some energy.
- Use dog toys to engage your Golden Retriever. He will probably love a game of fetch or tug. Toss a ball or a Kong toy and let him catch it or run after it and retrieve it. You can also use a large rope or another toy that won’t rip easily for a game of tug. One tip is to be the one who decides when these games are over. Teach your Golden to respect the command, “all done,” so he doesn’t get the idea that he is in charge of when you play.
- Teach your Golden simple commands. All dogs should know how to sit, stay, lay down, and come. These will keep him safe in many different situations. In addition, he should know how to walk on a leash. Go to a training class if you don’t know how to teach these commands, or look for a good dog training book. If you are having trouble, hire a professional trainer to work with you and your dog.
- Teach children how to interact with your Golden. While this breed is typically very good with children, any dog can bite if they are mistreated. Young children, in particular, do not intuitively know how to behave around a dog. Don’t let children try to sit on your dog or pull his ears, fur, or tail. Show them how to pet him nicely and not to do anything that will hurt him.
How to Wash Your Golden Retriever
- Only bathe your Golden Retriever when she needs it. That is, when she gets into a mud puddle or smells quite “doggy.” Goldens don’t need to be bathed every month; washing them too often can cause skin problems. Their outer coat is waterproof and their undercoat generally should stay dry, so don’t wash your dog if she isn’t dirty.
- Gather your supplies. Your Golden Retriever might like a bath or she might not. Either way, you should have everything you need in one place so you don’t have to leave a wet or soapy dog unattended. You’ll want to have dog shampoo, a brush, and towels in the bathroom or in the outdoor area you will be using to bathe her.
- Use lukewarm water. If it is cold out, you will need to wash your Golden in the tub or shower. If it’s warm, however, you can use the garden hose.
- Lather up your dog with dog shampoo. Do not use human shampoo. Lather everything except for her head and face.
- Rinse her very well. Her outer coat is waterproof, so you will need to really work her fur to be sure to rinse the undercoat. Leaving soap residue on her fur or skin will make her very itchy and irritated, so take your time and get all of the shampoo off.
- Dry her with towels. It is important that the undercoat dries thoroughly, so dry as much as you can with towels. If she will tolerate it, you could blow-dry her on a low (cool) setting. If not, keep her in a warm, dry place until she is fully dry.
- Brush her fur. Avoid tangling by brushing her when she is a little damp.
How to Clean Your Golden Retriever’s Bed
- Remove all blankets and stuffed toys. All of these can go in the washing machine. You will want to shake them out outdoors first, however, to get extra fur off of them before putting them in your washer and dryer.
- Remove the bed’s cover, if applicable. If you are washing a dog bed with a cover, follow the directions to to wash the cover. If it does not come off, you can spot-clean it as needed.
- Vacuum all around the bed. When you move the bed, you will probably find a lot of dog fur that has accumulated under and around it. Shake the bed outside if you aren’t machine-washing the cover, and vacuum the floor around the bed to pick up the hair.
- Wash the tray of the crate. If your Golden Retriever sleeps in a crate, you will need to pull out the tray and wash it with soapy water. Make sure it is fully dry before you put it back in the crate.
How to Know If Your Golden Retriever Is Happy and Healthy
- Read a book about caring for Golden Retrievers. A good book will tell you what to expect and how to keep your pet happy and healthy.
- Check over her body regularly. When petting her, check for any lumps or bumps. Also, if she flinches when you touch a certain body part, make note of it and call your veterinarian if it continues.
- Look in her ears. With furry drop-ears, your Golden might be prone to ear infections. Make sure her ears look clean and don’t smell bad. If she is shaking her head a lot, take her to the vet because it could be her ears that are bothering her.
- Check her feet. Make sure her foot pads aren’t cracked and that her nails aren’t too long. Learn how to use dog nail clippers to keep her nails clipped to the right length. You can also ask a groomer to do it for you.
- Watch her as she moves. Goldens are sometimes prone to developing hip dysplasia. If your dog is stiff when getting up or limps on a back leg, this is worth getting checked out.
Your Golden Retriever can live for about 10 years, so with good care and regular veterinary attention, you should be able to enjoy a decade with your new pet. Enjoy!