What Are the 3 Types of Golden Retrievers?

Between golden retriever breeds, types, and shades, it’s hard to keep track of which one is which. From the rare white European goldens to the exquisite platinum imported goldens, and the English cream golden retrievers, how do you pick the best one? And, are they purebreds or a marketing gimmick?

What are the three types of golden retrievers? Despite the many coats, colors, and tones of this canine, its only one breed, and it originated in Scotland. They do, however, come in three main varieties, which are the Canadian golden retriever, the British or English golden retriever, and the American golden retriever.

Golden Retrievers at a Glance

Weight Range Males are 65-75 lbs.

Females are 55-65 lbs.

Height at Withers Males are 24 inches

Females are 22 inches

Exercise requirements 40 minutes a day
Energy level Average
Longevity range 10-13 years
Drooling Low
Snoring Low
Barking Moderate
Tendency to dig Low
Social and attention needs High
Length Medium
Characteristics Straight
Colors Golden or various shades
Overall grooming needs Moderate

Sourced: Hills Pet

Did you know that there are black golden retrievers, which – shouldn’t that be an oxymoron? It’s in the name alone. The black is but one color of golden retriever and gets it’s hue from genetics. Other than that, they are still traditional golden.

What Makes Them Different?

Golden retrievers also come in white, light, cream, red, dark, and classic golden shades. We’ll look at the different types and what makes them so diverse, but we’ll also see why they’re so similar, including the diseases that afflict all of them as one large breed.

The fun facts are courtesy of Bark Post and a BuzzFeed YouTube video.

Fun Fact: an 18-month-old golden retriever named Angel save his 11-year-old owner from a cougar attack in 2010

How the Golden Retriever Came About

The first Lord of Tweedmouth in the Scottish Highlands, Sir Dudley Marjoribanks – a breeder and avid waterfowl hunter – was looking for the perfect hunting dog.

He needed a canine that could retrieve birds from far distances, including from the lakes and streams of rugged and rainy terrain.

Initially, during this time of the Victorian era, early retrievers were black though some had a recessive yellow gene.

In 1868 and 1871, Tweedmouth bred Nous, a yellow-colored retriever, with Belle, a (now extinct) Tweed Water Spaniel.

Over the next 50 plus years, their descendants were bred with flat coat and wavy retriever types, a Tweed Water Spaniel, an Irish Setter, and a Bloodhound.

Today, golden retrievers are the 3rd most popular breed in the U.S. They are, however, not to be confused with the other breeds. There are six types of retrievers that are bred for specific purposes and to work in certain kinds of environments.

They also have different temperaments and needs.

The six breeds of retrievers are:

  • Golden
  • Labrador
  • Chesapeake Bay
  • Curly-Coated
  • Flat-Coated
  • Nova Scotia Duck Trolling

Fun Fact: golden retrievers were called “Flat Coats” when they were first shown at Crystal Palace in England, in 1908. It didn’t win breed recognition until the 1920s.

The 3 Types of Golden Retrievers

There are two ways golden retrievers can vary. The first is the type, and the second is the coloring. Still, the differences are nuanced, apart from their coat. Goldens come in three main varieties or types. They are:

  • Canadian golden retrievers
  • British or English golden retrievers
  • American golden retrievers

Canadian Golden Retriever

They look different in that their hair is not as feathery, and its shorter, darker, and not as dense. They can be an inch or so taller and leaner than the British goldens. Canadians also differ in their coat color.

British or English Golden Retriever

Variations can be found throughout each continent with this breed. They have long feathery cream-colored coats, a broad skull, and are darker, with rounder eyes.

They also have shorter legs and tails and are heavier than American and Canadian goldens. The most significant difference between the British and American breeds is their build, but their temperament is similar.

American Golden Retriever

The coats of these canines are dark golden, but they are just as long and wavy at the British breed. The American is round, and their eyes are lighter.

They are lankier and less stocky than the British breed, and they have a denser, water-repellent coat with moderate feathering.

Colors don’t determine temperament, ability, health, or lifespan. The quality is defined by the care a breeder takes, and by adhering to breeding standards, “as well as by doing careful pedigree research and screening for soundness in mind and body.”

Sourced: Golden Retriever Club of America 

Colors, Tones, and Shades of the Golden Retriever

The golden retriever is famous for its radiant coat of gold and is a muscular dog, with friendly eyes and a powerful gait. They are outgoing, reliable, intelligent, and family-oriented animals that are playful and energetic.

Known for their easy-going nature and trainability, they are loyal, great hunting workers and swimmers, guides for the blind, search and rescue animals, and therapy dogs.

Fun Fact: a kangaroo in Australia named Dusty believed his mother was a golden retriever

Golden retriever colors are due to pigmentation in their gene pool. It’s hard to tell what color they’ll turn out to be when grown, but essentially the primary colors they’re all born with fall into four classifications, and they tend to stay within a limited color-spectrum.

TIP: to determine their color as adults, look at the tips of their ears. It changes as they start to grow up.

The American Kennel Club only recognizes three main color classifications:

  • Light golden
  • Golden
  • Dark golden

The cream color was added to the English standard in 1936 according to Pet Helpful, and after breeding, “lighter specimens, were given the name English cream golden retriever.” They are also called platinum blond goldens, white goldens, light goldens, English golden, and European golden.

Retriever Nugget: Kennel Club Distinctions for Golden Retrievers

In Canada and the UK, kennel clubs accept a broader range of colors than the US. The American club doesn’t accept dark and pale colors, meaning black and cream-colored goldens are excluded.

According to My Golden, the Canada club accepts cream and darker gold-colored dogs as long as the color is within the range of medium gold color retrievers. The UK accepts cream and lighter shades of goldens, but mahogany and red goldens are not accepted.

There may be three types of golden retrievers and 3-4 main color types (depending on whom you ask). However, within that color palette are a variety of shades that run the spectrum from white, light, cream, red, classic golden, dark, and black.

They’re most often called:

  • Red golden retrievers
  • English cream golden retrievers
  • White golden retrievers
  • Dark golden retrievers
  • Light golden retrievers
  • Black golden retrievers

Fun Fact: golden retrievers were in the White House with President Ford and President Regan

Red: they’re sometimes mistaken for an Irish setter. Their coat is straighter and shorter and tends to be less feathery on the tails and limbs. This is an excellent working and hunting dog, and their bodies are more compact than other goldens.

Cream: Sometimes called the English retrievers, they are a pale cream and are more prevalent in the UK. They tend to be slim and sleeker-looking and have a level back and tail. There is a slight difference between cream and light golden retrievers.

White: this canine’s coat is not a pure white color but more like a very pale shade of cream.

Dark: These tend to be the most striking of the colors, and they have full solid coats.

Light: this light coat is darker than the cream golden retrievers but lighter than the traditional retriever. They tend to be bulkier in appearance.

Black: this is one of the traditional breeds of golden retrievers, and though they’re not as common as the other goldens, they have the same characteristics.

Fun Fact: according to a Guinness World Record stat, a golden retriever named Charlie has the loudest bark at 113.1 decibels. Its 3 decibels lower than a buzzing chainsaw

Never Mind the Colors: Golden Retrievers Are One Breed

It’s to be noted that the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) is adamantly against the name English cream for golden retrievers.

They claim that the names these canines are being marketed under gives the impression that they are somehow healthier, stronger, more beautiful, rarer, and even have greater longevity.

They say these colors and other common shades of cream and gold are bred and found here in North America, and sometimes goldens birth siblings that are very light cream to more vibrant gold.

Further, by promoting these lighter colored-canines as a superior breed, GRCA says it, “unnecessarily [narrows] the gene pool and may cause genetic predispositions towards hereditary health issues to become magnified over time.”

GRCA believes the different shades and colors are “breeders’ aesthetic preferences and interpretations of the breed standard,” but at the end of the day, the golden retriever is one breed.

| “It’s incorrect to call a lighter-colored golden retriever by a different name. Sometimes, breeders change their name to trick buyers into thinking that these lighter-colored dogs are rare.”

Sourced: Adrienne Janet Farricelli, Author of Brain Training for Dogs|

“Rare white European golden retrievers,” “exquisite platinum imported golden retrievers,” or “English cream golden retrievers” are some of the labels given to this one breed.

While there are differences in the English and Canadian breeds, it’s because they’re bred according to the American Kennel Club standard and the Kennel Club of the U.K. Here are some of the primary qualifications.

Feature English American Canadian
Color Generally lighter Darker Medium shades of golden
Topline Level slope Back slopes down a little Level slope
Head Broader Narrower profile that blends into the skull Broad in the skull, slightly arched
Eyes Round, level eyes, dark in contrast to American Almond-shaped Medium-large with dark, set well apart
Ears Level with eyes Behind, just above the eyes Well behind and just above the eyes
Neck Long protruding neck, trimmed ruff Medium length, muscular, untrimmed Medium long, muscular, untrimmed natural ruff
Tail Level with back Slight upward curve Some upward curve
Height Males 22-24 in. and Females 20-22 in. Males 23-24 in. and Females 21.5-22.5 in. Males 23-24 in. and Females 21.5-22.5 in.
Built Heavier, stockier build Leaner, more lightweight appearance Leaner

Sourced: Adrianne Janet Farricelli, UKC Dogs and the Canadian Kennel Club

What Makes Golden Retrievers the Same?

In general, golden retrievers have similar characteristics and temperament, and even similar health needs. They have more in common than they are different. They are:

  • Lovers of the outdoors, especially swimming
  • Calm indoors, which makes for an excellent family pet
  • Easy to train and easy-going
  • Sensitive and independent thinking
  • Extremely intelligent
  • Even-tempered, well-behaved, and very faithful
  • Social animals that can develop separation anxiety if left alone for too long

Fun Fact: golden retrievers have been known to take care of other animals, including cats

Health Needs of a Golden Retriever

The health of your golden retriever is essential as they suffer from a multitude of afflictions. There is a longitudinal cohort study of golden retrievers being conducted on the subject of health.

Their health is particularly important when breeders only select from a restricted gene pool to create lighter colors.

This shouldn’t scare you away as retrievers are generally healthy, but they’re prone to certain conditions that you should know about.

Not all of them will have the following diseases, but when buying, you should ask the breeder for health clearances of the puppy’s parents. This proves that the dog has been tested and cleared of these health conditions.

Some of the things to look for are hip dysplasia, elbow, dysplasia, and hypothyroidism, among others. According to DogTime, this is what some of the conditions entail.

Hip Dysplasia: this is a heritable condition where the thighbones don’t fit properly into the hip joint. It’s painful and can make them lame on their rear legs. As they age, arthritis develops, and sometimes the only way to find out (when they don’t show any signs) is to have an x-ray screening. If they do suffer from this, they should not be bred.

Elbow Dysplasia: another heritable condition with large canines, it’s caused by different growth rates in the three bones of the elbow. It, too, can be painful and cause lameness.

Cataracts: they can develop and manifests as cloudy spots on the eye lens. It usually doesn’t impair vision, but there have been cases when it has caused severe vision loss. These dogs shouldn’t be bred if they have hereditary eye disease.

Fun Fact: a golden retriever named Augie holds the record for holding the most tennis balls (5) in its mouth

Allergies: Goldens, like humans, can have a variety of allergic symptoms from food and pollen.

Epilepsy: this brain disorder causes seizures and convulsions in retrievers and is diagnosed by a veterinarian. There is a medication that can be prescribed.

Hypothyroidism: this is a disorder originating with the thyroid gland and can be seen as dark patches on the skin. It can also cause hair loss, obesity, and lethargy, even epilepsy.

Osteosarcoma: usually malignant, this bone cancer is common in large breeds.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans: this causes stiff, painful joints, and the canine may not be able to bend its elbow. It occurs because of abnormal cartilage growth, and can also occur in the shoulders. It’s believed that a diet too rich in high proteins, including those marketed as “growth formula” foods, can contribute to this condition.

| “Ultimately, choosing a golden retriever shouldn’t be based on coat color alone but a combination of factors such as structure, temperament, and health. Breeders who breed for platinum, cream, or white coats as their primary goal are raising a red flag.”

Sourced: Pet Helpful |

Progressive Retinal Atrophy: another eye disease can gradually deteriorate the retina and cause night blindness in the early stages. It can also cause the same with daytime vision as it progresses.

Von Willebrand’s Disease: a blood disorder that’s inherited and affects blood clotting. There is no cure, but it’s not debilitating. Symptoms include nose bleeds and bleeding of the stomach and gums. Dogs with this condition shouldn’t be bored.

Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis: caused by a narrow passage between the ventricle and aorta, this heart condition can cause a retriever to faint. It can also lead to sudden death, but it’s detectable, and a veterinarian can prescribe treatment.

Gastric Dilatation Volvulus: this is a condition that affects retrievers when they’re unable to blech or get rid of excess gas. Also known as bloat, it can cause a drop in their blood pressure and lead to death if not caught and treated in time.

Retriever Nugget: The Domestication of Goldens

According to a new behavioral study on domestication syndrome, scientists believe that the taming of your modern breed golden retriever has affected his behavior.

It found that domestication decreases aggressive and fearful responses and increases social and playful behaviors. “

The expected correlations among our measured behaviors are generally strong in ancient breeds … but several of these correlations are weak or gone in modern breeds, such as Golden Retrievers,” says Christina Hansen Wheat, Stockholm University.

Related Question

I’m still a bit confused about all the differences. Can you summarize it? There are six breeds of retrievers, including the golden.

In the golden, there are three types (Canadian, British, and American). Golden comes in different shades, but there are three primary colors (golden, lightly golden, and dark golden). There are other differences in shape and tone, but they are the same breed.

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