The golden retriever is one of the most popular pet breeds in the U.S., and also one of the breeds most commonly trained as assistance or service dogs. As Assistance Dog International notes, they are just the right size as adults and have desirable characteristics and temperament for use as assistance dogs in many cases.
Choosing the right dog breed is an essential part of partnering with an assistance dog for any purpose. While golden retrievers are well suited in many instances, lots of individualized factors about your disability, living situation, the sort of help you need, your ability to provide grooming and other care, your own personality and preferences, and other circumstances all affect whether this or another breed would work best for you.
So, to help determine whether a golden retriever might be a good match for you as an assistance dog, here’s some basic information about the breed.
Why Golden Retrievers Make Good Assistance Dogs
Numerous golder retriever characteristics make them ideal service dogs. They have the size and strength to provide a person with physical support and to pick up and carry heftier objects—a function they were even specifically bred for to retrieve game for hunters. They are active without being overly energetic, and affectionate and loyal without being too protective to safely take in public.
Golden retrievers are also highly intelligent and easy to train for a wide variety of commands and tasks, they are particularly obedient, they enjoy having jobs and completing challenges, and they don’t have a strong dominant or submissive streak. They are also noted for getting along well with children and other animals.
Golden Retriever Physical Characteristics
Fully grown golden retrievers are broad, sturdy, and strong, averaging around 60 to 70 pounds, standing about 2 feet tall, and just a little longer than they are tall. Their coats are straight, wavy, or feathered; light to dark golden-brown; dense; and notably water repellent. The latter is useful for assistance dogs, who may have no choice but to venture out in the rain more often than pets.
Golden Retriever Temperament
These are highly intelligent, devoted, obedient, eager-to-please dogs; in fact, the first three dogs to win the American Kennel Club’s Obedience Championship Title after it was introduced in 1977 were all golden retrievers. They are physically active and enthusiastic but not hyper, but may continue moving and working themselves to exhaustion, so it’s important to keep an eye on them and enforce break times. Affection and friendliness are given freely and appreciated in return, and golden retrievers are tolerant of and even warm toward kids and pets, often bonding strongly with the entire household.
Golden Retriever Care and Health
Providing attention and both physical and mental stimulation are important when caring for a golden retriever. Fortunately, the daily life of an assistance dog typically provides plenty of all. This isn’t a particularly high-maintenance breed from a grooming perspective. The coat isn’t prone to matting and tangles, but twice-weekly brushing is recommended.
As is normal for breeds this size, golden retrievers have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. Joint problems like hip and elbow dysplasia and arthritis are common in later years, while congenital heart disease, cataracts, and allergic skin conditions are other health problems the breed is prone to.
As should be obvious, golden retrievers have a lot going for them as a breed when it comes to working as assistance dogs. Still, that doesn’t mean one would be the perfect match for you. For more guidance, see Some Things to Think About when Choosing an Assistance Dog Breed.