Show Dog Requirements for a Golden Retriever

by Jen Davis
Golden retriever competing in the Westminster dog show.

Golden retriever competing in the Westminster dog show.

Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Golden retrievers are a popular breed of dog who can be wonderful family pets, service dogs or even be used for hunting. If you own a purebred golden retriever, you can show him at dog shows. The American Kennel Club has a strict set of breed standards that show quality dogs must adhere to if you want to place in a dog show.

General Appearance of Golden Retriever

According to the American Kennel Club Breed Standard, your show quality golden retriever should have a symmetrical and powerful build with average to slightly short legs and a pleasant, kindly expression. He should be friendly and willing to listen. As a show dog, he must be active, agile and easy to please. These dogs were bred for hunting and your dog should possess a willing attitude towards work as well as the physical athleticism to perform in a variety of terrains and situations. The AKC states that your dog's overall presentation is more important than any specific component of his appearance. He should be judged by the overall quality of his gait, balance and appearance. Points are taken off for features that deviate from the AKC's ideal, especially if the flawed feature negatively affects the dog's abilities.

Golden Retriever Size and Build

Show quality male golden retrievers should weigh between 65 and 75 pounds. Males should measure 23 to 24 inches tall at the withers, which is located on the back at the top of the shoulder. Female dogs should be slightly smaller, weighing in between 55 and 65 pounds. Females should measure between 21½ and 22½ inches tall at the withers. Dogs who are less than 1 inch taller or shorter than the breed ideal are penalized in a show situation. Dogs who are more than an inch taller or shorter are disqualified, according to the AKC. Both males and females should measure slightly longer from breastbone to buttocks than they do from the ground to the withers.

Physical Build of the Head

The golden retriever has a distinctive physical appearance. The AKC requires him to have a broad skull and a deep, wide face. His muzzle should be straight and blend in smoothly with the rest of his head. His eyes should appear to be both friendly and show intelligence. They are expected to be medium to dark brown, set wide apart and feature deep sockets. White should not be visible when your dog is looking straight forward. His ears should be short, attaching to the head behind and above the eye. Your dog's ear should be long enough to just barely cover the eye when it is pulled forward. Your dog's nose should be brown or black. His teeth should be neatly and properly aligned with no visible underbite, overbite or deformity.

Physical Build of the Body

Coming down from the head, your golden should have a medium to slightly long neck that merges into broad shoulders and creates an overall muscular look. His back should be level with a very slight slope to the rear area above the tail. He should have a deep, wide chest with solid muscle development. His ribs should be well-sprung without appearing to be too round, he should not be built like a barrel. The tail also should be thick and solidly muscular with a slight upward curve and no obvious kinks or flaws. The legs should be straight with solid bone structure that lends itself to athleticism. His overall build should allow for good quality movement.

Coat Qualities

The golden retriever was bred for hunting, specifically retrieving game. His coat is supposed to be thick with a healthy undercoat. It should naturally repel water. The outercoat can be straight or wavy but it must be resilient in nature. Feathering is expected on the neck, thighs and tail. Stray hairs, especially around the feet, may be trimmed for appearances sake. The color of the coat should be golden without any white or dark (black or brown) markings. Extremely dark gold or extremely pale gold coats are considered to be flawed.

Golden Retriever Gait

The AKC expects your golden retriever to move well at all speeds. He should cover significant ground easily and smoothly. He should not appear clumsy and he should have good reach with all four legs. During movement, legs should remain straight and should not interfere with one another, in other words, your dog should not be tripping over his own feet or even give the appearance of tripping over his own feet.

Photo Credits

  • Andrew Burton/Getty Images News/Getty Images