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Golden Retrievers 101

Golden retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the United States.

Martha Stewart Living Television

Intelligent, affectionate, and downright adorable, golden retrievers make excellent pets. It should come as no surprise, then, that these dogs are one of the most popular breeds in the United States. But as pet expert Marc Morrone explains -- and illustrates with the help of seven cuddly canines -- there are a few things you should carefully consider before deciding to bring a golden retriever into your home.

Like all dogs, golden retrievers are small when they're puppies, but bear in mind they won't stay that way forever. In only a few months, they'll grow to become big, strong, and very energetic; adult males generally grow to about 24 inches tall and weigh between 65 and 75 pounds. As such, it's important to assess whether you have enough space to keep one in your home. 

Physically, golden retrievers are perhaps most prized for their rich golden coats, which come in varying shades. Their fur can be either wavy or straight, but in all cases, their coats are dense and water-repellent. According to Marc, they tend to shed frequently, so if you decide to adopt a golden retriever, be prepared to brush him or her on a regular basis.

Golden retrievers are also considered highly intelligent and friendly, so they're often used as service dogs for disabled and blind people. When properly trained, these dogs excel in agility and obedience (you'll probably want to enroll your puppy in a good obedience class). 

In general, their life span is 10 to 12 years, and although quite robust, the breed can be susceptible to joint problems such as hip dysplasia, skin allergies, eye problems, and, if not given enough exercise, obesity. Having been used to recover wild fowl since the 1800s, golden retrievers are happiest if they're allowed to run off-leash every day, and as their name implies, they love to retrieve just about anything and everything.

Learn more about golden retrievers: Golden Retriever Club of America, D. Caroline Colie's "The Golden Retriever Handbook" (Barrons Educational Series, 2000), and Julie Cairns's "The Golden Retriever: An Owner's Guide to a Happy Healthy Pet" (Howell Books, 1995).

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