The Golden Retriever Breed Standard

Updated: August 1st, 2022

Golden Retriever Breed Standard - Side View of a Golden Retriever
Β© / tanatat
A breed standard is a blueprint that describes how an ideal dog of a particular breed should look, how it should move and carry itself and it’s temperament and personality.

It’s a set of rules made to try to ensure that a breed has consistency, stays true to it’s origins and is fit for the purpose for which it was originally bred.

The breed standard is the set of rules that breeders try to emulate in their breeding programs, that judges in show rings use to judge the breed and basically governs everything to do with the breed.

The Golden Retriever Breed Standard Around The World

I’ve checked through a few and Generally speaking, the Golden Retriever breed standard is consistent around the world with the main differences being just the way they’re worded and the detail they go into.

Reading through the descriptions, you can see that they are ultimately the same, describing the same breed, though there are some minor differences.

However, if you compare side by side an American and British Golden Retriever, there are obvious and quite striking differences!

The British one is heavier, with a thicker skull and stockier build than it’s American counterpart that looks more slender and athletic, even though their respective countries breed standards are essentially the same.

Confusing? Yes, it can be sadly. The only way to think about it is to say that the breed standard is a blueprint that is open to a little interpretation. There’s room for a little movement, but not so much that there could be any confusion of the breed being described.

The Golden Retriever Breed Standard From The UK Kennel Club

The following is the UK Kennel Club Golden Retriever breed standard, copied word for word from the KC website and the original can be found by following the link at the end of the description.

I’ve chosen to show this as it’s the most summarized and ‘to the point’ and the AKC and CKC standards are very similar, just more lengthy and detailed. If you wish to read these standards, please follow these links:

AKC Golden Retriever Breed Standard

CKC Golden Retriever Breed Standard

General Appearance

Symmetrical, balanced, active, powerful, level mover; sound with kindly expression.


Biddable, intelligent and possessing natural working ability.


Kindly, friendly and confident.

Head and Skull

Balanced and well chiseled, skull broad without coarseness; well set on neck, muzzle powerful, wide and deep. Length of foreface approximately equals length from well defined stop to occiput. Nose preferably black.


Dark brown, set well apart, dark rims.


Moderate size, set on approximate level with eyes.


Jaws strong, with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.


Good length, clean and muscular.


Forelegs straight with good bone, shoulders well laid back, long in blade with upper arm of equal length placing legs well under body. Elbows close fitting.


Balanced, short-coupled, deep through heart. Ribs deep, well sprung. Level topline.


Loin and legs strong and muscular, good second thighs, well bent stifles. Hocks well let down, straight when viewed from rear, neither turning in nor out. Cow-hocks highly undesirable.


Round and cat-like.


Set on and carried level with back, reaching to hocks, without curl at tip.


Powerful with good drive. Straight and true in front and rear. Stride long and free with no sign of hackney action in front.


Flat or wavy with good feathering, dense water-resisting undercoat.


Any shade of gold or cream, neither red nor mahogany. A few white hairs on chest only, permissible.


Height at withers: dogs: 56-61 cms (22-24 ins); bitches: 51-56 cms (20-22 ins).


Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.


Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.

The above standard was copied, word for word, from the official KC standard found at the following link: The UK Kennel Club Golden Retriever breed standard


Written By

Wendy is a self-employed beauty therapist, mother of two, life-long pet parent and lover of dogs who somehow manages to squeeze in the time to satisfy another of her loves - writing. Wendy is the founder, main contributor to and editor of TotallyGoldens.

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  • Robin Stephenson
    Posted April 22, 2014 at 9:22 pm 0Likes

    I’m surprised by the colour stipulation as I’ve seen some very red looking Golden Retrievers?

    • Wendy
      Posted April 22, 2014 at 10:01 pm 0Likes

      Hi Robin,

      They do exist and the color variation can be quite extreme, from very pale white, to a dark almost brown and certainly some very reddish colors. A quick Google search will throw up Pinterest boards, breeders, websites dedicated to ‘Red Golden Retrievers’. I think they’re lovely looking dogs! But you should be aware that in the UK breed standard the color is a disqualification, as is white. Beautiful looking, lovely pets…but cannot be shown and I’m sure you would agree don’t really match the name of the breed either, haha.

  • Haytham Forester
    Posted May 11, 2014 at 6:34 pm 0Likes

    Got my Sadie from a rescue 3 years ago and never known if it is a pure breed could you help tell us?

    • Wendy
      Posted May 11, 2014 at 9:50 pm 0Likes

      Hi Haytham,

      I’m afraid it would be impossible to tell without DNA tests. A photo doesn’t tell us too much as dogs can vary wildly in their appearance. Not all Goldens are close to the breed standard but are still pure Goldens, and it’s entirely possible that Sadie could be a mixed breed but looks entirely like a Golden, there’s just no way of knowing, sorry πŸ™

      You’ve done a wonderful thing rescuing here and regardless of her genes, pure-breed or not, I’m sure she has a lot to offer as a Loving life companion and family member πŸ™‚

      Could you send me a pic to share on the facebook group?

  • Charles Santiago
    Posted May 21, 2014 at 11:33 pm 0Likes

    Interesting read and surprising just how much GRs can vary from what’s written in standards.

    • Laura Coussens
      Posted October 13, 2016 at 11:26 pm 0Likes

      Over the years, setter, spaniel and hound were used to improve the breed. That’s why they don’t all look the same.

  • Corinne Maher
    Posted February 8, 2016 at 8:36 am 0Likes

    I have a 7Month old Golden purchased from a breeder. She has been in business for many years. When we took the puppy home at 9 weeks she said she would send his papers to us we would have to wait for several months. I have sent her many E-mails and called but no response from her. She lives in Wis. how can I get the papers on my Golden.

    • Wendy
      Posted February 9, 2016 at 2:17 am 0Likes

      Hi Corinne,

      When you was given the puppy, the breeder should have given you a registration application, with the puppy’s name and signed by both you and the breeder. I don’t want to cry foul, but the situation doesn’t sound above board to me and it’s likely she’s avoiding you for a not good reason πŸ™

      Information on the different ways to register your dog can be found here:

  • May Cordero
    Posted February 14, 2017 at 5:11 pm 0Likes

    My 3 month old golden has white tips on his toes, tail, and a little mark on forehead and chest. I find him particularly adorable, however I’ve been told he’s not pure due to this. As the article says, only a white mark on chest is allowed, I would like to know more about this as he does look like the standard but has these markings.
    Thank you πŸ™‚

    • Wendy
      Posted February 15, 2017 at 12:46 am 0Likes

      Hi May. In show, it’s a disqualification – or at least loses points – but it’s not unheard of. Mismarkings when compared to a breed standard are quite common in all breeds. Breeders will then spay or neuter these and sell them as family pets, to try and remove the mismarks from the gene pool. It doesn’t make the dog any less a golden, or any less of a wonderful pet, they just cannot be shown. However, whether yours is a pedigree or not, you can’t tell purely from sight. Knowing the ancestry with certainty, or a DNA test, is the only way to truly know.

  • Cindy
    Posted January 23, 2018 at 2:44 pm 0Likes

    I have a Golden puppy that is purebred, but has a patch of black hair on her leg. Is this normal?

    • Brooklyn
      Posted February 16, 2018 at 6:05 pm 0Likes

      I want a golden dog

  • ju;lie
    Posted March 1, 2018 at 12:41 am 0Likes


    Yes it is.Its a birth mark
    I think its very special


  • Yvette
    Posted September 3, 2019 at 9:19 pm 0Likes

    Are dark colored claws a disqualifier? My golden has one dark next to a light then another dark claw. So mixed colored claws.

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