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Are Golden Retrievers Good Family Dogs?

The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds—according to a recent 2021 study by the American Kennel Club, Golden Retrievers are the third most popular breed in the nation. And, there’s a reason why we’re all playing favorites: Goldens make excellent family dogs.

So, what sets a Golden Retriever apart from other breeds? Well, these historic hunting dogs are loyal and kind to their humans. They respond well to obedience training because Goldens are eager to please their owners.

In addition, Golden Retrievers are highly intelligent, making them an excellent choice for service dogs or search and rescue dogs.

So, if you’re hoping to add a Golden Retriever to your family, here’s everything you’ll need to know about the qualities of a good family dog, behavior training tips, and the nuances of living with a Golden Retriever.

What Makes a Good Family Dog

To explain what makes a good family dog, you’ll need to know the five basic temperaments. A dog’s temperament describes its overall personality. While you can train every dog to eliminate undesired behaviors, some temperaments are easier to manage than others.

The five general personality types are: 

  • Playful
  • Chase-Prone
  • Aggressive 
  • Curious and Fearless
  • Social

As you can imagine, some of these temperaments will be better suited for families, and others are not so great around children. It is crucial to consider your potential pup’s temperament if you want a canine friend to integrate well into your household.

Golden retriever running with tennis ball in mouth

Golden Retrievers with a playful temperament will be highly active dogs with tons of energy. Dogs defined as playful will make excellent additions to families who can meet their playtime needs and provide lots of mental stimulation.

Playful Golden Retriever puppies will love getting attention from adults and children, especially when offered their favorite toy or a game of fetch.

Chase-prone dogs will absolutely run after cats, squirrels, or vehicles if they get the chance. Goldens with a chase-prone temperament may demand a lot of energy and interaction from their owners.

While it’s possible to train these dogs not to chase, it will take time and effort. After all, hunting small animals is instinctual in dogs, and chase-prone dogs display a higher desire to do so than other temperaments.

As you can imagine, dogs with an aggressive temperament are not recommended for families. They will not react well to children, strangers, or other pets. Fortunately, Goldens don’t usually display aggression, but it’s a good idea to understand where this type of unwanted behavior comes from.

Most of the time, dogs (of any breed) with an aggressive temperament are scared of the world around them, and growling is their means of communicating their fear. Putting a dog with an aggressive temperament into a busy family household will be stressful for everyone. And the best way to mitigate the possibility of an aggressive temper is to train early and consistently.

Now, curious and fearless Golden Retrievers can integrate well into families with some boundary training. These dogs are adventurous and love to explore, but they run the risk of not listening to their owner when driven by their inquisitive nature.

If your dog has a curious and fearless temperament, they will need consistent behavior training to respond to your commands appropriately.

A social temperament also works well for family dogs. Social Golden Retriever puppies love playing with everyone, including small children and cats.

They are incredibly outgoing and will eagerly welcome newcomers into your household. This dog’s social temperament means they will thrive with lots of attention and actively seek your approval.

Considering your potential pup’s temperament is crucial when choosing a family dog. Reputable breeders will have a wealth of information about a puppy’s parental lineage, temperament, and personality traits. A breeder will be happy to give you information about how their well-bred dogs will adapt to family life.

Alternatively, shelter dogs will not come with extensive back history. You will not have much information on their parents, temperament, or prior behavioral history from the previous owner because they likely don’t have that information.

So, if you’re looking for specific traits and qualities to ensure a good match for your family, adopting from an animal shelter may not be the best option for you.

Why Golden Retrievers are Good Family Dogs

To explain why Golden Retrievers are excellent family dogs, let’s go back to 1868, when the first litter of Golden Retriever puppies was born.

The man behind breeding Golden Retrievers, Dudley Marijoribanks, set out to create a perfect hunting dog that would rival Black Flat-Coated Retrievers (the favored hunting companion in the 1800s). He bred a Yellow Flat-Coated Retriever and a Tweed Water Spaniel, which created a new breed he called the Yellow Retriever.

A few years later, this breed was formally registered as a Golden Retriever at the American Kennel Club.

Ancestors of the Golden Retriever were intelligent, obedient, and could carry objects softly in their mouths. These traits carried on into the Golden Retriever, creating a friendly, loveable, and eager to please dog breed.

Golden Retriever sitting on grass in a park

Golden Retrievers love living in an active household. This environment provides them with lots of stimulation and opportunities for playtime. This distinct breed is easy to train and gentle with children. And, Goldens aren’t very vocal compared to other dogs which means you won’t hear a lot of barking.

There’s a good reason why Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dog breeds: they make excellent, loyal family pets. Goldens from certified, highly rated breeders will have all of these genetic traits that make this breed so desirable.

Picking a purebred Golden Retriever will ensure you’ll receive a dog with a sweet and lovable personality — perfect for families of all stripes.

Deciding When to Get a Dog 

There are a lot of benefits to welcoming a dog into your family. Cute, little, fluffy puppies naturally increase your overall well-being and lower stress levels. A canine companion will have you taking frequent walks outside which provides good physical activity for both you and your dog.

However, a new dog should never be a surprise, no matter how much you’d like to see your children astounded by a new fluffy pal. All adults and children within the home should be aware of the responsibilities of being a pet owner. The whole family needs to be hands-on when caring for a Golden Retriever.

Given this breed’s social and playful manner, a Golden will want to interact with everyone in the house. This is perfect for families who are ready to accept new responsibilities for a dog but not so great for households where someone is unwilling to care for a new pet.

Here are some signs that your family is not ready to get a Golden Retriever puppy

  • A member of your household has stated that they do not want a dog
  • There are long periods when no one in the family is home 
  • You’re worried about the financial commitment 
  • You have to hide the puppy from your landlord
  • People within your household cannot physically keep up with a puppy
  • Your living space is small

Getting a new pet is a lifetime commitment — mentally, physically, and financially. If you will struggle to support your dog’s needs for socialization, daily exercise, or surprise vet visits, now may not be the best time to add a new companion to your family.

Introducing a Pet to a Household with Children

Playing with puppies will enhance a child’s development. It’s been proven that pets help children with their social and emotional growth. Golden Retrievers are friendly and patient — excellent qualities for a dog breed that will be interacting with children.

Children playing with Golden Retriever

Before bringing a new pet into a home with children, you’ll want to teach your family warning signs that indicate your dog is tired or needs alone time. Additionally, spend time teaching small children how to interact with a dog appropriately. Our canine friends don’t like when children mishandle them or pull on their fur.

As long as you set clear expectations and monitor your children around the household pet, a Golden Retriever will integrate well into your family’s life.

How To Train Your Golden Retriever

Introducing a new pet into your household means you will need to teach them about expectations and boundaries.

Yes, you can (and should) enroll your Golden Retriever in puppy training classes to work with experts on eliminating undesired behaviors. But you’ll need to continue this learning at home: your family will still need to understand the basics to ensure your dog continues its good behavior long after the class has ended.

Here’s a little lesson about the history of behavioral training: Everything we know about shaping behaviors began with dogs. For example, in the experiment, Pavlov’s dogs proved that, when it comes to motivation and reading triggers, human behavior is not all that different from dogs.

In the experiment, Ivan Pavlov trained dogs to salivate upon hearing the sound of a bell. At dinnertime, Pavlov’s presented his dogs with food at the same time as the bell tone chimed. Our smart, fluffy friends learned that when the bell rang, they could expect food, and the drooling began without any food in sight.

Pavlov successfully taught a wide variety of dog breeds to drool at the sound of a bell. His success means that all dogs can learn new behaviors at any age, including the highly intelligent Golden Retriever.

While you likely don’t want to teach your dog to drool at a bell chime, you can use this knowledge to train new behaviors in the home.

Golden Retriever with leash in mouth

For example, saying “Do you want to go for a walk?” and taking your dog out for a walk will create a positive association between the phrase and the activity. With continued repetition, a dog will learn when you say, “Do you want to go for a walk?” which means they are going outside. So, they will become excited.

Golden Retrievers are quick learners, so they will be easy to train in your family home. But remember to provide lots of praise or a treat when your dog demonstrates good behavior. Golden Retrievers are eager to please, but you’ll need to show them that you are happy with their actions.

If you have your eyes on one of Snowy Pines’ English Cream Golden Retrievers, your puppy will have the essential groundwork for behavior training. Snowy Pines’ puppies will enter your homes with basic crate training, socialization, and knowledge of basic commands.

Living with a Golden Retriever

Golden Retrievers are excellent family dogs that are highly intelligent, playful, and friendly. However, you should know some crucial things before introducing a Golden Retriever into your family.

Grooming Golden Retrievers will be a regular task as this breed needs a considerate amount of maintenance. Ensure you have grooming tools to regularly brush their coat, clip their nails, and bathe them.

Golden Retrievers also shed twice a year, so you’ll need to vacuum frequently to get rid of “dog glitter” (dog hair.) You should never shave a Golden Retriever, as this could damage their water-repellent double coat.

There’s a good reason Goldens are one of the best breeds for dog sports like swimming and agility training: They were bred to be high-energy working dogs. This means an adult Golden Retriever will need at least an hour of daily exercise.

If this breed does not receive enough exercise, they could exhibit unruly behaviors within the home. Always keep your belongings, especially human food harmful to dogs, out of reach. Goldens like to eat when left alone, even if it’s not their food that they’re chewing on.

One of the best characteristics of Golden Retrievers is their love for people. Their friendly disposition is fantastic for families but not so great for fending off intruders. If your household needs a protective watchdog, you may want to consider a different dog breed.

Lastly, the Golden Retriever dog breed has a high risk for cancer — around 60% of adult Golden Retrievers develop cancer. Additionally, Golden Retrievers are at risk for developing hip dysplasia and ear infections.

So, you’ll need to prepare financially for potential vet visits to maintain a healthy dog with these possible health conditions in mind.


A Golden Retriever will be a lovely addition to any family household, from the puppy stage to a fully grown adult dog. Given their playful nature and high energy behaviors, Golden Retrievers will need an established routine for exercise, socialization, and some behavior training to integrate well into family life.

At Snowy Pines, we use the Perfect Puppy questionnaire to match our puppies to potential owners. Over the last decade, our facility has matched English Cream Retrievers and White English Lab puppies with their forever homes.

So if you’re looking for your Golden Retriever puppy to have guaranteed breed characteristics like high intelligence, good patience, and friendliness, consider choosing a reputable breeder to match you with your perfect family dog.

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About the Author


Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.