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Side-by-Side: The Difference Between American & English Golden Retrievers

The Golden Retriever is one of the country’s most popular dog breeds. It has been a favorite for 30 years and counting. It’s no surprise: retrievers make adorable pets with their friendly and enthusiastic personalities. 

When people think of a retriever dog, they usually imagine a fluffy, cream and golden-colored dog that looks like it’s smiling. However, they’re often surprised to learn that there a few types of Golden Retrievers:

  • American Golden Retriever
  • English Golden Retriever

All types have specific traits, and if you want to adopt a Golden Retriever, it’s essential to understand which of these types of Retrievers best complement your lifestyle. From their physical differences, to personalities, and even potential health issues, each type of Retriever has their own characteristics, based on their breeding history.

In this article, we will explore the main differences between American and English Golden Retrievers.

A Little Backstory on the Golden Retriever Dog Breed

The Golden Retriever’s story began in Scotland in the 1800s. Historians believe that Lord Tweedmouth, a reputable breeder in Scotland, bred a Tweed Water Spaniel called Belle and a yellow retriever named Nous. 

Lord Tweedmouth bred these two dogs for hunting and retrieving, and they are believed to be the originators of the Golden Retriever breed. Here are a few characteristics all Goldens often display:

  • They’re famous for their intelligence, obedience, and ease of training. 
  • They can learn up to 240 commands, including words and phrases. Goldens make great pets as well as service, guide, and therapy dogs. Of course, they’re exceptionally skilled hunting dogs.
  • A Golden Retriever’s generally friendly and sweet nature helps them connect extremely well with animals and kids. 
  • They’re highly energetic and can play all day, so they need space to run around and expend that mental and physical energy.
  • Thanks to their hunting and retrieving history, Retrievers thrive when playing outdoors. Whether you throw a stick or a ball, your furry friend will get it back for you and be entertained for hours. 
  • Retrievers have webbed feet (yes, just like a duck, but much more subtle), which make them exceptional and enthusiastic swimmers! Don’t be surprised if they never want to leave the beach or end up fetching small fish from a lake. 

American vs. English Golden Retriever

Both American and English Golden Retrievers are known for their friendly, playful personalities and natural curiosity. Still, the two types of retrievers are considered distinct from each other based on their subtle, but specific, differences. 

American Golden Retriever

The American Golden Retriever gets its name from its breeding location: the United States. It’s a descendant of the original Golden Retrievers in Scotland and retains many of those original characteristics.

Golden Retriever

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But since it has evolved for hundreds of years in the United States, the American Golden Retriever has experienced a few physical and potential behavioral changes that make it different from the other types of retrievers.

English Golden Retriever

Similar to the American Golden Retrievers, English Golden Retrievers belong to the same original line. But because this particular retriever has been bred in the United Kingdom, it has developed unique features.

Golden Retriever Laying In Grass

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The English Golden Retrievers are excellent search and rescue dogs. They are also known as English Cream Golden Retrievers and British Golden Retrievers.

Recognition from the American Kennel Club vs. the British Kennel Club

Several countries accept the Golden Retriever as an official breed. The United States and the United Kingdom have specific breeding standards for Golden Retrievers. You can also find more standards from international dog clubs, such as the International Canine Kennel Club

The American Kennel Club (AKC) and the British Kennel Club (BKC) recognize these dogs as versions of the larger Golden Retriever breed. The BKC made an effort to recognize the Golden Retriever in 1911, and the AKC followed suit and recognized it in 1925.

These organizations are non-profit clubs created to provide expert information and advice on dog breeds and their health and training. As such, the standards from these two kennel clubs play a major role in the agreed-upon differences between American Golden Retrievers and English Golden Retrievers.

Both the AKC and the BKC have their own breed standards, which are quite different from one another. Because of these differing standards—and the quest of breeders to meet these standards—these two types of dogs have evolved with unique features.

The BKC lists the ideal features of the English Cream Golden Retriever, and the AKC lists the ideal features of American Golden Retrievers. Neither club recognizes sub-types of dog breeds, so they both list the Golden Retriever as a breed but with differing standards.

Essentially, the American Golden Retriever is bred according to AKC standards, while the English Golden Retriever is bred through BKC guidelines. The AKC also has a national club for the breed, the Golden Retriever Club of America (GCRA), which provides resources for anyone interested in these dogs.

Besides their official recognition by these clubs, it’s also essential to understand how these dogs are referred to in different countries.

In Europe, English Golden Retrievers are simply known as Golden Retrievers. In the United States, they are differentiated based on their physical appearance and colors and are called English Golden Retrievers or American Golden Retrievers.

English Golden Retriever vs. American Golden Retriever: Appearance

Color and Coat

You can tell the difference between an American and an English Golden Retriever by their coat color. English Golden Retrievers have a beautiful cream color, while American Golden Retrievers have a more lustrous golden color that can vary in shades from honey to tan. In general, the only acceptable colors for Retrievers are light colors, such as Retrievers that are almost light, to darker shades of red. like almost white to dark reds. 

Their coat textures are also a bit different. If you’re looking for a shorter, wavy-coated retriever, the English Retriever is the one for you. They have feathering around their ears and other parts of their bodies, with a water-resistant undercoat. On the other hand, American Golden Retrievers have much longer and thicker coats with moderate feathering. 

Facial Structure and Features

Head

Another obvious difference between English Retrievers and American Retrievers is the shape of their head. The American Golden has an arched head structure and a broader skull, while the English Retriever has a larger and more balanced head.

They both have wide foreheads, but the American Retriever has a longer and deeper one than its English cousin.

Eyes

Their eyes also have slight differences. The American Golden Retriever has round eyes and fitted rims, with various shades, from medium brown to dark brown. If a dog doesn’t have round eyes, then the AKC does not accept it as a Golden Retriever.

The BKC has similar standards, but they also require that the golden’s eyes be reasonably distanced.

Ears

American Retrievers and English Retrievers also have slightly different ears. The American Golden has ears with a front edge that extends a bit above their eye level, so the tips of their ears are at cheek-level.

In contrast, the English Retriever’s moderate-sized ears sit at eye-level. According to kennel club standards, both types of Retrievers’ ears need to cover their eyes when you pull them forward.

Neck

Finally, both dogs have a muscular neck that’s not too long or short.

Size and Weight

Another noticeable difference in terms of physical characteristics for the two types of Golden Retrievers is their size. A Retriever’s size and weight are intricately connected so you should watch out for this because Retrievers are often prone to obesity later on.

  • American Golden Retriever males are between 23 to 24 inches, with an average weight of 65 to 75 pounds. Females are usually 20 to 22 inches, with an average weight of 60 to 70 pounds.
  • English Golden Retriever males can be 22 to 24 inches, while females grow to between 21 and 22 inches.

The UK Kennel Club doesn’t specify weights for English Retrievers, but if you choose to adopt one, then controlling their diet is the key to ensuring a long and healthy life. Retrievers, as a breed, are notorious overeaters!

So, the lack of specific or acceptable weights for English Retrievers shouldn’t stop you from keeping an eye on your Golden’s weight. Across breeds, a good way to measure obesity versus an ideal or healthy bodyweight is to look at body fat percentage. 

Dog Body Fat Chart

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It’s not just about the number on the scale or the way your Retriever looks — a healthy body weight for dogs considers both these factors and your vet can help you determine your dog’s current body fat percentage. 

English vs. American Golden Retriever: Health and Average Lifespan

Golden Retrievers have an average lifespan of 10 to 12 years. American Goldens live for 10 to 11 years, while their English counterparts live for around 12 years.

Besides lifespan, all Retrievers are prone to a few common diseases and genetic disorders that you should watch out for. These include:

  • Cancer (around 60% of American Goldens may suffer from this disease, while 38% of English Goldens may develop it)
  • Eye diseases such as cataracts
  • Elbow and hip dysplasia
  • Obesity
  • Heart disease
  • Skin diseases
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Mast cell tumor
  • Ear Infections

Some people think the coat color of an American Golden Retriever plays a role in health. That’s a myth: your dog’s health depends on lifestyle factors, like diet and exercise, and genetics.

English vs. American Golden Retriever: Personality and Temperament

The Retriever breed is a favorite for a reason. Golden Retrievers are loyal and calm animals that love to hang out with their family companions. But there are some differences when comparing the personalities of American Golden Retrievers vs. English Golden Retrievers.

English Goldens are known to be calm and mature with proper training. They aren’t particularly hyper or overly energetic. By contrast, American Goldens are known to have more energy and be a bit more stubborn. Some owners also find that, prior to training, they’re a bit more boisterous in their behavior. 

Intelligence and Ease of Training

Golden Retrievers are extremely intelligent animals. Both the English Goldens and their American counterparts rank 4th as the smartest breeds for trainability and obedience, which makes them a favorite at dog shows.

Their cognitive abilities also mean that they’re incredibly fun and easy to train, being fast and eager learners. But some owners claim that English Goldens are a bit easier to train than American Goldens due to their calmer and more obedient nature.

Energy Levels

If we compare an English Golden Retriever puppy and an American Golden Retriever puppy, you may notice a pronounced difference in their early years. 

While Golden Retrievers are energetic dogs by default, American Golden Retrievers have higher energy levels than English Golden Retrievers, at least in the first two years of their lives. However, both breeds need attention and play every day to help them stay healthy and happy.

Loyal and Loving Traits

Golden Retrievers are excellent family dogs and they love humans. They are friendly to their owners but aren’t shy and will show affection for strangers too. 

They are also highly loyal dogs who love to go everywhere with their owners, and are up to whatever you throw at them!Both the American and English Goldens are eager to please their humans and are great with children.

Love for Water

Retrievers are water-lovers — that’s what they were bred for, after all. With their keen sense of smell, water-resistant coats, and webbed paws, these cuddly creatures are fantastic water hunters. So, the good news is that you’ll never have a problem come bath time — in fact, the only issue may be convincing them it’s time to go home after a day at the beach. 

Maintenance and Shedding

There’s no doubt about it — Retrievers need daily fur maintenance. And though it may sound tedious, you’ll thank yourself for doing it because those soft, wavy, double coats can quickly shed and spread fur all over your furniture. 

Golden Retrievers’ double coats need consistent combing and maintenance to reduce shedding and avoid matting. Plan to use a combination of a metal comb for the feathers, slicker brush for the topcoat, and an undercoat rake for the undercoat.

Daily brushing also keeps their skin and coat healthier because you’re distributing their natural oils throughout. As a bonus, you’re also more likely to spot fleas with a daily brushing routine. 

Besides their daily shedding, both types of Golden Retrievers shed significantly during the spring and fall.

Pay attention to brushing even more frequently during those seasons so your home doesn’t get covered in dog hair. Through regular bushing, you will also prevent the undercoat from becoming compacted. Make sure to brush them outdoors, too, so any flyaway hair ends up outside and not on your furniture.

Conclusion

Whether they’re English or American, Golden Retrievers are, without a doubt, fantastic pets. Their trainability and friendly, loyal demeanors also make them excellent working dogs. Besides a few physical differences and potentially smaller differences in energy levels, either type of Retriever will thrive in a home and family that loves to get outdoors, play, and engage with their pets. 

At Snowy Pines White Labs, we’re now offering white English Golden Retrievers with the same level of care, attention to temperament and genetic health, and proper puppy socialization as we’ve always been committed to. Learn more about the essential Snowy Pines approach to puppy care and how you can choose your next fluffy Retriever companion from our purebred litters.

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About the Author

tom-massey

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.

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