Golden Retrievers For Dummies
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The average Golden Retriever lives for 10 to 13 years. That’s way too short for Golden lovers, or any dog lover for that matter. Don’t we all wish we could create a world where our dogs lived as long as we do? But even though Mother Nature is in charge, there are some important things you can do to maximize your Golden’s health, which will translate into a longer life.

an older Golden Retriever ©K E Magoon/

Here are ten valuable suggestions that will help your dog live a healthier, and therefore longer, life. Actually, they are more than suggestions; they are cardinal rules that you should follow if you care about the well-being of your precious Golden friend.

Keep your Golden lean

Obesity is a serious canine health problem that affects your dog’s longevity. Indeed, just an extra ten pounds can shorten your Golden’s life. The excess weight strains every major body system and predisposes a dog to joint disorders, hypertension, and congestive heart failure. My goodness, your dog deserves a better fate than that!

Many veterinarians state that at least 50 percent of all the dogs they see are overweight. Most of their clients don’t realize that their dogs are fat or that the excess weight can cause such devastating problems.

How do you tell whether your dog is “just right?” When the standing dog is viewed from above, he should have a distinct waist, a narrowing between his rib cage and his rump. You can also do a rib cage test: Place your hands on each side of his ribs and press very gently. You should be able to feel his ribs beneath a layer of muscle with your palms. If you have to press hard to find those ribs, or if they aren’t there at all, then you know what you have to do. His diet starts today!

Check first with your vet to determine your Golden’s optimum weight. If he’s over by five pounds or more, consider what you have been feeding him and whether it’s the correct food for his age, weight, and lifestyle. Incorporate more exercise into his daily routine. Whatever he’s been doing, he’ll need to do it more often, as long as your vet agrees that it’s healthy and okay. Skip those table scraps if they are part of the problem. A raw carrot won’t hurt your Golden, but a pile of mashed potatoes? That’s another story!

Practice dental hygiene

The message here is simple: Clean your Golden’s teeth, and he will live longer! A survey conducted at one Veterinarian Congress in Vancouver, B.C., determined that dog owners can extend their dog’s life by simply providing routine dental care. Other studies show that 80 percent of dogs show signs of oral disease by age 3. Scary, isn’t it?

Why is dental care so important? Plaque and tartar buildup on his teeth will cause periodontal disease. Bacteria then enters the he bloodstream through the damaged gums and attack the kidneys, liver, heart, and lungs. Result: early death. As an example, kidney failure, a common cause of death in senior dogs, often starts at a damaged gum line. It would happen to you, too, if you didn’t brush your teeth!

The American Veterinary Dental Association reminds you that you are your dog’s dentist and his toothbrush. Start when he’s a baby and get him used to having your fingers in his mouth (also great for bite control!). No matter what your dog’s age, it’s never too late to start. Although daily brushing is best, twice weekly or even weekly brushing might be a more reachable goal.

Exercise your Golden

Your Golden will stay healthy — and better yet, content — with a generous dose of daily exercise. Remember, your dog is an athlete who needs to run, play, swim, and do busy, active things. Regular exercise will strengthen all his body parts, muscles as well as heart and lungs. I firmly believe that our daily 2-mile walk has given my Goldens extra vitality as well as extra years. My vet agrees; she is always amazed at their muscle tone and vigor. My 15-year-old Golden did her double-mile trek daily with the rest of our Golden pack until the day before she died; in fact, she couldn’t wait to hit the trail.

Spay your female Golden

Have your Golden girlfriend spayed. This one surgical procedure will totally remove the possibility of certain cancers in the female dog.

Statistics show that spay surgery offers reduced risk of breast and uterine cancers, pyometra, false pregnancy, uterine torsion, and vaginal and uterine prolapse. Your personal benefits include no messy estrus fluids dripping all over your house and no undesirable suitors hanging around the yard.

Neuter your male Golden

The stats are just as good for male dogs. Neutering will totally eliminate the risk of many cancers that affect male dogs, and decrease the risk of several others. Neutered dogs enjoy zero to reduced risk of testicular cancer prostate problems, anal tumors, hernias, and testicular infections.

Your personal benefits include absolute birth control for life, relief from hormone-driven urges such as aggression toward other males, territorialism on his home turf, neighborhood wanderlust, marking with urine at home and in new places, overt dominant behavior, sexual behaviors such as mounting (your leg!) and arousal, and your own frustration during his hormonal surges when male dogs resist doing what they are told. Altered dogs also are less likely to bite or exhibit temperament problems that could affect your family and neighbors. Your insurance company will love it, too!

There is no downside to spay/neuter surgery. It will not affect your Golden’s true personality, and your Golden will still be the silly, affectionate beast you know and love. And he’ll live longer, too. Gosh, what more could you ask?

Know how to take emergency action

Become an emergency expert so that you can recognize and handle canine accidents and emergencies. Because my dogs can’t talk, I have to be their eyes and ears and always be observant and prepared. In many emergencies, just an extra few minutes could save a life.

Be a teacher

You already know your Golden does not come preprogrammed or pretrained. It’s your job to teach him correct behavior and good manners just as you did with your children, or as your parents did with you. He will be a joy to live with and a welcome addition to the neighborhood as he learns how to be a well-behaved member of human society. Ill-behaved dogs of any breed are at greater risk for accidental death and euthanization.


A puppy needs to learn about the world beyond his own backyard if he is to mature into a stable, well-behaved adult. He can’t do it alone; you have to be his travel agent. Unsocialized puppies grow up fearful and are candidates for animal shelters, and you know what happens to them.

Expand your dog world

The more “dog people” you know, the more dog information you will absorb. (Of course, you’ll have to sort the good from the incorrect or useless.) Start with your veterinarian. Ask lots of questions about everything connected your dog’s well-being. A curious, compliant dog owner is a vet’s best client!

Join a dog club, or better yet, join a Golden Retriever breed club. You’ll meet breed aficionados and ordinary Golden owners who are crazy about their dogs and love to “talk dogs” and share brags and doggie information. You’ll be surprised at how dog-smart they are. You can be, too!

Visit dog events, obedience trials, conformations shows, or outdoor events like hunt tests (find them through the Internet). Introduce yourself and ask questions. You already know these folks love to talk about their dogs! It’s easy to develop friendships that will help you become a smarter dog caregiver.

Become a canine nutritionist

I’m talking more than dog food here. There are so many people foods that are dangerous to fatal for dogs, that it’s hard to keep up with all the new, and potentially bad, stuff on the market. Most people know that chocolate is very bad for dogs and other pets. (You did, right?) The amount and type is proportionate to the dog’s size. Just one ounce of chocolate per pound of your dog’s body weight is poisonous. The toxic component in chocolate is theobromine, which the dog processes very slowly, allowing it to build to toxic levels in his system. The AKC has an excellent website that gives complete information on treating a chocolate emergency.

Grapes, raisins, onions, avocado, citrus, and macadamia nuts are also highly toxic for dogs and other pets, and can be fatal if ingested. The ASPCA has an excellent website that details foods that are dangerous or fatal to dogs and other pets.

The toxic and fatal ingredient I find most disturbing is xylitol. It’s in more and more products today as the food industry adds it instead of sugar. It’s now even in certain peanut butters, so be sure to read labels before giving any peanut butter to your dog. One sad story tells of a German Shorthaired Pointer who chewed up a plastic can of sugar-free gum containing xylitol and died a few hours later. Read labels, be aware! It’s a dangerous food world out there.

About This Article

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About the book author:

Nona Kilgore Bauer has shared her life with Goldens for more than 40 years. Her dogs have won many obedience and other working titles, and Nona is a 15-time Dog Writers Association of America nominee (and winner). She has written over two dozen books on canine subjects, including the previous edition of Golden Retrievers For Dummies.

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