The American Kennel Club or AKC and the Canadian Kennel Club or CKC have slightly different standards for the Golden Retriever breed than does the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom or several other Kennel Clubs around the world. This is largely due to the fact that the American Golden Retriever tends to be a taller, rangier dog than the stockier, heavier bodied Golden Retriever favored in the United Kingdom. Both dogs are from the same breed, however, and are often used in breeding programs to enhance either type. It is interesting to note that the Canadian Kennel Club favors a standard that is more middle of the road than either the stockier UK breed standards or the leaner, lankier American standards.
The following is a very general description of the Golden Retriever from the American Kennel Club breed standards. These standards were approved by the AKC in 1981 and continue to be the standards used in all AKC sanctioned shows and events around the country. The Golden Retriever Club of America also uses the same standards for the breed.
The size of the Golden Retriever is very important in the AKC standards. Males are to be 65-75 pounds and females are 55-65 pounds in weight. The ratio of distance from the breastbone to the buttocks and the withers to the ground has to be 12:11, with the length just longer than the height. Males must be between 23 and 24 inches at the withers and females between 21½ and 22 ½ inches. Any deviation of more than an inch taller or shorter is an automatic disqualification. This size distinction is found in the AKC but not in the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom standards.
The head of the Golden Retriever is classical in its shape and typical of the retrieving types of dogs. The skull is wide and broad without any noticeable occipital or forehead bones, slightly arched and well balanced. The muzzle is slightly tapered from the base to the nose but squarish and substantial in size. There is a slight stop but more blended that abrupt, making the head have flowing lines rather than angles. The eyes are medium to dark brown, round in shape and well set to the side, not narrow or close set. The eyes should not show any white when the dog is looking forward and any eye abnormalities should result in disqualification.
The nose is brown to black, with color fading and variations possible and acceptable. Pink colorations on the nose are not acceptable, nor are very small or pinched nostrils. The lips are moderately loose but not pendant and the teeth meet in a scissors bite. The jaws should not be undershot or overshot.
Ears of the Golden Retriever are moderately small and turned over, falling flat to the sides of the face. They should not be long in the leather and should extend no farther than the eye when pulled forward.
The neck is strong and balanced without any bulking at the throat. The head and neck are carried high of the shoulders when the dog is at attention and should flow with the rest of the front quarters. The back or topline is flat from the withers to the hips, however the croup is slightly sloping. The dog's ribs are well sprung and the chest is deep and wide, but not bulky or heavy looking. The front legs are well positioned and the shoulder blades are flat and back, almost touching at the withers. The legs should extend fully forward and stay parallel to the body of the dog when in motion. The legs are straight when viewed from any angle and the feet are compact with thick pads.
The hind quarters are muscular and board with well bent stifles and hocks let down. This gives the dog the appearance of being ready to move whenever needed, but also keeping with balance and grace. The front and hind legs should be parallel to each other and should move forward in a straight line. When the dog is moving quickly the legs should move towards a center line under the dog's body, but should not be a single track at walking paces or jogging paces.
The tail of the Golden Retriever is thick at the base, narrowing to the tip. If let down the tail extends to the hock but not beyond. When in motion the tail is carried high but not curled up over the back or timidly tucked between the legs. The tail should be well fringed with a lighter coloration on the lower side than the top of the tail.
The coat of the Golden Retriever is truly beautiful, thick and dense but also staying flatter to the body, not fluffy or wiry. It can be any color of gold but not yellow or red. The coat is always a rich color and very pale colored coats or coats ranging to an orange or dark color are serious faults. Puppies may have lighter coats and the fringing may be lighter than the body on adult dogs and still be very acceptable. The coat should not have any white or black patches, although a very few white hairs on the chest is not a fault or disqualification.
The body will have natural feathering on the backs of the legs, the tail, front of the neck and the underbody. The hair on the face, front of the legs and the ears and the paws should be short and even. The paws can be trimmed for show. The longer coat on the body and the feathering can be slightly wavy to straight, but should never be curly.
The temperament of the Golden Retriever is very important in the show ring. He or she needs to be confident and friendly, alert and intelligent. Any signs of aggression towards other dogs in the ring or towards the judge will be considered a fault. Dogs that are very timid or shy will also be faulted.