Types and Colors of Golden Retrievers

Types and Colors of Golden Retrievers

The Golden Retriever is one of the most popular dogs in the world. While they are all the same breed, they do come in three different types. All three types are similar, but with some subtle differences.

Along with the three types, there are also three basic colors that you will find. Sure there are different shades of these colors, but we will focus on the three main colors.

First we will look at the types of Golden Retrievers, then we will discuss the colors.

Types of Golden Retrievers

Types and Color of Golden Retriever Puppies

There are 3 basic types of Golden Retrievers. They include:

  • American Golden Retriever
  • English (or British) Golden Retriever
  • Canadian Golden Retriever

Despite the multiple categories that a single Golden Retriever could fall under, the differences between them all are minimal. While each of the types above have their distinct colors, there are also many shades of each color.

To learn how to quickly identify the difference between each type of Golden Retriever, be sure to read on!

American Golden Retrievers

Probably one of the most iconic Golden Retrievers, the American, stands out against its counterparts as a delicate, family-friendly dog. This subcategory of the Golden Retriever family has quite a few physical aspects that make it recognizable. These aspects are:

  1. Overall Size – The overall size of the American Golden Retriever is usually more petite than its counterparts. They are categorized as having lankier and less muscular bodies.
  2. Darker Coat Color – Usually, the American Golden Retriever has a darker coat color, even in the “light golden” shade. This darker coat is emphasized when compared directly to English and Canadian cousins.
  3. Trotting Gait – Oddly enough, the American Golden Retriever has a very specific gait or way of walking. According to the American Kennel Club, their gait is, “…free, smooth, powerful, and well-coordinated.”
  4. Eye Shape – The easiest distinguishing factor for an American Golden Retriever is the triangular or slantedshape of their eyes.

Physical Requirements of American Golden Retriever

This subcategory also has very specific physical requirements that have to be met before a dog can be officially deemed an American Golden Retriever. The specific measurements of the national standards, for American Goldens, are defined by the American Kennel Club.

The requirements for the size and proportion of the dog’s body comes down to the following:

  • Head and skull – It should cascade smoothly from the tip of the nose to the back of the skull. Nothing should be super prominent, especially the forehead or any sunken eyes.
  • Neck – Should be strong in character with no obvious obtrusions and smoothly transition into the shoulders.
  • Body – The body should be well balanced and no barrel-shaped ribs.
  • Topline – The topline should be smooth and even with no bumps or out of place areas.
  • Forequarters– A bit more on the muscular side with everything still sitting relaxed.
  • Hindquarters– Should be the most muscular part of the dog with a pelvic bone that sits at an angle of 30 degrees from the horizon.

English Golden Retrievers

First bred in Scotland, English Golden Retrievers (also known as English Cream Golden Retrievers or British Golden Retrievers) have found their way across Europe and into Australia. Almost indistinguishable from their American Golden Retriever counterparts, there are still a few main physical differences that set them apart.

According to the Australian National Kennel Council, here are the main three physical properties of an English Golden Retriever:

  1. Skull Shape – The skull of a British Golden Retriever is usually broader with a balanced and chiseled muzzle. These are most likely remnants of the original breeding process with the now extinct Tweed Water Spaniel.
  2. Coat Color – The coat color is usually lighter when compared to the American or Canadian counterparts. Even the light golden is brighter for the English Golden Retriever than the other nationalities!
  3. Eyes – British Golden Retrievers have a rounder eye shape, as well as a darker eye color. This can be emphasized when compared to the American standard for Golden Retrievers.

Fun Fact: Despite the Golden Retriever breed starting in Scotland, the British Kennel Club standard for defining what classifies a dog as a “retriever” is used in every country except the United States and Canada.

Canadian Golden Retrievers

Canadian Golden Retrievers, not surprisingly, are Golden Retrievers that found a breeding hot spot in Canada. According to Golden Rescue, there are three main physical differences between a Canadian Golden and an American or English Golden that will make them easier to differentiate from one another. These differences are:

  1. Coat Hair – The hair on a Canadian Golden Retriever is usually shorter in length. It is also thinner than its counterparts.
  2. Denser Fur – Not only is a Canadian Golden Retriever coat shorter and thinner, but their fur is usually denser.
  3. Taller – Typically, a Canadian Golden Retriever is taller than the other two types by as much as two full inches!

Although their coat pattern and hair curl may differ, there is no difference in the Golden Retriever’s temperament! Regardless of the type of Golden Retriever you have, they will all share the same gentle mouth, high intelligence, and a tendency for pleasing.

Different Colors of Golden Retrievers

Colors of Golden Retrievers

Although there are three main types of Golden Retrievers, as defined by the location their breeding started from, there is a way to further classify them by their coat color. Unlike the breed standards that may differ across each country’s kennel club, the classification for the coat color is universal.

Golden Retrievers can be found to come in three general colors. Those colors are: light golden, golden, and dark golden.

There are some cases of “retrievers” being a copper tone, white, or black; however, these coat colors are not accepted by the AKC as official colors of Golden Retrievers. If your dog has these colored coats, that could be a sign of a mixed breed.

Light Golden Color

The lightest shade within the Golden Retriever label, Light Golden Retrievers have a coat color that is just a little bit darker than complete “white”. This very light shade is typically called cream and is usually found in English Goldens (Sometimes referred to as English Cream Golden Retrievers).

Some famous Light Golden Retrievers you may know are:

Golden Color

This coat color is the epitome of the Golden Retriever image. When you think of a Golden Retriever, this is the color that comes to mind; it’s in the name, after all!

Some famous Golden Retrievers you may know are:

  • Air Buddy the Dog – From the popular, “Air Bud” movie and “Full House” series, this famous stunt dog is a proud Golden Retriever. He was even nominated for a Kids’ Choice Award for Favorite Animal Star!
  • Tucker Budzyn – Another internet-famous Golden Retriever, only this time with over 3 million followers from all of his social media!
  • Pinkie – Not only winning Best in Breed for the Westminster Dog Show, Pinkie the Golden Retriever also mothered three orphaned Tiger cubs

Dark Golden Color

Commonly mistaken for their red or copper counterparts, the Dark Golden Retriever boasts a deeper tone of golden yellow. With such a darker tone, it is easy to understand how people mistake the shadows in the fur for a red tint. After all, the golden tone is achieved by combining shades of yellow and orange.

But it should be noted there is a distinction between the red-toned Golden Retrievers and the Dark Golden Retrievers, especially when it comes to dog shows. The red-toned retrievers will have a red tone to the feathery hairs behind their ears, while Dark Golden Retrievers will not.

Some famous Dark Golden Retriever owners you may know are:

  • George Clooney
  • Perry Mattfeld
  • Emma Stone

One of the benefits of Golden Retriever coat color is that the properties are hereditary. In most cases, whatever color the mother and dad are will be passed on to the entirety of the litter.

Golden Retriever Types For Competition

For Golden Retrievers in Show Dog Competitions, their coats need to meet a very specific standard in order to even qualify as Golden Retrievers! As defined by the American Kennel Club (AKC), their standard states the coat must be, “a rich, lustrous golden of various shades.”

This means that “extremely light” or “extremely dark” coats are disqualified as Golden Retrievers. Any Retrievers that fall within the pure white, red or copper, or black color for their fur coats are not seen as true Golden Retrievers, when it comes to Show Dog Competitions. However, it is left up to the judge to determine whether or not a dog’s coat color falls outside the parameter for “too light” or “too dark.”

It should also be noted that certain countries will not accept cream-colored Golden Retrievers in their dog shows. Specifically, the United States will not allow them in their shows; however, the UK happily accepts (and embraces) the cream-colored coat!

How to Find Out the Type of Your Golden Retriever

With so many subcategories for the Golden Retriever breed, it may seem difficult to figure out which type of Golden Retriever you have.

Luckily, there are a few key factors that can help determine the exact type (American, English, or Canadian) and color (Light Golden, Golden, or Dark Golden) your retriever could be!

Check Their Build

As stated before, each type of Golden Retriever will have its own unique build and general body size. Although it can be harder to distinguish between Canadian and American Golden Retrievers, you can usually tell by their eye shape.

According to Embrace Pet Insurance, a general guideline for each type of Golden Retriever is:

  • American Golden Retriever 
    1. Triangular or slanted eyes
    2. Smaller build
    3. Lanky look
  • English (or British) Golden Retriever
    1. Stocky build
    2. Larger in size overall
    3. Round eyes
  • Canadian Golden Retriever
    1. Taller
    2. Medium colored eyes (not too light, not too dark)

Check Their Coat

Another way to determine what type of Golden Retriever you have is by checking their coat and fur dimensions. Although the colors overlap across all three types, they can still be a good indicator of the nationality of the retriever.

As a general rule of thumb:

  • American Golden Retrievers have a darker coat color than the others.
  • English Golden Retrievers have a lighter color than the others.
  • Canadian Golden Retrievers have a thinner coat than the Americans.

Determining the Color

It’s very straightforward, but the only way to know the color the Golden Retriever’s coat is to actually observe details about their coat. However, there are certain areas of the coat you want to check in order to determine the actual shade of their fur.

  • Behind the Ears- The tusk of fur (stronger clump of hair) behind the ears will usually indicate the true color of the Golden Retriever’s fur.
  • Tip of the Ears- The tip of the ears usually shows what color the Golden Retriever puppy will be after they lose their puppy coat.
  • Feathery Hairs- Those wispy locks that hang off the end of your Golden Retriever’s legs and tail? They are a great indicator of the coat color.

It will also depend on the period of their life that you check the fur. Golden Retriever puppies may have a lighter shade when they are born, rather than the final shade they will have when older. It is always a good idea to use the color of the fur behind the ears to estimate the dog’s final coat color.


Golden Retrievers have more than earned their right as America’s favorite dog breed. With their gentle manner, soft mouth, and overall happy demeanor, they make an amazing dog option for families. Outside of use as the family pet, Golden Retrievers are designed as amazing hunting partners that can do more than just retrieve downed game.

Whether you are stumped between the American, English, or Canadian Golden Retriever, all three types of the breed can accompany you wherever you may go with their signature light, dark, or natural golden coat color.

Be sure to check out our article on Show Golden Retrievers and Field Golden Retrievers to learn more about other possible differences in Golden Retrievers.

Corey Rawlins

Corey Rawlins has loved Golden Retrievers since he was a boy. His current Golden Retriever, Brady, was his inspiration to create Golden Retriever Society. He and his wife have three children who are always keeping Brady entertained. They love spending time together, traveling, and meeting other dog families.

Recent Posts