Types of Golden Retrievers: Discover the Differences

Types and Colors of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are one of the most beloved dog breeds in the world, and it’s not hard to see why. With their friendly personalities, adorable faces, and loyal nature, it’s no surprise that so many people choose them as their furry companions. However, not all Golden Retrievers are created equal. While they all share certain traits, such as their love of playtime and eagerness to please, there are several distinct types of Golden Retrievers with unique characteristics and histories. In this article, we discuss the types of Golden Retrievers, but if you are looking for information on Golden Retriever Colors or Shades of Golden Retrievers (English cream, red, fox red, black, white, and of course, golden), check out our article on Golden Retriever Colors.

Are There Different Types of Golden Retrievers?

Golden Retrievers are a popular dog breed known for their friendly, loyal, and intelligent personalities. While they are all the same breed, they do come in three different types.

All three types are similar, and there can be a lot of overlap between the types. This means that although some individual Goldens may be obviously of one type, others may not be easy to place into one of these types just by looking at them.

The differences are mostly in how they look. The traits that define a Golden Retriever: loyalty, devotion to their family, intelligence, and fun-loving attitude are present in all the types.

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 types of 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 slanted shape of their eyes.
  5. Coat Type – American Golden retrievers tend to have longer fur and a thicker coat than English Golden Retrievers.
  6. Body Type – American Golden Retrievers are shorter than Canadian but about the same size as English Golden Retrievers.

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 come 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 have 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, there are three main physical properties of an English Golden Retriever, but I have added a few more that are often noted.

  1. Skull Shape – The skull of an English 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 – English 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.
  4. Coat Type – English Golden Retrievers tend to have shorter waiver fur than American Golden Retrievers, although the difference can be subtle.
  5. Body Type – English Golden Retrievers are shorter than Canadian but about the same size as American 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. Body Type- Typically, a Canadian Golden Retriever is taller and leaner 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.

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.

The easiest way is to ask your Breeder which of the types of Golden Retrievers they breed. If you don’t know the breeder or your pup is a rescue, you will need another method.

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.

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)
    3. Leaner

Check Their Coat

Another way to determine which of the 3 types 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 thinner coats than American ones.

Determining the Color

It’s very straightforward, but the only way to know the color of 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 tuft 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 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. Also, our article on the Colors of Golden Retrievers.

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACT is a veterinarian and the new President of Golden Retriever Society. She is board certified (a specialist) in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of veterinarians and scientists work to develop new medications for pets. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of this wonderful breed of dogs. She and her husband have 2 children, 3 dogs and one cat. They love camping and hiking and she can often be found with her head in a good book.

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