Goldador

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Goldador
State Farm / Flickr.com

What do you get if you cross two of the most biddable, intelligent, and friendly pedigree breeds? The answer is the Goldador, the designer dog created by crossbreeding Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever parents. The Goldador hasn’t received the same attention as the likes of the Goldendoodle or Cavachon, but this is a hybrid that is here to stay, as it offers a unique array of characteristics that make it an ideal family pet, as well as an incredibly useful service dog and hunter. In contrast to many other hybrids, the Goldador’s temperament and appearance are reasonably predictable, as the Golden Retriever–Labrador mix is a like-with-like cross. Both have traditionally been used for sport, but are now kept mainly as pets by virtue of their gentle, loyal natures.

The Goldador is a large dog that needs space, including a garden, to be truly content, although all the space in the world will mean nothing if it is not taken into the bosom of the home and treated as a family member. It is the perfect choice for families with children of all ages, as it is extremely tolerant and gentle, especially with the very young. Being a gundog at heart, it needs plenty of exercise, and makes a good jogging companion that will not cause trouble when out in public, for it wants nothing more than to befriend everyone it meets. Goldadors are generally very healthy, though they can inherit several orthopaedic problems from their parent breeds. These problems can be exacerbated by another inherited trait – a tendency to obesity. Healthy eating habits and regular exercise are a must for every dog, but especially the Goldador. Healthy, well cared-for individuals remain sprightly and active well into their elder years, and have a life expectancy of 11–13 years.

About & History

Though the accepted wisdom surrounding the Goldador is that it was first created in the past decade, the reality is that this hybrid has been around for a lot longer, it’s just that it was never “marketed” or deliberately bred as a designer dog until relatively recently. Labradors and Golden Retrievers are often kept together or at least mingle as gundogs, and accidental, or even planned, cross-breeding has gone on in an unorganised fashion for some time. It has come as no surprise to those in doggy circles to see the Goldador emerge as a proposed new hybrid, for anyone who has ever met these beautiful, gentle creatures has been smitten. Their appeal is obvious, and they combine all the wonderful traits of a companion breed with the utility and trainability of a working dog.

As to the latter, Goldadors have become highly sought-after by the emergency services in search-and-rescue and sniffer roles in particular, as they have a very keen nose and are extremely attuned to their handlers. Like the parent breeds, they perform well as guide dogs, although the Labradoodle may be slightly more popular in this capacity. Their calm demeanour, patience, and gentleness also make them a natural fit as therapy dogs.

Appearance

Goldador Large Photo
State Farm / Flickr.com

The Goldador is a large, athletic dog. It measures 54–60 cm tall at the top of the withers. Males can be quite a bit bulkier than females, and weigh between 30 and 38 kg (66–84 lb), with females tipping the scales at 27–32 kg (59–70 lb). Given the chance, many Goldadors will quickly put on 15 kg on top of these ideal weights, but the dog should always retain its athletic outline and an appreciable tuck at the waist when viewed from above.

The coat is also quite predictable, as most have the short, dense coat of the Labrador, sometimes with slightly longer, wavy hair along the back. Both parent breeds are water-lovers, and another feature of the coat is that it is water-resistant, with the result that most Goldadors can quickly shake themselves dry after a dip. Most often, the coat is golden or yellow in colour, though black Goldadors are not uncommon. The chocolate colouration of the Labrador can carry through, but only very rarely.

The head is broad, with a defined stop and a strong muzzle, and the ears are medium in size, wide at the base, and hang flat to the head. The back should be level and well-muscled, especially in the loin. Both fore and hind limbs are well angulated, particularly at the shoulder and stifle (knee) joints, and the paws have well-developed webbing. The tail is thick and very strong, and may carry a slight plume. In motion, the Goldador should have an easy, powerful gait, and it is important that the limbs move straight through a vertical plane when viewed from the front or behind.

Character & Temperament

This is an extremely active, yet easy-going, hybrid. A Goldador will never refuse an opportunity to exercise, especially if it involves retrieving from land or water, but around the home adults are relaxed and laid-back. The same cannot be said for juveniles, as they tend to be very excitable and rambunctious, even up to the age of 18 months. Puppyhood clumsiness aside, the Goldador is a supremely gentle pet, and is extremely dependable with children and other animals. It is a very loyal character, and will shadow its owners around the house and garden. Although it is resilient enough to cope with spending a little time alone, it should never be made to live outside or be abandoned for an entire working day, as it needs stimulation and affection to prevent boredom and frustration.

This is an extremely sociable cross-breed, and thrives on meeting new people and dogs, making it a pleasure to walk in public areas. The flip side of this is that, despite its many other talents, the Goldador is a hopeless guard dog – intruders are likely to receive as warm a welcome as the owners!

Trainability

Photo of Goldador puppy

This is a good choice for the novice dog owner looking for a large cross-breed. The Goldador is very biddable and eager to please, without any desire to try to dominate an insecure owner. Though socialisation during puppyhood is important for every dog, this is usually a thoroughly enjoyable, stress-free process in this hybrid.

For optimal results, basic obedience and lead training should begin from eight weeks of age with effusive praise for good behaviour being all the reward this people-centric dog desires. Recall is one area that can be a little more challenging in young Goldadors, as they are easily distracted in parks or other busy places when off the lead, so they may need the extra incentive of a treat for responding to the owner’s call or whistle – there is nothing a Goldador will not do for a treat!

Health

Joint problems aside, most Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers are very healthy dogs, and it follows that the same is true of their progeny. However, all breeds have their inherited health issues, so prospective owners should research the health of both parents before buying a Goldador puppy. In particular, all breeding Labs and Retrievers should be hip and elbow scored, and breeders must be willing to share these scores when selling their pups.

  • Elbow dysplasia – Growth deformity of one or both elbow joints that manifests in pups from around five months of age as lameness or stiffness after rest.
  • Hip dysplasia – A very common cause of hind limb lameness in large-breed dogs. Due to incongruity of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip, and, like elbow dysplasia, becomes apparent in young, growing pups.
  • Cruciate ligament rupture – Now thought to be the end result of an inflammatory process, tearing of this ligament within the knee can cause a sudden onset of hind limb lameness in young adult Goldadors, often brought on by trauma or a sudden change of direction when running.
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – Common cause of sight loss in adult dogs, caused by degeneration of nerve cells leading from the eye to the visual centres of the brain.
  • Subaortic stenosis – A congenital deformity affecting the heart, in which the exit from the left side of the heart to the aorta, the main artery of the body, is narrowed. This causes resistance to blood flow and subsequent heart enlargement. Can be detected in young pups on veterinary examination.
  • Cancers – The Golden Retriever is susceptible to several common tumours, including mast cell tumour and lymphosarcoma, and it appears that the Goldador may be similarly predisposed.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Though it may be a crossbreed, the Goldador is essentially a dog bred to work, and if kept as a pet, needs plenty of exercise to keep it healthy and at its optimum weight. Juveniles should not be over-exercised, but should still be walked in short bursts for at least 30–60 minutes every day.

Adults can exercise for hours if given the opportunity, and will enjoy jogging, swimming, hiking, and retrieving. While many owners like to throw sticks for their Goldadors to chase, this should not be encouraged, as oral stick injuries are common, and can be awkward to resolve. Tennis balls and other toys make for far better objects to chase and retrieve.

Grooming

The short coat is easy to care for, and needs only weekly brushing to remove dead hair. During the spring and autumn, it can shed heavily, and may need more frequent attention, but bathing is very rarely necessary. The Goldador’s thick nails need to be cut every few months; this can be done at home with a strong nail clipper, or by a groomer or veterinary nurse. Owners should also clean the ears at least once a fortnight, as they tend to get waxy, and can be prone to developing yeast infections if left unattended.

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