Types and Colors Of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular breeds in the world and is it any wonder, with a kind and gentle temperament, quick mind, and large heart? These dogs are truly the perfect family pet and any dog lover’s dream.

But you may wonder, why does the golden retriever down the street not look like my golden retriever? Well, this could actually be down to the type and color of your golden!

golden retriever colors

There are three different types of goldens and whilst they are all the same breed each type has some subtle differences to look out for. There are also three basic colors of golden and whilst the shades may vary, they will all belong to one of these three main golden colors.

So if you’ve ever wanted to know more about the differences between your four-legged friend and the one you follow on Instagram, then read on below to see the different types of golden retrievers and the colors they can be.

The Different Types Of Golden Retrievers

golden retriever english

Whilst you may think that all golden retrievers look very similar, you may be surprised to find out that there are actually three basic types of golden retrievers and these are determined by the country of origin. The three basic types of golden retriever are:

  • English (or British) golden retriever 
  • American golden retriever
  • Canadian golden retriever

Though the differences between each of these are minimal, they still exist and we shall take a further look into these types and differences between them below.

English Golden Retrievers

First up we have the English golden retriever. Originally bred in Scotland, the English golden retriever is the blueprint for all the goldens on our list. This breed made its way across Europe, into Australia, and was even imported into Canada!

The differences between the English and American goldens are very slight and unless you know what to look for you may not even notice them. That said there are still a few main physical differences that set these subtypes apart: 

  • Coat color – the color of the English golden retriever is much lighter compared to their foreign cousins. Even the light golden color is much brighter in the British retriever.
  • The shape of the skull – The skull should be broader with a well-balanced muzzle. It should appear chiseled and handsome. This difference in the muzzle is most likely a result of the breeding process.
  • Eyes – The British golden retrievers have rounder eyes as well as a darker eye color. This is much more noticeable when compared to the other types on the list. 

American Golden Retriever

Next up, we have the American golden retriever. This is the type of golden retriever that springs into everyone’s mind when they hear the name. Delicate and handsome, this family-friendly pooch has quite a few physical aspects that make it stand out from the rest. 

What Makes The American Different:

  • Eye shape – Probably the easiest way to tell your goldens apart is the eye shape. The American golden retriever has an instantly recognizable triangular or slanted shape to its eyes. The eyes should sit nicely on the head and not be sunken in.
  • Their overall size – the size of the American golden retriever actually comes up more petite than its foreign counterparts. Considered lankier and less muscular these goldens still have big personalities and even bigger hearts.
  • A darker coat color – When compared to the English and Canadian varieties of golden retrievers, the American golden coat has a much darker color. Even when considering the lightest golden shade, these pups tend to come up darker 
  • Gait – Perhaps one of the more unusual differences, the American golden retriever has a specific gait or way of walking, which has often been compared to the trot of a horse! According to AKC (American Kennel Club), the American gait should be free, smooth, powerful, and well-coordinated. 

Unlike the other types of golden retrievers, this subtype also has a selection of physical requirements that need to be met before it can be officially deemed an American golden retriever. These standards are set by the AKC and come down to the following:

  • Head and skull – The head of the American golden should cascade smoothly from the tip of the nose to the back of the skull. There should be no super prominent features such as the forehead or eyes.
  • Neck – The neck should transition smoothly into the shoulders and should appear strong in character with no obtrusions.
  • Body – A well-balanced body, with no barrel-shaped ribs, is the ideal form for the American golden.
  • Topline – As with the neck, the topline should be smooth and even without any bumps.
  • Forequarters – The forequarters should be muscular but still sit relaxed upon the frame.
  • Hindquarters – The hindquarters on the golden should be the most muscular part, with a pelvic bone that sits at an angle of 30 degrees.

Canadian Golden Retriever 

The origin of the Canadian golden retriever should come as no surprise. Imported from the United Kingdom these dogs were bred in Canada, with the first golden being registered in 1926!.

There are three main differences between the Canadian golden and the American or English, that will make them easy to tell apart from the others.

  • Height – The easiest way to tell a Canadian golden retriever apart from the rest of the gang is by their height. Typically a Canadian golden is taller than the others by as much as two full inches. 
  • Coat hair – The hair on the Canadian golden retriever is usually shorter in length and thinner than the other types of golden on this list.
  • Dense fur – Not only do they have a shorter coat, but the Canadian golden’s fur is also typically a lot denser as well.

So whilst there may be some slight differences in the size and coat of these goldens there is absolutely no difference between their beautiful souls and temperaments.

No matter what type of golden you may have, you can be sure that they will all share the same people-pleasing drive, high intelligence, and soft mouths.

The Different Colors Of Golden Retrievers

american golden

As we now know there are three different types of golden retrievers. Whilst the types of goldens are defined by the area they originate from we can further classify them by their coat color! And unlike the breed standards, the coat color classification is universal among all types.

The three general colors of the golden retrievers can be categorized as light golden, golden and dark golden.

You may have seen some retrievers out and about with copper, white or red tones. However, these colors are not accepted by the AKC as official goldens so if you see a dog out there with these colored coats, chances are it isn’t a purebred golden retriever.

Below we shall look further into the different color classifications and you can see which category your golden fits into!

The Golden

What’s in a name? A lot when it comes to goldens! This golden color is the one that will come to mind when you imagine this handsome breed and is the epitome of all goldens around the globe.

The Light Golden

Considered the lightest within the array of golden shades, light golden retrievers have a coat color that is just a little bit lighter than completely white. This shade is sometimes referred to as cream and is sally found in English goldens.

Some people incorrectly brand this color golden as ‘white’ or ‘platinum’ however the color white doesn’t genetically appear in this breed. 

If you see an advert offering “rare white golden retriever puppies” this should be interpreted as a scam!

Terms like “white,” “platinum,” “rare,” or even “English cream” are marketing words used to trick buyers into paying more for an ordinary retriever with a lighter coat color. Besides, a ‘white’ golden would be frowned upon by the AKC so would not warrant a higher price tag.

The Dark Golden

The dark golden retriever is often mistaken for its red or copper counterparts however you will actually find that the dark golden actually boasts just a deeper tone of golden yellow. With this darker tone.

It is very easy to understand how people can mistake this darker shade for a red tint, after all, this darker golden tone is achieved by combining shades of yellow and orange!

It should be noted however that there is a big distinction between the red-toned goldens and dark ones, especially when it comes to dog shows.

The red-toned retrievers will have a red tone to the feathery hairs behind their ears, whereas a dark golden retriever will not. And remember, the red-toned retriever is not accepted in showing circles, so make sure to double-check your retriever’s coat if showing is something you plan to do.

What About Black Golden Retrievers?

But what about that black golden retriever you saw at the dog park? Chances are it was a flat-coated retriever or some type of goldie cross as purebred black golden retrievers do not exist.

So How Can I Tell Which Type My Golden Retriever Is?

english cream golden retriever

With so many variations within the breed, you may be struggling to figure out which golden you have. Luckily there are a few ways to help you determine the exact type and color your golden is! Below we have included a handy guide to help you: 

Check Their Build

As discussed earlier in this article, we know that each type of golden retriever will have its only unique build and overall body size. If you are still struggling to tell your golden’s apart, take a look at their eyes, the shape is often a dead giveaway as to what type of golden you’re looking at.

A general guideline for the different types of golden is:

The English Golden Retriever

  • Chunkier build
  • Larger overall size
  • Soft rounded eyes

The American Golden Retriever

  • Lankier in general
  • Smaller build overall
  • Triangular or slanted eyes

The Canadian Golden Retriever 

  • Taller than the other types
  • Shorter coat
  • Medium colored eyes

You Can Also Check Their Coat

red golden retriever

Another good way to determine what type of Golden Retriever you have is by checking their coat and fur. Although the colors are seen across all three types of golden it can still be a good indicator of the origin of your retriever.

As A very general rule:

  • An English Golden Retriever will have a lighter color than the others.
  • An American Golden Retriever will have a darker color than the others
  • A Canadian Gold Retriever will have a thinner coat than the others.

Will you ever find a Golden Retriever with a shorter coat – different to the usual silky long coat? Find out here.

How Do I Check The Color Of My Golden Retriever?

It shouldn’t serve as a shock to know that the best way to know your golden’s coat color is to actually observe the details of their fur.

Whilst the overall color should be enough to allow you to figure out which color golden you own, there are a few specific areas that you will want to focus your attention on, in order to determine the actual shade of fur. These areas are:

  • Tip of the ears – Take a look at your puppy’s ears, you may notice that these are a different color from the rest of their coat! This color on the tip of the ear is a great indicator as to what the true color of your puppy will be when they grow up.
  • Behind the ears – The strong clump of hair behind your pup’s ears will usually be a great way to indicate the color of your retriever’s fur
  • Feathery Hairs – Have you ever noticed those wispy, flowing locks that hang off the back of your retriever’s legs and tail? These feathery hairs are actually another great way to figure out what your pup’s true coat color is!

It is important to bear in mind however that the color of your golden can also depend on what stage of life they’re in. If your retriever is still a puppy then it is very likely they will have a lighter shade of fur, which will change over time as they grow and get older.

If you’re eager to know what your puppy will grow up to look like then you should check behind your puppy’s ears. This will help you to estimate the final coat color of your four-legged friend.

Will I Be Able To Show My Golden Retriever?

If you are looking to show your golden retriever in a Show Dog Competition, their coats need to meet a very specific standard in order to even qualify. As defined by the AKC the coat must be, “a rich, lustrous golden of various shades.”

This means that any golden retrievers with “extremely light” or “extremely dark” coats are disqualified.

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 and thus will not be allowed to compete in them.

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 the light golden or cream-colored Golden Retrievers in their dog shows. Specifically, the United States will not allow them in their shows; however, the UK happily accepts the cream-colored coat!

Some Famous Golden Retrievers You May Know

  • Shadow – from the beloved Disney film Homeward Bound, Shadow was a handsome golden retriever who helps him and his buddies make their way back home after becoming separated from their family (if you haven’t seen this film, make sure to get the tissues ready as it will definitely tug on the heartstrings!)
  • 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!
  • Liberty the First Dog – American president Gerald R. Ford’s family dog. It is still one of the most famous golden retrievers in American history.


It’s really no surprise that golden retrievers are one of America’s favorite dog breeds. With their adorable personalities, handsome looks, soft and gentle mouth, and enormous hearts, goldens make the perfect pets for families and single persons alike.

Not only this but with their excellent trainability and eagerness to please they make for excellent hunting partners! And at the end of the day, this is what they were bred for.

Unless you are looking to show your golden in competitions then the color of their fur or their type doesn’t matter one bit.

So whether you’re considering getting a golden retriever or already have one and just want to know about more about the differences between the types, the most important thing to take away is that no matter what the country of origin or the color of their fur, at the end of the day you are going to have a loving companion who will be loyal until the very end.

Author - Jacqueline

Jacqueline is surrounded by outdoor dogs. Her dog Riley, a Doberman mix, is 80+ pounds of muscle. Riley is very active and they both love to walk in the woods. They love camping too. Jacqueline's son is a dog dad to Cooper, a 95-pound Golden Retriever. Cooper swims and retrieves from land or water. Jacqueline's sister owns Tank, a 140-pound Great Pyrenees. Tank is a star along the San Antonio River. Tourists actually stop to take pics of him. Tank has his own Instagram page, thank you very much!

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