If you’re reading this, then chances are you’ve recently acquired, or are about to acquire, a Golden Retriever puppy – so Congratulations on the new family member! Raising a puppy to adulthood is a great way to help build a deep, life-long bond with your dog. Likely, you’re dreaming of long hikes, throwing a ball for your dog to retrieve (after all, retrieving is practically built into this breed), and years of fun.
But it’s not all fun and games with a puppy – you have a lot of responsibility as well. Tracking the growth of your Golden Retriever from puppyhood to young adult is a hallmark responsibility of a good dog owner. Keeping track of the growth of your puppy will help you to make sure that your puppy is growing as he or she should. Remember that every puppy is a unique individual, however, there are standards you will want to follow to ensure your puppy gets the best start in his or her life with you.
First, you may not have known that there are three types of Golden Retrievers: American Golden, Canadian Golden, and British Golden. And beyond that, there are working-class dog lines and show dog lines, which also impact the typical appearance and weight of the individual dog.
Regardless of which you have, this guide can be used for all of them. Just keep in mind the following:
American Golden Retrievers tend to have a leaner appearance than British Golden Retrievers and tend to weigh slightly less as well. Conversely, British Golden Retrievers tend to be stockier and more muscular than American Golden Retrievers and tend to weigh towards the upper end of the weight range as well. Canadian Golden Retrievers tend to be taller than both American and British Golden Retrievers, but with shorter, less feathery coats.
The Five Stages of Golden Retriever Puppy Growth
Puppy development occurs in five distinct stages. Throughout each of the development stages, careful and appropriate handling will help them to grow into healthy, confident adult dogs. But even before your puppy is born, you can begin tracking information.
If you know the weight of the mother, a newborn puppy will generally way about 1% of the mother’s pre-pregnancy weight. That alone will give you a general approximation of what to expect when your puppy is an adult, as well as the initial health of your puppy.
When born, a Golden Retriever puppy usually weighs between 14 to 16 ounces. Do not be alarmed if a newborn puppy’s weight is slightly more or slightly less, as some variation is to be expected, even within the same litter. While eight puppies in a litter are average, typical litters range from four to twelve puppies.
First-born puppies tend to be the largest in the litter, while the last-born puppy tends to be the smallest in the litter. Sometimes, the smallest puppy is noticeably smaller than the rest of the litter. In that case, the puppy is referred to as a “runt”.
Stage 1: Neonatal, Birth to 3 Weeks
During the Neonatal stage, puppies are quite helpless. They start out unable to walk, instead of squirming around and then eventually crawling to be able to nurse. They are born with their ears and eyes closed; their only senses are taste, touch, and smell. They rely on mom to keep them clean, warm, and fed.
Sometimes, first-time moms might need a bit of guidance to take care of the puppies, especially if there is a runt in the litter. She will also need some extra food, to ensure she has enough nutrition not just for herself, but also for the puppies she is nursing. Some moms will instinctively ignore the runt. If that happens, it is up to the humans to ensure that the puppy is being fed.
Towards days 10 through 14, the eyes and ears will open up, baby teeth will erupt, and by the end of the third week, the puppies should be walking – albeit unsteadily – and beginning to explore their world.
Healthy puppies being cared for by mom will usually gain 5% to 10% of their weight each week.
Stage 2: Socialization, 3 Weeks to 3 Months
This is a truly transformative stage in puppy development. At the beginning of this stage, they are shakily beginning to try to walk. By the end of this stage, these little bundles of energy will run and play until they are ready to drop from self-induced exhaustion.
As the puppies begin to walk, they will also begin to play with each other. They should be allowed to play as much as they want. This early socialization is critical so that your puppy learns all the fundamentals of interacting with other dogs. They learn important skills such as bite inhibition and can be very vocal during play.
4 Weeks Old Golden Retriever Puppy
At 4 weeks of age, you can begin introducing wet food made specifically for young puppies. This will bolster the nutrition that mom is providing through nursing. This also allows the puppies to begin self-weaning. At first, they will begin to realize that their little tummies feel fuller when they eat the wet food, rather than strictly being nourished by their mom.
Assuming mom allows you to handle the puppies, you should interact and socialize with them. Help them get used to being touched; stroke their tiny paws, rub their ears. These will help lay the foundation for future grooming.
6 Weeks Old Golden Retriever Puppy
At 6 weeks of age, you can begin introducing dry puppy kibble. Check the package for any instructions about moistening the kibble for the puppies, as well as how much to feed and how often to feed. New puppy owners – especially those who are first-time puppy-raisers – tend to overfeed their puppy.
While a roly-poly fat puppy can look ever-so-cute – they tend to grow up into overweight adults, putting excess strain on their joints. At the same time, you don’t want to underfeed your puppy either. Just pay attention to your puppy’s weight as she or he grows to help catch any concerns before they develop into problems.
To ensure your puppy is getting proper nutrition to help him or her grow into the adult they are meant to be, choose high-quality dog food, and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations regarding the amount to feed at each meal. Always, always ensure your puppy has access to fresh drinking water. Use treats wisely; it is far too easy to give that cute puppy a few treats too many!
Keeping mom and the puppies together has many benefits, even if mom is done nursing the puppies. You can begin housetraining the puppy, letting mom set the example. The puppies can learn to respond to the very basic “Come” or “Here” command as well. It is best if you work with each puppy individually for a few minutes at a time, several times a day. Keep your rules and commands consistent, and let the puppy learn each command one at a time.
It is also an appropriate time to begin socializing the puppy with other people, animals, and experiences (such as car rides, and sounds such as hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, and mowers). It is very important to introduce new experiences to the puppy in a manner that is supportive so that the puppy develops the sensations of enjoyment and curiosity when experiencing anything new.
However, this does not mean taking the puppy to a pet store or to a dog park. Always wait to bring your puppy to such places until after the puppy has been fully vaccinated, especially for parvo. Your vet will guide you on this. If you must take your puppy to a pet store or anywhere that other dogs frequent, carry the puppy to minimize the risk of parvo, and do not allow the puppy to physically interact with other people or dogs.
This is also the time for most puppies to receive their first vaccinations. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendation.
Your puppy will continue growing in his or her third month. Some breeders will begin sending the puppies to their new families at this age, but some breeders will wait until the puppy is closer to 12 weeks of age. Neither is necessarily wrong, but there is mounting evidence that puppies who remain with the mom and littermates to at least 10-12 weeks of age benefit from this additional socialization period. There is evidence that puppies who are separated at an early age are more likely to have issues with appropriate interaction with other dogs as they become adults.
Tracking the growth of your Golden Retriever from puppyhood to young adulthood is a hallmark responsibility of a good dog owner. Keeping track of the growth of your puppy will help you to make sure that your puppy is growing as he or she should. Like many puppies, Golden Retriever puppies often act as if they haven’t been fed in days, even if they were just fed a wholesome meal a few hours earlier.
Stage 3: Juvenile Socialization, 3 Months to 6 Months
The second three months in the life of your puppy is when most Golden Retrievers grow the fastest. After this, you will see the puppy’s growth slowing down. Your puppy will start to lose some of the “puppy look” and begin to look more like the adult dog that he/she is destined to become.
Additional vaccinations are given around 12-14 weeks of age. Your veterinarian will know which are appropriate for your puppy, but one of the most common vaccinations at this age is for parvovirus. Parvovirus is very contagious and frequently lethal to puppies, so this is not a vaccination to be skipped. The parvovirus vaccination is typically given as a combined vaccination, along with distemper, parainfluenza, and adenovirus. That combined shot is called DHHP.
Other changes are happening on the inside as well. Your puppy will want to chew on just about everything as they lose their baby teeth, and the permanent teeth erupt. Provide your puppy with appropriate toys for teething puppies, so that they are less likely to destroy other items – like your favorite sneakers. Some teething toys are specifically made to be put in a refrigerator or freezer so that the coolness helps numb your puppy’s teeth.
Housetraining, also known as housebreaking, or potty-training, is one of the most make-or-break training activities you can do with your puppy. Golden Retrievers, when grown up, are not tiny dogs – and as adults, they can make rather large “puddles”. It may take several weeks before your puppy is reliably housetrained, and the tips for successful housetraining are worthy of an article all on its own.
This is also a good time to talk to your veterinarian about spaying or neutering your puppy. Keep in mind, that puppies that are spayed or neutered tend to grow a bit taller than those who are not spayed or neutered. That is because sex hormones inhibit growth hormones.
By three months of age, you should begin to practice grooming. Gently brush your puppy, but do not shave your puppy. That soft fuzzy coat will eventually become your dog’s undercoat when they are an adult.
Teach your puppy to accept being petted and touched everywhere. Gently open his or her mouth to look at the teeth, and if you are able, use a puppy toothbrush to clean the teeth daily. Also spend time handling the paws, as your puppy will eventually need to be accustomed to nail trims.
Besides those physical changes, puppies also go through a “fear period”, where new experiences can be overwhelming to the developing puppy. Take care when exposing your puppy to new experiences. Do your best to ensure that every interaction is as positive as possible. There are usually two fear periods; typically one in the third month and another towards the end of the fifth month.
Training should be an activity that you do at least daily, and ideally, several times a day. Training should be in very short sessions, appropriate to the attention span of your puppy. Every session should be fun and end on a good note. Don’t worry about trying to correct your puppy much at this stage; instead, work on guiding them to the behavior you want. Focus on the very basics – recognizing his/her name, coming to you when called, and walking on a leash nicely. Gradually add on additional commands as your puppy demonstrates that they are ready for new skills.
Fun fact: If you take your puppy’s weight at 16 weeks of age, double that, and you’ll have a very good approximation of your dog’s adult weight.
Stage 4: Sexual Maturity, 6 months to 1 year
Golden Retrievers typically reach sexual maturity soon at, or soon after, they are six months old. For females, this means having heat cycles, roughly every six months. Both males and females, begin to exhibit mating behavior, which may include frequent urination to mark their territories.
Many Golden Retriever puppies tend to develop separation anxiety around the eight-month mark. Support your dog through this period, but don’t feed into the anxiety either. A well-adjusted Golden Retriever puppy will soon start demonstrating more independence around 9-10 months of age – just in time for their “teenager” attitude to come in.
During this time, your Golden Retriever will also develop a desire to figure out their place within the family pecking order – and this may include willful disobedience of commands, even those they know well. Be consistent, fair, and firm when asking your Golden Retriever to perform your commands. The expression “Patience is a virtue” is very apt during this stage of training your puppy. If your dog has not been spayed or neutered, this rebellious stage may be worse.
There are other physical changes going on as well. Your Golden Retriever may be a very leggy six-month-old, but he will grow into those legs. But until he does, he may be a bit clumsy and even accident-prone. Pay attention to his “clumsiness” so that you do not ask him to push himself too hard.
Likewise, the nose and ears may seem overly large, but he will grow into those long floppy ears as well. It can be very tempting to over-exercise your puppy during this period because they will seem to have unlimited energy.
However, this period of rapid growth puts strain on their bones and joints, so avoid over-exercising your puppy, and avoid high jumping. One of the last things you want to have to happen is for your Golden Retriever puppy to damage its canine cruciate ligament and to require surgery as a result.
Stage 5: Adulthood, 1 year and older
At one year of age, your Golden Retriever is almost done growing. They have a few more months of where they will fill out, but they have generally reached their full height when they turn one year old. They pretty much look exactly like they will for the rest of their adult years. Mentally, however, most Golden Retrievers will still exhibit puppy-like excitement and energy for a few more years.
When your dog – who is no longer a puppy – is two years old, you can have their hips checked for hip dysplasia by your vet. This is especially important to know if you are considering taking your dog on very long hikes, training for the agility ring, or breeding your dog in the future.
It is also important to keep your dog at the appropriate weight, especially if they are prone to hip dysplasia. You should be able to feel the ribs of your dog, but not see the ribs under that fluffy coat. Golden Retrievers typically love to eat (as do most dogs) but are prone to overeating if allowed to by their owners. According to a 2012 survey, over 60% of American Golden Retrievers are either overweight or obese.
Carrying excess weight creates or exacerbates numerous health issues. These can include arthritis, diabetes, cancer, heart health, joint and bone health, kidney and liver failure, and high blood pressure. These will lower the quality of life for your dog, as well as shorten your dog’s life, easily by two or more years.
- 2-Year-Old Golden Retriever: Full-Grown, Adulthood, Playful
- Senior Golden Retriever: Signs of Aging and How to Care for Your Old Dog
Golden Retriever Growth and Weight Chart
Like most breeds, the standards for weight vary between male and female dogs. Accordingly, you’ll see that there is a separate chart for males and a separate chart for females. Show dogs also tend to be heavier than working dog lines.
Weight: Adult male Golden Retrievers should weigh in at 65 to 75 pounds, while females should weigh in at 55 to 65 pounds.
Height: Adult male Golden Retriever should measure between 23 to 24 inches at the withers. Females should measure 21.5 to 22.5 inches.
Height is more important than weight when looking at the AKC breed standard, but weight in relation to height indicates the overall fitness of your dog.
Keep in mind, that these charts are guidelines. If there is a major difference between the chart and your puppy’s growth, talk to your veterinarian. Insufficient growth may be due to something as serious as a genetic defect, or something as easily treatable (and correctable) as roundworms. Growing too quickly may be due to overfeeding – and that is equally dangerous for the long-term health of your dog.
Golden Retriever Male Puppy Growth Chart
|Percentage of Adult Weight
|3 – 5 lbs
|3 – 7 lbs
|4 – 11 lbs
|4 – 17 lbs
|10 – 15 lbs
|10 – 17 lbs
|10 – 22 lbs
|12 – 25 lbs
|20 – 25 lbs
|25 – 30 lbs
|35 – 40 lbs
|35 – 45 lbs
|40 – 50 lbs
|45 – 55 lbs
|50 – 60 lbs
|55 – 65 lbs
|60 – 70 lbs
|60 – 70 lbs
|65 – 75 lbs
Golden Retriever Female Puppy Growth Chart
|Percentage of Adult Weight
|2 – 5 lbs
|3 – 6 lbs
|4 – 8 lbs
|5 – 9 lbs
|5 – 10 lbs
|8 – 17 lbs
|10 – 22 lbs
|12 – 25 lbs
|15 – 20 lbs
|20 – 25 lbs
|25 – 30 lbs
|30– 35 lbs
|30 – 40 lbs
|35 – 45 lbs
|45 – 50 lbs
|45 – 55 lbs
|50 – 55 lbs
|50– 60 lbs
|55 – 65 lbs
Every dog is an individual, and some variation in growth compared to weight charts is normal. If you are uncertain about the growth of your puppy, consult with your veterinarian. Bring a copy of your feeding record as well as your dog’s weight chart. It is normal to see some variation within any given month, but overall, you should expect your Golden Retriever to fall into the proper weight by age and gender.
- The Five Stages of Golden Retriever Puppy Growth
- Golden Retriever Growth and Weight Chart
- Final Thoughts