Breed Standard

What is a breed standard?

A breed standard presents a distinct word picture for each of the 187 dog breeds currently recognized by the Canadian Kennel Club. The breed standard describes the ideal temperament and physical characteristics for each breed, such as size, weight, colour, coat, head and structure. The national parent club for each breed creates the breed standard, which acknowledges its origins and those primary characteristics required by the breed’s original function, such as retrieving shot game for the hunter, scenting and locating game, herding livestock, hunting vermin or being a devoted companion. The CKC organizes each breed into one of seven groups relating their function, which categorizes the breeds into a logical structure for shows and trials. At conformation dog shows, a qualified judge assesses each entry according to the requirements of the breed standard and then against the other dogs in competition, choosing the winning and placing dogs that most exemplify the breed. Thus, the various entries in a dog show, whether they are a Chihuahua, a Golden or a Wolfhound, are not only competing against each other, they are in a contest with their own breed standard.

Below you will find the breed standard in full. Alternatively you can download a PDF of the Golden Retriever Breed Standard here and our Illustrated Breed Standard here.

Canadian Kennel Club Breed Standard for the Golden Retriever

(revised 2020 with effective date January 1, 2022)

General Appearance:
A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy or long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident. Primarily a hunting dog, he should be shown in hard working condition.  Over-all appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of his component parts.

Friendly, reliable, trustworthy.  Hostility or aggressiveness towards other dogs or people, undue timidity or nervousness in normal situations is not in keeping with the character of the Golden Retriever.  Dogs displaying poor temperament should be excused from the ring.

Males, 23-24 inches (58-61 cm.) in height at withers; females, 21 ½- 22 ½ inches (55-57 cm.).  Length from prosternum to ischial tuberosity (point of buttocks) slightly greater than height at the withers in ratio of 12:11. The distance from the top of the withers to the point of elbow and from point of elbow to the ground should be approximately equal. Weight for dogs, 65-75 lb. (29.5-34 kg); bitches, 55-65 lb.  (25-29.5 kg.)

Natural appearing, resilient, dense and water repellent with good undercoat.  Texture not as hard as that of a short-haired dog nor silky as that of a setter.  Lies flat against body and may be straight or wavy. Moderate feathering on back of forelegs and heavier feathering on front of neck, back of thighs and underside of tail.  Un-trimmed natural ruff.

Lustrous golden of various shades, ranging from cream to darkest gold. Feathering may be lighter than rest of coat. A few white hairs on chest permissible but not desirable. Allowable light shadings are not to be confused with white markings.  

Broad in skull, slightly arched laterally and longitudinally without prominence of frontal or occiput bones.  Good stop.  Foreface deep and wide, nearly as long as Skull.  Muzzle, when viewed in profile, slightly deeper at stop than at tip; when viewed from above, slightly wider at stop than at tip.  No heaviness in flews.  Removal of whiskers for show purposes optional.  Nose black or dark brown, though lighter shade in cold weather not serious.  Teeth scissors bite with lower incisors touching inside of upper incisors.  Full dentition. Eyes friendly and intelligent, medium large, almond shaped with dark, close-fitting rims, set well apart and reasonably deep in sockets.  Colour dark brown.  No white or haw visible when looking straight ahead.  Ears rather short, hanging flat against head with rounded tips slightly below jaw. Forward edge attached well behind and just above eye with rear edge slightly below eye.

Medium long, sloping well back into shoulders, giving sturdy muscular appearance with untrimmed natural ruff.  No throatiness.

Forequarters muscular, well co-ordinated with hindquarters and capable of free movement.  Shoulder blades wide, long and well laid back, showing angulation with upper arm of approximately 90 degrees.  Shoulder blade and upper arm (humerus) should be approximately equal in length, setting close fitting elbows back beneath the upper tip of the shoulder blades.  Legs straight with good bone.  Pastern short and strong, sloping slightly forward with no suggestion of weakness.

Topline level from withers to croup, whether standing or moving.  Well balanced, short coupled, deep through the heart.  Chest at least as wide as a man’s hand, including thumb.  Brisket extends to elbow.  Ribs long and well sprung but not barrel shaped, extending well to rear of body.  Loin short, muscular, wide and deep, with very little tuck-up.  Croup slopes gently.

Broad and strongly muscled.  Well bent stifles.  When standing naturally, angulation between femur and pelvis approximately 90 degrees, with hocks well let down.  Legs straight when viewed from rear.

Feet medium size, well-knuckled, round and compact with thick pads. Excessive hair may be trimmed to show natural size and contour.

Well set on, neither too high nor too low, following natural line of croup.  Bone length extends to point of hock. When moving, carried with merry action, level with topline or with some upward curve, but never curled over back or between legs.

When trotting, gait is free, smooth, powerful, and well co-ordinated.  Viewed from front or rear, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other.  Increased speed causes tendency of feet to converge toward centreline of gravity. 


  • Any departure from the described ideal shall be considered faulty to the degree to which it interferes with the breed’s purpose or is contrary to breed character.
  • Dogs showing evidence of a functional abnormality of the eyelids or eyelashes (such as, but not limited to, trichiasis, entropion, ectropion or distichiasis) are to be excused from the ring.
  • Excessive coat length, open coats or limp, soft coats are serious faults.
  • Any alteration or modification to the natural appearance and texture of the coat or outline by use of products, sculpting, cutting or clipping, other than the trimming of the feet, tidying the ears and neatening of stray hairs is a serious fault.
  • Any white markings beyond a few hairs on chest, except for greying or whitening of the face or body due to age.
  • Any noticeable area of black or other off-colour hair.
  • Light, round, slant, narrow or triangular eyes, which detract from correct expression.
  • Dudley nose (pink without pigmentation).
  • Obvious gaps created by missing teeth.


  1. Deviations in height of more than 1 inch (2.54 cm) from standard either way.
  2. Undershot or overshot bite. This condition not to be confused with misalignment of teeth.

Effective Date: January 1, 2022