Miniature golden retrievers are a relatively new designer dog breed. They are created by crossing a golden retriever with a smaller breed of dog – usually either a cocker spaniel or a small poodle.
Because of their small size and similar appearance to golden retriever, mini goldens are growing in popularity. Yet there are still some concerns surrounding this new breed mix.
This article offers information about mini golden retrievers to help you determine whether the dog is right for you.
Dwarf Golden Retrievers
When researching mini golden retrievers, many people confuse them with dwarf golden retrievers. But there are actually significant differences in health and temperament between the two. It is important to understand these differences before making a purchase.
Dwarf golden retrievers – unlike mini goldens – have achondroplasia.
This disorder is also known as dwarfism. The American Veterinary Medical Association says that achondroplasia is “abnormal development of cartilage leading to dwarfism.” It is found in every dog breed and is even encouraged in some, such as dachshunds and corgis.
While dwarf golden retrievers are cute, selectively breeding for achondroplasia comes with risks.
For example, according to P.F. Jezyk, writing in The Textbook For Small Animal Orthopedics, dogs selectively bred to be small – or achondroplastic – can have abnormal jaws that cause breathing problems.
Spinal problems have also been well-documented in various achondroplastic dog breeds.
It may be better for the overall health of dogs to avoid encouraging achondroplasia through a dwarf golden retriever purchase.
The Controversy of Designer Dogs
Because they are specifically bred from two established breeds to achieve certain traits, mini golden retrievers are considered designer dogs.
Controversy swirls around the subject of designer breeds, and many experts have weighed in on the subject.
In an interview with ABC News, Garry Garner of the American Canine Hybrid Club defended designer dogs by asserting that, unlike most shelter animals, designer dogs have a known background. This could make it easier to assess health risks.
However, both veterinarian Marty Becker and Lisa Peterson of the American Kennel Club disagree. Peterson states that she has seen no research proving that mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebreds.
Becker supports this claim in a Vetstreet.com article: “Labradoodles have a higher percentage of poor hips than Labradors or Poodles alone.” He also recommends adopting a mixed breed from an animal shelter for those who want a truly unique breed.
Origins of Miniature Golden Retrievers
Despite the controversy, many still fall in love with designer dog breeds, including mini golden retrievers.
The first thing to note about mini goldens is that they are not officially recognized by the American Kennel Club. In other words, there is no breed standard in place. Mini golden breeding is not regulated, and many types have arisen.
The first may be the Comfort Retriever, first bred by Kathy Burgess in 2003. According to the breed’s official website, the first Comfort Retrievers were bred by crossing a golden retriever with a cocker spaniel.
The breeders did not believe this was a good mix, so later Comfort Retrievers were bred using poodles instead of cockers.
Other breeders do still use cocker spaniels with different results. Because both are sold as mini golden retrievers, it can be difficult to navigate buying one.
Where the breeds came from
One thing that will make it easier is knowing the origins of each breed involved.
Of course, you can’t have a mini golden retriever without the golden retriever. These dogs have been popular since well before they joined the American Kennel Club in 1925. In fact, they were the third most popular dog breed in the United States in 2016 according to the AKC.
Cocker spaniels are an even older breed than golden retrievers. They joined the AKC in 1878. Their distant history dates back to the 14th century, according to the AKC. The dogs were used for hunting small games, such as the woodcocks that gave them their name. The dogs were listed as the 29th most popular breed in the United States as of 2016.
The AKC notes that Poodles originally come from Germany, where they were used as water retrievers.
There are signs of the dog as far back as the 1400s, but they did not join the American Kennel Club until 1887. Of the three types of poodle – standard, miniature, and toy – standard is the oldest. The dogs are popular, too. They were ranked 7th most popular dog in the United States for 2016.
Mini Golden Retriever Temperament
As with the dogs’ origins, it is also a good idea to research the temperament of golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, and poodles. Why? Because this is where things can get a little messy.
Mixing a golden with another breed introduces new traits that are not present in goldens.
The resulting puppies will have a completely random set of characteristics based on their parents.
Take each breed’s individual temperament into account when considering a mini golden.
Where the temperaments come from
You could get any combination, and it is important that you are okay with all of them before adopting your mini golden.
Golden Retriever Temperament
There’s a reason why golden retrievers are so popular – and why people want miniature version of them. For many, they are an ideal dog breed. The AKC describes them as outgoing, friendly, and adaptable, with enough intelligence to quickly learn tricks and obedience.
Because they are so adaptable, they get along well in households that have other pets and children. Better yet, golden retrievers are very loyal. Adopting one guarantees you will have a friend for life. This is why many love mini goldens so much: they offer friendliness and loyalty in half the size.
Cocker Spaniel Temperament
The AKC notes that cocker spaniels are gentle, friendly, and smart. They do well in active families that have the energy to take their pet outside for exercise.
However, there can be temperament issues in some lines of show bred cockers so it is important to meet the cocker parent and ensure that they have the personality you are looking for.
In the UK, the cocker spaniel there are working lines which are very lively dogs and much less placid than a typical golen
The AKC describes poodles as proud, active, and very smart. It is this intelligence that attracts many who desire an obedient dog who can quickly pick up tricks. They are eager to please their owners. The AKC notes that, depending on size, they can be either somewhat shy or very outgoing.
Again meeting the parents will be important to establish whether their personality is one you would want reflected in your pup.
Miniature Golden Retriever Health
Because miniature golden retrievers are not standardized, their health can change from litter to litter.
Breeding a golden retriever with a poodle or a cocker spaniel introduces new health concerns not necessarily associated with goldens into the mix.
In some cases, according to veterinarian Marty Becker, crossbreeds can actually intensify health concerns. It is important to carefully consider whether you are equipped to deal with as yet unknown health problems – or with severe forms of known problems.
Golden Retriever Health
For as happy-go-lucky as they are, golden retrievers still come with health concerns. The AKC lists elbow dysplasia, eye disease, and cardiac disease among the issues for golden retrievers. The Golden Retriever Club of America also notes skin problems and hypothyroidism, as well as cancer, as potential issues.
In fact, a health survey conducted by the Golden Retriever Club of America found that more than 18% of goldens suffer from a form of cancer known as hemangiosarcoma. The AMVA lists lymphoma as the other most common form of cancer in goldens.
Cocker Spaniel Health
The American Kennel Club notes hip dysplasia and eye problems as potential health issues for cocker spaniels.
In addition, according to The Genetic Connection: A Guide To Health Problems in Purebred Dogs by veterinarian Lowell Ackerman, liver issues are common in cocker spaniels. Other potential issues include blood disorders such as Hemophilia B, in which blood cannot properly clot.
As with goldens and cockers, there are some health concerns with every type of poodle as well. Hip dysplasia, common in all dog breeds, are also present in poodles. In addition, many poodles face significant eye problems. According to the AKC, retinal atrophy and cataracts are common.
The Poodle Club of America lists several other issues, such as idiopathic epilepsy, which can cause seizures. Another common issue is von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder. Hormonal issues and bloat are also common.
Toy and miniature poodles face orthopedic problems as well. For example, Legg-Perthes – a bone disease that causes the femur head to decay – is common according to the AKC. Legg-Perthes, Gunnela Ljunggren notes in an article called “Legg-Perthes Disease in the Dog,” published in Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica, only occurs in small breeds.
Mini Golden Retriever Grooming
Poodles are known for their coats, which many owners take great pride in grooming. A miniature golden retriever is not likely to grow quite an elaborate hairstyle, but there is some care involved. The official Comfort Retriever website notes that golden retriever/poodle mixes may have either tightly curled, wavy, or silky smooth coats.
Goldens crossed with cockers, on the other hand, may have long, flowing coats with straight or wavy hair.
Cocker spaniel hair needs regular brushing. But no matter how much you brush, the hair is bound to get everywhere.
Like cockers, mini goldens may have oversized ears, as was the case with the first Comfort Goldens. Veterinarian Ernest Ward notes that cockers, with their floppy ears, are prone to more ear infections than other dogs.
Miniature Golden Retriever Exercise and Training
According to the AKC, goldens, cockers, and poodles all have a similar energy level. Each enjoys being outside and getting plenty of exercise.
They are also easy to train.
Chances are, your miniature golden retriever will inherit these traits. If you are looking for a dog to keep you active, the mini golden may be a good choice – especially if you are willing to put in time to train it.
How to Pick a Miniature Golden Retriever
Due to the unknown nature of designer dog breeds, it is important to be cautious when searching for a mini golden retriever.
Health testing is the number one thing you can do to ensure your happiness with your mini golden retriever puppy.
Veterinarian Marty Becker stresses the importance of health tests, noting that “designer dog breeders who are serious about their crosses perform the same health certification tests as those done by reputable breeders of purebred dogs.”
If you come across a breeder who does not provide a health test, it may be best to walk away.
Health tests will help you verify that a miniature golden retriever is not actually a dwarf golden retriever. In addition, they will help you identify whether the dog’s health problems are more severe than you can handle.
How to Find a Miniature Golden Retriever
The best place to find miniature golden retriever breeders in your area is by looking online. But you do need to be very careful about going through all the right checks when purchasing a puppy this way. Do follow all the steps in our puppy search guide to make sure you get a puppy that has been well-cared for and socialized properly.
Perhaps the most popular breeder is Comfort Retrievers, which crosses poodles with golden retrievers to create the mini golden mix.
Those interested in a mini golden retriever/cocker spaniel mix may have luck with a smaller breeder.
Because mini goldens are still rare, miniature golden retriever rescues are not established in most areas. You may be able to find one at a golden retriever rescue or humane society near you.
Should I Buy A Miniature Golden Retrievers
Given the energy of golden retrievers, cocker spaniels, and poodles, a miniature golden retriever would likely do well with a family that can help it get plenty of exercise.
Each breed is highly trainable, too. Golden retrievers are eager to please, making them receptive to training. A mini golden with a cocker parent might become a great hunting dog. A mini golden with a poodle parent may be extremely intelligent.
While golden retrievers are ideal family pets, the cocker or poodle influence in a mini golden may cause temperament traits less desirable in a family dog.
Overall, mini golden retrievers should go to homes that can accommodate and adjust to fit their dog’s unique needs as they arise.
Health and temperament are very important, so make sure that you meet both parents and that they are both fully tested for any diseases that might relate to their breed.
- ABC News: Are Designer Trends Bad For Dogs?
- Ackerman, Lowell J. The Genetic Connection: A Guide to Health Problems in Purebred Dogs, 2011.
- AKC Dog Breeds
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Foundations Fund Study of Cancer in Golden Retrievers
Golden Retriever Club of America: Health Research
- Ljunggren, Gunnela. “Legg-Perthes Disease in the Dog.” Acta Orthopaedica Scandinavica, 1967.
- P.F. Jezyk. “Constitutional Disorders of the Skeleton in Dogs and cats.” Textbook of Small Animal Orthopaedics, 1985.
- VCA Animal Hospital: Ear Infections in Dogs