Home » Blog » Breeds » What Is A Red Golden Retriever?

What Is A Red Golden Retriever?

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

If you are looking for a golden retriever as a new pet, you are not alone. They are the fourth most popular dog breed in the United States (as of the year 2020).

Perhaps in your search for the perfect pup to adopt, you have come across the red golden retriever.

Often just called a red retriever, these are a natural variation within the golden retriever family, but with a striking dark red coat.

There are a few other things that set a red retriever dog apart from a more traditional golden retriever, such as size and coat, but when it comes to finding an intelligent, trainable, loyal, and friendly pet, a red-haired golden retriever is just as wonderful as the lighter golden retriever pups that you are probably more familiar with.

dark coated golden retriever looking up at the camera.

Read on for everything you need to know about these dark-red golden retrievers.

What Is A Red Golden Retriever?

A red golden retriever is a natural variation within the golden retriever breed but with a darker coat than most golden retrievers. With a distinctive red hue, the coat is described as mahogany.

Officially, there are only three colors of golden retriever: golden, light golden, and dark golden. The red retriever falls into the last of these categories but stands out because of the clearly red hue.

For this reason, red retrievers are considered abnormalities and therefore ineligible to participate in dog shows.

Unlike other golden retrievers, whose coats have a tendency to lighten or darken as they age, a red golden retriever will retain its mahogany hair color throughout its life (though you may notice a few gray hairs).

They have the same dark brown or black nose, eyes, lips, and nails as the majority of golden retrievers.

Just like other goldens, their nose and other features can have a tendency to lighten to a pink color in cold temperatures or when they don’t get enough sunlight. This is a natural fading of the pigment common to goldens.

This red coloring is a natural genetic variation within the golden retriever breed. However, the genes that give this color are recessive, and therefore it is also a relatively rare color to see.

OUR EXPERIENCE: Over our lifetime we’ve had three different shades of Golden. Our family Golden Retriever, Kiko was darker and probably would have been considered a Red Retriever. Our second Golden Retriever, Raven was almost white in color often referred to as an English cream golden retriever, platinum retriever, or white retriever. Finally, our lil’ Tank was right in the middle of the color chart and was a lighter shade of gold.

Breed History

Golden retrievers were bred as gun dogs in the Scottish Highlands in the mid-19th century when wildfowl hunting was a very popular sport.

The Scottish elite did not think their existing retriever breeds were quite right for the task of retrieving the fowl.

Improved weapons meant that the retrieving dogs needed to range further to collect game, and they had to be able to retrieve the game from both land and water, as the hunting grounds were pocketed with marsh ponds and rivers.

The man primarily responsible for developing the breed was the 1st Baron Tweedmouth, Dudley Marjoribanks, who had a grand estate near Glen Affric in Scotland.

The breed is a mix of a Tweed water spaniel (now extinct), Irish setter, and bloodhound, which was developed over a period of about 50 years.

Golden retrievers were first accepted by the Kennel Club in 1903 and then exhibited in 1908. They became officially recognized as the breed they are today in 1911.

It took another 14 years for the dog to become recognized in the United States, having been taken there by the sons of Dudley Marjoribanks, after which the breed quickly became popular.

The mahogany coat variation that we see from red retrievers from the Irish setter, also known as a red setter, in which mahogany is a common color.

Differences Between Golden Retrievers And Red Golden Retrievers

While the main difference between standard golden retrievers and red golden retrievers is their color, there are a few other differences to be aware of.

However, it is worth noting that these differences don’t stem from the same genetic markers that cause red retrievers to have their mahogany color.

Rather, red retrievers tend to come from hunting lines, while many other goldens are bred to be pets, service dogs, or show dogs. As a result, different characteristics have become dominant.

Red retrievers tend to be slightly smaller and lighter in weight than other goldens.

Male red retrievers will weigh at the lower end of the 65 to 75-pound range that is standard for golden retrievers and will be 22-23 inches tall, while standard goldens often grow an extra inch or two.

Female red retrievers will again be at the lower end of the 55- to 65-pound range that is standard for golden retrievers, and tend to be 20 to 21 inches tall, while standard goldens may be an inch taller.

They tend to have a more streamlined and athletic build than other goldens and have a little bit more energy, so need a bit of extra exercise.

This makes red retrievers the smallest of the golden retriever breed.

Their coat is also a little bit different in texture. Like all goldens, they have a short undercoat and a longer outer coat, which allows them to retain heat in cold temperatures.

The overcoat of goldens is feathery around the ears, front of the neck, and underbelly. This is part of the reason why they are prolific shedders. 

However, the outer coats of red retrievers are a little bit shorter, which means they shed a little bit less and need a little bit less grooming. However, they are still heavy shedders compared to many dog breeds.

All retrievers need to be groomed at least once a week to keep their coats under control.


Aside from having a bit more energy, and therefore enjoying longer and more intense exercise than other goldens, red retrievers have the amazingly friendly and sociable temperament of goldens that makes them excellent household pets.

Red goldens are very intelligent, which means they are easy to train and also have the intelligence and sensitivity to figure out what is required from them without being specifically told.

This is one of the reasons that golden retrievers make great work dogs and are often used in roles like disability assistance.

Goldens are also very food-motivated. This contributes to their trainability, as they will do anything for a tasty treat, but it also means they can have a tendency toward gaining weight if their diet is not correctly monitored.

They bond with humans very easily, which makes them great family pets. But it also means they need to be part of the family. They need to stay inside with the family unit, and cannot be left alone for hours on end without suffering from separation anxiety.

They are great with kids, other dogs, and even strangers, so they aren’t great guard dogs. While they are quite large, they don’t tend to be clumsy, and they have a soft mouth that allows them to pick things up without biting. This means there are rarely accidents at home with children.

They need at least an hour of exercise per day, and lots of mental stimulation. Otherwise, they are intelligent enough to get into a lot of mischief.

One way to curb a golden’s destructive streak is with puzzle toys, which this breed tends to enjoy. Some of our favorite options are listed below.

Health Issues

Red retrievers share the average life expectancy of golden retrievers, which is around 10 to 12 years.

Sadly, they are also prone to all the same medical conditions that can afflict golden retrievers in later life.

Numerous different cancers are common among goldens. 

So are joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and hock osteochondrosis. This can severely limit the movement of goldens in their later years, which can make it challenging for them to get the exercise they need.

It can also make sleeping become a problem, as the joints sit painfully against surfaces. An orthopedic dog bed will usually be required for senior goldens.

You can find more tips for caring for senior dogs here.

Golden retrievers, including red retrievers, are also predisposed toward eye problems including progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts.

Other common issues include subaortic stenosis, which is an obstruction of the heart ventricle, myasthenia gravis, which is a muscular fatigue disease, and hypothyroidism, which can result in hormonal imbalances.


The only reason you might want to avoid getting a red retriever is if you are looking for a show dog.

According to American Kennel Club guidelines, darker red colors are excluded from the ring. Even if they are allowed to compete, they are likely to lose significant points as a result of their color.

This is because dogs must be considered an “example of the breed” in order to take part in the show. Because the red color variation is not considered standard, it is treated as outside the standard of the breed and therefore ineligible to show.

Dogs are also prevented from participating in shows if they have been spayed or neutered. Tail docking and ear cropping also considered surgical alterations to the appearance of a dog, are also banned in some shows, but the rule is not universal.


If you are buying a golden retriever puppy from a breeder, you can expect to pay a minimum of $1,000 to get your hands on one of these amazing pups.

However, because red retrievers are much rarer and therefore difficult to come by, you can expect to pay upwards of $3,000+ to make one a member of the family.

UPDATE: While the $1,000 – $3,000 price tag is a fairly common range when buying a Golden Retriever puppy. At the time of this update, we are in the middle of the COVID-19 Pandemic and prices for puppies are soaring. While researching Golden Retriever puppies we’ve seen the following pricing from reputable breeders $3,500, $4,000, and $4,300.

You may also be able to find red retrievers who don’t have a home in retriever shelters. You will find a comprehensive list of golden retriever rescues by state listed here.

Considering the size and appetite of red retrievers, you should expect this type of dog to cost you around $1,000 a year including food and medical bills.

The bill in the first couple of years might be higher, at around $1,500, to cover additional medical needs such as vaccinations and spaying or neutering.

Adopting A Red Retriever

If you are considering adopting a red retriever, there are a few important questions you should ask yourself to ensure that you are ready for the responsibility:

  • Am I ready to take on the responsibility of a dog for the next 10 to 12 years? This is the average life expectancy of a golden retriever.
  • Can I afford to pay for the food, medical care, and other expenses associated with a dog for the next decade? Bear in mind that golden retrievers are relatively large dogs and so eat quite a bit. You should expect to spend at least $1,000 per year caring for your dog.
  • Can you commit to giving a red retriever the exercise it needs? That means a minimum of 45 to 90 minutes per day, and perhaps more on weekends if possible.
  • Do you have enough time to give a golden retriever the attention it needs? They are not the type of dog that can be left alone for 10 hours a day every day while you are at work.
  • Do you have people who can look after your dog when you are traveling or in the case of other extenuating circumstances? This could be friends or family, or access to and budget for a local dog care facility.
  • Does anyone in your household have a problem with dog hair? Goldens shed a lot, and therefore are not appropriate if anyone in your house has allergies. Regular cleaning will be required to keep the house relatively hair-free, and there will need to be a level of tolerance for at least some dog hair around the home.


What Is A Red Retriever?

Red retrievers are golden retrievers with a mahogany coat, as opposed to the more traditional golden coat. This occurs as a natural genetic variation; however, the mahogany-colored genes are recessive, so it is a relatively rare color.

As a result, red retriever puppies tend to be more expensive than other golden puppies. They can be excluded by the American Kennel Club from show competitions.

How Much Do Red Golden Retrievers Cost?

While a standard golden retriever puppy from a reputable breeder should cost around $1,000 due to the relative rarity of red retrievers, you should expect to pay significantly more, perhaps around $3,000 for a new puppy.

What Is The Difference Between A Red Retriever And A Golden Retriever?

The main difference between a red retriever and a golden retriever is coat color. While golden retrievers have a gold-colored coat, red retrievers have a deep mahogany color. 

There are a few other common differences between red and golden retrievers.

Red retrievers tend to be a little smaller, a little more energetic, therefore require more exercise, and have a slightly shorter coat.

This means they shed a little less than golden retrievers, but still much more than many other breeds.

What Are The Three Types Of Golden Retrievers?

The three different types of golden retrievers are known as English, American, and Canadian. The difference between the three variations is very subtle.

English goldens tend to have a stockier build than the other two types, and Canadian goldens tend to have the thinnest coats of the lot.

English golden retrievers also tend to be lighter in color and can have a practically white coat. However, the red retriever variation exists within all three types of golden retrievers.

What Are The Different Colors Of Golden Retrievers?

The three different golden retriever colors recognized by the American Kennel Club are golden, light golden, and dark golden. Red retrievers can be considered among the dark golden variation. 

However, they stand out due to the red hues in their coat, which means they are called red or mahogany instead of dark golden.

It is this variation that causes red goldens to be excluded from participating in shows, as it is defined as an abnormal variation of the golden retriever breed.

Are Red Golden Retrievers Rare?

The gene that makes golden retrievers red is recessive, which means that it manifests relatively rarely. As a result, it is hard to come across a red retriever pup. For this reason, you can expect to pay three times as much to buy a red retriever than a more common golden pup.

The Verdict

With the distinctively mahogany coat, red retrievers are a natural but relatively rare variation within the golden retriever breed.

Aside from their distinctive color, they are pretty much just like all golden retrievers.

That means intelligent, friendly, and loyal.

However, prepare yourself for an energetic pup that needs a lot of exercise and attention. But they will pay you back in spades with their love and affection.

How about you? Do you have a red Golden Retriever?

Have you owned different colored Goldens? If so, did you notice any differences?

Tell us about your experiences in the comment section below.

Save To Pinterest

dark coated golden retriever looking up at the camera.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Beef Collagen Sticks - All of our pups love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Collagen Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.