Is a Field Golden Retriever Right For You?

Pet Type


June 1, 2020

So you’ve decided that you want a Golden retriever. That’s awesome! But which kind should you get? Many people aren’t even aware that there are different kinds of Golden retrievers, and there are some specific differences between them worth noting.

In this article, we will explain the differences between the most common “show” type of retriever (the conformation retriever), and the field retriever. Along with cosmetic differences, there are also some behavioral characteristics to consider when making a decision.

With these details in-hand, you’ll be able to make an informed decision about which kind of Golden retriever is best for you. Let’s get started!

What Exactly is a Field Golden Retriever, Anyway?

Besides stating the obvious, a field Golden retriever (simply called a “field retriever”), is a specific type of Golden retriever that is bred for the field. A mix of a yellow retriever, Tweed Water spaniel, Irish setter, and Bloodhound, Golden retrievers excel at hunting, fishing, swimming, and enjoy a more active lifestyle. This is actually where the term “retriever” in the breed’s name comes from, as they are skilled at retrieving hunted prey in the field. These types of retrievers have an innate desire to “fetch” or retrieve things, as you might imagine. This is what makes them so perfect for fieldwork, such as hunting and fishing.

As for temperament, a field retriever is naturally slightly more aggressive with a rougher style of play. This does not preclude them from being good house breeds or family dogs, though. Their more aggressive tendencies will just mean that Field Goldens may need a bit longer to adjust to life at home. Of course, each individual dog is different even within the same breed, so your personal experience may vary. 

Aesthetic Differences between Show and Field Golden Retrievers

Along with the character trait differences, show Goldens and field Goldens also differ in appearance. Field retrievers usually have a darker shade of gold coloring to their coat, and their fur will also be shorter. 

  • Field Goldens Are Best in Their Field 

This difference in coat and fur serves a practical purpose. Conformation retrievers are bred for show and benefit from a longer, more striking golden coat, which impresses judges, whereas a field retriever’s shorter fur and darker coat aid in its hunting skills. This is one of the easiest ways to distinguish between the breed types.

On a conformation retriever, the inner coat is filled-out with mostly fur from puppyhood, while the outer coat will be long and gives the adult conformation retriever its distinctly brilliant golden appearance.

In contrast, a field retriever typically has a short coat of fur, usually in a darker shade of gold than its show-bred cousin. Keeping an eye out for these differences will make it easier to spot a field retriever when the lineage is unknown. 

  • A Lean Hunting Machine

Another physical difference is the overall size of the dog itself. A field retriever is more compact and lean than a conformation retriever. This gives field retrievers their prowess in running and general athleticism out in nature.

Combined with the aforementioned shorter, less weighty coat, and a compact body with lean musculature, it’s easy to see why the field retriever is such a great working dog. Intelligent, nimble, and eager, the field Golden retriever lives up to the purpose for which they were bred all those years ago: to be the perfect hunter’s companion.

Considerations for a Field Golden in the Home

Clearly, the field Golden retriever is a great dog to take on a hunting trip, but what about in the home? We’ve mentioned briefly about how a field Golden can actually be a decent house dog, with a few caveats. Now we will take a deeper look into what you need to know before bringing a hunting dog into a home environment. 

  • They Prefer Play Over Pressing Play

Field retrievers have a higher-base energy level than show retrievers. Field Golden retrievers like to move a lot. They enjoy running and playing, and will just as soon join you for a swim as they will for a jog down the street. This is especially true for field retriever puppies. However, their energy level doesn’t drop much even into adulthood.

This is not meant to be a discouragement, but just to make you aware of this particular breed’s characteristics. If your idea of fun is binge-watching your favorite show on Netflix, you may be better off with a conformation Golden instead of a field. A typical field retriever will be more inclined to jump on your lap and play rather than to curl up next to you and relax.

That isn’t to say that field retrievers can’t sit on a couch and enjoy your favorite movie with you. But that’s not their first instinct. It’s a type of behavior that they will need to learn over time. They are more likely to play fetch with a DVD instead of watching it! 

  • They Work Hard and Play Harder 

Going right along with their higher energy levels, this is something to keep in mind, especially with small children. Field retrievers tend to play a bit rough and have a natural proclivity to bite things. This comes from their breeding. They were bred to retrieve prey, so grabbing things with their mouth is second nature for them.

In a home environment with small children around, you must take this into consideration. Playtime must be supervised, at least at the start, so you can train the dog not to instinctively bite during play. Your dog can learn this, but it will take time.

It is easier for a field retriever to learn appropriate non-biting behavior when they’re still a puppy rather than an adult dog. During puppyhood, you want to teach them not to bite if that is your goal. While a puppy bite may tickle or be slightly annoying, an adult retriever’s bite is much more serious! 

  • Shorter Coat Means Shorter Cleanup 

On a more positive note, because a field retriever has a shorter coat, they will shed less than a regular conformation retriever. And while all types of Golden retrievers shed, less is usually better – especially for people with allergies.

Besides the bonus of not having to vacuum pet fur as much, the shorter coat length of field retrievers also means easier maintenance and grooming. It may even be easier to spot injuries and skin irritations since there won’t be so much fur obscuring the view.

Is a Field Golden in Your Field of View?

Field Golden retrievers are unique bundles of furry energy. They are a special breed for a specific purpose. Full of drive and ambition, there isn’t a dog better suited to the task. It is literally what they were made for.

If you live an active life and want a companion ready to tackle the outdoors with you, then a field retriever is your perfect pet match. You will have a loyal partner ready to go on any outdoor adventure with you.

On the other hand, if you live a quiet life, or have young ones to look after, then a field Golden may not be suited for your home. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, but these general guidelines should help you decide if a field Golden retriever fits your lifestyle.