Why Has My Golden Retriever Got Short LegsWhy Has My Golden Retriever Got Short Legs

Why Has My Golden Retriever Got Short Legs?

Last Updated: August 20, 2023
correct answerThe Short Answer is:

There are a number of reasons why they have short legs- some of them are so that their noses can be closer to the ground, but others are so they can only run fast enough to be hunted on foot or on horseback. Their short legs enabled them to follow their prey into small holes and thick undergrowth. Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers and “burrowers.”

In this article you will know the answer to the query “Why Has My Golden Retriever Got Short Legs?“.

Do you worry about your Golden Retrievers short legs? Its not just you.

Why Has My Golden Retriever Got Short LegsWhy Has My Golden Retriever Got Short Legs

There are a lot of images of short-legged Golden Retrievers when you type “Golden Retriever short legs” into Google. It seems like it might be a growing trend or a cause for concern for dog owners.

The British Kennel Clubs biggest concerns for the breed are short legs and being overweight. 

I’ll talk more about that later.

Listen up if you’re worried about whether your Golden Retrievers legs are too short.

Alternatively if you suspect that your Goldie might have been crossed with a basset hound then this is the post for you. 

My two Goldens have just measured their front legs and the distance from elbow to tips of their toes measures about 13″!

I have never been concerned about the length of their legs. 

Its not just their length of legs that worries me constantly but other things about them.

Golden Retrievers come in all shapes and sizes

There is no such thing as a clone of a golden retriever. 

I will go into more detail about the “breed standards” in a bit which are descriptions from national kennel clubs that describe what a perfect specimen should look like and what variations are allowed. 

Nonetheless here is a photo of my three beautiful goldies who are all related- grandmother mother and daughter. Despite this you can see that they are somewhat different in height and build.

Golden Retriever breed standards

If you feel that the legs on your Goldie are too short why is this and does it matter?

Check out these three situations where it does matter.

1. AKC Registered Puppies

Your Golden Retriever puppy was registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and you thought this would assure its Hollywood-like looks and proportions.  

It does not unfortunately. 

There is an important piece missing from this puzzle: AKC registration.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) and its registrations and certificates are often seen as the gold standard when it comes to any breed but thats simply not the case.

Although in an ideal world it should be the fact that it is only a registration service and not a verification service leaves it open to abuse.

It is almost certain that you will not be able to get your money back if you feel disappointed and let down.

A pedigree Golden Retriever puppy costs around £1000 in the UK and up to $2000 in the US. 

In the future you should not recommend these breeders to friends or family who may be considering getting a Golden Retriever. 

As far as the look of your dog is concerned I believe it is far less important than its state of health unless you want to enter the world of dog shows. 

I want to briefly explain what I believe are the most important factors to finding an outstanding breeder before I continue.

My opinion is only mine. 

It is essential to find a reputable breeder who is also AKC registered. 

Who is reputable in your opinion? In my opinion they are:

  1. The breeders have experience (and they can prove it).
  2. AKC registered
  3. The dame and sire have received the necessary health checks.

Here is a list of all the health checks that Golden Retrievers involved in breeding have to undergo.

  1. Exceptional care is given to the dame and her puppies. They are well-cared for and provided with plenty of space. 

2. Short legs as a point of concern

Breeders of pedigree Golden Retrievers have a tendency to breed them with shorter legs. In light of the working origins of the breed (which I discuss in a later section) this makes no sense.

Why is this happening and how do I know its true?

In order to prove that this is happening with Golden Retrievers the (British) Kennel Club has made it a point of concern since 2014.

There is a duty of care owed to all breeds of pedigree dogs by the Kennel Club. It is crucial that these breeds are protected so that future generations can continue to enjoy them. 

A program called “breed watch” is ongoing for every breed and Golden Retrievers have two issues to watch out for. Both overweight and short-legged dogs are causes for concern.  

The early warning system is designed primarily for use by judges at pedigree dog shows.

It is important to note that Golden Retrievers are not the only ones who have concerns. 

There is no clear reason why pedigree Golden Retrievers would deliberately be bred to have shorter legs but the reason might lie in the fact that most of them are no longer active.

Due to the way they move around the show ring dogs with short legs have an advantage in the dog show world. 

In his book about Golden Retrievers Jeffrey Pepper mentions that shorter legs require a faster movement and that some people may like the faster movement of their legs and feet resulting from shorter legs. 

Have their legs been bred to be shorter in order to be more attractive in the show ring?

Above you can see a video of a golden retriever trotting around a show ring. How long do you think their legs are? Would a short leg lead to a better trotting movement?

3. Osteochondrodysplasia

Last but not least if your golden retriever has shorter than average legs they probably have osteochondrodysplasia.

Dogs with this condition have shorter legs than they normally should but still have a normal-sized body.

Thus many dogs who suffer from this condition experience a great deal of pain.

Therefore if your Golden has shorter than average legs and seems to consistently move awkwardly or in pain schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.

The Three Breeds of Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers come in three distinct breeds and there are slight differences between each breed.

Golden Retriever breeds include the following three:

The length of the legs of each of these breeds might be related to one of the differences between them. Golden retrievers come in three varieties.

It is stated in both the American and Canadian breed standards that a male should measure 23- 24″ from the top of the shoulder blades to their paws while for a female this measure should be between 2112-2112.

There is a slight difference in height measurements for the British variety (trust us) with males standing between 22- 24″ at the withers and females between 20-22″.

What do we mean by short legs?

However I cannot find any reference in any of these breed standards that would suggest an acceptable sense of proportion between for example the length of Goldies leg and the depth of their chest. 

Legs are only viewed as short or long according to their proportion to the rest of the body.

This is strange since the breed standard states that the chest width between the two front legs should be at least as wide as a mans closed hand.

A Golden Retriever should be slightly longer than its height at the withers (from breastbone to buttock): a ratio of 12:11 is ideal. 

My guess is that one important aspect of determining proportion can be gauged by the weight of a dog and the guidelines here state that an adult dog should weigh 65- 75 lbs (29 kg- 34 kg) while a female should weigh 55- 65 lbs (25kg- 29 kg).

English vs Canadian vs American Golden Retrievers

Observing some of the forums and other information it appears that the most significant differences between these three breeds are color and head size.

Golden retrievers in the United Kingdom are typically paler and have a larger more sturdy head than their North American counterparts.

However it seems that an American Golden Retriever should be slightly taller and longer. 

The Origins of Short Legged Dogs

Breeds of dogs with short legs are typically bred for a very specific purpose- where having short legs is highly advantageous.

Do you know that about 300 years ago the gene that causes dogs to have short legs first mutated?

It causes overproduction of a protein that inhibits leg growth as a result of the gene

Among the dog breeds with short legs are Basset Hounds and Dachshunds.

The Bassett Hound has a keen sense of smell (second only to the Bloodhound) and was bred for hunting hares. 

There are a number of reasons why they have short legs- some of them are so that their noses can be closer to the ground but others are so they can only run fast enough to be hunted on foot or on horseback. 

Their short legs enabled them to follow their prey into small holes and thick undergrowth. Dachshunds were bred to hunt badgers and “burrowers.”

Why would Golden Retriever be bred to have shorter legs?

Legs that are too short make no sense for Golden Retrievers that work.

Although I do not want to go into too much detail about the origins of Golden Retrievers they were bred to retrieve birds from the water and land.

Dogs with “long” legs must be very agile and athletic to meet both of these requirements. 

What good is a dog whose job is to retrieve if it cannot do so in a reasonable amount of time? 

Since guns became more sophisticated in the early 20th century gunmen were able to kill birds without having to get so close to them so Golden Retrievers were bred to cover large distances as well. 

Consequently too many birds were being lost because existing retrievers could not retrieve from these greater distances. 

What are some breeds of short-legged dogs that can run for hours on end?

The ability to swim in the second key quality. Can you name a breed of dog with stubby legs that like to swim or is capable of swimming? What about Basset Hounds or French Bulldogs?

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