Can Golden Retrievers Have Short Hair? Here’s The How & Why

Golden Retrievers are very special for many reasons, but the two main ones that everyone knows about is that golden retrievers are extremely friendly, and that they have an incredible golden coat that really sets them apart from all other dogs.

This coat is long, silky, and golden, so some people are really surprised when they find goldens with shorter hair.

So, what does this mean? Are they goldens, labs, or other breeds?

In other words; can golden retrievers have short hair? Golden Retrievers can’t have short hair, but some golden retrievers can have shorter hair than their counterparts, but their hair is never so short that you mistake them for a Labrador retriever after they’re 2 or 3 years old which is when they grow their mature coats.

This is basically the short answer in a nutshell, but, as with almost any thing in the world, there is actually a ton more to it. To understand more about why some golden retrievers have shorter hair than others and what to do if that’s the case with your dog, then keep reading, I think you will find it pretty interesting.

Golden Retrievers and Short Hair

Golden retriever laying in leaves to illustrate how can golden retrievers have short hair

As discussed earlier, golden retrievers can have short hair but not so short that you mistake them for labrador retrievers or other short haired dogs.

This leads us straight to the first question we should discuss, which is what exactly controls and determines the characteristics of your golden retriever’s hair length?

What controls the length of golden retriever hair?

Your golden retriever’s long hair is caused by a recessive genetic mutation in the FGF5 Gene which controls the hair cycle and determines how long the hair can grow before this gene tells it to stop.

There are other factors that determine your golden retriever’s hair length and perceived hair length, which are:

  • Age
  • Nutrition
  • Health Condition
  • Weather
  • Grooming Mistakes

Let’s discuss each of these factors quite quickly and see how they can play a role in the length of your dog’s coat.


Golden Retrievers don’t fully grow their mature coats until they’re around two years old, which means that your golden retriever could simply be still growing their coats. It is also worth

The process always starts with the goldens growing their feathers from the tail and then the long hair starts gradually growing over their bodies starting from the tail – which are the feathers mentioned earlier – and moving up towards the head.

Most goldens can start growing their feathers around 3 months of age, but some can start growing them a bit later.

It’s worth noting though that some goldens do not fully grow their coats until they are 3 years old, and that females and males grow at slightly different paces which is something you can learn more about in our male vs female golden retrievers comparison here.


Nutrition can play a huge role in the overall health and condition of your golden retriever’s coat. Foods that are rich in fatty acids such as Omega-3 and Omega-6 can help their coats be in better condition which means that their hair follicles will be stronger and can grow longer hairs.

I recommend you take a look at my list of recommended golden retriever foods for all ages here.

Health Condition

Certain health conditions can damage your golden retriever’s coat and if these hit the dog at a young age, they may, in some rare conditions, cause permanent damage to their coat.

Some health conditions may also cause the dog to lose hair, and you can learn why some golden retrievers lose hair in clumps here. This kind of hair loss can cause you to perceive their hair as shorter than it should be or used to while in fact there are just fewer hairs than there should be due to hair loss.


The weather can play a huge role in the health of your golden retriever’s coat. For example, if you live in an area that’s too hot or too dry, the dry air will cause their skin to get dry which will cause their hair to get dry and fall out.

Again, this kind of hair fall will lead to perceived shorter hair while it’s just less hair in the same area that’s causing you to think the hair is shorter than it should be, while in fact it’s just fewer than it should.

If you live in an area like that, you should definitely check out the ways how to help your golden retriever cope with hot weather here.

Grooming Mistakes

Some terrible grooming mistakes that new dog owners make can cause irreversible damage to golden retriever’s coats. The worst one, and the most common, is shaving golden retrievers.

Shaving golden retrievers can cause permanent damage to their coats and their coats may never grow back in the same way and it often grows back shorter and rougher than it was.

You can learn all the reasons why shaving your golden is a terrible idea here, but in short; you should never shave your golden retriever unless for a medical necessity, and it must be done by a professional.

Do All Golden Retrievers have long hair?

Yes, basically all golden retrievers have long hair when compared with the average coat lengths of other dog breeds. However, field golden retrievers have shorter hair than show goldens. Some Goldens can have different hair lengths depending on genetics, grooming, nutrition, health, and age.

This is because all goldens are basically the same breed, and one of the very main things that determine whether the dog is a golden retriever or not is the coat length, so they can’t have coats that are as short as labradors, for example, because then they would be considered a whole other breed.

Can Purebred Golden Retrievers have short hair?

Yes, some purebred golden retrievers can have shorter hair than the average golden retriever but they can’t have hair as short as labs. Genetics is the most important factor in a dog’s hair growth, but it’s not the only one, and so purebred goldens can have shorter hair, but it’s rare.

People think that purebred golden retrievers always have the longest hair, and while this is certainly what the shops and breeders might want you to think, it’s simple not true.

There are very many factors that can control the length of a golden retriever’s coat, and while goldens technically can not have short hair, some purebred golden retrievers can have shorter hair than some other goldens that don’t have the “purebred” badge.

However, before you decide whether or not your golden retriever has shorter hair because of nutrition or something else, you may want to check the line of your dog for yourself.

You can do this in two ways; asking the breeder for the documents of the dog’s parents and checking their lineage yourself, and doing a DNA test.

I really recommend doing both to be absolutely sure. You can even get a home DNA test from Amazon. The Best Dog DNA test kit you can find online is the one from the Wisdom Panel, and it’s super practical and very affordable for what it offers.

You can check the Wisdom Panel’s DNA test kit on Amazon here or by clicking on the image above.

Which Variations of Golden Retrievers have shorter hair?

Golden Retrievers that come from a line of hunting and working dogs – also referred to as field golden retrievers – often have shorter hair than goldens that come from a line of show golden retrievers. That’s because show dogs are bred with long-haired goldens to produce longer-haired goldens.

It’s important to understand here that golden retrievers are only one breed and don’t have main variations of the breed that have distinctly shorter hair such as with German Shepherds, for example.

However, with time, goldens have slightly split into two groups; working and show dogs. Working dogs were bred for purposes other than how they look, while show dogs were bred for their appearances, which explains how and why they have longer coats than their working counterparts.

By the way, the huge popularity of golden retrievers is actually the reason why so many goldens have slightly deviated from the breed’s official standards which is one of the reasons why golden retrievers don’t win shows, and you can learn all the reasons why golden retrievers don’t win dog shows here, I think you will find it a very interesting read.

When do golden retrievers get their full coats?

Golden Retrievers usually get their full coats when they are around two years old, but some goldens don’t fully grow their mature coats until they are three years old. Goldens start growing their longer adult coats around the age of three months old.

You really don’t need to worry about their full coats until they are two to three years old, and you just need to patient and stop comparing your golden retriever puppy to other puppies.

Similar to children, puppies don’t reach the same milestones at exactly the same ages, and slight variations are very normal. If you want peace of mind, you can discuss it more with your vet and have them check out your dog.

Breeds that can be confused for Short-haired golden retrievers

There are three other dog breeds that people often confuse with golden retrievers;

  • Labradors
  • Flat-Coated Retriever
  • Curly Coated Retriever
  • Chesapeake Bay Retriever

Let’s take a very quick look at each of these:


labrador retriever

The only real difference in appearance between labrador retrievers and golden retriever is the coat. Labradors have shorter coats than golden retrievers.

In fact, the majority of people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a labrador retriever puppy and a golden retriever puppy since goldens don’t start growing their distinctive coats until they’re three months old or more.

Flat-Coated Retriever

Flat-coated retriever

Flat coated retrievers look very similar to golden retrievers except in one major way; they have black coats. You would think that the black coats would be enough to set them apart, but some people think of flat-coated retrievers as black golden retrievers.

Golden Retrievers can have some black hairs on their coats, but they can never have full black coats, just in case this wasn’t very clear.

You should also know that it’s normal for your golden’s fur to get darker with age, and you can learn why goldens get darker fur as they grow older here.

Curly Coated Retriever

curly-coated retriever

Curly coated retrievers look physically similar to golden retrievers but you can tell the two breeds apart not only by the color of the coat but also by the nature of the coat.

While Goldens have silky-smooth hair, curly coated retrievers have a mane made of tight curls so their coat looks much rougher than goldens’.

Curly-coated retrievers can have brown, black, or even silver coats and they can reproduce with golden retrievers and the resulting dogs often have even curlier hair than their parents.

Chesapeake Bay Retriever

This breed looks physically more like a labrador than a golden retriever but are still sometimes mistaken for golden retrievers. They have a brown, slightly red, or even red-gold-ish coats which is why some people confuse them with golden retrievers.

The Chesapeake Bay Retriever has shorter, more wavy coats than golden retrievers. A Golden-Chesapeake bay mix will have a long but wavy coat.


Golden Retrievers can’t have shorter hair, but some golden retrievers can have hair that’s shorter than the average hair length of the breed, and it can be cause by one or more of the following factors; genetics, grooming routines and mistakes, nutrition, weather, health condition, or age.

Having a slightly shorter or slightly longer hair than the average for the breed doesn’t mean much, and it definitely shouldn’t have any weight regarding any decisions you take regarding your dog.

Goldens, whatever coat length they have, are still easily the sweetest dog breed in the world and the companionship of a golden retriever is one of the most amazing things you can experience because they will truly show you what unconditional love is all about.

Related Questions

At What Age do golden retrievers get long hair?

Golden Retrievers start growing their long hair around 3 months old and can have their full-length mature coat by the age of two to three years old. Keeping a good and consistent grooming routine can play a big difference in the health of your golden’s coat especially when they’re young.

Do Labs shed more than Golden Retrievers?

No, Golden Retrievers shed more than Labs and they also have longer hair so even if they shed the same amount of hair, it still looks a lot more than the labrador’s. Labradors still shed and they also have double coats like Golden Retrievers, but Goldens require more grooming.

At the end of the day, both dogs shed profusely and significantly more than the average dog, and you should be ready to handle their shedding all-year-round. You can learn 17 ways to manage your golden retriever’s shedding here, It’s a small guide that I think you will find pretty useful, actually.

Why are golden retrievers hair curly or wavy?

Golden Retrievers can have wavy or curly hair due to their genetics. Golden Retrievers can have either straight or wavy hair and both exist in their breed standards according to the AKC which means both are acceptable for the breed.

I have made a post that covers the curly and wavy hair of golden retrievers along with some solutions that can help, so make sure to check out the post on curly or wavy golden retrievers here.

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Hey there, I'm Matt, the author behind With a deep love for dogs and a dedication to strengthening the bond between owners and their retrievers, I've created a hub of resources for enthusiasts like you. Through engaging articles, training guides, and product reviews, I aim to provide practical advice that makes a real difference in your life as a dog owner. Whether you're a seasoned pro or new to the world of retrievers, my approachable and informative writing style ensures that you'll find valuable insights. Join me on this incredible journey of discovering what makes retrievers tick, unlocking their potential, and creating an unbreakable bond with your furry companion. Let's embark on an adventure of dog ownership together. Thank you for visiting and being part of our vibrant community.

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