Golden retriever colors: How many shades are there?

I recently got into a little debate with my partner on how many golden retriever colors there actually are. There are so many that I have seen but whether they are legitimately recognized is a whole different story. Today I’m going to share what I found after digging around as to whether there are many different colors or just the 3 that most of us are already familiar with.


The shocking part was that of the arguments put forward my partner was right, let’s dig into what we found out and whether you agree with the data we came across.


Different colors of a golden retriever

Golden retrievers are usually within a limited spectrum.  They come in three main shades of what is classified as gold. These colors range from cream, light golden to gold. Whilst there are many variations in tone for golden retriever colors. There are actually only a very few different colors that they are born in.

I was shocked to find that only 3 colors are officially recognized by the AKC. Which of course meant my husband was right! Either way, I was able to pick up some valuable information about the differences and why they are only recognized in the 3 shades. Heres what I found…

What’s the difference in colors?

From researching online, I came across many different variations of each color for the golden retriever. Whilst the colors might appear different to the naked eye, unfortunately, they’re not yet recognized by the pet official governing bodies.

I was curious to find out some more information, so I continued digging to see if behavior or temperament could be subject to the difference based on the 3 different colors of a golden retriever.

Are color and behavior related?

After getting really stuck into my research I was able to find that there are no differences in a golden retrievers behavior based on the color of their coat. Go figure! But it still didn’t answer the question as to why there are different colors of this breed in the first place.

Put your brain cap on, as in the next section I go through the science-based info that I came across as to why you can get different shades of dog. Keep reading to find out!


Why are there different colored golden retrievers?

This was really interesting when we looked into this further. Now I say this because we found a very generic answer to the question we were looking for. Not only did this apply for a Golden Retriever,  but it also applied to dogs in general. So the reason why you will find different dogs with different variations in tone.

Is purely based on the genetics of the dog’s parents. Now I know this is quite the obvious of what we would assume. But the interesting part is that it’s all and probability of pigmentation. Pigmentation is just what determines the tone of a dog’s fur. Just like we have human complexions. Now although there are many different shades and tones of our four-legged friends. 

There are actually only 2 basic pigments that determine the color of puppies. Those two pigments are black and red. Which are two forms of melanin? The craziest part about it is after we read that. I turned around and asked my husband how we get dogs with a white fur coat? Well, of course, he didn’t know,  so that sent us off on another adventure to find out. Here’s what I found…

The science behind the color of dogs

I am far from Einstein but I definitely know how to pull together some basic research. Which is what I am going to share with you here. The color of a white fur golden retriever is simply when the cells do not produce any or a lot of pigment.

To put this in the best way I can. The two different pigments that we mentioned earlier are by default black, and yellow. When a dog is white in fur this is because the genes of the dog controlled the second melanin by the name of Phaeomelanin which determines the color. So the genes control how strong or how weak the Phaeomelanin which sill the determine the color.

This is absolutely crazy,  so that means even when we get white dogs the initial default color of the fur was black & yellow.


Different color of coats explained

This is purely based on the Gene of the dog that alters the pigment to create different colors. The genes of the dog essentially dilute the pigmentation of the black color to create others. I know it’s absolutely crazy! The interesting part is after finding out all of that information.

I and my husband then set out to also find how humans tones are determined by scientific factors.  But that’s not for me to discuss here as that will be for a whole different blog. In the next part though we do discuss how you can determine the color of a golden retriever.  keep reading to find out….

Predicting the color of a coat

Now there is a scientific answer to this question again. But I do science! So to sum it up in layman term.  Here’s what I found. Simply taking the tone of the mother and the father you can get an idea of the town a puppy will be by the naked eye.

But take it with a pinch of salt as there is no exact way to determine the color of a Golden Retriever puppy. This is all based on probability so you can have a kind of guesstimate on how probable the tone of the puppy will be. What about shedding? Is that affected by color?

Can color determine the amount of shedding?

Shedding is not usually a part of the color. However, shedding is usually based on the breed of the dog. So whatever the standard rate of a certain breed sheds at,  is what you can expect to see in a dog of the same breed. Now if we’re talking about golden retrievers, then you can always expect to see a lot of shedding regardless.

Especially in the spring and fall.  You can try to reduce the amount of loose hair that sheds by simply brushing their coat down daily. However, from living with a golden retriever.  I have gathered that the hair is just something you will have to get used to.

Length of coat

The length of a golden retrievers coat is purely determined by genetics. So, if the mother and father are both long-haired dogs then you can expect to find the puppies of those parents to belong here this well. This is all based again on probability as there is no cement way of predicting exactly how long the hair of a golden retriever will be.


In the grand scheme of things, there are only two factors that mainly play a part in a golden retrievers color of the coat. There is no definite answer to exactly what the Golden Retriever colors will be.  It’s more based on probability in thinking that there is a higher chance of a certain color based on the jeans.

Genes are determined by two different types of melanin that determine the color of the coat. To this day there is no evidence to support the fact that melanin can be used to determine behavior, length of hair or shedding.

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Rachael Summers

Rachael Summers

Rachael Summers is the Founder and Senior Editor at Dig Doggy. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! Rachael also loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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Rachael Summers

Rachael Summers

Rachael Summers is the Founder and Senior Editor at Dig Doggy. She is a lifelong canine enthusiast and adores dogs of all shapes and sizes! Rachael also loves iced coffee, hammocks, and puppy-cuddling!

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