How Many Puppies Can a Golden Retriever Have?

Zack Keithy, our author, is a certified veterinarian technician (UC Blue Ash) for over 6 years (contact him here). The articles written here are based on his expertise and experience, combined with a review by our expert vet reviewers including Dr M. Tarantino. Learn more about us here.

Golden retrievers are known for being a very friendly, loyal and trustworthy dog breed.

They are also known for their intelligence levels and their wonderful golden coat, so it should come as no wonder that many people want to own a golden retriever and why so many people want to breed theirs.

But what happens when you decide that you want to breed your golden retriever? How many puppies can a golden retriever have?

A Golden Retriever has on average 8 puppies in a litter, and this number typically ranges from 6 to 10 puppies. Their first litter will tend to be smaller and will increase by their third litter. Factors such as the dam’s age and health will influence this.

In this post, we shall look into the numbers a bit more in detail, talk about the factors that can influence litter sizes, and handling a Golden pregnancy.

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How Many Puppies Can a Golden Retriever Have in a single litter

Some Facts and Trivia About Golden Retriever

  • A topcoat and an undercoat are present on the Golden Retriever’s double coat. Its exterior coat is a little bit coarser than its fluffy, velvety undercoat and both of the layers are crucial for protecting the skin from moisture, heat, and cold.
  • Despite their name, Goldens come in a variety of colors. While others are a much duller and muted yellow cream tone, some are a much darker, richer gold color that is almost orange.
  • If you want a serious watchdog, Golden Retrievers are not the best option. Instead of attacking, they are more likely to roll over and throw the ball at the intruder’s feet!
  • In fact, a research that examined more than 30 dog breeds discovered that Goldies were among the six kinds least prone to display aggression. The chances are definitely in your favor, but it doesn’t imply it can’t happen.

How Many Puppies Can a Golden Retriever Have in One Litter?

A Golden Retriever will have on average 8 puppies in a litter, and the range is usually between 6 and 10 puppies.

Litter sizes do go outside of this range from time to time, but should be considered quite uncommon.

That said, a Golden named Giselle gave birth to a record-breaking 17 puppies in one litter in 2010!

That’s the biggest pure Golden Retriever litter I have ever heard of.

The size of a litter can be influenced by the breeding lines; some lines tend to have larger litters than others.

Golden owners who are considering breeding their dogs should talk to a veterinarian or breeder about the size of the anticipated litter.

Many other variables, which I go into more detail about in the sections below, will also affect how many puppies there are in a litter.

How Big Is a Golden Retriever Puppy at Birth?

At birth, a Golden Retriever puppy weighs around 1 pound only, a far cry from the adults we always see!

At this stage, the puppies are incredibly vulnerable to infections and other health problems, so it’s important to take them to a veterinarian as soon as possible for their first round of vaccinations and other treatments.

The breed standard for Golden Retrievers is between 65 to 75 pounds (females tend to be smaller) and the weight can vary slightly depending on genetics, diet, and activity level.

How Many Healthy Litters Can a Golden Retriever Have in Their Lifetime?

All dogs, including Goldens, do not experience menopause and are capable of reproducing up until their death.

Their heat cycle lasts between six and eight months on average, or roughly twice a year.

But just because they can, doesn’t mean they should. They don’t necessarily need to mate twice a year.

Golden retrievers shouldn’t breed more than four to six times during their lifetimes and shouldn’t mate more than once a year.

Overbreeding will put a lot of strain on your dog, which may lead to a number of health problems like heart disease, arthritis, and infertility.

Also, stopping early is necessary in order for it to be spayed and to enjoy a happy life even after retirement.

Add to the fact that there are nations where it is illegal to breed a dog more than four to six times in its lifespan, and you should understand the importance of not overbreeding.

In the US, the American Kennel Club (AKC) does not accept registrations for dams that are bred over the age of 12 and under 8 months, and sires that are over the age of 12 and under 7 months.

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What Determines the Number of Golden Retriever Puppies in a Litter?

In this section, we’ll discuss the key factors that determine the number of Golden puppies in a litter.

1. Age of the dam

Typically, as the dam ages, the size of the litter decreases.

Oddly enough, the first 2 litters are often smaller than the following ones, so once your Golden breeds again after the first two litters, you should likely see your dam having one or two extra puppies.

It’s also crucial to remember that breeding a dog after the age of seven or eight is not advised because it’s too late to have puppies and could result in health problems for both the mother and the puppies.

Have your dog spayed long before then to improve its overall health.

2. Age of the sire

Although less so than the mother, the father of your Retriever’s litter will also have an effect on the size of the litter.

As a dog’s sperm quality starts to decline at the age of 5 to 6, even if the female is very fertile, there may be fewer puppies in each litter.

Breeders often need to use artificial insemination to help with breeding older males, thus it is preferable to only breed when they are younger.

3. Health of the mom

Here’s the caveat: Puppies can only be born healthy if their mother is healthy.

It’s important to monitor a dog’s emotional and physical health prior to pregnancy and to ensure that it gets lots of love, attention, exercise, and cerebral stimulation.

In addition, the amount of puppies in a litter is significantly influenced by nutrition.

All year long, a high-quality, protein-rich food should be fed to maximize the chance of having a larger litter.

Smaller litters are more common in dams with bad diets, especially those who are overweight.

4. Size of dog

Bigger body sizes (in terms of build, not weight) are often associated with larger litter sizes within a particular breed.

With Goldens, their size can vary quite a fair bit even though they are the same breeds, and this can have an effect on how many puppies it can give birth to.

In general, dams that are bigger has a higher chance of having a larger litter.

5. Litter in which mom was born

The level of fertility of your Golden Retriever has a thing or two to do with the litter it was born in.

If she was born into a large litter herself, she will likely have a larger first litter.

On the other side, you may generally anticipate that your girl will have a small first litter if she was born in a small litter herself.

6. Type of breeding

Actually, considering how easily it could get complicated, it might be best to reserve this topic for a subsequent essay.

Just be aware that the method of reproduction can have a big impact on both the quantity and quality of puppies for the time being.

For instance, a litter’s quality could suffer from extreme inbreeding.

In addition to smaller litter numbers, the puppies’ health will be harmed and can result in shorter lifespans and a higher probability of hereditary illnesses.

As the bonds between the dogs get closer, these issues are more likely to arise.

Linebreeding, on the other hand, aims to maintain sufficient genetic diversity while preserving the best genes from a bloodline, making it frequently a safer method of dog breeding.

7. Time of breeding

It is said that a dam is more likely to have a larger litter size the closer she is to ovulation.

This is defined as the period after the estrogen period when the Luteinizing hormone triggers ovulation.

Unfortunately, I have not been able to find any studies supporting this theory, so at this point, I would say this factor is probably not that significant.

At What Age Can You Breed a Golden Retriever?

Although Golden Retrievers can begin reproducing once they reach their first heat cycle, it is not a good idea at all and must be avoided.

A Golden’s first heat cycle typically occurs between 9 and 12 months old, which is way too early for them to start reproducing.

Wait until your dog is at least in her second or third heat cycle to give her enough time to develop sexually and gain weight and size.

Most ethical and responsible breeders will wait till a Golden Retriever is at least 2 years old before breeding them as they would have completed all the necessary medical checks by then.

What Age Do Golden Retrievers Go in Heat?

Most female Golden Retrievers go through their first heat cycle between the ages of 9 and 12 months.

If your girl hasn’t gone through her first heat cycle by the time she is 18 months old, speak with your veterinarian to rule out any underlying medical conditions.

A useful rule of thumb is that it will go into heat at about the same age that its mother did.

How Do You Know if Your Golden Retriever is in Heat?

Numerous symptoms, including bloody discharge, receptivity to male dogs, restless behavior, and others, can indicate that a dog is in heat.

Here’s a breakdown:

  • Excessive licking of the genital area
  • Agitated, anxious, or aggressive behavior
  • Urinating more frequently
  • Holding its tail close to the body
  • Swollen vulva
  • Discharge from the vulva
  • Receptive to male dogs
  • Change in appetite

How Often Do Golden Retrievers Go Into Heat?

How Often Do Golden Retrievers Go Into Heat?

A Golden Retriever will go into heat about once every 6 months, but this can vary depending on each individual dog.

Once your dog has experienced its first two 2 heat cycles, the period between them will be more consistent in time to come.

While some dogs’ cycles could be a little bit longer or shorter than others, you should be keeping track of when they happen.

Consult your veterinarian to determine whether there is anything that could be causing your dog’s variable seasons.

There is often more time between seasons as dogs get older (but can still get pregnant).

How Long Does a Golden Retriever Stay in Heat?

When we refer to a dog as being in heat, we typically mean that it is in the estrus stage of the heat cycle, which is when they actually see “action” with a male dog.

The entire cycle is as follows, and it is during the estrus period when a dog will show all the signs discussed above:

  • Phase 1: Proestrus (~7 to 10 days)
  • Phase 2: Estrus (~5 to 14 days)
  • Phase 3: Diestrus (~10 to 140 days)
  • Phase 4: Anestrus (~6 months)

How to Tell if My Golden Retriever is Pregnant?

Here are the most common signs that your Golden is pregnant:

  • Nipples enlarged
  • Increased hunger
  • Irritability (may have a short temper)
  • Decrease in activity and energy levels
  • Behavioral changes
  • Weight gain
  • Starts nesting
  • Seeks more attention

When you notice all of these happening, and about 25 days have passed since mating, you should bring your girl to the vet for an ultrasound or a blood test to determine if it’s pregnant.

Check out our dog pregnancy calculator to find out when your dog is due!

How Long is a Golden Retriever Pregnant for?

Dogs, no matter the breed, are usually pregnant for 56-64 days, or about 2 months.

There won’t be many, if any, obvious indicators of pregnancy in the first two weeks in your dog as the changes are currently taking place internally within the uterus.

However, your Retriever will soon start to lose hair around the breasts, develop larger, darker nipples, and develop darker nipples at around 3 weeks of pregnancy.

How Do I Know When My Golden Retriever is About to Give Birth?

It is important to be aware that dogs usually give birth around 2 months (56 to 64 days) after getting pregnant so that you can prepare for it.

As the time draws nearer, there will be a number of telltale signs that your dog might be whelping soon.

  • Spending more time in her “nest”
  • Shivering
  • Panting
  • Straining
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Restlessness
  • Vomiting
  • Not eating much
  • Digging and scratching
  • Lethargy
  • Start producing milk

Care Tips for a Pregnant Golden Retriever

There are a number of things you can do to ensure your dog has the best chance of giving birth to healthy puppies.

Maintaining your dog’s health and happiness throughout pregnancy will help them feel comfortable and ensure a pain-free delivery.

Here are a few tips:

Regular checkups

You need to schedule regular checkups with your vet, especially in the last 3 weeks of pregnancy, or if you notice any changes in your dog’s behavior.

This will help make sure that everything is going as it should be during pregnancy and birth.

Balanced diet

During pregnancy, your Golden Retriever really needs to have a balanced diet that is palatable and easily digestible.

This means that she should get plenty of protein (chicken is a good choice), and some fruits and vegetables for vitamins and minerals.

You can also supplement the diet with calcium tablets or other supplements if you want to be extra careful about making sure your dog gets everything she needs during this time.

Quiet environment

If exposed to excessive noise, pregnant dogs—especially those carrying their first litter—may become overly anxious and stressed.

Your Golden needs a peaceful setting where she may unwind, so keep her away from crowded places (absolutely no dog parks! ), loud noises, and any potential animal companions.

Make sure your other dogs aren’t being too noisy or active around your pregnant dog if you have any in the house.


While pregnant dogs shouldn’t engage in strenuous exercise, they can still benefit from affection, moderate play, and regular short walks.

They shouldn’t be overstimulated, it’s true, but you also shouldn’t let her become too inactive as this can soon lead to health problems.

I would suggest allowing your dog up to two walks per day, lasting no longer than 15 minutes each.

A pregnant dog must be kept away from other dogs and animals during the final three weeks of pregnancy; therefore, allow her to get some light exercise inside during this time rather than taking her outside.

Should You Breed a Golden Retriever?

This is a personal choice that you’ll have to make after carefully considering all the factors involved.

If your dog is a show quality purebred, then you might want to consider breeding her so that she can pass on her good genes and produce puppies of equal quality.

However, if she’s not registered with a kennel club or if she’s cross breed, then it may be best to leave the breeding up to professional breeders who have experience in this area.

Breeding a dog is a serious undertaking, and it should never be done without careful thought.

While dogs bred with clear health histories can be considered, you should never breed your dog unless she has been cleared through testing.

On top of all the necessary expenses, you’ll need to provide them with plenty of space in which to run around outside as well as inside play areas such as dog crates or pens.

They also need a lot of attention from their owners, so if you work all day this may not be the ideal breed for you.

The bottom line is: Breeding a dog is not as simple as it sounds.

There are many factors to be considered, such as your dog’s age and health, whether she has been tested for genetic defects, whether she will make good parents, and so on.

Unless you are experienced with breeding dogs or have sought professional advice, it may not be a good idea to breed your Golden Retriever.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the most puppies a Golden Retriever has had?

In 2010, a purebred Golden Retriever named Giselle gave birth to a litter of 17 puppies in Winnipeg, Canada, tying the most ever recorded. If you consider crossbreeds, a Golden Retriever sire fathered 16 puppies with a German Shepherd dam in 2021.

How many times a Golden Retriever can get pregnant?

In theory, a Golden Retriever can get pregnant from their first heat cycle onwards, and give birth about twice a year. This can go on till they are old as they do not experience menopause. However, it is ill-advised to breed a dog so often and it should stop by the time they are 7 or 8 years old.

Can a Golden Retriever only have one puppy?

As a medium to large dog breed, it is highly unlikely for a Golden Retriever to have only one puppy. In most cases, they will have at least 4 puppies in a litter, and singletons are exceedingly rare.

Can brother and sister golden retrievers breed?

Yes, brother and sister Golden Retrievers can have babies, and this is a form of dog inbreeding. However, this is considered bad practice as dogs that are so close genetically will have a higher risk of long-term health complications.

In Conclusion: How Many Puppies Can a Golden Retriever Have?

I’ve covered a lot of ground here, so hopefully, you feel more knowledgeable about the size of Golden Retriever litters and what influences them.

If you’re not sure whether you should breed them, think about adopting one from a shelter or rescue group instead.

There are lots of them that really need our help, home, and love.

Check out the litter sizes of other dog breeds here.

You’ve made it to the end, but I hope it’s not the end of our journey. We want to hear your voice! Share your thoughts, problems, suggestions, or anything related to your dog in the comments section. And don’t forget to join our newsletter today too.

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Zack Keithy
Zack Keithy

Hey, I'm Zack, the Chief Editor here. I was formerly a Certified Veterinary Technician (CVT) for a good 6 years before moving on to greener pastures. Right now, I am still heavily involved in dog parenting duties, and it is my desire to share all our knowledge with fellow dog owners out there! Connect with me on LinkedIn, or read more about Canine Care Central!

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