Why Does My Golden Retriever Have A Pointed Head? [Explained!]

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So, you’re wondering, “Why Does My Golden Retriever Have A Pointed Head?”

You’re not alone.

This question gets asked all the time by new Golden Retriever owners.

You’ve probably taken notice of your pup’s rather pointy head, or probably felt a large bump on the top of his skull, after petting him.

Naturally, this has you wondering, or maybe even concerned about whether or not a pointed head is normal.

Well, rest assured, because we are going to answer this commonly asked question in detail.

Why Does My Golden Retriever Have A Pointed Head?

Your Golden Retriever has a pointed head because of a bone called the occiput. This bone protects your dog’s skull and brain and connects to the spine. It is present in all dogs but is more noticeable in certain breeds, such as Golden Retrievers. Also referred to as a smart bump or knowledge bump, the occiput can be very prominent in puppies and will remain roughly the same size in adulthood.

1. Pronounced Occiput

Why Does My Golden Retriever Have A Pointed Head - A Golden Retriever with a pronounced occiput laying on sandy ground.

The bump on the top of your Golden Retriever’s head is called the occiput. A Latin word meaning back of the skull.

This bump is more pronounced in some dogs, making their heads look pointy.

Almost all mammals, including humans, have an occiput, as well as our beloved canine companions.

The occiput (also known as the occipital bone), is a normal part of your Golden Retriever’s anatomy and serves to protect his skull and brain.

It is the only part of the skull that connects to your dog’s neck and provides a passage for the spinal cord.

Not only does it protect your pup from any head accidents or skull crush, but it is directly associated with nerves and muscles.

A dog’s occiput is a focal point in canine therapeutic massage because it contains several nerve endings. Massaging stimulates calming effects associated with your dog’s fight or flight system.

2. A Pointed Head Is Normal In A Growing Puppy

Five Golden Retriever puppies sitting next to each other.  All five puppies are looking off to the left, one has its tongue sticking out.

Golden Retriever puppies go through many changes as they grow. One such change could be a pointed head.

A pronounced occiput is common in a growing puppy, and this bump on your puppy’s head tends to be more visible while he is still growing.

Once your pup’s head starts to fill out, the bump usually becomes less noticeable, and your pup’s head starts to look less pointy.

However, in some Golden’s the pronounced occiput remains roughly the same size.

RELATED ===> When Do Golden Retrievers Mature?

3. Certain Breeds Are Prone To Pointy Heads

We’ve already established that the occiput is a part of the skull that is present in all dogs. But, it is more noticeable in certain breeds.

Breeds that have a visible bump on their heads making them look pointy include:

  • Bloodhounds
  • Boxers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • English Setters
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Spaniels
  • Pointers

A prominent occiput can also be seen in dogs with long noses such as Collies and Dobermans.

Even Disney gave Pluto a prominent occiput, he is a Bloodhound after all!

Disney's Pluto character standing and waving.

Does My Golden Retriever’s Pointed Head Indicate A Health Issue?

As we’ve established, the occiput is a normal part of your Golden Retriever’s anatomy. It is natural and needed for protection.

A pronounced occiput that gives your dog his pointy head, is usually not a cause for concern, especially in growing puppies.

Changes in the occiput should not be drastic. This means that once your pup is finished growing, his occiput should not become larger.

It is possible that because it sticks out, the occiput could get bumped and bruised, which makes it appear larger due to swelling.

If you notice any changes in size or appearance of the occiput, it may indicate a health issue that requires your vet’s attention.

Muscle Atrophy and Masticatory Muscle Myositis are two health issues that can make your dog’s occiput more pronounced.

Muscle Atrophy

Muscle Atrophy is the wasting away of your dog’s muscles and happens as a result of aging, illness or reduced activity.

While it often occurs in the rear legs, it can appear anywhere in your dog’s body.

Masticatory Muscle Myositis (MMM)

MMM is an immune system disorder that affects the muscles of your dog’s jaw, and those responsible for chewing (mastication).

This condition causes your dog’s immune system to identify muscle tissue as foreign and attack it.

One of the first signs of MMM is swelling of the muscles on the top of the head, which can make the occiput appear larger.

As the condition gets worse, swelling of the facial muscles occurs, including the eyes and jaw.

This swelling is followed by muscle wasting (muscle loss), which causes your dog severe pain and difficulty in opening his mouth.

MMM can occur in all dog breeds, as well as in males or females. The average age is 3 years, however, there have been cases in dogs as young as 4 months old.

Unfortunately, MMM is more likely to occur in certain breeds, many of which also have pronounced occiputs:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Rottweilers
  • German Shepherds
  • Doberman Pinschers
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniels

While swelling of the face and head, as well as difficulty opening the mouth, are clear signs, a blood test or a muscle biopsy will provide an official diagnosis.

If diagnosed early, the prognosis for MMM is good.

Bone Or Skin Lump?

Noticing a large bump on the top of your dog’s head can be worrisome, especially if you don’t know what it is.

There’s an easy way to differentiate a skin lump from a bone that is meant to be there.

If the bump is hard and doesn’t move around, it is a bone that is part of your dog’s skull.

A skin lump will move around a little when you touch it.

If the bump happens to be a skin growth, your vet will be able to diagnose it.

Many skin lumps turn out to be non-cancerous, however, there are some that are malignant (cancerous).

Therefore a visit to the vet is your best chance of ruling out cancer or being able to catch it early and treating it.

The following are some common skin growths that may appear on your dog’s head:


These are small growths that can be found on your dog’s head, ears and legs.

More common in younger dogs, these bumps usually go away on their own and are generally always non-cancerous.

Sebaceous Cysts

These pimple-like bumps usually develop on the head, but can also appear on the back of your Golden Retriever.

They form when the glands become clogged with dirt, oil and debris, and appear as a single raised bump that is white or slightly blue.

A sebaceous cyst can rupture or pop just like a human pimple. They are benign and usually don’t require any medical attention.

Skin Squamous Cell Carcinoma

This is the most common form of skin cancer and typically affects older dogs.

Appears as raised wart-like patches or lumps that are firm to the touch.

It is most often found on the head, lower legs, rear, and abdomen.

RELATED ===> Why Do Golden Retrievers Get Cancer?

Does A Pointed Head Mean My Golden Retriever Is Super Smart?

A young Golden Retriever pup standing and looking at you.

Before hearing the actual term for it, you’ve probably heard the occiput being called a knowledge bump, smart bump, or brain bump.

Back in the day, before science discovered the true purpose of an occiput (for protection), many people believed that the large bump on the skull meant their dog was super smart.

This belief seemed even more possible because dog breeds that are intelligent such as Golden Retrievers, and Labrador Retrievers, have larger occiputs.

As cute as the story is, unfortunately, it is a myth!

There is no scientific evidence that indicates a pointed head refers to intelligence.

Another common myth that has been floating around was the thought that a larger occiput meant the dog had a greater sense of smell.

This myth came about because Bloodhounds have large occiputs, and they have a very keen sense of smell. But, again there is no scientific evidence to back this up.

A pointed head simply means your Golden Retriever has a different skull structure.

Final Thoughts

As we have learned, the reason why your Golden Retriever has a pointed head is because of a bone called the occiput.

This bone is part of your dog’s skull that connects to his spine. Its main purpose is to protect your dog’s skull and brain.

More than likely, you have heard of this large bump being referred to as a knowledge bump or smart bump.

But, having a large bump doesn’t make your Golden Retriever any smarter, it’s just an old wives tale.

No matter how prominent your Golden’s occiput is, you should always be aware of any changes in appearance or size.

An occiput only grows at the same rate as the skull, which is why it is more noticeable in puppies.

An occiput that gets larger in an adult Golden Retriever may indicate certain health issues. It is best to consult your vet if you notice any changes.

Does your Golden Retriever have a pointed head? Have you noticed any changes in your Golden Retriever’s occiput?

Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you!

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2 thoughts on “Why Does My Golden Retriever Have A Pointed Head? [Explained!]”

  1. Aww, I do love dogs and the Golden Retriever is such a lovely-natured breed. Until reading your article, I’ve never really noticed that their heads are pointed. Certainly not enough to have me think about the reason why.

    It’s good to know of the different breeds that do have a pointed head and know that it is very normal. As puppies, their shaped heads are more noticeable and once they grow bigger, it blends into the rest of their build.

    Interesting to read the myths surrounding shaped heads too and good that you have highlighted the changes that many owners should look out for if the bone changes shape or size.

    • Hi Louise,

      Yes, many Golden Retrievers have a rather noticeable bump on the top of their head that makes their head look pointy.

      I must admit, that before writing this article, I never really noticed the bump (occiput) on my Golden Retriever’s head either.  It isn’t very large, but it is there.  Plus, until writing this article, I have only heard of the term “knowledge bump”, and had never really given it much thought.  I guess I learned something too, LOL!

      As with any lumps or bumps on your dog, it is always best to monitor them and consult your vet to get a diagnosis.  

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.



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