Tom Quinn’s The Working Retrievers.
It is not merely a retriever training manual. It is really a wonderful piece of nature and dog writing, coupled with lots of helpful advice on how to perfect a retriever’s instincts.
I don’t know whether I will follow all of his recommendations. I’m not a very good physical trainer. Plus, my breed is one that can be totally ruined if you go too far. My first and best dog could never have survived a force-breaking session. But she never refused a retrieve in her life and always returned to hand.
But whether I follow all of his advice or not, it is wonderful writing, and the paintings and photographs are superb.
I particularly like the anecdotes that add so much to the work. I particularly liked story about how the author and his brother once retrieved their own ducks from the water, before they finally realize that a dog might be a lot better at it. They come in contact with the concept of a retriever, when their hunting grounds are squatted upon. These hunters come camouflaged with fancy waterproof boots, and when they are done shooting, they have a red gun dog to pick up for them. I wonder if the “Irish setter” the author and his brother see retrieving ducks for these camouflaged hunters was actually a very dark golden retriever.
This book explains to me why the Lab is the “retriever’s retriever,” as the author puts it. Labs are extremely tough. They don’t have setter or spaniel-type bird dog instincts, but they do take direction well, even if harsher methods are used.
Goldens, even if they have a lot of drive and instinct, are often harder to develop using these methods. Goldens are smart dogs, but they were designed to retrieve shot grouse that fell in the dense tangles of heather. They have superb air scenting abilities and are good markers. However, they are very hard to regiment. They might do better at a more English-style trial than an American one, for they are really good at finding game. They just aren’t good at finding game as a regimented retriever. So not only do you have to find a golden with instinct, you have to have one that has instinct and can handle the actual “breaking” process.
The Working Retrievers is really good piece of writing that explains the author’s relationship to these wonderful dogs and to their use as working dogs. It is about the dogs as dogs and nature as nature. It is also about developing the natural talents of these dogs and turning them into retrieving maestros.