The dog’s name is “Laddie,” and to be honest with you, if I had the time to really give a true working strain retriever the life it deserves, I would be looking for one very similar to him. He’s lightly built and lightly feathered, and he’s biddable and full of drive. He’s got lots of style and is very eager to take direction. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s of my favorite shade of red gold.
Laddie is being trained somewhat unconventionally for a working retriver (at least in North America). His owner maintains a blog about Laddie’s progress as he trains him, as well as that of another working golden named “Lumi.”
I still think the way we trial and test retrievers leads to an under-utilization of the breed’s talents. They are very good at finding marks that have fallen in heavy cover, and they naturally quarter in long casts like a setter or spaniel. They are superior upland game dog, and probably wouldn’t do poorly at a British battue. And while you can train one as a Labrador or a Chesapeake, their real talents lie elsewhere.
Of course, there is no other gun dog breed that has so consistently produced dogs that have competed at the highest levels of obedience and other dog sports as the golden. That’s actually why I got started in them. Their reputation as being very intelligent and easily trained dogs got me interested in them as a boy, and the first one I got was no disappointment.
But as time has progressed, mass-production breeding, backyard breeding, and fad breeding have led to a great deal of degradation in golden retrievers. This degradation has been exacerbated with a narrowing of the breed’s gene pool through the extensive use of just a few sires. This narrowing gene pool has then been even more stratified as the breed has split into show and working strains.
Because of all of these factors, you now really have to hunt for a good one. It’s not as difficult as finding a working Sussex spaniel, but it’s much harder than finding a good Labrador or Chesapeake.
So my heart is with the working golden, and my hope is that it can be preserved with a sustainable gene pool. Otherwise, these dogs will follow the St. John’s water dog or the Tweed water spaniel into extinction.