I have never understood certain fads in purebred dogs, especially in dogs with which I have a great deal of familiarity.
I’ve never understood why breeders think it’s cool to breed retrievers that don’t retrieve. I also never understood why you would have a breed called a golden retriever and then do everything in your power to breed the golden color out of it. Hey, I’m not a dog show person.
I’m also not into fad pet dogs.
So I’ve never understood why I see golden retriever and Labrador dogs offered for stud in the local paper described as possessing the following assets:
1. Big dog (100 plus pounds)
2. Blocky head
3. Heavy bone
Not a single one of those is functional to a working retriever. Very blocky headed dogs often lack muzzle depth to hold a bird properly (That’s one reason why the Newfoundland dog is no longer used as a retriever.) A big dog can overheat far faster than a smaller one, and dogs with lots of excessive bone aren’t agile or efficient movers.
I’m coming to the conclusion that the average pet retriever owner would like to have a dog that looks like a bear, rather than a functional working dog.
Of course, that’s okay.
However, it means that I have to sort through lots of dogs with this type in order to find a decent working dog. It also means that the lines that have a more natural head and body are going to be little less genetically diverse.
So while the “bear goldens” are cute (and they certainly are as puppies), they really aren’t exactly what is needed in a working dog.
Now, my ideal dog isn’t cute. It’s rustic and functional. It looks a bit like it belongs on in Edwardian shooting scene or on a ranch in Montana or the Dakotas. It’s a good natured dog, but it’s entirely without exaggeration.
If you want a dog that really looks like this, it exists. It’s a very trainable and good natured breed– in fact, it’s from that same root stock. It’s called the Newfoundland. You can also go for Leonberger, if you want one with tawny coat. (Of course, Leonbergers and FCI Landseers are closer to retrievers in their builds).
But in a working retriever, you really don’t need a dog with a bear’s conformation. All you have to do is watch a Newfoundland dog swim, and you’ll see why.
I have nothing against Newfoundland dogs. It’s just that, as a retriever person, I find that they lack speed and style in the water. They remind me of a big heavy draft dog that incidentally has water dog ancestry. And that’s probably what they are. A good retriever can swim circles around a Newfoundland, but in a weight pull, I’d definitely put the Newfoundland on top.
Because Newfoundlands are in a different breed group than retrievers, comparisons between the two aren’t given enough attention. The truth is I find them really interesting. They descend from almost exactly the same stock, but they have evolved in such different ways. The bear-like conformation probably works for the Newfoundland, although I suspect that water dog trial purists prefer FCI Landseers or Leonbergers. That conformation definitely doesn’t work for the retrievers, for you want more style and speed in the water.