Posts Tagged ‘"British white retriever’

Here is the current range in color for goldens in the UK and FCI lines (these dogs are from Germany):

The dog on the right is more typical of the color one sees in the pet and conformation lines. The dog on the left is actually gold in color, but these dogs make up the minority of the population of KC and FCI dogs.

So I guess they would be better off calling their dogs “cream retrievers.”

However, in the 1930’s, this was the original color range:

The 1938 standard revision allowed cream, and cream-colored dogs became very popular within a period of 25-30 years. Currently, very dark dogs are almost nonexistent outside of North America, and virtually all goldens in Europe, especially in the show lines, are fairly pale in color.

Every once in a while, I get someone who make the claim that all the Guisachan dogs were cream. Not true, actually. They were gold, and some of the later dogs in the strain were fairly dark, though not as dark as those two 1930’s dogs in the image above.


The first image of those German dogs comes from one of the better golden retriever books, Valerie Foss’s The Ultimate Golden Retriever.

I found it on a breeder site while perusing Google Images. I recognized it instantly.

The book actually discusses the different types of golden. I was particularly enchanted with some of UK field-type dogs. They resemble our field-types almost exactly. One cannot say the same about field-type Labradors, which have diverged into distinct types on both sides of the Herring Pond.


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This is the first conformation champion in the golden retriever breed, Ch. Noranby Campfire (b. 1912) :

Check out BOB Crufts 2002.

And check out this stud dog that is producing European show line goldens in the US. He is of Swedish lines. He’s not anything like Noranby Campfire at all. Not even close.


They both have feathering, drop-ears, and brown eyes. Both are e/e’s  and likely BB or Bb in terms of color and genotype.

They are both large dogs.

But that’s where the similarities stop.

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Here’s a video of a European show golden with a Show Gundog Working Certificate.

Now, that all sounds good.

But then I looked up what a Show Gundog Working Certificate actually was.

The KC awards a Show Championship, but no gun dog can be a full champion unless it passes this working test. Originally, they had to be run in actual trials, but now, they get to do the sort of amateur behavior. These certificates are given at trials or a special show gun dog working certificate test.

The retrieving behavior tested during this test is pretty much remaining steady to a line and retrieving a dummy from the land and the water. It is the same as the true trial dogs. However, these dogs aren’t expected to beat the performance bred dogs, which they would have a very hard time doing. Instead, they are looking for a modicum of instinct that has been polished through some training. These tests are a wonderful way of getting more dogs in trials, so that the actual performance-bred dogs can clobber them. Brilliant move.

It does take  a lot of training to keep a dog in a line. That really is impressive. The fact that these dogs have enough retrieving instinct to be trained to do this work at this novice level is amazing. But it doesn’t disprove a very simple truth: Performance bred dogs are better at this work than these dogs are. You might find some dogs in the European show-lines that really can do the work. These dogs should be bred from. We need dogs with retrieving instinct to be bred. However, it doesn’t change the fact that their bodies are built incorrectly to really do the work. It also doesn’t change the fact that the very light colors are the result of fad breeding, which started around 1960. The original colors were light gold to mahogany. Some of the early dogs were light golds with cream shadings (like my dog), but none were so pale as to be mistaken for white.

The fact that this dog’s owner says it’s so hard for a show golden in the UK to make the grade here is an admission of what I know and what most serious retriever people know. The European show golden is not the best example of a working dog.

While they were breeding for light color, bone, and blockiness, they forgot to also breed for biddability and drive. And that’s why I’m very wary of these lines. The vast majority of these dogs are not selected for their retrieving instinct, and even if they have it, they may not be properly built to really do working gun dog work.

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How can we say that kennel clubs have preserved golden retrievers, when they once looked like these dogs:

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. You'll never see a dog like her in the British show ring for goldens today.

The second dog from the right is Ch. Noranby Diana. You'll never see a dog like her in the British show ring for goldens today.

Now look like this:

European-type golden retriever.

European-type golden retriever.

Or this? :


American show golden.

The answer is dog shows and kennel clubs are not about preserving breeds. Some breed clubs, like the one for the flat-coated retriever in this country, are very concerned about making sure their dogs still have functional conformation and don’t have wide swings and divergences from the original functional type.

In the show-ring, the golden shifted from being a functional retriever to being an art piece. These dogs are an accumulation of silly standard revisions and the accumulation of  “fancy points” in the breed.

Someone in Britain started breeding the very light colors. I still have yet to find who that was. In the 1936 standard revision for the KC, the golden received a two inch height reduction at the shoulder– 20 1/2 inches– and the color was changed to allow cream. My guess is the original intent was the allow for cream shadings on a light gold dog.

However, that’s not how judges interpreted it, and by the late 1950’s, very light colored dogs began to appear in the bloodline. These dogs were also quite heavily built, which one would expect from a standard that had a height reduction and no adjustment for weight.

In North America, the breed ring began to favor dogs with lots of feathering. As late as ten years ago, most American goldens had functional conformation, except that they had too much feathering. All I have to do to explain the golden’s need for a reduction in feathering are the words of the great retriever man James Lamb Free when he said the golden swimming with that much hair was “like [a person] going swimming in a coonskin coat.”

Now you can still find goldens that are built nicely and resemble the old type.


But now, most people think such a dog is a “setter-golden mix” or a “puppy mill” golden. Why? Because goldens are supposed to be “red.”

The truth is they are all “red,” even the palest “white” ones. The gene that makes that coloration is the recessive red to yellow color (e/e). The darkest dogs on that spectrum are mahogany, and Irish setters are that color, too.


The only problem with these “old-fashioned” or “working-bred” dogs is that they don’t have much genetic diversity. Try to find a golden from these lines that doesn’t have this dog in its pedigree:  AFC Holway Barty.

Barty is the Wiston Cap of working golden retrievers in this country.

It is very hard to find a border collie of trial stock in any part of the world that doesn’t have Wiston Cap in its pedigree. He and Barty were what we would call most-used sires.

With goldens, it is a bit better. However, most European working lines are also partially derived from Holway dogs, so you have real problem in trying to increase genetic diversity.

Because of this problem, some breeders, like this one in Sweden, are crossing with the “fancy” dogs. Her F1 cross with these dogs produces puppies with rather difficult to predict working characteristics. She calls these her “lost generation.” (BTW, she is a bit wrong about calling the show dogs the “old-fashioned” type. The “old fashioned” type is working type.)

So here is the problem with working golden retrievers: we have a narrow gene pool but to broaden it we have to breed away from the original, more athletic type to include dogs that are slower on both the land and the water and very often don’t have retrieving instinct.

And that’s why I say the golden retriever is very much in trouble.

I wish we could go back to the dogs that lived 15 years, retrieved from land and water as well as any Lab, and never thought of biting anyone. But in order to go back to that time, we are going to have to some reform of our canine institutions. And the breed is going to have to lose some of its popularity so it can be rehabilitated.

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This dog comes from Ingrid0804’s Photostream.

This dog, as you can see from the other photos, has some retrieving instinct and an althetic frame. This dog is quite atypical of the “white” goldens I see in the US, and the “white” goldens I saw in Hyde Park.

Such dogs should not be ignored from a performance line breeding program. Indeed, they could be a source of new blood that these lines desperately need.

I go by a simple adage: no good dog is of a bad color.

I’m not opposed to “white” dogs because they are “white.” I’m opposed to them because they are usually built so coarsely that they lumber around like bears and they are too mellow to get excited about anything. But a “white” dog that is smart and active and healthy is a really good asset to a breeding program, every bit as much as the reds and mahoganies and those with white markings that also have that good conformation and drive.

Those of you who usually read this blog may be a bit surprised that I wrote such a post, but it’s what I think. When I’m talking about “white” goldens, I’m talking about “white” goldens that don’t have the drive or conformation to do anything but lie around.

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This early light-colored dog from the 1950's or 1960's is still darker than the legions of "white" dogs that swarm European lines.

This early light-colored dog from the 1950's or 1960's is still darker than the legions of "white" dogs that swarm European lines today.

In North America, our lines of golden have largely been immune to what I call the “‘white’ dog craze” that has already rocked Europe. Our show dogs were a bit heavy in the bone and heavy in the coat, but they largely weren’t coarsely built dogs that lumber around like bears.

Those days have changed.

All you have to do is go on youtube and type into the search function “white golden retriever,” and a plethora of European show-style golden breeders have videos on there. I don’t mind promoting you dogs online, but I wonder if these breeders are doing health checks and screening of their stock?

Never mind that European show goldens can’t work as long or as well a field type. Never mind that possessive aggression appears to be heritary in these lines. (A recent episode of the Dog Whisper had one with that issue. Although I don’t much like the show, this dog was the first golden I’ve ever seen snarl.) Never mind that the breed’s founders, including the 1st Baron Tweedmouth, always bred for darker dogs. Mrs. Charlesworth, although a proponent of the Russian circus dog hoax, refused to breed any dogs that were very pale in color. And in her day, they weren’t “white.” They were light golden dogs with some cream shadings.

Of course, none of this matters to people who want to sell you a dog for exorbitant profits. They tell you that the dogs are much calmer than the American and certainly more so than the field types. Then they quote the KC (of the UK) standard, which doesn’t allow for dark dogs (however, that standard is not the standard we use here.) Then they claim, although somewhat correctly, that the first litter that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth bred from Nous and Belle were creams. They were creams or really light golds, but they weren’t “white.” And it’s pretty obvious that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth did try to darken up his dogs quite a bit by adding “red setter” (probably Irish) blood to his strain.

Breeding “rare white goldens” that are “calm” is not really a breeding strategy for the best dogs. It is breeding for a market.  A market that is highly susceptible to fads. In fact, it is based on nothing more than fads. We want “white goldens.” Why? Because Oprah has some!

My advice is not to refuse to buy a light colored dog, but if it lacks working conformation or refuses to work itself. Don’t buy it. Do  you really want a white furry rug that lies around the house all day?

If you do, then really don’t want a golden retriever. You just want the idea of having a golden retriever. And you really don’t need one. There are plenty of very low energy nonworking breeds that you can buy. Plus, there are lots of good mongrels that have those characteristics.

Those little “Knut” polar bear golden puppies might be really cute, but this is what they mature into. A dog that lies around all the time, and when it does move, it’s really slow. Generally, their lumbering gait gets slower by age 5 and, by 10, they don’t want to move much at all. It’s nice if you want a dog to just lie around all day. It’s not very nice if you want a real golden retriever.

In British trials, you do see some of these light lumbering dogs around, but their field lines are very much like ours. Check this out, if you’d like to see it in practice. The dog in the top picture is the only European show type dog doing anything. And I’m sure that after about an hour of hard work, it will be down and out, exhausted or in pain.

Read this before you comment.

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