Posts Tagged ‘golden retrievers’

Raccoon dogs are an invasive species in Europe.  These golden retrievers take care of business.


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Buddy Davis might be a nice guy, but he promotes lots of ignorance as a creationist musician.

He’s best known for this wonderful song:


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Both of these images come from paintings by Arthur Wardle that were turned into “cigarette card. Cigarette cards were used to stiffen the package, and the cards themselves were collectibles.

1931 cigarette card from John Player & Sons in Nottingham, England.  

1937 cigarette card from the W.D. & H.O. Wills company in Bristol, England.

Both of these dogs are fairly moderate in bone and feathering, and they are also relatively dark in color– which is exactly what we have come to expect from golden retrievers from the 1930’s.

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Half golden retriever/half vizsla:


Here’s a retrizsla puppy at a few months of age with an undocked vizsla puppy of the same age:


Check out the retrizsla website for more info.

I’d like to see this cross with a darker golden retriever.

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Performance-bred golden retrievers at 3 weeks:


Note that at least one of the puppies has a white dash on its head.

It will disappear as the puppy matures.

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Then click here for the answer.

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Here, you can see why all that conformation stuff I talk about isn’t idle chatter.


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ideal golden retriever

It’s called “The ‘Ideal’ Golden Retriever: How Do You Find Such an Animal?” by veteran retriever trainer and dog writer James Spencer. It’s a very good article about what a golden has to have in order to be able to do its work. It has to be birdy, possess a strong retrieving instinct, be able mark or have a very good nose, and be super trainable. My first dog was a terrible marker, but her nose was phenomenal. She was the easiest dog of any breed that I’ve ever trained. She was on about the same level as a border collie. She truly deserved the name “swamp collie.”

And I didn’t realize how lucky I was to have her. I thought they were all like this. She whelped a litter of exceptional working-type puppies, and I thought things could only get better for the golden.

I was wrong.

Spencer actually paints a far bleaker picture than I have previous written about on this blog. He estimates that 85 to 90 percent of all goldens are of the “inferior pet stock” type, which don’t either don’t retrieve, don’t listen, or like to bite.

Now, that’s very bad news for the working-type golden. This situation is further complicated with the fact the breed’s lines are being rather balkanized. The show variety very often isn’t used for field work. In fact, as I’ve mentioned here time and again, it typically has an inefficient body type for doing the work for which it was originally bred.

However, Spencer takes it further. He points out that the agility and obedience lines are literally becoming golden border collies.  Now, I have less complaints about those dogs, because the smaller fast dogs are quite useful and stylish in the field. However, it is easy to confuse their appearance with that  of the Nova Scotia duck-tolling retriever, which I suppose might tick off a few people. However, these dogs are being bred to be super-biddable, which means they could be an asset to anyone wanting an outcross into the working gundog lines.

With such specialized and highly balkanized lines within the breed, finding a suitable working dog is a daunting task. A working golden retriever is actually a very hard dog to find, even though the breed itself is consistently in the top five dogs in AKC registrations.

Spencer feels the only solution to the problem is for the golden to lose some of its popularity. Amen, I say. Too  many numbskulls are breeding these dogs without any attention to how important health and genetic diversity issues are. Further, I don’t think the average pet dog breeder knows how important it is to select for retrieving instinct. People are breeding dogs that don’t retrieve at all. How can you call a dog a retriever, if the only thing it puts in its mouth is kibble?

I really enjoyed this article. It made me feel a lot better, even though it painted a far bleaker picture of the breed than I had previously assessed it. At least it showed that I am not alone in worrying about my beloved breed’s future as a functional working dog.

This issue of Gun Dog is available in newsstands and bookstores now, and you can always subscribe to the publication here.

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Richard Ansdell was a nineteenth century painter who painted lots of portraits of rural life in Scotland and England. In this particular potrait, he is potraying a Scottish game keeper and a brace of gundogs. Ansdell was well-acquainted with country life around Loch Laggan.

They might be setters or unusually colored wavy-coated retrievers. The reason why I think these dogs might be retrievers  is that Ansdell clearly depicted setters in another portrait of a gamekeeper shooting blackcock. The dogs in this other painting are like modern red and white setters and lack the large size and heavier bone of the dogs in the above depiction. Further, the black and white dog shows brindling, something that was often associated with  contemporary wavy-coated retrievers. Of course, setters in Scotland were often heavier than ones bred in Ireland or England and Wales.

Reddish colored wavy-coats were also not unknown at the time. Landseer painted one named “Breeze” in 1843. These dogs were typically culled from retriever breeding programs at the large estates, for this was a time in which the preferred retriever color was black.

Even if these dogs are setters, they closely represent the sort of dogs that the 1st Baron Tweedmouth would have been able to procure in his vicinity. It is from these local dogs that he would be able to breed his peculiar line, one selected for yellow or reddish hair that excelled in retrieving from the grouse moors.

Therefore, this depiction is of real historical significance in trying to understand what the golden’s ancestors were like.

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This dog is being trained using positive reinforcement methods.

From LindsayandLumi. This user has a wikibook on this type of training for retrievers.

This dog is being trained using an e-collar and  positive reinforcement. BTW, e-collars are no worse than the invisible fence collars.

From jwp1002

The former method is still in its experimental stages. The latter is the more common method used and the one that most trainers use.

The dogs are in different stages of training, so don’t let that confuse you.

It is easier to train a retriever to English trial methods using the former method. The Brits believe retrievers are bred and then honed through training. Americans believe that retrievers are bred but then conditioned to retrieve. The Brits believe that the dogs should find every dropped bird on their own with some direction. Americans believe that directed retrieves are the best way. And that’s why our trials are so different. Goldens tend to do better in British trials than their American counterparts do.  A golden won the International Gundog League’s retriever trial in 2006. The last one to do so was in 1982. The last National Field Champion golden in America was in the 1950’s.

Goldens and flat-coats evolved in the English system. That’s one reason why they often show setter-type quartering on their own. That’s very useful if you want a dog to find birds and do casts on its own. The golden is a very under-utilized upland game dog, and contrary to the advice often given, this breed is useful in retrieving form heavy cover. You just have to pluck the thorns, burrs, and beggar ticks out of their coat. But that’s a small sacrifice for using a dog with superior air scenting abilities. During English trials, in which hares, partridges, and pheasants are the game, a dog like this is of some use.

American trials are designed for waterfowl retrievers that sometimes have to retrieve the odd pheasant. The dogs take direction and are handled to their marks to a much larger extent than the British trial dogs are. The goal of the American trial is to test handling skills; the goal of the British trial is to test natural instincts that are honed through training. It’s a very different philosophy.

If we had a separate British trial system in North America, it is likely we would have a few goldens and other minority breeds do well in those. But for the American trial, the Labrador, which has been bred for generation after generation for trials, is the retriever of all retrievers. They are like maze-bright rats that have been bred for generations to run through mazes faster than the others. It is a breed that largely developed for the trials.

For regular gundog work, a dog trained the English way is more than suitable for the task at hand.

I’ve seen positive reinforcement create superb assistance dogs. I don’t see why the methods can’t eventually evolve to suit gundog trainers. It’s just going to take time to develop a system.

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