Posts Tagged ‘golden retrievers’

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.

Read Full Post »


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.

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »

From AllenFilm

These dogs are mountain curs, but feists are also widely used.

You could see the utility of using a golden retriever when the squirrel is shot.

Mountain curs are multi-purpose hound-type dogs that have lots of other things in them, including terrier and Native American dogs. This was once the landrace farm dog in West Virginia, and I think they ought to be West Virginia’s state dog.

The feists are a terrier-type dog. The rat terrier is either a feist or a close relative (It depends upon who you ask). They are not like Jack Russells. They are generally game dogs, but not so game that they’ll go to ground and get their faces torn to bits fighting game (which you have to control for  if you’re using an earth dog.) Generally, a pack of feists won’t easily engage in interdog combat in the way that Jack Russells do. That’s why if you have three Jack Russells in the same room, you’d better watch them like a hawk.

Now, those are the two common breeds used as squirrel dogs. Where I grew up, squirrel hunters used Norwegian elkhounds (my grandpa’s favorite dogs), collie-types of all sorts, and even beagles and other scenthounds. Today, some squirrel hunters are using Jack Russells as squirrel dogs.

But no one has come up with using a golden retriever as a squirrel dog. Maybe I’m the only one.

Read Full Post »


This dog’s owner has asked a question on yahoo answers about white markings in a golden retriever. The main question is whether this dog is purebred or not. The post is no longer taking answers, but I do have answer about this dog.

I was thinking he might have been a toller with black skin pigment, but then I saw  a photo of  his full brother. Further, this dog doesn’t have the really long coat that you very often see in tollers, which they get from their close collie ancestry.


His brother is a red golden of some recent field breeding.

Field line goldens, especially dark ones, occasionally have white markings. Adirondac goldens has a one of their dogs working as a SAR dog, and this dog has lots of white on her.

My previous post on white markings in golden retrievers shows an Irish setter with white in exactly the same places as the golden in first photograph.

In Marcia Schlehr’s The New Golden Retriever, the author talks about the extensive white markings on many of the early dogs, including blazes and white “socks” on the feet.

My first litter of goldens included a bitch pup that had these socks. She was a very drivey little girl, just like her mother, who had a white tail tip.

White was very common in some of the foundation lines of golden. Culham Copper had white feet and some white on his muzzle. His chest had as much white on it as the dog in question does.


In field line dogs, white markings always tend to pop up. For some reason, it seems to be associated with darker colors, although I’ve noticed that those with white marking tend to be a little lighter than the darkest goldens in the same line.

I hope the person who posted this question gets to see my answer.

Chances are very high that this dog is a purebred golden. And that’s where I’d put my money. Those people who say that this dog is a collie/golden cross are ignorant of coat color genetics. A sable collie crossed with a golden will not be a golden colored dog. It will be a black dog. Want proof? Look here. The only dog that isn’t a golden-collie cross on that page is the dog that looks like a golden retriever with collie ears. The only golden/collie crosses I’ve seen that aren’t black or black and tan are the backcrosses to either goldens or collies, and these aren’t very common. Most goldens are actually black dogs with a recessive gene that makes their color the cream to mahogany color.

Read Full Post »

Golden retriever puppies meet cat

From the user fatboytait.

Read Full Post »


The Hovawart is a reconstruction of a German farm dog that may have had some relationship to the livestock guardian dogs. Its name means “estate guardian.”

In 1210,  the castle of Ordensritterburg was captured by the Slavs, and all the inhabitants were killed, except for the noble’s infant son.  The child’s life was saved when a castle dog, supposedly a Hovawart, carried the baby to a neighboring castle. The child, Eike von Repkow, became a jurist in the German legal system, writing The Sachsenspiegel, the oldest surviving law code from Medieval Germany. The Hovawart was mentioned in this law code as a dog that must be replaced or paid restitution for if it is killed or stolen.

The dogs were used in pursue bandits and criminals in much the same way that German shepherds are today.

By the twentieth century, that breed began to replace the Hovawart, but some dedicated breeders led by zoologist Kurt Friedrich König searched for the remaining Hovawarts in the Black Forest region. After all, during this time period, German scientists, animal breeders, and historians were very interested in restoring ancient animal species and races. This activity was partly an outgrowth of German nationalism. Some other examples of this activity are the Heck cattle, a recreation of the aurochs, the ancestral wild cow of Europe, and the Heck horse, a recreation of the ancient Tarpan horse.

These Black Forest farm dogs were then bred with German shepherds, Kuvaszok, Newfoundlands, Leonbergers (which are derived from crossing Landseer Newfoundlands, St. Bernards, and the odd yellow mongrel to create the “Lion dog” symbol for the city of Leonberg), and a Bernese mountain dog. The resulting dogs were good for use in protection.

However, the blond and solid black ones look like golden and flat-coated retrievers. They are of a different temperament. Their temperament is more similar to the German shepherd, and some may be like the Kuvasz.

I saw a photo of a blond one in a dog book originally published in Germany, and I thought it was a big golden retriever.

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: