Posts Tagged ‘show type golden retriever’

Speedwell Pluto

Speedwell Pluto

I’ve noticed some discord among the golden retriever message boards about a post I wrote about the first golden retriever champion in this country.

The following things are repeated. The GRCA doesn’t want a split in type, so they are doing everything they can to push a dual purpose dog. I’ve even found where on their official website that they want the dogs to have more moderate coats.

The problem is that the GRCA can say this stuff all it wants. It can support dual purpose breeding and competition all it wants.

But the horse has left the barn.

When the standards began to require a dog with more bone and more coat, then the dogs split into two basic types.

It’s unfortunate, but the split has happened.

And like Humpty Dumpty, it probably won’t come together again.

Remember, goldens in working trials are being run against Labradors– lanky, long-legged Labradors that run with a lot of style. They are at a disadvantage if they are short-legged and heavy-boned.

I personally don’t like the look of the show-bred dog.

There– I said it.

But I also don’t like the way it runs, the way it swims, or the fact that too many of them have to be taught to put things in its mouth. That’s one thing that a retriever should be doing automatically.

And despite what the GRCA says about excessive coat, I still see lots of show dogs being put up with lots of coat.

Has anyone ever read any working retriever literature? Have you ever read in any of these books or talked to anyone who has worked them who has said that the golden needs more coat?

I prefer an old-fashioned golden. One that looks a lot like Speedwell Pluto or Noranby Diana. Maybe I like those old 1930’s model dogs. They are built right, without exaggeration of either bone or coat. In the 1930’s, the heavier dogs that had so tinctured the Tweedmouth strain had been replaced with retrievers that had lost their lumber.

I find the whole dual purpose thing rather insulting to those people who bred performance dogs in this breed for years and years, while the show strain deteriorated into something like the American cocker of the 1980’s. The whole exercise is really quite Quixotic, like the Buckleys of the dog world standing athwart history yelling “stop.”

I am fine that this breed has split. I’m not happy that the genetic diversity continues to atrophy, but that problem is not entirely the fault of the split in types. Everyone seems to want to use just a few sires in this breed– and this problem is not only that of the show-line dogs.

I see a split in types. A performance bred dog is going to be a good performance dog– generally better than a show-bred dog. That’s why we have the split in the first place.

And the split isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It allows breeders to focus on producing the kind of dog they want to produce.


I think now that I should say that goldens aren’t the only breed to have split in this way. There are certain factors that have led to splits within breeds, and many of them have been nastier than this little split.

1. If a dog has more than a couple of thousand individual dogs in its worldwide population, it will split. You cannot get all the clubs in all the countries of the world to agree to a single standard. If every club was in the FCI’s registries, maybe that could happen.

2. If the type of dog that does well at a dog show is fundamentally different from the type of dog that is worked, the split will happen. That’s what happens in just about every working breed. If a gun dog breed originated in Great Britain, with a few notable exceptions (Flat-coats, Welsh springers, Irish water spaniels, etc),  that dog comes in a separate show or working form.

3. In the early fancy, internecine conformation debates have caused splits. I say this as if it doesn’t happen today, but in reality, it does sometimes happen. The most recent is the row over what an Akita is. The Japanese have different sort of dog that is confined to a narrower range of colors than the Akitas you typically find here. There have been moves to separate these two Akitas. The most recent split I can think of that affected an AKC breed was when the Norfolk and Norwich terriers became separate breeds, which happened in 1960 in the Kennel Club and in 1979 in the AKC. The big difference between the two is that the Norfolk has floppy ears, and the Norwich has prick ears.

4. If someone discovers that the dogs originally looked very different from the current crop of dogs, there will be a split. How many bulldog breeds are there?

5. The whole history of dogs since the founding the fancy has been the history of these internecine conflicts that have eventually boiled over into schisms. The fancy not only created a way of standardizing already extant breeds, it created an atmosphere in which one could almost guarantee that there would be splits. If a certain strain in a particular breed couldn’t win at a dog show, because it didn’t meet the standard or possess a “fancy point,” the breeders of that strain would pack up their marbles and start a new breed. That’s what happened to the golden retriever. They even made up a story about the dogs coming from Russia to make sure everyone knew that this breed had nothing to do with the flat-coated retriever (except, you know, for sharing lots of different ancestors and being heavily interbred with the flat-coat.)

So when it comes to golden retrievers, roll that beautiful bean footage and lets have more 1930’s models!

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Which of these dogs has a functional body type, one that is designed for maximum health and energy efficiency?

This one?

American show golden:


Or this one?

Field-type golden:


Which is closer to the originals?

The Originals:


Show dog breeders like to think that they’re breeding to an ancient, refined definition of a breed. In the case of the golden retriever, they are not.

I would love to see morbidity and general health survey on working-type goldens versus show type goldens. The dogs I’ve had have all been working type. Life expectancy was 13-14 years. The average life expectancy for goldens in Sweden is 12.6. Most breed infos I’ve seen say 10-12 years for a golden retriever,  except for the Encyclopedia of the Dog  by Bruce Fogle (the original version from 1995). That version says 13-15 years for a golden, which is about my dogs lived. The 2000 edition used the Swedish moribidity data.

I hate to use one of those “appeal to nature” logical fallacies, but compare the body types of those goldens with that of some wild dogs (going from least related to most related to the golden).

A red fox:


A coyote:


A wolf:


A dingo:


Which of the two goldens at the top resembles these wild species most? Nature has taken millions of years to form the dog’s skeletal structure, and in 150 years, we’ve totally wrecked it. And goldens aren’t even the most messed up breed.

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