Lucy, a very valid question. I believe it was Shelly that wrote an outstanding article that explains why the same traits that make goldens good gun dogs/hunting dogs also make them outstanding family pets. (Sorry if I have the wrong author).
I don't remember a lot of what it said, but things like their intelligence, trainability, gentle mouth, non-reactivity (is that a word?) to loud noises, ability to get along with other dogs (in hunting, they will often be with other dogs they don't know, and they have to get along!), and there was a lot more, make them such great family dogs.
The goldens, as gun/hunting dogs, aren't very reactive to pain. That's pretty valuable around small children who tend to accidentally hurt them. A good hunting dog has an "off" switch, too. Think of a dog in a duck blind, they can't be jumping around, barking, acting like idiots all day. They sit quietly until told to GO, and then they pour their heart out into it until they return with the bird....then they sit quietly again.
Good hunting dogs are pretty quiet. They don't bark endlessly for no reason.
More thoughts....a good hunting dog has to have an outgoing, confident nature. No fearfulness, fear aggression, skittishness, and so on. They are happy, eager, confident dogs if they are going to succeed in the field.
While they are a very mouthy breed, they don't tend to chew up furniture and drywall like some breeds do. They learn easily what is and is not an appropriate chew item. Another characteristic necessary in a good hunting dog.
Even their willingness to retrieve things endlessly makes them wonderful pets, especially for families with children who just love to play with them.
I'm not doing a very good job of explaining this. But the traits that we value in the goldens do derive from their hunting background.
As a final thought, and yes this is going to sound like a brag, but...Tito is a fantastic hunting dog according to the people who have hunted over him. Everyone enjoys him and they often comment that most guys would give a lot to hunt over a dog like him. But he is also the easiest dog I have ever lived with. So yes, in a well bred dog, you certainly can, and should, have the traits that make a fine hunter even if the dog never hunts. And I think of Tito as the "norm" in a well bred golden, not the exception.
Now the dogs being bred to run field trials (which don't resemble hunting very much), well, that's another whole discussion. No where in the golden standard does it say "primarily a field trial dog".
CH Rosewood Little Giant, VCD2 UDX VER RA MHU SH MXP MJP MFP T2BP TD DJ VCX WCX CCA CGC FFX-OG (born 3-10-2007), also UCH HR UH UUD UJJ URO1 UHIT a.k.a. "Tito" (the Tito Monster)
waiting at the bridge:
My first dog, and my most special girl
Gibson's Golden Girl, CD, CGC, TDI ( 3-20-1997 - 11-22-2013) a.k.a. "Tiny", "Queen B"
and my heart dog
Gibson's Golden Guy, CD, CGC, TDI ( 01-31-1998 - 01-02-2012) a.k.a. "Toby", "HRH"
Last edited by hotel4dogs; 12-04-2012 at 08:48 AM.