I have deep respect for all of the breeders who post here, not to mention gratitude that the thread remains a discussion of important issues while still being constructive. And I am struggling to find the right way to say what I feel to compelled to say in response to this. I hope you'll bear with me and not take offense.
Is it time to reconsider the idea that Goldens are "gun dogs"? How many members of the breed actually live that life now? My guess - and it is only that - is that if you polled the GRF members and the thousands who read but do not post, you would find that most Goldens today are pets who hold down a couch...who have never been near a gun and never will... that most retrieve tennis balls, not birds. Is that bad, or is it a reflection of this century instead of the last one? Or at least of urban life in this century? If Goldens continue to be bred as gun dogs, does that mean that more and more will be unsuited to the homes they inhabit and thus end up in shelters? Or do we somehow need to move towards two breeds, one of which is bred for hunters and the other for home life?
I honestly don't know what to make of this, but I hope that nobody will be offended by having the questions asked. I realize that the breed standard belongs to many, many people who are not represented here and that breeders are bound to that standard, but there must be a way to make the standard responsive to the changing needs of the breed and the times.
With abiding love for the dogs and deep respect and regard for all concerned,
No offense taken. There are still many Goldens who are hunted over. Mine are, and I have at least 6 friends with Goldens in just my corner of Ontario who hunt over their Goldens. Get into Wisconsin and Minnesota and you will find a real hotbed of practical Golden gundogs. To me, part of what makes creates the breed type in attitude, intelligence and temperament is its working purpose--type is not just defined by physical conformation. If we take away those behavioural and prey drive elements we have a different breed.
Keeping that drive is maintaining the integrity of the breed.
I would rather see fewer Goldens bred, than see us change the breed to suit a home that cannot channel that working energy that makes a well-bred Golden not only a good hunting partner, but also an excellent prospect for obedience, agility, tracking, SAR work, and service dog work. In many respects, the breed was in better shape before it became so popular, I am afraid. I do place dogs with families who have children, but they are active families, dedicated to providing appropriate training and outlets for that energy. Not all opf them hunt, but they are active as hikers, or do agility etc. That is where the breeder's responsibility comes in in placing their pups appropriately. I have turned three families away already from the wait list for my next litter because of this. I also have a nice wait list of homes who understand what they will need as well.
My dogs are not "crazy" but a dog like my Bonnie has the drive and determination to get the job done no matter what is in her way--first cripple she ever saw she tackled--and she was 9 months old. She has received significant training from the time she was tiny, and so have the three siblings, who are also in homes experienced with working lines. Even so she ate my Blackberry and finds interesting ways to get herself into trouble. If she had been in a home which provided less structure and guidance she would have taken over!
Just some additional food for thought: we do not seem to have the same pressure to soften the temperament in working/guardian breeds. We accept that they are going to be stronger headed, and need significant training and leadership to channel their innate behaviours appropriately. But we do not see a big demand there to change the temperament to suit a non-working home. Just something interesting to me.