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Is it time to reconsider the idea that Goldens are "gun dogs"

My opinion only but no it is not a good idea to reconsider Goldens are "gun dogs".

What makes a golden retriever is the standard and being a gun dog is part of that standard.

I won't be good at explaining this as I am not an expert in science so..........

FORM follows FUNCTION

Form- The outer appearance of the dog. The total structure.
Function- what the dog has been bred to do.

If you change the function of the dog different genes will come into play and will change the look and behavior of the dog.

Over time all the things that we love about Golden Retrievers could be changed.

At this point genes can't all be picked one by one. The one that picks for the proper tail may also be connected to the how bidable the dog will be. So it is possible that if we pick for a couch potato dog we over time may end up with a dog that looks like a different dog all together. And will also act totally different.
 

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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,
Lucy
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.
 

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From Hotel4Dogs: "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".

Don't people looking for a Golden for hunting like to see FC's and AFC's in the pedigree? What am I missing?
 

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From Hotel4Dogs: "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".

Don't people looking for a Golden for hunting like to see FC's and AFC's in the pedigree? What am I missing?
Some hunters want to see those FT titles, others want to see at least a load of MH's. The FT's themselves have generally gone beyond the realm of what you would encounter in a normal day's hunt, but the qualities which those dogs must possess to be successful in the FT game also tend to make dogs which have the perserverance and water courage to get the job done in really challenging hunting conditions. I would say that most FT bred Goldens I know are not over the top crazy maniacs--because a dog that wild has difficulty focusing, which is a definite detriment with marks as long as you see in FTs. But the mental and physical toughness that some of them have that makes them such good hunting dogs can also make them a real challenge to an inexperienced trainer/handler.
 

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For the last year I have decided that rather than being the ideal family dogs, Goldens should be thought of as the dog for ideal families!

I loved Hotel4Dogs post.....LOVED IT!

I do think the attributes that make Goldens great personal hunting dogs is what makes them great pets as long as they get what they need, i.e., training and exercise and I do think getting enough training and exercise makes them calm, laid-back, gentle dogs. (more than puppy classes and at least 1 1/2 hours off leash running at least 5 out of 7 days a week).
 

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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.
Really? Maybe due to the fact that the early breeders have already taken care of it. You honestly think the temperament of a Dane or let's say a Doberman hasn't been softened? Dobies were maniacs in the earlier days and Danes were extremely aggressive. Breeders through the years have absolutely softened their temperaments. If they didn't, they would not be suitable to live with us. Danes were not the "Gentle Giants" they are today. True, most working breeds are protective and have strong temperaments, but to say that there's no demand to change their temperaments is misleading. That demand was already met years ago when there was definitely a demand for it.

And still to this day, Dane breeders consistently strive to breed temperaments that are gentle and predictable. If not, you'd have a 170 lb. liability on your hands. I also don't know of many Danes that hunt wild boar, which is what they were originally bred for. Most are family pets and are now well suited to that role.
 

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There are some people are who are starting to use Danes for hunting wild hogs again now that there is a growing problem with them in the US--and they are good at it! And I have seen that side turn on in a Dane at a show--it picked a fight with a Newfy and it was a doozy for the handlers to break up. My handler friend who bred my Cavalier started in dogs with his parents who bred Danes, and he is quite open that they did have dogs who while stable, were also game. There is a big difference between situational aggression, and just generalized reactivity, and that quest for stabilization was not just a recent thing. They may not be as ferocious as in the old old days, but that prey drive can still be present.

I also do not think the pressure to soften the temperaments of working breeds is to the degree or extent that we have been seeing with the split in Goldens. I have met too many Goldens now who are lumps of blonde fur. Just dull, and lacking in personality and joie de vivre. I am seeing this in the ring, and I am seeing it at hunt tests.
 

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There are some people are who are starting to use Danes for hunting wild hogs again now that there is a growing problem with them in the US--and they are good at it!...
I've been involved in Danes for 39 years and I've yet to meet anyone who hunts boar with their Dane. Now on my board, there are I think 3 people who hunt with their dog. This is out of over 20,000 members worldwide. The percentage is miniscule.

And I have seen that side turn on in a Dane at a show--it picked a fight with a Newfy and it was a doozy for the handlers to break up.
Well, yeah...of course it was a doozy to break up. You probably had over 350 lbs. of dog involved. Every breed has the capability to fight and every breed will fight. Just when 2 Giants go at it, it's a lot more obvious, so to speak. I guarantee you that the "olden" Danes would not have been capable of being around that many dogs at a time as you encounter at a show. Their temperaments would never have allowed that type of interaction.


I also do not think the pressure to soften the temperaments of working breeds is to the degree or extent that we have been seeing with the split in Goldens.
I disagree. All the responsible breeders of working breeds have a tremendous amount of pressure to continually keep their breeds' temperaments stable. In fact, all breeds are pressured in this way. Dogs have to live in a society that is much, much more populated than before. They have to have a softer temperament unless you want your breed to be obliterated by breed bans. The majority of dogs are family pets. That's the reality. "Family pet" equals a softer temperament...for all breeds.


I have met too many Goldens now who are lumps of blonde fur.
Well, I love my "lump of blonde fur" as I'm sure many others on this board do as well. ;)
 

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I love my lump, too, she is almost 11 and I hope she is here years more. She is an easy keeper who never wrecks a thing, but she does not have the working attitude or biddability that she should. She didn't like to show. She hates birds. She worked only for food! She did not clear and so was never bred, and in retrospect I think that was for the best as a key part of the bigger picture was missing with her.
My drivey dogs still have stable temperaments. So do the dogs of my friends who do schutzhund work. I agree that any dog who has to work as a partner with people has to have a stable temperament. I just don't think we need to sacrifice the working temperament of a breed that is is still doing its intended job to make them easier to keep any more than most of us would think it appropriate to set out to breed a 110 lb Golden or a 20 lb Golden because people wanted it.
 

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I just don't think we need to sacrifice the working temperament of a breed that is is still doing its intended job to make them easier to keep...
In a world that exclusively used the different breeds for the purposes that they were originally intended to perform, your statement would have no argument from me. But...in reality, the majority of dogs do not perform in their original roles...they are family pets. If original temperaments were kept intact with no modifications, there would be few breeds that would be able to fulfill a pet/companion status and I really don't think everyone here would want a Pug, (I would, though. ;))

Should only hunters own Goldens, Labs, Poodles, Wolfhounds? That is, after all, their intended purpose, right? Only boar hunters own Danes? Only ranchers own Border Collies? The list could go on and on and on. By taking their original temperaments down a few notches, many breeds can now live contently as companions. There will always be those Goldens with a higher drive, but does it have to be all Goldens?

I guess I'm grateful to those breeders that have/breed calmer Goldens. I don't hunt and I never will. It doesn't appeal to me on any level. But Goldens sure do...I'm very glad they're not all high drive or I wouldn't have one. And that would be awful. :no:
 

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And right there you have summed up the problem of what's happening in the breed (you said hunting, not field trials, and it is very distinct).
You should be able to take any well bred golden out, train them, and hunt with them, with no FC's or AFC's needed in the pedigree. Obviously that's no longer the case, so hunters are looking for the FC and AFC pedigrees to prove the dog still has some of the original instinct and ability for which the breed was noted.



Don't people looking for a Golden for hunting like to see FC's and AFC's in the pedigree? What am I missing?
 

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You should be able to take any well bred golden out, train them, and hunt with them, with no FC's or AFC's needed in the pedigree.
I think the only way to be able to attain that, in one aspect anyway, would be to not allow a dog to be given a CH. in conformation until they prove themselves in the field. That way, all Goldens including those bred more toward the conformation lines, would have to be capable hunters. Don't they kind of do this in Europe? Before a dog can get a championship, don't they require a test on their working ability and their stability of temperament? I don't know if it's all breeds but I thought working breeds have to be tested first.
 

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whew, we're going to get into some sticky territory here.
My personal opinion is that the only way we're going to be able to do that is if breeders quit breeding for "just one thing", be that looks, agility, obedience, field, whatever. Of course, that will never happen. But when you breed for just one thing, the others seem to fall by the wayside and we end up with goldens who are no longer the versatile dog they originally were.
As always, I like to use Tito as an example. Most people here know his "story", but if not....he was bred to be a nice structured pet with a good temperament. Nothing more. I bought him as a pet for my daughter, originally on a limited registration with a neuter contract (which was obviously since lifted). I had no plans to do anything with him except love him.
He wasn't bred to be a show dog. He wasn't bred to be a field dog. Etc., etc., etc.
But look at what he has been able to accomplish. If you look at his pedigree, there is nothing in there that would foretell of what he has done.
He was bred to be a versatile companion dog, and he is what people call an "old-fashioned golden retriever". He is what the breed used to be.
So why has Tito been so successful? Lord knows it's not ME, I've never done any of this before with my dogs.
Because he is to the golden standard in ALL ways.
He succeeds in obedience because he is intelligent and highly trainable,and because like all good gun dogs, he is not overly reactive to the environment, and he is able to focus well. He isn't at all fearful or skittish, and he gets along fine with all other dogs.
He succeeds in agility because he's a medium sized, well muscled, athletic dog. Again, as per the standard. Also, the ability to focus is very important in agility.
He succeeds in the field because he has tremendous prey drive, and tons of bird instinct. He has a natural love of water, and the gentle mouth that the breed is supposed to have.
And that is why we need to breed the dogs to ALL of the standard, not just to the physical part of it.
Tito truly can and will do anything that is asked of him, and as I said before, I believe him to be the norm for a well bred golden, not the exception.


Also, the LRCA (labradors) have done that, requiring at least a WC (working certificate) of their dogs. So what ended up happening is the WC for labradors got dumbed down to the point that I think my cat probably could have passed.
 

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Do you feel that Tito is the exception or that more people don't go the different routes with their Goldens? I'm not talking the conformation ring, I know that hardly any of our pet Goldens would do well there, mine included. That doesn't happen too often in any breed and those dogs that were determined to be pets but go on to their CH. are unusual. But maybe if given the chance, a lot of Goldens would do good in the field. But because the majority of owners choose not to go that route with their dogs, we'll never know.

I can say for sure that Chance would freak at the sound of a gun being fired, (me, too). But then again, he's never been exposed, especially at an early age. I know that he's extremely "interested" in birds, (and squirrels ;)). So who knows, right? Maybe our "pet" Goldens would do well in the field if given the opportunity...
 

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Do you feel that Tito is the exception or that more people don't go the different routes with their Goldens? I'm not talking the conformation ring, I know that hardly any of our pet Goldens would do well there, mine included. That doesn't happen too often in any breed and those dogs that were determined to be pets but go on to their CH. are unusual. But maybe if given the chance, a lot of Goldens would do good in the field. But because the majority of owners choose not to go that route with their dogs, we'll never know.

I can say for sure that Chance would freak at the sound of a gun being fired, (me, too). But then again, he's never been exposed, especially at an early age. I know that he's extremely "interested" in birds, (and squirrels ;)). So who knows, right? Maybe our "pet" Goldens would do well in the field if given the opportunity...
I think my girl Winter and I are the poster children for giving dog games a try.
At the tender age of 49, I got my first dog ever. She was acquired as a pet, nothing really performance in her pedigree. I believe we told her breeder that we were looking for a light colored puppy, who would swim, play fetch, and would be easy going. I took her to puppy obedience so we would have a well behaved girl. It turned out that I loved taking classes with her so I just kept signing up. One thing led to another and on her first birthday we ended up at a field training day. That day I watch something amazing click on in Winter. This was a game she already knew how to play. Fast forward 2+ years and we are one pass away from her Senior Hunter title and she still amazes me. No FC's, MH, or even JH in her pedigree. I think there is one WC in 5 generations but the retriever is alive and kicking in her.
So I say, what the heck give field or some other dog game a try.
 

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Karen, I strongly feel that Tito is NOT the exception. Not at all. I think a lot of the pet goldens, which is all he was meant to be, would be capable of doing many, many things if people chose to follow that path. And we need to be sure in our breeding practices that the breed never loses that ability and versatility.
Like Holly's Winter, another prime example. She is doing field, and obedience. I'm positive she could do agility, too.
No, they can't all be CH. But if they are well bred goldens, they can get out there and do a lot of other doggie games, and do them well, and have a great time doing it. And the bond we form with our dogs when we do these things is incredible.
 

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Another thing that I was thinking...in all the years I managed pet shops, the majority of my customers with Labs hunted. I'd say at least 65% and that's a conservative estimate. My customers with GSPs, it had to be at least 85%. Goldens, not that many. I'd give it a guess of 25%, if that. Again, I'm sure that many more had the capabilities to do field work, but they were not utilized in that venue, but other breeds were.

I also remember that when I first started working in shops, over 35 years ago, we regularly carried and sold out of duck scent, pheasant scent and rabbit scent. And we couldn't keep the bumpers in stock, either. No matter how many we carried, they would sell out. But over the past, at least 20 years, I don't remember ever selling or stocking the scents in any other stores I worked at. The training bumpers yes, we carried them, but hardly ever sold one. Maybe they're buying these things elsewhere, IDK. Still, I was never even asked about them, ever.
 

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And right there you have summed up the problem of what's happening in the breed (you said hunting, not field trials, and it is very distinct).
You should be able to take any well bred golden out, train them, and hunt with them, with no FC's or AFC's needed in the pedigree. Obviously that's no longer the case, so hunters are looking for the FC and AFC pedigrees to prove the dog still has some of the original instinct and ability for which the breed was noted.
Good point. While I agree titles are great to gauge the trainability, I also keep in mind that what happens while hunting doesn't always make for a good hunt test.
 
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