They deserve to be seen around more, says David Tomlinson
You’ll see plenty of Labradors in the field but not so many golden retrievers. Which is rather illogical because a golden retriever that has been well-trained is definitely the equal of a Labrador. Golden retrievers are handsome, intelligent and easy to handle. So it’s a mystery.
A relatively new breed
Until 1920 golden retrievers were registered as simply retrievers, either yellow or gold, which caused a lot of muddle with yellow Labradors. It was only in 1920 that the Kennel Club set up a separate register for retrievers (golden).
So why do most fieldsports fans opt for a Labrador? Healthwise they’re both on a pretty equal footing. However a well-bred Labrador is rather less pricey than a golden retriever and there aren’t that many working-bred goldens around.
Age-wise both breeds live to around 11 or 12 years old, with cancer being the biggest cause of their demise.
The downside of golden retrievers
- Their coat needs a lot of attention, on a muddy shoot it will pick up dirt, twigs, brambles and other debris.
- They are big moulters
Advantages of the golden
- They’re easier to train than spaniels and as easy to train as Labradors.
- Their good nature and trainability is evident by their popularity as guide dogs.
Shooters who work golden retrievers will point out that they work differently from Labradors. They often use air scent, which causes them to carry their head higher. Whether they hunt with heads up or heads down, the golden retrievers I have watched have all impressed with their bird-finding ability.
Graham Cox is one of the golden retriever’s biggest fans: he is a longstanding member of the Kennel Club’s field trials sub-committee, and has worked goldens for many years, making up two FTChs. He believes that if you “build an effective relationship with a golden, you will have a game-finder beyond compare.
A friend says about the breed: “It’s difficult to explain why I like them so much, but whether seeing a working golden chasing down a runner or even something as simple as one just walking to heel, there is an elegance and style that you just don’t get with other breeds.”
A great golden retriever enthusiast and story teller
Training a golden retriever isn’t really any different from training a Labrador, but if you want a book where the emphasis is on training goldens, turn to Training the Working Retriever by Anthea Lawrence. It is full of common sense with training methods methods based on kindness and co-operation. The emphasis is on producing dogs with good manners, able to cope with anything they encounter.
10 things to sum up golden retrievers
- Serious golden retriever people hate the term ‘goldies’ for their breed
- They’re not usually fussy eaters
- They have impressive bird finding abilities
- They’re easier to train than spaniels
- They moult, leaving golden hair behind
- They have soft mouths
- They live to about 11-12 years old
- They have elegance and style
- They have been used as guide dogs for a long time
- They have a placid nature