The golden retriever is a relatively young breed. It originated in Scotland during the late 1800s where it was developed by a British aristocrat, Lord Tweedmouth. Since hunting provided both sport and sustenance on Scottish estates, Tweedmouth and other British lords sought to develop effective hunting dogs for upland game. However, because the original breeders were gentlemen, they demanded more than just practicality in their dogs. They also sought to create handsome animals who were a pleasure to watch work. The result was the golden retriever, a beautiful dog with unmatched skill.
The foundation or beginning of the golden retriever was the now-extinct Tweed water spaniel. Over the years, crosses were made to numerous other breeds, most of which differ significantly from the dogs we know today by the same names:
- red setters or irish setters
- black wavy-coated retrievers
- Labrador retrievers
- Newfoundland or St. John's dogs, and
From these combinations came the goldens exceptional scenting ability, strong prey drive and affable temperaments. By the early 1900s, the golden retriever had developed into a superb hunting dog and retriever. In addition to its hunting traits, the golden's most distinguishing features were its gorgeous golden coat and sweet disposition.
Today's golden retrievers are descendents of these companion hunters. Specifically, they are what we call non-slip retrievers, dogs who walk quietly at the heel or sit patiently in a blind until released on command to retrieve fallen game, on land or in the water. They are also used to search out game for walking hunters. This purpose requires a dog of above average intelligence and trainability with moderate physical attributes.
BEHAVIOR A good golden is a biddable dog, one that is need willing to take direction from his handler. He must have a natural intelligence and a very keen nose to efficiently find hidden or fallen game. While he must be strongly driven to find and retrieve game animals, he must also use a soft mouth to carry and deliver his game gently to the handler. Finally, a good golden retriever should be confident and friendly. He must work well with both people and other animals.
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS However, coupled with these exceptional mental characteristics, the golden retriever also must be a dog of moderate (or, falling in the middle) attributes. Hunting small game in cool/cold weather and water requires a dog between 60 and 70 pounds, with the strength and athletic ability to pursue game through rough cover while not being too heavy or large to work all day or accompany the hunter into blinds and boats. The dog should have a moderate energy level, enough to work all day in the field while remaining within range of the hunters' guns and ready to move when summoned. A good golden has a wash-and-wear coat that enables both him and the handler to focus on more important things such as hunting. This means the coat cannot attract burrs and briers, and must shed dirt and water easily.
Some people say that the golden is the perfect "pet". This may be true for some, but it is not true for others. The golden is a working dog. This means that a golden's energy and willingness to work will not be sated in an apartment or a lifestyle that is not active. In order for a golden to be your "perfect pet", he will require brain stimulation every single day. He will require exercise everyday. And he will require direct interaction with a human everyday. If you believe it might be difficult to provide these three important fundamentals for a golden retriever, you should consider a different breed.