Thesis statement: The Golden Retriever is one of the most versatile dogs in the world.
II. History of the Golden Retriever
A. "Tale of the Breed"
1. Russian circus dogs
B. Accepted Origin
1. Wavy-coated Retriever
2. Tweed Water Spaniel
III. Popularity of the Golden Retriever
2. Natural Characteristics
1. Bench Competition
2. Field Competition
3. Obedience Competition
1. Guide dog for the blind
2. Other fields
3. Watch dog
A noble head . . . a gentle twinkle of the eye . . . a smiling face . . .a vibrant burst
of energy, running free as the wind ... a wagging tail, happily beating from side to side . . .
a thundering splash into icy waters in quest of game on a cold November day . . . a shiny
coat, glistening like a nugget of gold . . . a proud stance winning him the best of the show .
. . a guiding nudge to the blind . . . an enthusiastic search for snowballs tossed by the
family . . . and, most of all, a contented ball of loyal, unquestioning devotion curled up at
your feet at the end of a busy day: this is the essence of the Golden Retriever. They are
beautiful, intelligent, and very talented. The Golden Retriever is one of the most versatile
dogs in the world (Syder 30).
The heritage of the Golden Retriever has been in dispute for decades. The
less-believed tale with little evidence supporting the Golden's origin is that of the circus
dogs. A British sportsman known as Lord Tweedmouth had visited the seaside resort of
Brighton where he saw a troupe of performing dogs. He was so fascinated with the
intelligence and skill of these dogs that Lord Tweedmouth promptly decided he must have
a pair to breed and train for field work at his estate in Scotland. The Russian trainer,
however, refused to break up the troupe, saying that to do so would ruin his entire act.
So after discussion, Lord Tweedmouth agreed to purchase the entire group of eight. He
then took them back to his estate and was said to have them started on a breeding
program. The dogs were believed to come from a breed known in their country as
Russian Retrievers, or Russian Trackers. The Russian Retrievers were noted for the
superior intelligence, but at the same time they were big and cumbersome, so many of
Lord Tweedmouth's fellow sportsmen were not impressed with them. Lord Tweedmouth,
after long thought and consideration, decided to try a Bloodhound outcross for the
purpose of further developing the good tracking tendencies of his dogs. The result was
said to be a smaller dog, a more refined coat texture, and a slightly darker shade of coat,
with general build and conformation similar to that of a Foxhound. The outcome was the
Golden Retriver (Nicholas 13).
The accepted origin is the account according to Lord Tweedmouth's
grand-nephew, Lord Ilchester. He claims that Lord Tweedmouth bought a yellow-wavy
coated Retriever during his trip in Brighton from a cobbler who had taken him in
settlement of an unpaid debt. The Golden Retriever is believed to be the cross breeding of
the yellow-coated Retriever and a liver-colored Tweed Spaniel in 1868. The goal of this
new breed was to make a breed that would only be used to find and bring back wounded
and dead game (Nicholas 14). The aim for this working dog's make-up were brains, keen
nose, tender mouth, biddability, stamina, and pace, but with less disposition to hunt than
Spaniels (AKC 66). In various outcrosses the smaller Newfoundland was introduced
because they make the best retrievers (Fischer 19). The Golden Retriever was created by
breeding these dogs to bring out the best qualities of working dogs (Fischer 21).
Over the years Golden Retrievers have steadily grown in popularity, and today
they rank 7th in A.K.C. popularity (Tortora 49). Both beauty and brains are combined in
a Golden. Their size, their biddable temperament, and their desire to please, are all part of
why they have increased so rapidly in notoriety (AKC 67). They are valued workers and
are held in high esteem by people from many walks of life. The responsibilities of caring
for a Golden Retriever are a joy to fulfill for such a versatile breed of dog (Nicholas 437).
The Golden Retriever has a natural instinct for hunting. As sporting dogs, they
discover and fetch killed or wounded game, principally aquatic birds such as the duck, and
land birds such as pigeons, or pheasant (Walsh 32). Golden Retrievers have uniquely
water-resistant coats which assist them in retrieving water fowl. Their mouths are
characterized as "soft" which prevents them from damaging the game (Fischer 155).
They are highly obedient and easily-trained dogs with a keen nose. Retrievers are
considered one of the best hunting dogs in the world.
Golden Retrievers also compete in Show Ring Competitions. There are three
major forms of competition in which the Golden may participate in. They are the bench
competition, the field trial, and the obedience trial. The bench competition refers to
competition in the show ring in which the Golden is shown against others of the same
breed to evaluate its beauty and closeness to the standard (Fischer 196). The official
standards for the Golden Retriever when judging includes their general appearance, size
and proportion, shape of the head, neck, topline, body, forequarters, and hindquarters,
placement of the ears, color, gait, texture of the coat, and temperament. The Retriever's
appearance needs to be symmetrical, powerful, and well put together. They should display
a kindly expression and possess a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident. The
Golden Retriever's temperament must be friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Hostility,
timidity, or nervousness towards other dogs or people in normal situations is not keeping
with the character of the Golden Retriever (AKC 69). The field trial is to test the hunting
ability of the dogs. They are designed to simulate the conditions of actual hunting.
Retriever trials test the ability of trained hunting dogs to find fallen birds and to fetch them
from both land and water locations. Depending on the type of trial, the dog may or may
not be allowed to observe the bird's fall. When the fall is blind, the handler directs the dog
to the bird's general location by means of various signals. The dog depends on scent to
find the bird (Fischer 196). The obedience trials are competitions that test the ability of
dogs to obey a series of verbal or nonverbal commands (Woodhouse 70). Six basic
obedience skills are tested at novice trials. These skills include heeling on the leash, heeling
free, the stand for examination, the recall, the long sit, and the long down. In heeling
exercises, the dog paces along beside its handler, keeping its shoulder and head even with
the handler's left hip. To stand for examination the dog must remain perfectly still on
command and allow a judge to examine it closely. To execute the recall the handler
orders the dog to sit, withdraws to a distance of twenty feet, and commands the animal to
come. The long sit and long down exercises require a dog to sit or lie still for varying
periods in the absence of its handler. The open and utility trials require mastery of more
difficult skills. Among these are retrieving, tracking of scents, jumping over hurdles, and
responding to hand signals. A dog receiving qualifying scores from three separate judges
in authorized obedience competition progresses toward a title in its competition category.
Goldens have proven in the show ring for centuries that they possess the championship
qualities to capture the winning titles of these competitions over and over again. (Fischer
196). The first three dogs of any breed to achieve the AKC Obedience Champion title
were all Golden Retrievers (AKC 67).
Goldens also exhibit the qualities which make this breed excel specialized fields of
work. Golden Retrievers are one of the three most popular breeds for guiding the blind
(Nicholas 433). They have proven to be calm, trainable, and have an excellent
temperament for the work (Fischer 256). Goldens enjoy a close personal relationship with
their owners, yet are successfully trained by both owners and professionals. They are also
adaptable to changes in ownership (Tortora 228). Their intelligence, stamina, and
temperament have also included them in the fields of police dogs, watch dogs, narcotic
detection dogs, and explosives detection dogs. An explosives detection dog has to be
correct one-hundred percent of the time throughout their training. One such dog, a
Golden Retriever named Talli, is the guardian of the Statue of Liberty in New York
Harbor (Nicholas 373).
The Golden Retriever's temperamental characteristics make them excellent dogs
for families. They are easily trained, obedient, problem-solving, emotionally stable, and
devoted to their family. They are extremely sociable with people, as well as other dogs,
cats, and various other household pets (Tortora 308). Children find that Goldens make
great pillows, are fun to play a game of ball with, and are super companions on land or in
the water, and parents can be assured that the Goldens will safeguard "their" kids. Golden
Retrievers are good travelers and enjoy being in the car on short errands or long trips.
They also enjoy sailing and make great companions on boats. A Golden Retriever is at
home wherever he may be (Walsh 41).
A family can also choose to breed their Golden Retriever. It takes a lot of hard
work, time, and effort. A popular dog such as the Golden Retriever could turn out to be
financially rewarding (Walsh 64).
Golden Retrievers are alert dogs and may be one of the best watchdogs for a
family. They will bark at unfamiliar noises. They learn to adapt to repetitive hall noises in
an apartment and select for attention only those noises and people they find peculiar.
They will give alarm and then will quiet down when told (Tortora 370).
Ask any Golden owner what he or she likes best about the breed, and on the
majority of occasions the reply will be "its versatility" (Nicholas 433). Not only is this
breed beautiful in physical appearance, but it also is one that possesses superior
intelligence, stamina, patience and good temper, liking for other pets, alertness as a
watchdog, and many more good qualities. This dog really is an ideal all-around family
companion, hunting comrade, show dog, or worker.
American Kennel Club. The Complete Dog Book. 18th ed. New York: Howell, 1992.
Fischer, Gertrude. The Complete Golden Retriever. New York: Howell, 1980.
Nicholas, Anna Katherine. The Book of the Golden Retriever. New Jersey: T.F.H.
Syder, Edward C. "Golden Retrievers." Encyclopedia Americana 1993 ed.
Tortora, Daniel F. The Right Dog for You. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1980.
Walsh, James E., Jr. Golden Retrievers. New Jersey: T.F.H. Publications, 1984.
Woodhouse, Barbara. Encyclopedia of Dogs and Puppies. New York: Berkley, 1970.