The Golden Retriever Gradient
Golden Retrievers are “intelligent, friendly, devoted, reliable, and trustworthy.” as stated in the breed standard. Golden Retrievers are “Primarily a hunting dog”, but their versatility has made them one of the most popular dogs in America. Their willingness to work, desire to please, and friendly nature has led them to excel in many different areas, including: Hunting, Search & Rescue, Service dogs, Therapy Work, Agility, Obedience, Dock Diving, Flyball, and of course, they make excellent Family Dogs/Companions.
Even though some breeders focus on one style vs. the other, all should be bred with the same high health standards and all should be able to “function” with their intended purpose (retrieve water fowl). All will be available in the range of shades of gold. All shades are accepted in the AKC, although “Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable” (from the breed standard). The most important characteristics for Goldens is their temperament. Goldens can be disqualified from showing if their temperament shows anything that doesn’t follow the breed standard of how they are supposed to act. It’s that important. “Quarrelsomeness or hostility toward other dogs or people or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is NOT in keeping with Golden Retriever character.” Some parts of the breed standard are very specific, and other parts are quite broad and open to interpretation. So how do you know you’re getting a good puppy without studying the breed standard? The best thing you can do, is find a breeder who has a passion and desire to keep within the breed standard and respects and is a member of the Golden Retriever Club of America. That will insure the best temperament, health, and everything else a Golden should be.
Golden Retrievers are Golden Retrievers. “English Cream Goldens” are not a different breed. English bred AKC Golden Retrievers have the same breed standard as American bred Goldens. It’s simply whether the dog comes from English Lines or American lines. There is a trend that started in the 1990’s when Golden Retrievers were falling in the ranks of popularity. Pumping some new blood, so to say, into the Golden world was a smart advertising direction, and thus started the import of almost white Goldens under the disguise of “English Cream Golden Retrievers”. With the new trend the prices went through the roof, even if they weren’t justified. They have the same health risks and breed standard for temperament, size, color, etc. as any Golden Retriever, and can be either well bred or poorly bred just as with any Golden Retriever. Many breeders who breed from English lines have darker Goldens, and many “American” Goldens are quite light. Good breeders try to breed dogs as close to the breed standard as possible, but if you study the breed standard, you’ll find that some things are very specific (for example size and temperament) and other things are vague and open to interpretation (for example coat color and length). A wide range of colors and coat lengths are acceptable. I personally feel that color is the least important thing to specifically breed for, since they are all beautiful and acceptable. I don’t care if the dog has English lines or American lines, as long as those lines have dogs that have had health testing, good temperaments, and the other important and specific qualities that are keeping with what a Golden is supposed to be.
To read more about English Creams, visit the Golden Retriever Club of America Website here.
What does it all mean? AKC Registered, Titles, Health Tests?
When you start your search for a puppy, you might find yourself confused and lost in a world of acronyms that you don’t understand. What is the difference between buying a purebred non-papered dog and a registered dog? Let me put it this way.
When you buy a mixed breed puppy, you don’t know what you’re getting. Even if you know which breeds are involved in the mix, you just don’t know which breed characteristics are going to show up in your puppy. It’s very hard to predict what your puppy is going to grow up to be like with mixed breeds. Health-wise you really have no idea. You could have any number of problems throughout their entire life. It could end up not having any health problems ever. You just don’t know…
When you get a purebred with no papers, you are more likely to know what temperament and traits you’re getting because they are the same breed. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the dog is in fact purebred. You might know the parents, but further back, there is no knowing what the dogs were like, or even if they were in fact the same breed. Health-wise, you have no idea again. You could end up with any number of health problems. Especially the genetic ones that are common to Golden Retrievers. The parents haven’t had any health screenings to see if they are clear of those diseases, so they could easily have them and pass them on to their puppies. (i.e. hip dysplasia, heart disease, etc.)
Moving up the ladder to AKC registered, the pedigree of these dogs is tracked and now you have a record of the parents and grandparents and all the way back as far as you want to go, with records kept of how long they lived, health tests they had done, and any titles they may have received. Unfortunately just because they are kept track of, doesn’t mean people are breeding dogs that fit the breed standard. If the pedigree is just names with no titles or OFA records, that most likely means you still won’t know exactly what you’ll end up with. I have heard of AKC registered Goldens that were not over-weight yet weighed 130 pounds. Thats a big dog and double the size a Golden is supposed to be! So again, you don’t quite know what you’re going to end up with. It also doesn’t mean the breeders did any kind of health testing on their dogs, so you can easily end up spending a small fortune when your puppy has hip dysplasia or other hereditary problems.
Titled, health tested, AKC registered dogs. These are the dogs that you know exactly what you’re getting. Every dog has their own personality and energy level, but the dogs in these pedigrees are known in their characteristics. Breeders carefully select dogs that fit the standard in size, temperament, and ability. Many hold titles in the show ring, in the field, for obedience, or therapy work. Health tests have been done on parents and grandparents to ensure that only the best and healthiest dogs are being bred. Of course anything can happen. Your puppy from one of these dogs, could end up getting sick or having problems, but a dog from this type of breeder gives you the best chances of having a healthy, great temperament, wonderful dog. Also something to note, it’s quite impossible to have a dog with working titles that is being neglected. For example, to have a “therapy dog” title, the dog has to go through therapy dog training, get certified, and go on at least 50 therapy visits. That’s hard to do if you spend your life in an outdoor kennel. Many breeders love their dogs and treat them well, even if they aren’t titled or health tested, but with these dogs, you can be pretty confident that they do in fact live with their owners as part of the family and are not just shooting out puppies for money.
Any of the above choices could end up being the best dog ever. Or they could end up being the worst dog ever. One thing is for sure, every puppy will be just as cute as the next. But it is just a chance you’re taking when you get a dog who’s genetics you don’t really know. And as far as the price, most of the time, there isn’t much difference and you can usually get a health tested fantastically bred puppy for about the same price as one with no credentials. People say all the time to me, “but I don’t need a show dog. I just want a family pet.” My opinion is, especially if you’re just looking for a great pet and aren’t an expert on dogs, it is in your best interest to get the genetically best possible puppy in order to have the best chances for good temperament and great health.
All those abbreviations can be super confusing. Titles can be from conformation, field work, therapy dogs, obedience, etc. Here is a link to see what all those abbreviations stand for.
A Note About Goldendoodles
Goldendoodles are simply a mixed breed between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle. The puppies produced from such mixing have a huge range in characteristics from their temperament, size, body style, and hair type. I’ve seen Goldendoodles as big as Great Danes, and some as small as Cocker Spaniels. Some have hair more like a golden, while some have more Poodle type hair. Most shed, their temperaments are all over the board and they have all the health risks from both breeds. I am a dog trainer and therefore believe any dog can be a great companion with proper training, no matter the breeding. But I do not and will not be breeding Godlendoodle puppies.
Visit the Golden Retriever Club of America Website to see their position on Goldendoodles.