Golden Retriever Breed Magazine - Showsight

Golden Retriever Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.


Let’s Talk Breed Education!

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Official Standard for the Golden Retriever General Appearance: A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and possessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-confident. Primarily a hunting dog, he should be shown in hard working condition. Overall appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of his component parts. Faults-Any departure from the described ideal shall be considered faulty to the degree to whi ch it interferes with the breed’ s purpose or is contrary to breed character. Size, Proportion, Substance: Males 23 to 24 inches in height at withers; females 21½ to 22½ inches. Dogs up to one inch above or below standard size should be proportionately penalized. Deviation in height of more than one inch from the standard shall disqualify. Length from breastbone to point of buttocks slightly greater than height at withers in ratio of 12:11. Weight for dogs 65 to 75 pounds; bitches 55 to 65 pounds. Head: Broad in skull , slightly arched laterally and longitudinally without prominence of frontal bones (forehead) or occipital bones. Stop well defined but not abrupt. Foreface deep and wide, nearly as long as skull. Muzzle straight in profile, blending smooth and strongly into skull; when viewed in profile or from above, slightly deeper and wider at stop than at tip. No heaviness in flews. Removal of whiskers is permitted but not preferred. Eyes friendly and intelligent in expression, medium large with dark, close-fitting rims, set well apart and reasonably deep in sockets. Color preferably dark brown; medium brown acceptable. Slant eyes and narrow, triangular eyes detract from correct expression and are to be faulted. No white or haw visible when looking straight ahead. Dogs showing evidence of functional abnormality of eyelids or eyelashes (such as, but not limited to, trichiasis, entropion, ectropion, or distichiasis) are to be excused from the ring. Ears rather short with front edge attached well behind and just above the eye and falling close to cheek. When pulled forward, tip of ear should just cover the eye. Low, hound-like ear set to be faulted. Nose black or brownish black, though fading to a lighter shade in cold weather not serious. Pink nose or one seriously lacking in pigmentation to be faulted. Teeth scissors bite , in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors. Undershot or overshot bite is a disqualification . Misalignment of teeth (irregular placement of incisors) or a level bite (incisors meet each other edge to edge) is undesirable, but not to be confused with undershot or overshot. Full dentition. Obvious gaps are serious faults. Neck, Topline, Body: Neck medium long, merging gradually into well laid back shoulders, giving sturdy, muscular appearance. No throatiness. Backline strong and level from withers to slightly sloping croup, whether standing or moving. Sloping backline, roach or sway back, flat or steep croup to be faulted. Body well balanced, short coupled, deep through the chest. Chest between for elegs at least as wide as a man’ s closed hand including thumb, with well developed forechest. Brisket extends to elbow. Ribs long and well sprung but not barrel shaped, extending well towards hindquarters. Loin short, muscular, wide and deep, with very little tuck-up. Slab- sidedness, narrow chest, lack of depth in brisket, excessive tuck-up to be faulted. Tail well set on, thick and muscular at the base, following the natural line of the croup. Tail bones extend to, but not below, the point of hock. Carried with merry action, level or with some moderate upward curve; never curled over back nor between legs. Forequarters: Muscular, well coordinated with hindquarters and capable of free movement. Shoulder blades long and well laid back with upper tips fairly close together at withers. Upper arms appear about the same length as the blades, setting the elbows back beneath the upper tip of

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the blades, close to the ribs without looseness. Legs, viewed from the front, straight with good bone, but not to the point of coarseness. Pasterns short and strong, sloping slightly with no suggestion of weakness. Dewclaws on forelegs may be removed, but are normally left on. Feet medium size, round, compact, and well knuckled, with thick pads. Excess hair may be trimmed to show natural size and contour. Splayed or hare feet to be faulted. Hindquarters: Broad and strongly muscled. Profile of croup slopes slightly; the pelvic bone slopes at a slightly greater angle (approximately 30 degrees from horizontal). In a natural stance, the femur joins the pelvis at approximately a 90-degree angle; stifles well bent; hocks well let down with short, strong rear pasterns . Feet as in front. Legs straight when viewed from rear. Cow-hocks, spread hocks, and sickle hocks to be faulted. Coat: Dense and water-repellent with good undercoat. Outer coat firm and resilient, neither coarse nor silky, lying close to body; may be straight or wavy. Untrimmed natural ruff; moderate feathering on back of forelegs and on underbody; heavier feathering on front of neck, back of thighs and underside of tail. Coat on head, paws, and front of legs is short and even. Excessive length, open coats, and limp, soft coats are very undesirable. Feet may be trimmed and stray hairs neatened, but the natural appearance of coat or outline should not be altered by cutting or clipping. Color: Rich, lustrous golden of various shades. Feathering may be lighter than rest of coat. With the exception of graying or whitening of face or body due to age, any white marking, other than a few white hairs on the chest, should be penalized according to its extent. Allowable light shadings are not to be confused with white markings. Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable. Some latitude should be given to the light puppy whose coloring shows promise of deepening with maturity. Any noticeable area of black or other off-color hair is a serious fault. Gait: When trotting, gait is free, smooth, powerful and well coordinated, showing good reach. Viewed from any position, legs turn neither in nor out, nor do feet cross or interfere with each other. As speed increases, feet tend to converge toward center line of balance. It is recommended that dogs be shown on a loose lead to reflect true gait. Temperament: Friendly, reliable, and trustworthy. Quarrelsomeness or hostility towards other dogs or people in normal situations, or an unwarranted show of timidity or nervousness, is not in keeping with Golden Retriever character. Such actions should be penalized according to their significance. Disqualifications: Deviation in height of more than one inch from standard either way. Undershot or overshot bite.

Approved October 13, 1981 Reformatted August 18, 1990

Photo by Barb Loree




G olden Retriever enthusiasts from around the world will gather this July in the beauti- ful Cotswold town of Ciren- cester, England to celebrate the cente- nary (100th anniversary), of the Golden Retriever Club. From July 12th to 15th, the GRC will celebrate with two cham- pionship shows, two working tests, dis- plays from the archives, demonstrations of Goldens doing heelwork to music and a Golden drill team, all on the beautiful Bathhurst Estate. Th ere will be a Gala din- ner and a day of seminars and international networking, where noted judge and Gold- en Retriever historian, Valerie Foss, will speak, along with a panel of international breed experts and veterinarians. A highlight for many will be a sub- sequent pilgrimage to the highlands of Scotland, near Inverness. From July 16th to 19th, the Golden Retriever Club of Scotland will continue the celebration

with social events, a “scurry” (timed, singles retrieving test) and a champion- ship show, with many of the events at the ruins of the Guisachan estate, home from 1854 to 1894 of Sir Dudley Mar- joribanks, the first Lord Tweedmouth. He was the person largely responsible for the development of the Golden Retriever breed at this Scottish retreat. Th e Golden Retriever was regarded as a “gentleman’s” hunting dog and a com- panion to the aristocracy. Certainly, the Golden was not the working man’s dog, out to help him secure his dinner or earn his livelihood. But apparently some fan- cier’s idea of a gentleman is a jolly, fat man who leisurely strolls on a lawn simi- lar to those shown in photos of Blenheim, shooting a bird that lands twenty yards away. After spending a vigorous fifteen minutes or so, the dog and Gentleman retire to sit beside a blazing fire so the Gentleman can enjoy a hot toddy or two!

Th is description is far from reality, as the retriever was expected to expend a full day’s e ff ort in the field. Th e Scots were a tough people, and their working dogs had to be as well. Th e dogs all had to get along, as they worked with, and lived with, other dogs. Scottish breeds, including the Scottish Deerhound, Collie, Shetland Sheepdog, Cairn Terrier, West Highland White Ter- rier, and the Golden Retriever are hardy breeds whose conformation, coats and constitutions were developed to with- stand the climate and terrain in which they lived and worked. Like many of the gentry of this time, Marjoribanks was keenly interested in the breeding of sporting dogs and other livestock. He wanted to develop a retriev- er suited to the Scottish climate, terrain and type of available game. In 1868 and 1871, breedings between Nous, a yellow wavy-coated retriever, and Belle, a Tweed


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At the Guisachan Gathering in 2006, Golden Retriever enthusiasts enjoyed a picnic on the grounds of the ruins of Guisachan House. The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland asked Lynn Kipps to take a photograph and the result is this historic photograph of 188 Goldens at their ancestral home. Photo © Lynn Kipps. Used with Permission. Copies available for sale from Lynn Kipps (

Water Spaniel, (a breed now extinct), resulted in several yellow pups that became the foundation for a distinctive line of yellow retrievers. Th e breed was o ffi cially recognized by Th e Kennel Club in 1911 as “Retriever-Yellow or Golden” and finally, “Retriever-Golden” in 1920. Early Golden Retrievers were seen in Canada and the U.S. some years before their o ffi cial recognition by the Canadian Kennel Club in 1927 and the American Kennel Club in 1932. Th ose ‘gentlemen’ who visited the Highlands in the late 1800s took their sport very seriously indeed. As an example, the following is a list of the “head of game”

taken on the Guisachan estate in 1871. Th is is in the Guisachan record book, along with the information of the dogs and breedings: Total head of game: 4672. Th is included 37 stags (male red deer), 2458 grouse, 200 blackgame (blackcock, a Scot- tish bird), 191 ptarmigans, 118 partridges, 101 pheasants, 201 woodcocks, 14 snipes, 4 wild ducks, 328 hares, 977 rabbits, 13 roe deer (males) and 29 hinds (female deer), 1 capercaillie, 1 Reeves’ pheasant. Rabbits trapped were not included. Game was a crop, and managed for production as well as for sport. Yes, “the gentlemen” enjoyed a long weekend of sport (especially when entertaining visitors),

and one or two of the retrievers made it to house-dog status, but they were very defi- nitely hard working dogs, all of them. Many call Goldens “the gentleman’s hunting dog” with no real understanding of what the dogs actually did! Th ose dogs probably retrieved literally thousands of birds (and rabbits) in the hunting season, and did it in harsh ter- rain with tough cover—no pretty, cutover fields here. It took real endurance and sound athletic structure suited for traversing rocky mountainsides and rolling moors covered with tough, wiry heather and bracken, and a sensible waterproof coat to work in the Scot- tish climate, which is generally anything from damp to downpour.


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At the Guisachan Gathering in 2006, Golden Retriever enthusiasts enjoyed a picnic on the grounds of the ruins of Guisachan House. The Golden Retriever Club of Scotland asked Lynn Kipps to take a photograph and the result is this historic photograph of 188 Goldens at their ancestral home. Photo © Lynn Kipps. Used with Permission. Copies available for sale from Lynn Kipps (


Water Spaniel, (a breed now extinct), resulted in several yellow pups that became the foundation for a distinctive line of yellow retrievers. Th e breed was o ffi cially recognized by Th e Kennel Club

taken on the Guisachan estate in 1871. Th is is in the Guisachan record book, along with the information of the dogs and breedings: Total head of game: 4672. Th is included 37 stags (male red deer), 2458

and one or two of the retrievers made it to house-dog status, but they were very defi- nitely hard working dogs, all of them. Many call Goldens “the gentleman’s hunting dog” with no real understanding of what the dogs

Photo by Barb Loree

Photo by Nancy Talbot

Gerry Clinchy, author, Golden breeder and field enthusiast, commented on an online discussion group, O ff the Beaten Path : “I also would be of the opinion that those particular gentlemen took their hunting and their hunting dogs pretty seriously. Hunting back then was a sig- nificant addition to the larder, not just an occasional delicacy. I find it hard to believe that Lord Tweedmouth spent all that e ff ort just to produce a “sweet” hunting dog. Th e sweet temperament came along as proba- bly a pleasant bonus to the breed’s service- ability on the hunt. And the breed must have been serviceable or it would not have survived when there were always the Labs and Flat Coats and various other breeds to take up the slack if Lord Tweedmouth’s new “design” couldn’t keep up.” Marcia Schlehr, artist, author and breed authority, responded with “Gerry is quite right about the seriousness of the “gentlemen” and their “sport”. Th e Guisa- chan record book, where dogs are invento- ried and litters noted, also contains notes about the game acquired during the year. Th ere are many years where the numbers of pheasant, grouse, blackcock, hare, deer, etc. number into the thousands! And it was all used to feed people on the estates, along with the cattle and sheep raised there. Of course, the family got the pick of the lot, but counting family and guests, sta ff , workers, and their families housed on the estate, some 200 people altogether.”

“Before mechanical refrigeration, per- ishables were kept in a cool house or lar- der, with ice cut from the loch each win- ter and stored under sawdust insulation for future use. Meat could also be salted, or dried. Back in those days there were no “seasons’ for game and no bag limits. Th e landowner owned the game on his land (and Guisachan originally was some 20,000 acres) and had all rights to it. It was considered just as much a cash crop as the cattle and sheep. By the way, tracking wounded deer was another job the retriev- ers had to do. And that job required a fair amount of courage as well as bidability and an excellent nose.” At an earlier Guisachan Gathering in 2006, Golden Retriever breeder-judge Nancy Talbott took the time to walk the hillsides around Guisachan (and it’s nearly ALL hillsides and mountains). Nancy had an “epiphany” that occurred while travers- ing the lands where Goldens originally worked, a new understanding of what was required, physically, for a retriever to work in the dense, harsh, wiry heath- er and bracken on those rocky slopes, in the constant wet of this cool climate. Leg length, musculature, agility, coat texture and quality of undercoat suddenly took on considerable added importance. Nancy further related the following: “ Th e day at Guisachan did indeed firm up what I had believed for decades regarding Golden type, but those opinions had been

formed from reading and seeing still pho- tos only. I have spoken of my “epiphany” at each judging seminar since that summer, and continue to make it my mission to get that word out.” “One of the things that struck me about Northern Scotland was the fact that there is virtually no level ground, and where it is level it is strewn with large rocks and heavy cover. It rained every day that we were there, even during what the Scots called a “heat wave” (I think it got up into the 80s). When I watched the Goldens at the estate participate in a “scurry” (timed singles retrieving competition), it became achingly clear why a moderate dog with moderate coat would be ever so much more e ffi cient than either a weedy and fine boned dog or a clod with massive coat. I watched for hours, and the image etched itself into my memory. Up hills, running on ground that would turn the ankle of any humans who tried to run on it, dodging around boulders, and driving through heavy wet grasses. And the dogs were all entered in the conformation ring that day and the day following. It was delightful to see.” While it may not be realistic to expect most Golden owners, in this day and age, to hunt with their Goldens, it is realistic to expect them to know just what constitutes “hunting” and what is needed in a good hunting dog. When Goldens were devel- oped, they were expected to have the cour- age to bust through that dense, harsh, wiry


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Photo by Barb Loree

heather and bracken to retrieve their game. Th ey were expected to trail down crippled game using their nose and intelligence. Th ey had to be willing to swim across swift, icy streams or rivers to retrieve those pheasants which had set their wings and flew a considerable distance before going down. Th ey had to have the stamina and athletic ability to cover that steep and rocky terrain for long days spent in driving cold rain, snow flurries and harsh winds. Th ey needed the trainability to work with their handler as a team and not go into business for themselves. Th ey needed the tempera- ment to hunt with other dogs without the fear of fights developing. Th ey needed a strong work ethic and the drive and desire to pursue their game under the most adverse conditions. Th ey were expected to retrieve both fur (small game) and feather. If the dogs did not have these attributes, they were not used for reproduction.” To those who feel that there is no value in watching Goldens run in field trials or in hunt tests, when their only interest is in conformation competition, you are wrong! It is vitally important to see first-hand the structure and athleticism needed to cover the terrain and perform the functions for which the breed was intended. Too many judges and fanciers today see only the lovely expression, wagging tail and often over-groomed, beautiful specimen in the

conformation ring. Nothing can replace actually seeing this breed in action, ful- filling its historical purpose. Th e Golden Retriever’s athletic good looks must reflect his abilities, and nothing in the dog’s con- formation should interfere with, or detract from, the Golden’s working sporting char- acteristics. After all, the breed standard states, “Primarily a hunting dog.” Portions of this article originally appeared in the “Golden Retriever News”, Nov./Dec. 2008 Our appreciation to Marcia Schlehr, Nancy Talbott and Gerry Clinchy for sharing their cor- respondence. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Glenda Brown has been a member of the GRCA since 1976. She judged the 1992 Master National and the 2003 National Amateur. She has put Championship titles on Goldens in Obedience and Field Tri- als, and titled them in hunt tests (Master Ainslie Mills is Chair of the Golden Retriever Club of America Judges’ Educa- tion Committee, a CKC/AKC approved judge of six groups, Life Member of the CKC, GRCC and GRCBC and has been devoted to Golden Retrievers for nearly 40 years. She has judged the Golden National in 4 countries. Level) as well as Tracking tests. ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Glenda Brown and Luke running the National Amateur at age 10 ½ .

Ainslie Mills, Oriana Golden Retrievers (Perm. Reg.) She can be reached via


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M any of us have preferences when it comes to color; in our clothes, in our homes, in a variety of things, including our dogs. However, when it comes to judging Goldens, there should NOT be a preference. Our standard states the following concerning color: “Rich, lustrous golden of various shades.” What does this mean? You name it, from a very light cream to a dark golden red, the feather- ing is almost always a few shades lighter than the base shade. The key is the golden highlights. This is more easily seen in the sunlight than it is under the more common halogen lighting used in many indoor venues, but it is always there. From the very light golden to the much darker shades, there is a beautiful, natural golden sparkle. In the judge’s education seminar, we empha- size that the overall dog is most important and the shade of gold should not be a determining factor. Do they need to be gold? YES, it is in their name! If you get to the end and have two dogs of equivalent quality, then certainly choose your favorite shade of dog to win. (I can tell you, I have never heard of this happening.) From a judging perspective, it is more important that you do not dismiss out of hand a dog because it is not your favorite shade.

As I hear exhibitors lament ringside, they are not showing their dog because the judge has a reputation for not looking at dark or, more commonly, light dogs. There is a significant amount of time spent in the seminars discussing shades of gold with prospective judges, and it is frequently heard, “I don’t like that shade.” This is not really your call. It is our breed and we have provided the full range of shades that are acceptable. Please respect this and judge accordingly! As an exhibitor, I frequently had light dogs, and have had a judge move me to the end of the line and say, “I guess you know what shade I don’t like.” If the highlights are there and the dog is a shade of gold, then make your determination on overall struc- ture and balance. They don’t hunt on their coat shade; they can do their jobs if they are light cream or a dark reddish gold. The full range of gold shades available should not influence you, and you don’t want the reputation of only putting up medium gold dogs. (Below is a picture of the acceptable range.) To be blunt, it is our breed. Respect the fact that the shade of gold is not the most critical factor.

This photo illustrates the acceptable color range in the Golden Retriever.



This photo illustrates the extreme limits of the acceptable color range.


certain lines. If you question the age of the dog, have the steward look it up and let you know. These dogs should be considered in your overall assessment of the class. When it comes to judging Goldens, let me leave you with this from the standard: “Overall appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of the component parts. Any departure from the described ideal shall be considered faulty to the degree to which it interferes with the breed’s purpose or is contrary to breed character.” No mention of color; it is a component in your overall judging of the dog. But remember, they are primarily a hunting dog and they don’t hunt on color! Happy Judging!

Inheritance of coat color is a whole different conversation. As a breeder, I can get all the colors within a litter. All pure- bred Golden Retrievers carry the double-recessive (e/e) gene, which prohibits black pigment in the hair. (Occasionally, a somatic mutation allows a patch of black, or black-tipped, hair that does not affect the genes passed on to the next generation.) Some Goldens also carry pattern genes on the A locus that can affect the shading on the coat. Coat color can be changed in a generation and produce either a rainbow of shades or a uni- formity of color within a litter. In general, when judging, most breeder-judges do not even notice color; there are so many other pieces of structure—and the overall dog—that are significantly more critical to the ability of the dog to perform its function. Although the extremes are not preferred, they are accepted, and if the best dog in the ring is within the acceptable shade range, go for it! In puppies, color develops over their first year or so. The ear color is the best indicator of the color the dog will be when reaching maturity. Their puppy coat is usually much lighter than it will be at maturity. The other thing related to color that you will see in the ring is a greying of the face. This is NOT an indicator of age. Many dogs can grey early, some as young as two years old. This seems to be more common in the lighter-colored dogs and in

ABOUT THE AUTHOR I have been breeding and showing Goldens for over 35 years, and judg- ing since 2008. I am an approved pre- senter and mentor for the GRCA. Any questions, please feel free to contact me at




I have been showing and training Golden Retrievers since 1976, and even though I probably didn’t start out read- ing the standard at least once a month, there were many times when I read it more than once a month. Consequently, I have probably read the Golden Retriev- er standard hundreds of times and yet, every time I read it, I discover something new that somebody, somehow, snuck into the standard without me noticing. Usually, I find the hitherto unnoticed word in the middle of the standard. However, this time I found it in the very first sentence of the standard, right before I was getting ready to judge a very large entry of Goldens.



Topline should remain "strong and level... whether standing or moving."

The night before my assignment, I just hap- pened to turn on HBO in the hotel room and a really cute movie starring Golden Retrievers had just commenced. It featured a litter of dar- ling puppies who were surprisingly coordinated for their approximate four-month-old age range. There were occasional flashes to their “parents” who appeared to be very pretty, well-bred dogs from obvious show dog stock. Nevertheless, there was something “off” about them that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The next day, as I was reading the standard before my assignment, I realized what it was that had bothered me the night before. The handsome Golden couple was “clumsy,” a word in the first sentence of our stan- dard that I had apparently skipped over so many times. I didn’t recognize it as having always been there. As beautiful as the two adults were, they didn’t look like they could do a whole day’s work in the field. In fact, the puppies were more ath- letic than their parents. The parents looked like they had too much bone, too much coat, too much length of body, and too little agility. (In their defense, they were highly trained and were supposed to demonstrate emotional, humanistic traits for the movie, not hunting dog traits.) The above revelation made me start watching other Sporting breeds as they ran and played—a luxury afforded me by virtue of owning a boarding ken- nel. Obviously, different Sporting breeds move and hunt differently. But it is fairly easy to pick out the efficient, agile movers, and I started real- izing that some of the “show” dogs (of any Sport- ing breed) weren’t always in this category.




the word “clumsy,” I found myself worrying way too much about the “long in leg” aspect. Apparently, a lot of exhibitors felt the same way. Obviously, no one wants a “leggy” Golden (a Golden that is too tall for its body length) or a square Golden. But, unfortunately, there has been a tendency to go in the opposite direction: Low on leg or longer bodies and/or longer loins. Part of this trend ensued because of an effort to achieve the show dog “tremendous reach and drive” (TRAD) that isn’t really the way a Golden Retriever should be mov- ing. TRAD is frequently achieved at the expense of level toplines, “well developed forechest,” short loins, and length of leg. Rolling or dipping toplines, ewe necks, and shoulders set too far forward start to become the norm, all because of the quest for ultimate TRAD. However, Goldens were bred for stamina and endurance, and navi- gating rough terrain of the Scottish highlands—not for racing and sprinting across flat fields. So, even though it is not specifically stated in the standard, the Golden is a Retriever with a 50:50 leg-to-height ratio—the distance from the elbow to the ground should equal the distance from the elbow to the withers. And the proper gait for a Golden in the show ring is a working trot at a moderate speed on a loose lead. There are supporting articles on our GRCA Judges’ Edu- cation page, addressing leg length, judging suggestions, etc. We haven’t really addressed the other priorities the Judges’ Edu- cation Committee has come up with, but they will be addressed in our GRCA JEC Facebook page: • Functional Head with True Breed Characteristics • Coat—Wrap-Around, Water-Repellent Jacket with Undercoat • All Shades of Golden Acceptable (Please see the ShowSight article by Cindy Partridge in this issue.) • Endurance Gait—Effortless, Easy, on a Loose Lead In the meantime, extensive information can be found on the GRCA Judges’ Education page of the website. We have many down- loadable articles, including an Illustrated Standard, At A Glance brochure, and a Quick Study Guide. We also have several videos, including a Golden Retriever Conformation Judges Training Video. For those of you who are confused about the many styles of Golden Retrievers, the Conformation Judges Training Video has several examples of the different styles. As for the “not clumsy nor long in the leg,” our committee’s breed historian and Golden Retriever expert, Marcia Schlehr, says it is a “warning against clunky, overdone dogs on one hand, and racy sighthound types on the other. This phrase has been in our standard since recognition of the breed.”


In our effort to emphasize the “retriever” characteristics of the Golden Retriever, the Golden Retriever Club of America Judges’ Education Committee has recently come up with pri- orities/hallmarks of the Golden Retriever that we want judges to look for and emphasize while judging the Golden. The most important priority is actually contained in the very first “General Appearance” paragraph that refers to the Golden as “primarily a hunting dog.” In fact, almost everything you need to know about Goldens is contained in that paragraph. I’ve attended many breed seminars and webinars where the speaker has said almost the same thing, and yet, I read that first paragraph of everyone else’s breed standards and I still don’t always get the essence of their breed. Hopefully, with the emphasis on purpose in our “General Appearance” paragraph, the essence of our breed does not escape you—though you may be like me and just have to keep reading the breed standard to find and remember those elusive traits that are sometimes easy to miss. Another important hallmark/priority the committee came up with is proportion. The Golden is slightly longer than tall (12:11 as measured from breastbone to point of buttocks), i.e., slightly off-square. And yet, ironically, while I was skipping over

1. Judge’s Study Package for licensed and provisional judges. $25 2. NEW Golden Retriever Conformation Judges Training Video 3. The Golden Retriever: An Illustrated Study Guide 4. Golden Retriever Quick Study Guide (suitable for double-sided printing) 5. Golden Retriever-At a Glance (suitable for printing on legal paper and folding into a pamphlet) 1. De un Vistazo” Referencia para Jueces (en español) 6. Articles, and Letters to Judges

1. Breed Function: Food for Thought for Judges of Golden Retrievers 2. Letter to Judges regarding correct coat and grooming practice

3. Size Disqualification in Golden Retrievers 4. Suggestions for Judging the Golden Retriever 5. AKC Video on Measuring and Weighing

7. The Golden Retriever – Structure, Movement and Use (Video) 1. Part 1 – 2. Part 2 – 3. Part 3 – 8. IN REVIEW: JE Postings from GRCA Judge’s Education Facebook site 1. Backline in Review 2. Bite and Dentition in Review 3. Coat Color in Review 4. Length of Leg in Review 5. Profile Movement in Review 6. Upper Arm in Review

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Helen Dorrance has been showing and training Golden Retrievers since 1976 and has been judging Goldens since 2002. She is the current Chair of the GRCA Judges’ Education Committee.




J udging like a breeder-judge; should this not be the aim of every judge to know a breed well enough to put up a dog with correct breed type? One of the highest compliments I ever received as a judge was when I put up a certain Dachshund, surprising the gallery, and was later told that he was a “breeder-judge” type dog, a very good dog not often recognized by all-rounders. I am a Canadian Kennel Club all-breed judge who has been a passionate breeder and owner of Golden Retrievers since 1974. I am currently Chair of the Golden Retriever Club of Canada Breed Standard and Judge’s Education Committee, and served as a member of the Golden Retriever Club of America Judge’s Edu- cation Committee for 17 years, 15 as Chairperson. I also serve on the Canadian Kennel Club Breed Standards Committee. As a person involved in helping new judges learn about Gold- ens, members of the fancy have often expressed their frustration to me about judges who “just don’t ‘get’ the breed.” I can relate, as I still exhibit occasionally. Many judges are drawn to the breed because Goldens have large entries and are enjoyable to judge. However, there is a growing trend in our breed where many exhibitors tend to show more at specialties or under breeder- judges whom they respect for their knowledge of what is required in a correct Golden Retriever. While this may be beneficial to the exhibitor, it does not allow many multi-breed judges to see some of these wonderful Golden Retrievers in competition.

BY AINSLIE MILLS All photos are from the Golden Retriever Club of America, which has permission to use them for educational purposes.

Photo Dave McCurly



Golden Retrievers should not be a hard breed to assess. Origi- nating as a hunting companion for the aristocracy in the 1860s, Goldens are a moderate breed, free from excess or exaggeration, and reveal their beauty through balance, harmony of structure, and fitness for purpose as a hunting dog. Combined with out- standing deportment and temperament, these characteristics make it one of the most versatile of breeds. While there is variety in color and style within the breed, these are allowable as long as the dog conforms to the requirements of the standard. The breed standard is a reflection of the characteristics required for the dog to fulfill its function. First impressions are important, and judges should not focus on pieces or parts of the dog, whether correct or faulty, but consider over-all appearance, balance, gait and fitness for purpose. The opening paragraph of the AKC standard provides a good summary of what every judge should consider when taking their first look at a class of Goldens: “A symmetrical, powerful, active dog, sound and well put together, not clumsy nor long in the leg, displaying a kindly expression and pos- sessing a personality that is eager, alert and self-con fi dent. Primarily a hunting dog, he should be shown in hard working condition. Over-all appearance, balance, gait and purpose to be given more emphasis than any of his component parts.” —AKC Breed Standard. The essence of breed type for the Golden Retriever includes temperament, coat, color, outline (proportion), and head. The temperament, a hallmark of the breed, should be eager, alert and self-confident, and not constantly “turned on” or busy in nature, nor should a Golden require constant rewards for attention. There should be no excuses made for any shyness, aggressiveness or unwillingness in this breed toward man or beast. The Golden is friendly and should calmly accept a judge’s examination. In my opinion, “type vs. soundness” arguments are not par- ticularly valid when you have a breed that is expected to retrieve and be agile as it runs, jumps into water, and swims multiple times a day. Admittedly, many Goldens don’t hunt in today’s world, but the standard requires that they are fit for purpose as an athletic, working gundog with overall balance, condition, muscle tone, correct coat texture, and a dense undercoat providing a waterproof jacket. Soundness is a part of breed type! However, judges need to learn to prioritize in decision-making and, for most breeder- judges, issues of type will supersede minor movement faults. The Golden Retriever should NOT be judged as a generic show dog, nor with undue emphasis on presentation, showy attitude and abundant coat, which are mere glamour points. More impor- tantly, judges should not mistake excessive speed or extreme reach and drive for correct gait. Goldens should be shown on a loose lead with moderate speed. Feet should lift only high enough to move ahead, as excessive lift is wasted energy. Correct movement should be easy, smooth, ground-covering and efficient, allowing a Golden to work all day in the field. The tail carriage should, ideally, be level with the topline or slightly raised. The essentials of breed type for the Golden Retriever include temperament, head, coat, color, outline (proportion). A hallmark trait of the Golden Retriever is its friendly, soft, self-confident expression and beautiful head. With the breed’s prime function of retrieving game, the proper construction of muzzle and skull is imperative, as is musculature of the neck and head. Good depth and breadth of muzzle and skull are necessary. The muzzle should be approximately as long as the skull. Ears should be relatively short, attached slightly above and behind the eye. While eye shape is not stated in the standard, they should be medium large and dark, in an open, almond shape. They should not be obliquely set, round or triangular, all of which detract from the correct expression. Examine the head with the ears at rest to ascertain the

correct breadth and arch of the skull and the proper attachment point of the ear. The coat should be a close-fitting, water-proof jacket with a firm, resilient texture and a dense undercoat. The coat may be straight or wavy without preference. The breed standard requires a natural appearing coat, with moderate feathering and an untrimmed, natu- ral ruff. Any trimming should be limited to neatening stray hairs on the ears and feet, and virtually undetectable if done on any other areas of the dog. The Golden’s coat should not be moussed, clip- pered, stripped or sculpted and the underline should appear natural, not scissored into a straight line. Goldens require a thorough hands-on exam, so check under the coat for correct prosternum, return of upper arm, shoulder layback, depth of chest, solid, level topline, correct croup, and tail set. What you see from across the ring may not be what is truly there, so you must feel! Unfortunately, there can be a lot of deceptive grooming in this breed, but a proper exam can be done quickly and efficiently. The topcoat should never have the ends trimmed evenly. The coat must protectively wrap the body and not be fluffed-out into an open coat. We want a weather-resistant, resilient, protective coat. While some may argue over-grooming is a man-made issue, the correct



coat is an extremely important feature of breed type and must be given serious consideration. Variation in coloring, with lighter feathering on the back of the legs, thighs and tail, is one of the endearing features of this breed. The breed does appear in a range from cream to darkest gold, often in the same litter, and the coat darkens as the dog ages. Puppies will have deeper color on their ears, which is indicative of how the coat will darken with each year. The AKC standard states: Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable. “Undesirable” is not a disqualification, a major fault or fault, and there are many struc- tural and type issues which should be considered more seriously than color. Greying of the face and body due to age is not to be faulted, but any noticeable area of black or other off-color hair is a serious fault. Most breeder-judges rarely make a decision on their winners based on color when there are more concerning issues to address in the breed. Some of the current concerns are straight shoulders, lack of forechest, lack of length and return of upper arm, slanted, round or small eyes, soft, silky coats, and lack of rib spring. There have been tendencies for the breed to become low on leg and long in loin. Lack of convergence when moving leads to wide moving fronts that are inefficient and are often reflected in rolling or dipping toplines, which should remain level, standing or moving. The breed standard is clear, but what is often appearing and being rewarded in the ring is not in keeping with the requirements of the standard. Length from breastbone to point of buttocks slightly greater than height at withers in ratio of 12:11. This is only slightly off-square. The measurement of withers to elbow and elbow to ground should be approximately equal. The underline should be relatively short. The Golden needs sufficient leg to scramble out of the water and over some tough terrain in its native Scotland. Often, excessive body length comes from length through the loin, which is not the short, muscular, wide, deep loin called for in the standard. Golden Retrievers have a disqualification for size. Please note that puppies are NOT exempt from the size requirements. Judges should always be aware of the size standard of the Golden Retriever and its importance to the breed’s function. The Golden Retriever

is a moderately-sized, athletic hunting dog that may be required at times to work out of a small boat and have the stamina to perform a full day in the field. We encourage judges to measure any Golden Retriever in competition whose size creates uncertainty, whether at the upper or lower limit of the allowable size range. Currently, it is often in the Junior Puppy class where females, especially, may appear to be below the standard height—so be prepared to mea- sure. Dogs that are outside of the desirable size range, but within the extra one-inch allowance either way, should be proportionately penalized. Dogs and bitches that fall within the stated acceptable size range should be regarded as having equal merit, whether they are at the upper or lower end of the desirable range. The versatile Golden Retriever can fulfill many roles in today’s society, and the qualities that made it a keen hunting dog and fire- side companion are those that endear the breed to so many today. It is possible that the best Golden in your ring may have never appeared in a dog magazine. Please, judges, understand the impor- tance of correct proportion, coat texture, head properties, gait, and temperament in your assessments to ensure the breed remains true to type and true to its heritage. For more information: education/.




by GLENDA BROWN GRCA Field Education Committee

photo by ©Barb Loree

in a good hunting dog. When Goldens were developed, they were expected to have the courage to bust through that dense, harsh, wiry heather and brack- en to retrieve their game. They were expected to trail down crippled game using their nose and intelligence. They had to willingly swim across swift, icy streams or rivers to retrieve those pheas- ants that had set their wings and flew a considerable distance before going down. They had to have the stamina and athletic ability to cover that steep and rocky terrain for long days spent in driving, cold rain, snow flurries and harsh winds. They needed the train- ability to work with their handler as a team and not go into business for them- selves. They needed the temperament to hunt with other dogs without the

fear of fights developing. They needed a strong work ethic and the drive and desire to pursue their game under the most adverse conditions and remember, they retrieved both fur and feathers. If the dogs did not have these attributes, they were not used for reproduction. The Scots are pragmatists! A good hunting dog is what can turn a miserable hunting day into a success. They hear ducks coming in long before the hunter sees or hears them. They use their abilities to prevent dead birds or cripples being left in the field. They are marvelous companions while you are waiting and are great to have curl up against your cold feet and keep them warm. Even old dogs eagerly await the start of hunting season. They love it. They live for it. S HOW S IGHT M AGAZINE , S EPTEMBER 2018 • 365

BELOW IS A WONDERFUL REFLECTION THAT APPLIES EQUALLY TO JUDGES AS WELL AS OWNERS AND BREEDERS OF GOLDEN RETRIEVERS. PLEASE ALWAYS REMEMBER THE GOLDEN IS “PRIMARILY A HUNTING DOG”. —Ainslie Mills, GRCA Judge’s Education Chair I know that it is not realistic to expect most Golden owners in this day and age to hunt with their Goldens. I do think it is real- istic to expect them to know just what constitutes hunting and what is needed


A bitch exuding breed type accompanied by beautiful angles front to rear.

A nice example of a male with balance front to rear, accompanied by a level top line.

Spectacular breed type, balance and a level top line. Note the cream furnishings accompanied by a medium gold body coat.

A classic example of 12:11 ratios with a level top line and balanced angles front to rear.

I n my years with this wonderful breed, I have noticed many judges; new and old, can lack confidence judging Golden Retrievers due to the many styles within the breed. My advice to anyone potentially applying for their license for Goldens is; research thor- oughly, choose your mentor(s) carefully and lastly, go with your gut. I encourage judges to take the information given, but develop their own style of judging that one can fol- low. I can always appreciate consistency in judging, even if I wasn’t the one leaving the ring with the ribbons. Often times, you see provisionals judging and they look lost or anxious. Th ere are a few things I would like to address that are current issues facing our breed today. Understanding the current standard and potential revisions that need to be made to the current standard. Th e first thing I would like to address is the common misconception of amount of leg a Golden should have. Th e breed itself at one time tended to be long and low. I think we have strayed from that recently and almost to an extreme. Th e standard calls for ratios of 12:11. A dog with ample furnishings can trick the eye and the dog can appear low in leg. My suggestion to judges who are unsure, is to measure with your hands and eyes the length of the dog disregarding the coat. Th e standard calls for the length from the breastbone to the point of the buttocks slightly greater than the height at the withers. Many dogs that have the correct ratios, can look low due to coat. My suggestion to exhibitors showing a dog heavy in furnishings is to lightly clean up the underline of a dog, perhaps with a thin- ning shear, to show o ff the natural outline. Just as much as we can criticize lack of leg, we should be criticizing too much leg. Th e

standard specifically states “not clumsy nor long in leg.” I envision a sound, sturdy dog, that is light on their feet and athletic, with- out being slight in any fashion. Fault judging may be something we encounter in all breeds, but it is another huge issue in Goldens as well. Judges can tend to hyper-focus on one aspect of a dog and miss the “big picture”. Goldens are supposed to be a balanced breed, with the entire package being more important than any of it’s com- ponent parts. When we fault judge or choose a dog because of one component, we lose sight of the breed’s purpose. Overall balance should be the focus, versus picking a dog’s imperfections apart. Unless those imperfec- tions are disqualifications, of course. Speaking of disqualifications, I was recently talking with a mentor of mine who had taken a stud fee puppy from a frozen breeding I did with her male. Th is puppy won a major from the six to nine class but was measured to see if she was in Standard before she was given the win. Many long time breeders feel it is unreasonable to require a six month old to be within the minimum height standard of an adult. For males, our standard requires them to be 23-24 inches, bitches 21 ½ to 22 ½ inches. Th ere is an inch leeway below or above height standard, anything less or greater than, can be disqualified. But Labradors, for example, do not require pup- pies to be in standard until one year of age. I will join many other breeders who believe this is something our national club should adopt into our standard. Requiring puppies to be within minimum adult height at six months old could put them at a health risk for hip and/or elbow dysplasia if the owners overfeed to push growth. Sloping top lines seem to be a trend as well as of late. I find when you have a Golden

with a sloping top line you can usually dis- cover a structural fault that will prevent the overall balance that the standard asks for. Generally speaking, a dog with a sloping top line will be straighter in the front assembly, either having a very short upper arm, or an undesirable shoulder layback, paired with an over angulated rear. Be careful to not confuse a sloping top line on a dog in a stack with an exuberant temperament. Many Goldens can crouch in the rear when excited, the best way to evaluate a true sloping back is to study the top line on the move. Lastly, I want to discuss color. Golden Retrievers should be Golden; not red, nor white. To quote the standard, “Predominant body color which is either extremely pale or extremely dark is undesirable.” Yet, I see judges rewarding very light colored exhibits, one step away from being white, or extremely dark exhibits, whose color is possibly suited best for the Irish Setter ring. While color may not be a priority to some, I believe it is the hallmark of the breed. Th ey are GOLDEN Retrievers after all, right? As a breeder, health and temperament are always a first consid- eration, followed closely by breed type and structure. We have come a long way in Gold- ens; there is a lot of depth of quality within this breed, which makes it even harder to choose a winner on each given day. Remem- ber, when judging this breed, everything about them should be “GOLDEN”. ABOUT THE AUTHOR Brianna Bischo ff has been exhibiting in the sport of purebred dogs for the past 17 years, as well as breeding Best in Show, Best in Specialty Show, National Specialty winning Golden Retrievers under the Emery prefix. She is also proud to have produced field, obedience, agility, tracking and therapy titled Goldens as well.


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