Monday, August 20, 2007

Teller: One dog wrecking crew

There's an interesting thread that is going on the Work_Gold mailing list over the past week or so…essentially there are three camps "arguing" about the breed standard - people who breed for the conformation ring, others who breed for field, others who breed for agility/obedience and still others who breed specifically for pet homes. The fierce beliefs on the list echo what we see in goldens as a breed - the dichotomy between "types", health and temperament problems - disagreement over what is "breed type" and what is "golden temperament". The hunt/field people swear that first and foremost a golden retriever is a RETRIEVER and must be physically able to carry large foul moderate distance over ground and water - the measure of this varies from person to person, but essentially this camp believes that a golden should have some sort of field/hunt title behind it's name before it is ever bred...The breed people insist that it's structure and gait and where there's form there MUST be function - even if they don't test their dogs on birds you need a skull of X proportion to muzzle, depth of chest, etc etc. The pet people stress temperament over all else - must be a creature that gets along with everyone, breed a structurally deficit animal that doesn't retrieve just because he is a big lovable goof. Then there's the last camp: The people who are breeding border collies in golden suits, conformation is not high on their list, temperament isn't high either - it's fast and trainable - bidability - but no one uses that word. These are the dogs that come from parent, grandparent, etc etc etc - OTCH, MACH,etc.

All potentially valid goals, that backfire occasionally: the gorgeous breed or agility dog that has to be kept under thumb not to eat another dog in the ring (this seems to be pretty common now in the breed ring, with dogs making contact with other dogs and still placing), the field-type dog that physically falls apart at a young age, the cancer that is so prevalent in our breed, dogs with zero interest or drive to retrieve anything or dogs that covet what they "get" and won't return despite the best training attempts to correct the possessive behavior. Then there are the breed dogs with so short a muzzle are unable to fit a chuckar in their mouths - let alone the chest and neck required to carry a full-grown Canada goose back from dense cover. One of the reasons that I feel very strongly if Teller ever gets to reproduce he's got to get out there and learn to be a retriever - dummies don't count - he's got to be able to work ducks (geese scare the crap out of me - so I think we'll stick to ducks - maybe big fat ducks).

Anyway, my point here is that being the "conformation" dog that Teller is, he's got a fantastic work ethic - he'll retrieve back to hand until he drops (that's my guess, I don't push him). He's shown interest in wings and birds though I'm hesitant to do too much with them for fear of "breaking" him - we finally found a field trainer who will work with us without the use of e-collars. We start in September - anyhow…I keep re-reading the field breeder argument "must be able to physically retrieve a full grown goose" - to me that means, find the dropped bird,pick it up and return it to whomever sent him to get it. I've studied Teller's muzzle, the shape of his head, the length of his neck and the depth of his chest - yes, I think he's got the structure - the form to work with a large bird. Yes I think he has the instinct to return it to me - he's got adequate form to that function and the boldness (he's cheeky) to bring it back and be rather pleased with himself for doing so.

Tonight I'm in the kitchen making lasagna, it's cool enough that I can leave the back door open and let the boys go in and out as they choose. I put the lasagna in the oven and pause - there's Murphy…where's Teller? Uh-oh, it's awfully quiet - where's Teller…then there's a clunk on the deck, and a crash in the doorway. In walks Teller carrying a shovel - Yes, a 4' spade with iron shovel part. He's holding it a foot from the handle (meaning he's not even close to balancing it) the metal shovel bit only briefly delays Teller's entrance sticking on door jam while Teller wiggles to get his "prize" into the house. With a whoosh Teller is in the house and the end table is cleared by the spade (remotes, box of tissues, a soda can, my laptop,digital camera, phone, cell phone, pager) - everything falls onto the floor with a thud, Teller turns around to inspect his damage and clears the coffee table and takes down the grooming table - the grooming table comes as a bit of a surprise to dear Teller who is startled by the chaos that "just happens" to be going on around him, he heads back out the door, not before hooking the side of a crate which he drags out the door with him (still holding the shovel) - now the real fun begins - SLAM (clay flower pot with impatiens - cracked in half), WHACK (solar lantern), CLANG (my stainless steel grill), BOING (the side of the pool) - meanwhile his tail is wagging so proudly and he's doing the most expressive gaiting I've ever seen him do - all while carrying the damn shovel. So, what do you guys think - can he can carry a goose?

Meanwhile, I'm still picking up the pieces and trying to convince Uncle Murphy that the sky is NOT falling...oh and the laptop, camera and pager all survived the fall - the pot of impatiens weren't so lucky...

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