Friday, January 25, 2013

Nature vrs. Nurture

What plays a bigger role in the success & well-being of a dog? Is it nature or nurture? When choosing a puppy, do you focus on pedigree or environment?
The golden retriever world has long pondered this question and the result is a landscape that is exquisitely diverse. Conformation breeders focus on the health and genetics of their lines. Temperament, longevity, bone, coat and hips are all viewed through a genetics lens. Popular sires become popular because they possess highly desired attributes, that will hopefully be passed on to their get. The breeder must hone the traits that will help them succeed in the conformation ring, while balancing health & well-being. A juggling act extraordinaire!
On the flip side in obedience, there is a focus on behavior. What is the best way to train a puppy? We concentrate on shaping the behaviors we want and debate the merits of positive vrs. negative training methods. We view puppies on a level playing field with the same amazing potential. The puppy is a tabula rasa waiting for us to mold him! When you get to the national level, we consistently see the same kennel names show up. The obedience breeder knows the importance of genetics. She selects the qualities that embody a good obedience prospect over many generations. Drive, biddableness and intelligence take center stage.
How does this all relate to field bred goldens? What may phenotypically look great on a conformation golden, may seem like a burden to the field breeder. Open flowing coats & an overdone appearance lack purpose for a dog that must hunt in thick cover & navigate cold water. Form follows function. Drive, endurance, and tractability-the "willingness to work," are essential elements to a good field dog. The genetic traits found in the field pedigree are what make a golden a good hunting dog.
Lastly, we see the role that environment plays in Rescue work. All dogs rescued from shelters, puppy mills or family circumstance, have the potential for rehabilitation. With the right nurturing, veterinary treatment and proper training the golden puppy can be a happy and loving companion. The rescue worker focuses on finding the right home for the adopted puppy. Family dynamics and training move to the forefront, as genetics fades to the background.
The Golden Retriever Breed Standard, contains all the elements of the ideal golden. So how did they come up with this blueprint? By balancing both genetics and environment! Best of luck finding your perfect puppy.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Time Is Relative

Happy New Year!  Three hundred & sixty-six days have passed in what seems like a week.  The new golden puppy that was born in Jan. 2012, is now a gangly teenager. Your 7 year old can now compete in the Veteran class in the breed ring. Your 10 year old is entering his twilight years. In human years, it would be unthinkable to lose a 10 year old but for those who love dogs, life is compressed. The clock starts ticking from the moment the puppy is whelped. There is so little time to teach, to love, to share. As dog owners we are willing to risk that heartache, for the gift of joy and devotion. I got to thinking about the many ways that time is relative in the world of dogs.
To name a few: Adolescence- imagine if your golden were human.  He would be a trash eating, counter-surfing, recall avoiding teenager until the day he was old enough to leave home. That would be a very, very long time!
Puppyhood- the stuff we complain about, passes in what seems like the blink of an eye. Imagine if as a parent, you only had to change diapers for a few weeks or months?  Housebreaking doesn't seem so bad now, does it?
Long Stays- Why does the one minute sit-stay in the Novice A ring feel like an hour's detention in the principal's office?
Daylight Savings Time Ends- time stands still for a dog on this day.  Nothing is worse than this- not even the out-of-sight stays in Open.  The one hour wait seems like an eternity.  If your dog could talk he would say," take me to the vet, take away my bumpers but never, ever mess with my feeding schedule!"

Wishing you the gift of time in the coming new year.  Make every moment count!