On my travels, I meet many dogs – working dogs, lap dogs, mixed breeds – and I seem to come across them in all kinds of situations! When I am in Great Britain, however, I seem to find myself in the company of a fair number of Golden Retrievers. They are currently number two on the list of U.K. Kennel Club Registrations, after all, and are warm, friendly and great family dogs. Due to this great willingness to make friends, it is inadvisable to acquire a Golden Retriever as a guard dog – unless you want any intruders licked to death!
The roots of the breed lie in Scotland. Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, Ist Baron Tweedmouth (1820 – 1894), was a major landowner, who had large kennels on his estate in Guisachen, Inverness, Scotland. Aiming to produce a superior hunting dog, able to work hard all day, and retrieve shot birds which had landed in water, he crossed a yellowish-coloured retriever with a Tweed Water Spaniel (a now extinct breed). Further generations were crossed with Irish Setters (which may account for the occasional mahogany-coloured pup), the English Bloodhound, and the St. John’s Water Dog from Newfoundland. The overall effect was to produce a dog which loved water, had a durable water-repellant double coat, was a very hard-working gundog, and had an excellent temperament. The breed spread rapidly around the world – aided by the fact that Lord Tweedmouth also owned a ranch in Texas - and became recognized as an excellent gundog.
There are, unfortunately, differing breed standards in America and the U.K., leading to British dogs having noticeable broader muzzles, and somewhat shorter legs. However, British ‘Goldies’ seem to have even sweeter temperaments than their American cousins -which can be difficult to believe. Their coats are shed twice a year – which can mean the person wielding the vacuum cleaner can growl more than the dog! Due to their coat (which may have a slight wave), they should be brushed daily and inspected for burrs and ticks if the dog has access to woods and fields.
Here we see an example of this gentle breed; Honey is now a ‘senior dog’ (a 'senior woozle', perhaps), and although less active than she used to be, is still a great family pet, giving love and attention to all she meets. However, her circle of friends and acquaintances is much wider than the average dog, for Honey lives in an English pub (actually, a small hotel, where I stayed). Since the pub is the only one for miles, has a great bar AND a restaurant, Honey sees lots of folk each day. She makes them all welcome, and rouses herself from in front of the wood-burning stove, or the fireplace, to slowly tour the public bar, where she is petted at each table and often given treats (a piece of sausage here, a sliver of ham there).
Whatever else Lord Tweedmouth may have done in life (and he was a major politician), we should remember him with affection for the gift he gave the world – the Golden Retriever.