You see them everywhere now, on TV and out in daily life in the U.S. They are marshmallow-pale, fluffy and dark-eyed babies that look like the “tribbles” in a Star Trek episode. They used to be rare as diamonds, but alas–there are at least 100 breeders of so-called “English Cream” Golden Retrievers currently in the United States.
In my view, this is not a good thing. Far too many people who do not comprehend either the history of the Golden nor the importance of breed stewardship–keeping the overall value, beauty and integrity of the breed a priority in all that one does–are disgorging litter upon litter into the world, out of imported sires and dams selected predominantly for light coat color, referring to them as “English Creams”– and even worse, as “white” Golden Retrievers.
Never has it been more appropriate to say Caveat Emptor to a puppy buyer– Buyer Beware! A fair percentage of these breeders have minimal in-depth knowledge of breed history and type, much less an educated grasp of the Kennel Club (KC) breed standard that should drive their selection of bloodstock and planned matings. When pressed, they couldn’t tell you the difference between Goldens abroad and those here at home except for a coat color, again, typically and erroneously referred to as “white.” Moreover, various websites put up by these breeders opine on the different breed issues with holes in their comprehension and–not a small distraction for a former comma-hunter– disastrously challenged vocabularies and sentence structure.
It is vital to realize, if one desires credibility, that type arises from breeding toward a given Breed Standard and that generally speaking the entire world uses the UK Standard set forth by “The Kennel Club” of Great Britain–
except, sadly, America the Arrogant, which has gone off on its own to establish a Breed Standard under the aegis of The Golden Retriever Club of America.
When viewing the breed as a whole and in setting the sound breeding goals of trying for excellence in type, soundness and temperament, this creates a schism in the breed. What American show breeders like diverges greatly from what defines an excellent Golden Retriever in the rest of the world.
Above all, understand that there is no such separate breed as the English White Golden Retriever, nor, properly, the English Cream Golden Retriever. There is only, the Golden Retriever– all one breed, with sub-types of the English/European Golden and The American Golden. All or nearly all standards set forth in other countries and regions of the world are based in the UK Standard.
It is true that all Goldens trace to one Lord Tweedmouth’s breeding of two yellow siblings in a generic hunting dog litter in Scotland in the 1800’s, followed by various experimental breedings. It is also true that over the years European and UK Goldens, bred predominantly according to the UK Kennel Club Breed Standard (how a given dog should be “constructed,” in the ideal) and the American Kennel Club Breed Standard for the Golden Retriever, charged with the same mission, diverged to such an extent that to the eye accustomed to the UK dog or bitch, an American-bred looks like a disaster–unless it is so exemplary in overall breed type that it transcends what some call “stylistic” differences..
In addition, while the first Goldens brought into the US conformed to KC standards, there was more division between show and field breed greats. Over time in this country there was indeed a divergence in sub-type or style so that one can easily spot a US show Golden today–and also, notice the lanky, leggy, often smaller field dog as he swims out to retrieve a fallen mallard. But to see type differences, take a look at the dogs below.
Each of these dogs is regarded as an excellent representative of breed type, but that type itself means different things to different people is obvious. There are additiional predominant differences between the English/European/Eastern European dogs from “well-bred” American Goldens. A lower ear set prescribed as just below the eye prevails in the KC Standard-bred dogs; this accounts for the beautiful rounded domey occiput we see in the great individuals across the pond. A level topline is preferred by the KC, achieved largely by the legs being set well beneath the dog’s body. Conversely, Amercan-bred show dogs have extreme rear angulation, so extreme that their toplines slope. Ergo, they are rated in the show ring on their “reach and drive,” on the move, the front legs reaching while the back legs drive the body. The KC breeders are aghast at this; they point out that the English in type dog ,with his legs under him, “gaits” effortlessly. When I watch our beautiful Angelo (by Multi CH Ashbury Angel Heart, France, out of Multi CH Lislone Garbank Loch Affric, Ireland) it isn’t hard to see which dog would be more effective in the field. And in a number of European countries, one’s Goldens must first prove their instincts as bird dogs before they are bred.
It is important to understand breed differences/subtypes so that we can cull dogs and bitches that fall short of the ideal. Two cream dogs do not automatically make a beautiful litter. One or the other can have terrible conformation, or be a hodge-podge of types and poor construction, i.e., misaligned parts. My favorite example of a conformational “English Cream” disaster, even taking poor stance into account, pictured below:
Post War Trends and Obsessions
Regarding the importation from Europe -boom et al of “English Creams”. Before we began to have the influx of cream Goldens into the U.S., a number of breeders brought dogs over predominantly from the U.K. to integrate into their breeding programs. Take a look at the very cogent and important breed history on the English Background Goldens in North America site and commit to gaining the right information with which to talk about the breed.
Now, since the launch of the Dirt Devil commercial a decade ago featuring cream GR puppies, aided and abetted by Oprah Winfrey’s purchase of two “white” Golden puppies from an importation mill shortly thereafter, Americans have lost their heads and hearts to “white” Golden Retrievers. At first there were only a few breeders onto changing public taste, a few importers. As time went on, however, many people in this country took advantage of their popularity and began importing dogs and bitches, and breeding them, selecting their keepers according to coat color i.e. cream., which PARDON THE CAPS IMPACTS THE GENE POOL!!! ENGLISH CREAM BREEDERS, WTFU–WAKE THE EFF UP! LEARN THE UK STANDARD, POSTED HERE. DETERMINE THAT YOU WILL BREED FOR THE WHOLE DOG, EVEN IF, GOD FORBID, YOU SHOULD HAVE GOLD-SHADED PUPPIES. It is considered, by the way, bad form in Europe to call a Golden white. Please, those of you who broadcast the availability of “white” Golden Retrievers, knock it off! When y ou do this, you display your ignorance of the breed you propose to “know,” to understand, to revere~! A white Golden is a contradiction in terms, when the KC Standard’s wording on coat color states that an acceptable coat is “…any shade of cream or gold except red or mahogany…”
THE TRAGEDY OF WORLDWIDE SUPPLY & DEMAND
Equally egregious, is how the Europeans, largely in poorer countries, have begun to breed for the US market. There has been a veritable Golden Age in exportation of cream-coated Goldens. It is understandable to love the look, as we all do, but please, love the whole dog or bitch. When you review US EC breeder websites, it becomes patently clear that even the top kennels in the UK and elsewhere in Europe, the Ukraine and Russia have provided even titled dogs and bitches, including bitches already in whelp, priced more than a house would cost in some regions of the US, to the American market. It also appears to me that the Euro breeder seldom screens his buyers to see who is likely to campaign his puppy or not. For in Colorado alone there are mega-breeders, commercial breeders who capitalize on the hard work of others, with more than ten Goldens–typically kenneled, seldom if ever seeing the inside of a house. Happy to give you the predominant names privately. Such breeders may appropriately warehouse their dogs, but seldom if ever give anything back to the breed by even attempting to show the dogs in question, or enter them in agility and/or obedience competition. May I qualify this last statement by disclosing that were I not wheelchair bound I would myself be out in the ring with our boy Angelo and his beautiful daughter Dazzle, whelped in 2017 out of Amore Veritas Malibu.
Are such breeders merely glorified puppy mills? I will not risk being accused of libel here, but take a long hard look at the numbers of dogs featured on a site, and think. Check out Site A and B in particular. Certainly the European kennels are not immune to over-dogging themselves to meet American demand–cf Tramin, in the Ukraine, and many others throughout Eastern Europe, Ukraine and Russia, but now we have a somewhat fortuitous new problem–a glitch in the heretofore smoothly running machinery of export-import, everybody selling white dogs and breeders abroad charging thousands for their bloodlines.
For last year, the CDC(US Center for Disease Control) enacted a new policy that has affected importation. CDC now requires that dogs coming into the U.S. must be vaccinated for rabies at twelve weeks, with enough time (30 days) reserved so that titration of the blood shows immunity. Now the best kennels exporting to America who have come to depend on the healthy selling out over night of every puppy, find themselves in a bind. They have kennels full of older puppies and no time or interest in teaching basic obedience so that one is not overwhelmed by a long-awaited but inattentive puppy heading straight into puberty. Time will tell whether the CDC has indeed dealt the death-blow to raising English Goldens for profit.
Meanwhile, Americans continue to import, to kennel their dogs and raise them to breed. In my mind is a picture of a mock Titantic, decks groaning with litters of newly weaned precocious, very light puppies with no manners. We struggled so with how to proceed with our beautiful new puppy; he arrived at four months with no training. After three years, he remains mouthy as hell, such is the strength of his retrieving desire; he continues to pull, to veer off in disregard of sit or stay. We adore him, however, and do not intend to give up.
Back to my point that certain people shouldn’t be breeding. If you cannot speak about your dogs articulately, if you do not have an in-depth knowledge of the breed and the great dogs, how can y ou fairly call y ourselves breeders. I read a website tonight that has asserted that the English Cream Retriever is a breed unto itself. This is not true. I urge every breeder to put the right information out there. Here are links to cogent information. One of the best sites, again, is one called English Background Golden Retrievers in North America. And here is a very informative discussion far more detailed than I have time to post here.
Ten years into the EC “boom,” serious and worthy breeders are emerging whose breeding programs I admire; if I had the resources, I would emulate them. My own breeders in Romania, Beauly Highland, have been dynamos. They have acquired their breeding stock from established fanciers in the UK, inviting their mentorship and taking their advice. Specifically and fortuitously, they have had the guidance of Kate Crosbie Black, of Garbank & Lislone Golden Retrievers in Ireland, one of the top kennels in the UK. They have gone on to show and title their dogs and bitches, and their dogs get lots of one on one. They didn’t breed their bitch until she was titled– good for them! They thus produced a terrific litter of ten with a gold-plated pedigree. Their new puppies were raised in fierce commitment to love, attention, the best of everything. In the midst of raising their first litter they put the litter’s grandsire, Multi CH Tramin Arni Joy into the ring with his handler, and he took the World Championship in Milan in 2015 and in March 2018, he won the veteran class at Crufts!!!
The journey with purebred dogs is never easy. It takes patience, love, time, money and a thick skin. It is true that if you have something other people want, they will be jealous. I can scarcely bear to be reminded of certain heated exchanges I have had. But it’s all worth it when the love in those black rimmed eyes sparks in my direction, and my arms are full of Angelo, or Malibu, or Gabe, or Giselle, or Lola or Paris or Dazzle. Passion? Addiction? Breaking my own rules? You, dear reader, decide…..xj
Jenne’ R. Andrews, formerly Gilded Peak American Golden Retrievers, now Ardorgold English Goldens….