More About British Golden Retrievers

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 the overall Breed Standard and that countries and regions have their own breed standards which in my view, accounts for the fact that there are indeed differences in type within our breed. 

But 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, and/or the South American Golden (built on American bloodlines with general conformance to US type).  And so on.

It is true that all Goldens trace to one Lord Tweedmouth’s breeding of two yellow dogs 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. 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.

The stunning Swedish Show Champion Inassicas Coriander – English in Type
The American Champion Doolin-River Tullamore Dew. Note the over-angulation of the stifle so that rear legs extend past the body of the dog. Note the groomed-up chest and brisket, the smaller head and nearly nonexistent neck of today’s US show Golden. Image in Public Domain — k9data, Facebook.

Each of these dogs is an excellent representative of breed type, but that type itself means different things to different people is obvious.  There are predominant differences between the English/European/Eastern European dogs from well-bred American Goldens.  A lower ear set 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 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.  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:

What happens when selecting for a whiter shade of pale? Overly long “hound” ears, steep in the rear from long legs, sloping topline; no defined angles to be found. Image from public domain.

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 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.  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…”

Equally egregious, is how the Europeans, largely in poorer countries, began breeding for the US market. There has been a veritable Golden Age in exportation of cream Goldens. When y ou 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, sold for thousands,  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.  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.

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–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 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 a month he continues to pull, to veer off in disregard of sit or stay.  We adore h im, 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.

At this point, 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.

Joy is Angelo’s grandsire, and we are waiting with as much forbearance as we can muster for our boy to reveal his maturity..  We hope to show Angelo, ideally trading his handling and certifications for use as a stud dog.

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 our now 6 month old Angelo..

Jenne’ R. Andrews, formerly Gilded Peak American Golden Retrievers, now Ardorgold English Goldens….