My Smart Puppy

with Dog Expert, Sarah Wilson

Understanding Your Retriever


Breeds: Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Curly-coated Retriever, Flat-coated Retriever, Golden Retriever, Labrador Retriever, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retrievers, Standard Poodle, Doodles with Lab/Golden/Standard Poodle in them.

Retrievers, not surprisingly, were created to retrieve. Their job is to sit by a hunter all day, wait for game to fly by, wait until the gun is fired, wait until the game is downed, then, on command, retrieve that game. When they bring the bird back, they should not make a mark on it. At times, a retriever can not even see where the bird fell. In these instances, they follow their owner’s commands, often at a great distance. Classically, retrievers work in cold, sometimes icy, water but they can also work in heavy brush. What sort of dog does this job produce?

Touch Insensitive
If a retriever was a “sensitive” dog she would never leap into cold waters or break through heavy brush to retrieve, nor would she sit contentedly waiting for another chance to work as icicles formed on her coat. These physically tough dogs are normally tolerant of childrenís behavior, though that is not license to allow harassment. They can be stoic, not showing signs of an injury. Physically forceful methods are not as effective as methods that engage their excellent minds and strong desire to please.

Sound Insensitive
Sitting close to a hunter when guns go off requires a dog who thinks nothing of loud noise. Sound insensitive dogs do not respond to yelling and are usually calm around noisy children. Fireworks or thunderstorms do not bother them. Nowadays, with the increased popularity of retrievers, overbreeding has produced all kinds of deviations from the norm including dogs that are frightened by loud sounds.

A good retriever will hunt for most anyone. Aggression was of no use in these dogs. Growling at a hunting buddy or mauling the ducks were not useful qualities in a working retriever. Just about all Goldens and most Labs will follow anyone with a tennis ball. These dogs are usually safe with children, friends and guests. You can send a friend safely into your home on their own. This does not apply to the Chesapeake, who can be and often is, a one-person dog.

For a retriever, nirvana is just a stick, or a sock, or a ball away. Every event is more meaningful, every encounter more pleasant, if they have something in their mouths. If nothing is at hand, then your hand will do. This is not aggression but a retrieverís instinctual, genetic oral need. Early training can easily direct this need to more acceptable objects.

Common Problems: Sins of enthusiasm – mouthing, jumping, pulling on lead, and chewing. Chesapeake’s can be territorial, possessive, and dog aggressive.

The Good Home: People who have time for several exercise periods a day. Time must be available for regular training sessions, as these guys can be quite physical until taught to control themselves. Don’t expect them to handle unsupervised freedom in the house until after two years of age.

Also: Not a Bonehead! Normal…for a Labrador Retriever

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