|Greater Houston Golden Retriever Club|
The Golden Retriever breed was developed in the late 1800's in Scotland. The breed was brought to North America in the early 1900's. Soon after Golden Retrievers were recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) and began to be exhibited in AKC shows and field trials.
From the beginning, the purpose of the Golden Retriever breed was to be a hunting retriever. Goldens were used to hunt upland game and waterfowl in their native Scotland. The physical characteristics of the breed, defined in the Breed Standard, are optimized for a working gun dog. The Breed Standard describes an athletic dog of moderate size, with long water repellant coat of any shade of gold. Temperament is considered the hallmark of the breed and should be friendly, confident, out-going, and never shy, quarrelsome or aggressive. As a sporting breed, a working gun dog, Golden Retrievers are active and energetic. They are intelligent, people-oriented, and easy to train. Their intelligence also makes for curious and often naughty puppies, and dogs who crave mental exercise as well as needing physical exercise. They are anything but the laid-back stereotype many people have of the breed! Goldens seek human attention, and do not do well if left alone much of the time. They want to be your constant companion. While a correct-texured Golden coat should not require extensive grooming or care, it does require regular brushing and Goldens do shed year-round. This is not a good breed for anyone who objects to dog hair in their life! Their friendly, non-aggressive nature makes this a poor choice for anyone seeking a guard dog or protection dog.
The breed does have a number of inherited health concerns. Anyone thinking of getting a Golden Retriever puppy is advised to do their homework and learn about the breed and the health concerns before making a purchase. Responsible breeders screen their breeding stock for herediary health problems, and buyers should expect breeders to provide proof of these tests as well as help in understanding their importance. Please see our Puppy Pages for more information on acquiring a Golden Retriever puppy, and recognizing and selecting a responsible breeder.
The Golden Retriever's moderate size, even temperament, trainability, and playful attitude makes them a popular choice as a family companion. Their intelligence, ease in training, work ethic, and athletic physical traits make them a popular choice for hunters and those who enjoy training and competing in various dog sports.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is one of the oldest and largest organizations in the United States that maintains registration for purebred dogs, and sponsors a wide range of shows, trials, tests, and other dog events. The Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) is a member club of the American Kennel Club, and is the AKC national parent club of the Golden Retriever breed. Local clubs such as the Greater Houston Golden Retriever Club are members of GRCA.
GRCA maintains a web site with extensive information on Goldens, their care, training, and breeding, listings for local clubs, puppy referral contacts, rescue listings, and more. We encourage all lovers of the Golden Retriever to explore at www.grca.org.
The Golden Retriever Foundation is a separate organization established to promote education about the breed, rescue, and health research. Donations to the GRF are tax deductible, and may be directed to specific funds for rescue, research, or education.
In addition to AKC, there are other organizations sponsoring dog sports and events of many sorts, as well as registration of purebred dogs. As a GRCA member club, GHGRC supports the AKC Breed Standard and is licensed to hold AKC shows and trials. Below are just some of the many activities you can enjoy with your Golden Retriever:
Obedience and Rally-O
Obedience training is the foundation upon which all canine activities are based, whether conformation, agility, tracking, search & rescue, service dogs, fieldwork, etc. The Golden Retriever's intelligence, willingness to please, and work ethic, make the breed well-suited for and highly successful in AKC obedience and rally trials. AKC obedience trials offer several levels from Beginner Novice, to the advanced Utility Class. At the beginning levels, dogs are tested for their ability work with their handler to execute obedience exercises such a Heeling on and off leash, Recall, and Stays. The intermediate and advanced classes include these skills as well as retrieving, jumping, and scent exercises. Dogs are scored on their accuracy and precision. Titles are earned at all levels. Rally merges a number of obedience skills into a course which dog and handler teams perform as the judge observes and scores. Dogs are scored on accuracy and precision as well as time required to complete the course. There are three levels of difficulty and titles earned at each level.
Dog agility is a dog sport in which a handler directs a dog through an obstacle course in a race for both time and accuracy. Dogs run off-leash with no food or toys as incentives, and the handler can touch neither dog nor obstacles. Consequently the handler's controls are limited to voice, movement, and various body signals, requiring exceptional training of the animal and coordination of the handler.
In its simplest form, an agility course consists of a set of standard obstacles laid out by a judge in a design of his or her own choosing in an area of a specified size. The surface may be of grass, dirt, rubber, or special matting. Depending on the type of competition, the obstacles may be marked with numbers indicating the order in which they must be completed.
The Golden Retriever's combination of athleticism and trainability make them highly successful in agility competition. AKC titles are earned at all levels of competition from Novice to Master Agility Champion.
Tracking is a sport whereby a dog follows a human scent trail
and locates articles on the scent trail placed by that human. It is a fun
outdoor activity for you and your dog. It’s fascinating to watch your dog work a scent trail, marveling at their capabilities, wondering what it is they smell, and knowing that we can never hope to do the same. AKC tracking tests are non-competitive, pass/fail events. There are several levels testing basic and advanced skills on different types of surfaces. AKC titles are earned at each level. Golden Retrievers have excellent noses and generally excel at scent work such as tracking.
A competitive dog sport that involves the presentation of purebred dogs to be judged for correspondence to respective breed standards. Conformation trials, or dog shows, are designed to display purebred dogs with ideal physical characteristics of their respective breeds as determined by their breed standard. Dogs compete against others of the same breed and sex. Winners may earn points toward a breed Championship title. At all-breed shows, Best of Breed winners go on to compete against other breed winners in their Group (Goldens are in the Sporting Group), and Group winners compete for the honor of Best in Show. Best of Breed, Group, and Best in Show wins earn points toward AKC Grand Championship titles.
GRCA sponsors a Conformation Certificate program (CCA) to provide a non-competitive means for Golden Retriever owners to have their dog evaluated against the AKC Breed Standard.
Field Trials, Hunting Tests, and Working Certificate Tests
The AKC has two types of retriever field events:
Field Trials and Hunting Tests.
Retriever hunting tests are non-competitive, pass/fail events. AKC awards the titles of Junior Hunter (JH), Senior Hunter (SH), and Master Hunter (MH) for performance in hunt tests. The standards for the various levels are designed to approximate the situations and conditions encountered when hunting. Dogs are required to prove the ability to mark, find, and retrieve birds on land and water, as well as handle on blind retrieves. Since the Goldens' original purpose and hunting style involved quartering and flushing of game, AKC now allows Golden Retrievers to participate in spaniel hunting tests as well as retriever hunting tests.
Field trials are competitive events showcasing the ultimate in retriever ability. There are four stakes: Derby for dogs 6 months to 2 years, Qualifying for all dogs that have not yet earned two 1st or 2nd placements in a Qualifying stake, Amateur (dogs must be handled by an amateur, not a professional trainer/handler), and Open (for all dogs/handlers). Placements in Amateur and Open earn points towards AKC Amateur Field Champion and Field Champion titles respectively.
GRCA sponsors Working Certificate and Working Certificate Excellent tests which test basic innate ability (WC), and more advanced trained skills (WCX) in the field. WC is intended to indicate a dog with basic marking and memory ability that should be inherited in the breed. WCX is designed to demonstrate a dog with advanced training and skills. Certificates are earned by passing one test at the respective level. For owners unable to pursue field trials or hunt tests, the WC/WCX test program provides a venue to demonstrate that their Golden Retrievers possess the ability to perform the breed's original function as a hunting retriever.
A therapy dog is a dog trained to provide affection and
comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools,
hospices, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations, such as
Therapy dogs come in all sizes and breeds. The most important characteristic of a therapy dog is its temperament. A good therapy dog must be friendly, patient, confident, gentle, and at ease in all situations. Therapy dogs must enjoy human contact and be content to be petted and handled, sometimes clumsily. See our Resources page for links to Houston area therapy dog organizations.
For Junior handlers (10-18 years of age), AKC has several Junior programs. In the conformation show ring, there are Junior Showmanship classes where Juniors are judged on their presentation and handling of their dog. In performance events, a Junior may earn a Junior handler certificate for handling a dog to a performance title. Check the AKC web site, www.akc.org , for details on these programs.
New dog sports are always coming on the scene. Goldens are currently starting to compete and earn titles in dock diving, nose work, and barn hunt! In addition to these activities, Golden Retrievers are also found excelling as working guide and service dogs, diabetic and seizure alert dogs, search and rescue dogs, and in law enforcement.
The greater Houston area is blessed with an abundance of dog clubs and training facilities offering all manner of classes and competitions. For listings, go to our Links and Resources page.