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Are Golden Retrievers Good Hunting Dogs? What You Need to Know

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Golden Retriever

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The modern Golden Retriever is renowned for being a loyal and loving family dog, a sympathetic and effective therapy dog, and an intelligent and attentive assistance dog. But, as the name suggests, they were first bred for retrieving. Specifically, they were used for retrieving birds and other quarry that had been downed by their hunter companion. Has multiple generations of life on the couch and in front of the fire dulled their retrieving prowess? Is the modern Golden Retriever more at home in the home, or does it still have the capacity to gather grouse?

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Golden Retriever History

The Golden Retriever originated in the Scottish Highlands in the 19th Century. It was bred, by crossing Flat-Coated Retrievers with Water Spaniels and other breeds to effectively retrieve prey from fields, boggy marshes, and water. The breed was first recognized by The Kennel Club of England in 1911 and the American Kennel Club in 1925. The first three American Kennel Club Obedience Champion title winners were all Golden Retrievers, showing their talent for obedience activities.

Their long, double coats kept them warm and protected them when in rivers and streams. Their tireless energy meant that they could run all day, and their intelligence and willingness to please meant that they were easy to train and would obey their handlers’ commands. Their affectionate and gentle nature also meant that they made excellent companions during long waits and at home in the evenings.

Golden retriever beautiful lovely pair
Image Credit: Rala3030, Shutterstock

Today’s Golden Retriever

While many of us may be more accustomed to seeing this long blonde-haired pup sprawled on sofas and lazing in front of fires, they are still very popular and skilled hunting dogs.

The breed does carry some of its hunting attributes over into daily life but is renowned for making an excellent family pet. It is loving and loyal, gets along with family members of all ages, and will usually get along with other dogs. The Golden Retriever doesn’t usually have a strong prey drive. Hunters would not have accepted a retriever that took flight and brought down game of their own volition, after all.

They do have that long coat that needs regular brushing and sheds heavily twice a year, and the Golden is known for carrying anything and everything around in its mouth, such as toys and blankets. This can even include kittens (usually very carefully) and puppies. The breed also requires plenty of time outdoors being exercised and benefits greatly from being formally trained at a young age. Owners should consider signing up for puppy training and obedience classes to help curb their athletic enthusiasm.

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3 Common Uses for Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers have an amazing array of talents. Finley from New York, for example, holds the world record for the dog that can carry the most tennis balls in its mouth at one time—his record stands at six tennis balls. The record was previously held by Augie from Texas, who was also a Golden Retriever. As well as being master tennis ball holders, loving family pets, and skilled hunters, Golden Retrievers are also commonly seen working as:

1. Search and Rescue Dogs

Search and rescue requires a specific set of talents. The dog has to have excellent concentration, a highly tuned sense of smell, and a willingness to work. The Golden excels at all of these things, making it a great search and rescue breed. The Golden was used extensively following the 9/11 attack with reports of the dogs going in and back in to retrieve, escort, and aid injured people.

a search and rescue dog with its handler
Image By: acceptphoto, Shutterstock

2. Therapy Dogs

Their attentive, loving nature also makes Golden Retrievers good candidates for use as therapy dogs. These dogs will visit hospitals and other care centers, where they are approached, petted, and loved by patients and residents. Not only will they put up with the attention, but they genuinely enjoy every minute of it. As well as always being up for some petting, they will also fetch and play other games.

3. Assistance Dogs

Another common job for Golden Retrievers is being an assistance dog. The most common assistance dogs are seeing-eye dogs that help those with visual impairments navigate around the world. They also undertake daily tasks and some jobs for their handler. As well as the Golden Retriever’s other admirable attributes, it is also said to have a soft mouth, so it can lead its owner by the hand or gently pick up items without damaging them.

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The Golden Retriever is one of the world’s most popular pet dog breeds, and it remains one of the most accomplished retrievers, gathering downed birds from fields and water. It retains the attributes that made it such a popular hunting companion in the 19th Century, including its stamina, gentle mouth, intelligence, and eagerness to please. However, as well as being a skilled hunter, the Golden is also deployed as a search and rescue dog, used as a therapy dog, and trained as an assistance dog, such is its depth of traits and skills.


Featured Image Credit: Olena Brodetska, Shutterstock

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