Is a Field Golden Retriever right for your family? What do we mean by a Field Golden Retriever? How are these dogs different to show line dogs?
Field bred Golden Retrievers come from lines in the breed that were bred specifically for hunting in the field. Now you might argue that Golden Retrievers were all bred to retrieve and be working dogs but over the years many have now been bred to become show dogs. Learn the differences and decide if a field Golden Retriever is right for you.
Field Bred Golden Basics
The lifespan of a field-bred Golden Retriever should be no different to a show line. Most field-bred dogs in a working environment will not become overweight. If you have them as pets, as I do, be sure to feed appropriately for the level of activity your dogs get on a daily basis. Working dogs need more calories and usually a higher protein diet.
A Field Golden Retriever size should conform to the standards. My two males are American Goldens and have a lankier leg. They are 23 inches and 24 inches tall. One weighs 71 lbs, his younger brother is 66lbs. Those weights fall in the ideal weight for males. The maximum accepted weight to conform is 75lbs.
The activity level is higher than show line Golden Retriever puppies. While walking should be restricted while bones develop, and we found that hard, and indoor play can go all day!
Differences Between Field and Show Lines
My experience with field bred Golden Retrievers is that they are very smart dogs. I have two field bred Goldens, they are brothers from separate litters. Because Mom and Dad were the same, they look incredibly alike but have a few slight differences. Both dogs were very easy to teach words. We had our trainer take care of the basic obedience; sit, down, heel, come and place are the main commands he taught. We added several more words and both are very good at; find, birdies, get it, drop it, bedtime, biscuit, off, out, balls, they know each other’s names and will go find each other if asked.
They also know sounds. I have two incredible sound-oriented dogs and if someone is arriving at the house they’ll tell me. Guard dogs? Definitely warning dogs. FedEx truck, people walking by, all movements are warned. Field bred Goldens are more confident and are more likely to bark at strangers and other activities in your neighborhood.
They show physical strength and can play or work for hours and hours. A Field Golden Retriever requires more exercise every day than a 30-minute walk. If you are looking for a lap dog, do not select a field-bred Golden Retriever. They are energetic and require more exercise as well as mental stimulation. Our pack gets 2-3 hours a day, a lot of it on their own running and chasing whatever they can or each other. They thrive on mental work and daily are worked in all aspects of their training.
Field bred dogs are bred to hunt and or to win field trials. They’ll work in all weather and love the snow. Unlike show lines which are bred to conform to the bred standard and be pretty as well as reproducing more puppies. Other Goldens are bred to produce other types of working dogs such as therapy dogs and human support dogs.
Field dogs have a very strong drive to chase birds or anything else that flies in the sky! Field bred lines are hunters. They are the true bird dog, originally bred to retrieve and will do so once taught. One of my Goldens has caught a number of animals including a baby bunny and a woodpecker in flight. Both brothers chase just about anything in our back yard including white-tailed deer. They’ll sit and watch a turtle crawl!
The fur on a field-bred Golden is usually coarser than a show line dog. It is also shorter and while having feathers in all the right places it is not as long. One advantage is that shedding is not quite as bad as a show line Golden Retriever. The fur on their backs is more wavy and coarser, making it perfect for swimming to retrieve, the water runs off. It’s easier to groom as well. Their tail feathers are thick and coarse, the worst part of the grooming for me! Paw fur on a field Golden is naturally shorter as are the leg feathers.
Hunting & Gun Dog Training
Obedience training for hunting dogs should start with the basics. Teaching your puppy to sit, heel, walk on a leash, stay and lie down all play a part in a hunting dog’s future in the field. Come is the most important because you need your field dog to bring what he retrieves to you.
For the first 3-5 months of his life, after he came home with you it’s all about socialization. Interacting with other humans, puppies, learning his name, crate training and potty training are all needed as a good foundation. He needs to learn the word NO.
From 4-5 months you can start adding in the commands. Go to a puppy training school or a professional trainer for the best outcome. One to one training is the best choice. The puppy must learn how to walk politely on a leash with no pulling. The basic commands of sit, down, come, heel and place must be mastered. At the same time a true working dog can be introduced on a leash to the prey he’ll be working with during his basic retriever training.
Training a hunting dog is a specialty. I highly advise if you have never trained a hunting dog, now is not the time to start. Seek out the help of trainers with experience. Many of them work in the field with their own dogs. I do not have the experience to teach you, I have my hunting dogs as pets only. I love their energy and drive. There are hunting dog training schools in most areas here in the USA.
Once your puppy has mastered the basic obedience commands it’s time to add in whatever you need for hunting.
Hunting dogs will need to learn to swim, understand that birds are not for eating but for retrieving, and what a gunshot is. By the time a Golden is 8-12 months old, he should be set off to retrieve bumpers in place of birds and bring them back. They should be getting used to gunshots and understand the way in which they naturally seek their prey. All of this takes time and patience. Genes are helping and so will work within a pack of hunting dogs. Goldens are great learners.
Most hunting dogs will be introduced to electronic collars. This should be done only when all the commands are mastered. As a working hunting dog matures to age 1 plus, he should have all his basic and starting hunting training well underway and be able to start work in the field. Time, practice, errors and remedial work will always be on the agenda.
If you are not intending on using a dog for hunting but keeping him as a pet, you can add new words to teach one at a time. We taught our boys to retrieve balls as soon as they showed interest in running. They had to learn to drop the ball. They also know how to go and find the balls. Now it’s their favorite activity.
The worst fault I can tell you about my field dogs is how they anticipate my commands. I have to be sure to mix it up and let them get it wrong!
A Field Golden Retriever as a Pet
We were so impressed with our first field bred Golden we went back to the same breeder for another. I highly recommend a field Golden Retriever as a pet, but I warn you they are not couch potatoes. You need to be able to provide a lot of vigorous exercising each day or you’ll end up with a bored dog. Bored dogs become destructive and in a house-type environment, they’ll start chewing as a defense against the boredom.
I would never have a hunting dog breed if I lived in a condo or apartment. A large garden is the ideal living environment for all Golden Retriever dogs. We have 2 acres and our dogs spend a lot of time in the yard working off their energy. We bought a chuck-it ball launcher and they thrive on chasing and retrieving balls for hours on end. Both our field bred Goldens will chase until we stop throwing.
If you know field bred Retrievers you’ll understand this: “Fast asleep but awake at a moment’s notice”. I only have to mention the words ball or out in a whisper and they’ll be at the door in seconds.
I have one dog, my female Makenzie whose bloodlines are show lines. While she exercises a lot and plays, she’s more interested in chasing her brother than chasing the balls. Her favorite game is to take the balls away from her brothers and not allow them to get them back. She gets tired quicker too. All three dogs love to be outside.
Our next dog will be a field Golden Retriever!