Head Hunting

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Willow’s head type fascinates me. She has a beautiful skull, stop, and muzzle. Everybody knows I do not care for the broad and overdone heads of modern show golden retrievers on either side of the Atlantic. As a younger puppy Willow had a rather domed skull, much like her mother did at that age. Her mother’s head structure obviously turned more moderate. Although she no longer has the domed shape to her head, the structure of Willow’s head has turned out to be more like a show Golden’s. It’s not on any level an extreme that I’m uncomfortable with, and it’s probably still not enough to please the average modern dog show person. I’m quite fond of it, though.

Years ago a breeder friend of mine referred to herself as a head hunter. “No head; no dog,” was the thinking. Basically, if a dog did not have a classic head with beautiful breed type, then the rest of him really failed to matter. While I can’t take that extreme of a view, I’ll admit that it has stuck with me to admire a really beautiful head piece on a dog. There are certain breeds where this is extremely important to me, if I’m going to own the animal. Borzoi come to mind, as do Whippets.

With a Golden Retriever, the more important aspect to me is the expression. Structure of the head can vary quite a bit in this breed and still be pleasing to me, but the dog must have a warm and willing and loving and soft expression. I’m very disheartened to see the almost angry-looking scowling expression of many American show Goldens. Equally unappealing are the huge round eyes and loose droopy skin of an extreme English type.

I find that the ear length and set and how the dog carries the ears makes or breaks the classic Golden Retriever expression too. Flirt has a tendency to fly her ears ever-so-slightly that’s pretty unattractive, where as her daughter had a tendency to hold hers down while they were already a bit on the heavy side already. Fontana has a whole new look that is purely the result of her temperament and confidence levels improving. It’s remarkable how something so seemingly insignificant makes a huge difference in the overall appearance of the dog.

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We all know that breed type mostly doesn’t make a lick of difference as far as a dog being able to perform the job it was bred for. I fully acknowledge this, and I don’t have an issue with people breeding working animals that lack breed type.

I’m accused of doing just exactly that almost every day. However, I believe my dogs do exhibit correct breed type. Whether anyone believes it or not, breed type is actually important to me. My dogs are classic Golden Retrievers and unmistakably so. A dog does not need to look like the Westminster best of breed winner to be a classic example of its breed.

I make breeding choices, including breeding to partially show-line animals, to keep a certain level of breed type. I do this while still maintaining a traditional and athletic looking animal, or at least that is my goal.

Breeding is an art form. There is so much I love about both of my females, and sometimes I wish I could take parts of each of them and make one perfect dog. In the meantime I will keep trying in my quest to produce my ideal Golden Retriever.

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