No Coat?

via Coat: Grooming and Presentation of the Golden Retriever

I can’t tell you how often I get told that my dogs’ “primary faults” are a lack of (useless, impractical) bone and a lack of (useless, impractical) coat. I also cannot tell you how dramatic the difference is, even in my dogs, with clever show-ring grooming.

A quote from the above referenced post:

We accept that many exhibitors are expert groomers and present their dogs with a natural appearance despite a lot of preparation time. However, current unacceptable trends include scissoring straight underlines, trimming and shaping of the ruff and body coat, overdone bathing and blow drying which creates an open coat and leaves judges unable to assess correct coat texture.  The excessive amounts of coat and feathering which require such trimming are not practical for a retriever, soaking up water and collecting burrs and debris. Please note that either a wavy or straight coat is acceptable, without preference.  Often the wavy coat has a more correct resilient texture and it should not be straightened artificially.  The hair on the head should lie flat and not be back-brushed and rear pasterns should not be sculpted in an attempt to create a well let down hock. 

Not only is excessive coat, as written by breed experts, incorrect, it’s not practical. Grooming a dog that might actually have a nice, proper coat to make him LOOK incorrect seems even more ludicrous. Yet, this is done at every AKC show, as it’s what is competitive.

This is what the breed standard actually has to say on the matter:

Dense and water-repellent with good undercoat. Outer coat firm and resilient, neither coarse nor silky, lying close to body; may be straight or wavy. Untrimmed natural ruff; moderate feathering on back of forelegs and on underbody; heavier feathering on front of neck, back of thighs and underside of tail. Coat on head, paws, and front of legs is short and even. Excessive length, open coats, and limp, soft coats are very undesirable. Feet may be trimmed and stray hairs neatened, but the natural appearance of coat or outline should not be altered by cutting or clipping.

My dogs’ coats meet every word of this, and my grooming is neatening of feet, tail, and ears. I never touch another hair on the body without medical reason. With excessive blow drying and product, I can create the illusion of coat. My bitches have some variety in their amount of coat, with Andi having the most, and Fontana the least. However, every one of them has correct and useful coat.

Here is Fontana, not freshly bathed,  but not dirty.

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It’s hard to imagine why anyone would think more coat than this is “needed” for a retriever to be a retriever. Her coat is, word for word, as the standard describes. She can swim and fetch and work in snow and ice without getting accumulations of snow stuck in her coat and in her feet, she can swim in water during a blizzard and not be too cold, she can naturally dry off enough to come in the house after just half an hour post-swim, she can run through brambles and burdock plants without getting covered in them or needing them removed by her handler. She has enough feathering to look pretty to any normal, non-brainwashed human being, and certainly is instantly recognized as a Golden Retriever everywhere we go.

Simply admit you think more coat than Fontana carries is beautiful and you like it. Quit pretending it’s correct, better, more functional, or more proper; it’s not. I won’t condemn you for liking more coat. I’ll help you find a breeder that produces it, even.

Dog shows are a beauty contest, and grooming, attitude, showmanship, and good soundness and movement are all part of the game. However, breeders and owners need to either admit it’s a fun game and hobby that has little to do with correctness and preservation of working animals, or they need to change their positions on such matters. I’m okay with either option. What grates me is the constant claims of breeders with over-sized, over-done, over-coated show animals claiming theirs are the One True Correct Real Golden Retriever, and not what they really are: a beautiful dog that is a great pet and show dog, but hardly a practically coated or built working animal.

I believe there’s room for all these different types within the breed, and that they do not threaten one another’s existence. Let’s just admire each one for what it truly is, with no shame. Maybe someday?

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The Magic of Positive Training

No, I’m not one of those people who bickers about dog training constantly, nor do I object to tools like head halter collars, prong collars, choke chains, or even shock collars. Of course, I might complain or roll my eyes if the handler is not using the tool properly. Far greater damage is done to an animal with poor timing and general lack of skill and knowledge of dogs and their body language than by using any particular training method.

That said, there are simply some things that I cannot imagine accomplishing with any method other than shaping and marking (clicker or not). Among them would be the accomplishment that is this seemingly silly image:

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Willow, a mere eight months old in this photo, is performing five different commands at once. First, I asked her to put her paws up on a log she’d never seen before. I rewarded that and gave her a stay command. Then I dressed her up (no command there, just socialization and handling to this and many other things). The third command I gave her was take (the wand), then the fourth was to hold the and. Finally I backed away and then asked her to put her head down on her paws. This angle showed off her fairy wings best. She didn’t drop the wand, break her stay, or try to shake off her crown.

Not only does she do these things, and many more, she does them with a grin and a wagging tail (including in this very photo).

Most of this is just good fun, but these commands could also save her life some day, as well as making her an awesome working dog, fun pet, and great subject to take photos of.

Magic? Nope, pure science, like most things that appear magical. Happy training

To Take An Old Hound Out Again

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To take an old hound out again
Is to see him light up from within
I watch him quiver with familiar delight
As open fields meet new daylight
His black eyes shine a hint of blue
Yet still they see my soul straight through
Soft edges instead on what before
Was once a lithe and cutting form
Still there I see an ageless grace
In movement -in repose- in that face
Silken ears surround the spot upon
His perfumed head and just beyond
That soft warm comfort I cried into
All those years, yet still far too few
The lure hums its mundane tune
He waits for Tally-Ho, then zoom!
My heart leaps about my chest
An old dog needs his comfort and rest
Yet as he flies across the green
My tears flow down in a steady stream
Nothing is more fitting than this
An old hound in his ultimate bliss
Familiar dancing in those eyes
We head home, contented sighs
My old hound snoozes for the ride
His glory restored, my heart full of pride

Poem by me, inspired by my heart dog, Rigby