If you've ever watched a dog show, you know that the dogs entered are beautiful, well groomed and beautifully presented. What you might not understand is what the judges look for. For breeders, handlers and judges, each dog is very different from the one standing next to it.
The Show Dog
While many goldens make handsome pets, a show dog must conform to a blueprint of the golden retriever standard. This describes every quality of the breed, as specified by the Golden Retriever Club of America and approved by the American Kennel Club. Goldens must be groomed for exhibition and trained to hold still for the judge's examination. They must move around the ring with their handlers so the judge can see the dog's gait and the topline, which tells about the dog's structure and fitness. "Primarily a hunting dog, a golden should be shown in hard working condition," says the breed standard.
Head to Tail Specifics
The golden's head should be broad in skull, with a well-defined stop - angle where the muzzle meets the head. Eyes are friendly and intelligent. They are medium to dark brown and set wide apart. The ears are relatively short and set well behind the eye. When pulled forward, the ears should cover the eyes. The nose must be black or brownish black, and the teeth should close in a proper scissors bite. The tail should be thick and muscular at the base, tapering to the tip, and "Carried with merry action, level or with some moderate upward curve; never curled over back nor between the legs," according to the breed standard.
Body and Movement
The ideal male golden is 23 to 24 inches in height at shoulder; females are a bit smaller. Weight for males is about 65-75 pounds; females are 55-65 pounds. When goldens move, they should appear powerful with good reach. The legs should not turn in or out when viewed from any angle, whether moving or standing still. Goldens should be shown on a loose lead to show a natural gait. Learning to stack the dog for examination and to move the dog at a good speed is difficult for many new dog show exhibitors. Work with a breeder or professional handler to learn the skills required for presentation.
Attitude and Temperament
The golden's coat is its trademark, and a show dog must have a thick, healthy coat, which is water repellent. Goldens need a good undercoat, and the outercoat can be straight or wavy, but never coarse or silky. Hair on the head, paws and front legs is short and even. The rich golden color of gold is proper in many shades, but white markings are undesirable, as are coats that are very light or very dark. If you are interested in dog shows, work with a breeder or the breed club in your area to help get you started. The purchase of a show quality puppy with champions throughout his pedigree will start you in the right direction. The hobby can help you enjoy your dog more and more, and you are likely to make good friends who share your passion for goldens.
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