by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson
Retrievers, not surprisingly, were created to retrieve. Their job is to sit by a hunter
all day, wait for game to fly by, wait ‘till the gun is fired, wait ‘till the game is
downed, then, on command, retrieve that game. When they bring the bird back, they
should not make a mark on it. At times, a retriever can not even see where the bird
fell. In these instances, they follow their owner’s commands, often at a great distance.
Classically, retrievers work in cold, sometimes icy, water but they can also work in
heavy brush. What sort of dog does this job produce?
If a retriever was a "sensitive" dog she would never leap into cold waters or break
through heavy brush to retrieve, nor would she sit contentedly waiting for another
chance to work as icicles formed on her coat. These physically tough dogs are
normally tolerant of children’s behavior, though that is not license to allow
harassment. They can be stoic, not showing signs of an injury. Physically forceful
methods are not as effective as methods that engage their excellent minds and strong
desire to please.
Sitting close to a hunter when guns go off requires a dog who thinks nothing of loud
noise. Sound insensitive dogs do not respond to yelling and are usually calm around
noisy children. Fireworks or thunderstorms typically do not bother them. Nowadays,
with the increased popularity of retrievers, overbreeding/poor breeding has
produced all kinds of deviations from the norm including dogs that are frightened by
A good retriever will hunt for most anyone. Aggression was of no use in these dogs.
Growling at a hunting buddy or mauling the ducks are not useful qualities in a working
retriever. Just about all Goldens and most Labs will follow anyone with a tennis ball.
These dogs are usually safe with children, friends and guests. You can send a friend
safely into your home on their own. This does not apply to the Chesapeake Bay who
can be and often is a one-person dog.
For a retriever, nirvana is just a stick, or a sock, or a ball away. Every event is more
meaningful, every encounter more pleasant, if they have something in their mouths. If
nothing is at hand, then your hand will do. This is not aggression but a retriever’s
instinctual, genetic oral need. Early training can easily direct this need to more
Common Problems: Sins of Enthusiasm - Mouthing, Jumping, Pulling On Lead and
Chewing. Chesapeake's Can Be Territorial, Possessive and Dog Aggressive. The
popular Golden and Labrador can display any and all problems including every sort of
aggression. Proceed with caution! Finding a typically stable, happy, kid loving Golden
and Lab is well worth the effort but these aren’t as “sure a thing” temperament-wise
as they used to be.
The Good Home: People who have time for several exercise periods a day. Time must
be available for regular training sessions, as these guys can be quite physical until
taught to control themselves. Don’t expect them to handle unsupervised freedom in the
house until after two years of age.