Like it or not, most of today’s working breeds are now having a show type and a working type. Retriever breeds are no exception, differences are clearly visible. But a more interesting question is, what makes a dog a working dog or a show dog?
I think there’s no good answer for it. Most countries breeding requirements makes no difference about the different types – their position is understandable, they don’t want to speed up the separation of the show and working lines. But if you ask the breeders themselves, I guarantee that at least 9 out of 10 will call herself/himself either a show-dog breeder or a working-dog breeder. Their answer is based on their own –and their puppy buyers- competition and show results. So, we could simply state if there are some working titles in your dog’s pedigree than your dog is a working dog, and if he/she has show titles in the background, then the dog is a show-dog.
But that would be too simple… how much is „some“ results? And what results count? Nowadays some countries have almost no possibilities to organize Field Trials and that is the only competition that makes a dog titled (FTW, FTCH). So, if in your country the only competition that most people can run are Working Tests and Hunt tests (BLP, VGP), and these results are not-shown before your dogs name as official FCI working titles, then your dog is not a working-dog? Even if generations back all dogs are tested and running successfully these tests? I’m sure the owners and breeders of these dogs don’t think so. But I immediately hear the voices of those who believe that a retriever’s true qualities can only be tested on trials (soft mouth, game finding ability, good steadiness, stable nerves…), and these people believe that the only result that count and makes a dog a working dog is the FT titles.
Because of this dilemma, sometimes you can hear people describing dogs as trial-dog, test-dog, sporting-dog, hunting-dog, pet-dog…etc. Getting complicated? I think so too. A while ago on a training I met a very nice golden dog. He was steady, good marker, good on handling, with lots of drive and a good style. I asked his owner how is he doing on game? The answer was, that he finds game… but he doesn’t pick it. I was wondering, and asking back if it was just lack of experience or what. The owner explained me, that he tried hard, but the dog doesn’t like the game and when he told this to the breeder, she informed him that he’s not the only one from her breeding, since she breeds not hunting-dogs, but sporting-dogs. Sounds stupid? Yes, very much. And now how would you call that dog?
And we can’t miss another category: the dual dogs. Don’t smile! If the statement above is acceptable, then if you find work and show results in your dogs pedigree than we must call him/her a dual dog. Some people believe that this category doesn’t exist any more since the requirements of the show and work are so high and so different, that no dog can achieve the highest level in both.
Doesn’t matter how your breeder calls the dog he/she bred, it’s not a guarantee that the pup will fulfill his/her mission. How many of us saw a dog from a working line, that was not very keen on working, and had lack of interest in retrieving. Or a dog from a show-line who turned out to be „not that beautiful“, maybe even having some mistakes, that made him unsuitable for the show-ring. These dogs can be great companions but not good for the serious working/showing owner. So, are these dogs what we call pet-dogs? And what if some of these dogs become a great service-dog, therapy-dog, search-and-rescue-dog…etc?
So what type of dog do you have? Is it really necessary to answer this question? Maybe not. At least not for the one-dog owner. But if you are a breeder or a member of a breed commission, then at one point maybe you should think about it and it would be helpful to give clear guidelines to avoid confusion and most importantly to protect those breeders who really put a lot of effort into breeding high quality working or show dogs.
PS: one last thing… the Hungarian Labrador Club says in it’s breeding regulation: a dog must be called a working-dog if you can find at least one FTCh in the dogs’s pedigree three generations back (parents-grandparents-great-grandparents). So, if one day a show breeder decides to use a FTCh as stud dog, then the next three generations of off-springs will all be working-dogs?! Or dual-dogs?