Golden Retrievers 101

Republished from the Connection Newspaper

As many of you already know, we have a Golden Retriever named Maggie. It has been our privilege thus far to be parents to such a beautiful and warm-hearted creature. Nonetheless, we thought it would be a good idea to review some of the perils of owning a Golden Retriever so that, if you were thinking of entering into this type of relationship, you would be armed with all of the facts. We thought we were so well prepared, buying the books and reading all we could on the best way to train a Golden Retriever puppy. We were like those annoying yuppy parents who think that they have total control over the childbirth process and then they get a really rude awakening in the delivery room! Nonetheless, we thought we had all the bad habits of puppyhood beat in the flick of a golden ear.

Tip #1: Bring your Golden home in the winter.

Now there is a downside to this tip and I will tackle that first and get it out of the way. Housebreaking involves going outside with your dog, bringing it to its designated spot and praising it when it “goes” in the right place. This is less than enjoyable at 7 a.m. or 11 p.m., when the temperature outside is –36 with the wind chill. That’s the down side

The upside is that the snow of winter covers up everything. You see, Golden Retrievers have been misnamed as a breed. They should have been calledHoovers. True to their genetic predisposition, they will suck up anything in their paths: rocks, leaves, grass, bottle caps, Kleenex, discarded paper and fast food cups. Our initial walks with Maggie were a short series of steps followed by picking her up and shaking her a little to get her to drop whatever she had put in her mouth. The snow covers it all! Oh Joy! We can walk more than 10 feet without stopping to pull something from her iron jaws while determinedly saying, “drop it” to a dog that seems to have a serious case of selective hearing.

The other intrinsic value to winter puppyhood is that if your Golden ends up being a trueHoover, he or she will have a propensity for hoovering up another interesting “artifact”: puppy production! I don’t think I need elaborate other than to say that it will not be as upsetting to watch if you think of them as “poosicles”. In –20 degrees, they freeze before they even hit the ground and therefore seem somehow less offensive when immediately ingested because you couldn’t get those fabulous winter boots on fast enough to stop him or her. (Note: this is in large part why you absolutely must accompany puppy on the journey to the bathroom, especially with Goldens!)

Tip #2: Build a metal room.

Unless you have a room in your house that you despise and plan to redecorate anyway, you might want to consider building a metal bunker for your Golden. That is because they chew. I don’t mean normal puppy chewing. Goldens are genetically predisposed to use their mouths for everything: it is part of their “retrieving” mechanism. This means however that your home will be significantly redecorated with tooth marks and scrapings in just about every surface that is not completely flat and has some give to it.

Wood seems to be a particular pleasure for Maggie. Our home came with a lovely solarium in the back of the house. I had visions of sitting there in a white wicker chair in the summer, reading a book and sipping my tea. Now I have visions of using the Black & Decker Mouse I got for a gift a few years ago to remove the chew marks that have formed all around the room. It is a tragedy to see this happen and I can only hope that the contractor who will inevitably be called to fix this mess will not laugh too hard when he sees the extent of it.

Tip #3: Ladies, if you don’t like a farting man, a Golden may not be for you!

Perhaps it is because of the way they eat (remember that they should have been namedHoovers) but Goldens ingest a lot of air when they eat. As a result, they have an interesting propensity for burping and farting. It is not delicate nor is it rose-scented. Typically, all 38 pounds of Maggie comes screaming through the kitchen to the couch after dinner where I am quietly watching television. She will jump up, settle directly on my stomach and after a few nibbles at her flanks or a quick nip at her tail, will burp in my face. Alternatively, she will play around on the floor with her toys and suddenly stop, stare off into space and fart. Her duty done and with parental units splayed on the floor in agony from the killer smell, she will run off to play with her toys once more.

Tip #4: Get a Golden!

Despite everything I’ve said above, a Golden, or any dog for that matter, is a wonderful addition to any home. Maggie keeps us sane: she reminds us that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously and that life is too short anyway. v

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