Has It Really been a Year Already?

On December 18th, 2009 Huib, Cessna and I drove to a small Mennonite farm about 20 minutes from Hanover to pick up a 6.5 month old male golden retriever. It had been just over a month and a half since we decided not to adopt Reece and I was really finding the house a little quiet, so I decided to check out a golden breeder’s website. After a couple e-mails back and forth we set up a pick-up time and date for our new bundle of gold.

When we first met Canyon (formerly Sparky) he was wet, dirty, smelled like a barn and was pulling his breeder’s 6 year old son across the yard to greet us. I remember thinking, “what are we getting ourselves into?”

Over the past year Canyon has:
• Learned all of his basic obedience commands & is working on loose leash walking
• Learned to swim, dive off the dock & retrieve a toy or stick
• Learned to give 5 & is working on give 10
• Visited residents in long-term care homes
• Visited a friend’s daughter in Toronto’s Sick Children’s Hospital
• Been to Toronto numerous times
• Stayed at a hotel in Sudbury
• Attended both Summer and Winter Woofstocks

This year has been one of learning important skills, experiencing new environments and preparing for the future. Our smelly, disobedient puppy has been replaced with a well-mannered, good looking stud and future obedience champion.

“An animal’s eyes have the power to speak a great language.” – Martin Buber

In It For The Money

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been considering a new addition to our pack – a female golden retriever puppy. I find that whenever our pack gets comfortable and easy to deal with, I get bored and begin looking for new ways of spicing it up. This is why fostering puppies was good, when the puppy began settling well into our routines and they began to only need refinement – it was recall time and a new one entered the pack. Sadly, because of personal differences (that I still don’t understand) fostering isn’t an option right now so maybe a future breeding female of my own? I’ve been tossing the idea around and seeing what Huib says, but so far he isn’t taking the bait so I guess I’ll have to continue researching and wait until he gives the okay to proceed.

Now that I’ve explained the background to this post, I’ll move onto the point of the title. I’ve been looking at various breeder’s websites and looking at the pedigrees of their stocks and how they portray themselves and what sorts of things they do with their dogs. I’m not interested in a breeder who houses their dogs in a kennel and does nothing with them other than facilitating the mating process and then whelping the puppies. I’m drawn to those breeders who have their stock as a part of the family and who work towards not just confirmation titles, but fun ones like obedience, agility, field work, etc. I want a puppy who wasn’t just the product of a “breed standard” pair, but one that has a “working” lineage (for lack of a better description). Canyon’s dam (LB’s Golden Pot of gold) was more a family pet than a “working” dog and his sire (Kashuba’s Ramblin Blaze N Time) only has his confirmation title, so he’s got the golden personality and looks, but nothing further. That is why I’m determined to work with Canyon at not just attaining his confirmation title, but also an obedience title or more if possible.


Canyon at 4 or 5 months of age

One breeder I’ve found appealing so far is www.quinleighblugoldens.net because their dogs live in the home as part of the family and each of them has attained or is working towards a title other than confirmation. This is the type of breeder I’d like to be someday and hope that Canyon will be my ticket to starting this dream. After looking at their stock’s pedigrees I decided on a specific pair I’d like a puppy from and wrote to a friend for their opinion since they have a vast knowledge on breeding. She pointed out that one downfall of this breeding stock is that none have been line bred and explained that I should be looking for a breeder who has done this.


Aspen with her half sister Moose (same stud)

According to a Google search I learned that line breeding is the breeding of animals who share common ancestors, but are not closely related. For example they may share a common great-grandparent. This type of breeding is used to help “set” or “fix” desireable traits. In addition to breeding related individuals genes from other lines are also being introduced into the mix. This method of “fixing” desireable traits takes longer, but helps to avoid the issues associated with in-breeding.

She suggested a couple of breeders to look at and I quickly decided on one over the other. This breeder www.setherwood.com, has their dogs live with the family and has worked with them to obtain more than just confirmation titles – in addition to their stock being absolutely adoreable of course. I could see myself purchasing one of their puppies in the future.

The other breeder she suggested, has a nice stock, but the second I read through their site I noticed an air of “I’m in it for the money” and this completely turns me off. Their dogs live in a kennel-setting and have mainly just confirmation titles, but they are now working on hunting titles which shows desire to improve. But, litters are listed according to “bitches” and “dogs”, “companion” and “show”, and there doesn’t seem to be that love and connection with the dogs that other breeders I’ve looked at put forth. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe they just have a professional way of designing the website, but I just happened to see a 3-year old dog who had been returned and was looking for a home on the site so wrote to learn more.

My sister is hoping to get a golden of her own so has put her name in with Golden Rescue for a potential match and I’ve also been looking at breeder’s to see if I can find her another “Canyon”. When I received a message back, I was directed to fill out the puppy application. I did this and then received a “you’ve been accepted” e-mail so wrote to ask more questions about the little guy. I learned that he had been returned due to a divorce in the family and was a “reasonable” house guest. It was suggested I come visit with him and that there was an 11 month old who had been recently returned for similar reasons. Before agreeing to visit, I asked about the fee and about whether he had his vaccinations up-to-date and was neutered. They wrote back to say the fee was $1000 plus taxes and that they had a “non-neutering” claus in their contracts, attaching an almost 10 year old paper to the e-mail that had been written about the risks of neutering – hypo-thyroidism and something else that I cannot remember at this time. I wrote back to say I felt $1000 plus taxes was an unreasonable amount to ask for a 3-year old dog who had been returned and that in addition to asking for this astronomical amount they were telling me he could not be neutered – even if we so desired. They simply wrote back to say “I’m sorry you feel this way”. This exchange left me feeling that I am correct with my first impression that they are “in it for the money” and will erase them as a potential place to purchase my next puppy.

I don’t want to support breeders who are “in it for the money”, I don’t agree with this attitude and therefore will not promote it, even if their stock is close to meeting the “breed standards” and come with a 3-year guarantee. I would rather support the “family” operation where the dogs are part of the home and lead a fulfilling life of not just producing puppies, but also working with their “people” to attain various competition titles. I’m not saying this breeder is terrible, it’s just what I’ve observed, experience and feel.

Canyon Update


We are still waiting for canyon’s CKc paperwork to arrive, but are hoping it will come soon so we can enter our first obedience trial in November – if Huib’s work schedule allows for that to happen….

Each day I’ve been spending time with Canyon to try and decrease his response time – at this point he’ll sit or lie down immediately if both a verbal and hand signal are used and as long as nothing more interesting is happening around us. I’ve been trying to do a lot of my training during games of fetch – since he’s much more toy motivated than food – getting him to sit, lie down stay until another dog retrieves the toy or stand before I give him the release command and throw the toy. He does well at the staying in a down until Aspen or Cessna brings back the toy (my attempt at teaching him a little self-control), but we still need to work on his immediate obeying of sit, down or stand before being released to play. Since we tend to play fetch for about 15-20 minutes 2-3 times a day, I think Canyon’s obedience response times will soon become immediate rather than occurring after sometimes being asked several times. I know I should just wait him out, but he’s almost just as stubborn as me so after a minute I give in and ask again…

We had Canyon at the vet last week for his rabies vaccine and discussed future breeding. Our vet told us to continue what we’re doing for now and she’ll refer us to the Ontario Veterinary College in June since they would rather not perform health clearances until he’s 2 years of age. This gives us tons of time to make our final decision as to whether we’d like to breed him and to work towards an obedience title or two. We haven’t heard anything from the professional hanlder we wrote a few weeks ago, so at the advice of an acquaintance I’m going to pursue alternative avenues for help with Canyon’s confirmation.

It is really an exciting time for me as I can actually begin to see myself entering an obedience trial with my handsome stud muffin

To Show, Or Not To Show…

Over the past 8 months Canyon has grown up to be handsome, confident and a great companion. When we got him in December we signed a contract saying we would not neuter him until he was a year of age, which was on June 3rd – almost 3 months ago now. Over the past couple of months Huib and I have been considering a change in our non-breeding contract, because given Canyon’s looks and temperament we really think it would be a loss to neuter him and have him to just be a regular pet. We have discussed our thoughts with the breeder (Judi Ford of Ramblin Goldens) of his sire (Kashuba’s Ramblin Blaze N Time) and she seems quite supportive of us changing our original plans and helping us where possible.

Some breeders seem really focused on titles so I guess we should consider this for our golden boy…especially if we want some business for our future stud.

Both Huib and I don’t really know much about the whole show dog world – just what we’ve seen on television – so we talked to Judi and she gave us the names of a couple handlers she has used for Blaze and another of her dogs, Gracie (Dove Cottage Grace Under Fire). I have sent an e-mail out to one of them (colin Brownlee) and am awaiting his response. We have not completely decided yet, whether we’ll show Canyon, but at least we’ve started the process. I guess our biggest concern is the effect the show ring atmosphere might have on our golden boy. He’s so laid back and has an extremely soft temperament – will the breeding change this? We’re also not wanting our training methods to change – we’ve used absolutely no collar corrections and have tried to teach him everything through shaping and praise (he actually rarely ever wears a collar at all). Will another person (even if it is just for the show ring) be willing to continue what we’ve started?

Last night I wasn’t really tired and did some research on confirmation and obedience trials. I’ve been informed by fellow dog owners that my visual impairment might cause issues in showing Canyon myself – this is why we’ve decided to look for someone else to help. After reading several websites on showing a dog, I’ve come to realize that Canyon might have a difficult time in the ring because the number one suggestion on every site is that you not teach your dog to sit… When we got Canyon (at 6.5 months) he had a bad habit of jumping up and barging through doors, so we taught him to sit in an effort to eliminate these behaviours. Now I’m stuck wondering if maybe this was not such a good idea after all.

When reading some other websites on obedience titles though, I realized that it would be silly for me not to work towards having Canyon attain at least his Novice (CD). So today I did some refresher reading on clicker training and have decided to try and slowly work through Sue Ailsby’s training levels. I worked on these a year ago with Cessna, almost getting her through level three, but we are a little rusty now.

So, tomorrow’s lesson for Canyon is clicker sensitizing (might not be the right word) and doggie zen. Maybe I’ll even start working through the levels with Cessna again – can’t hurt right? Stay tuned for updates!

“Don’t be afraid to reach for the moon because even if you don’t succeed you’ll still be one of the stars.”