A Guide to selection


We have a very strong view that both genetics and training skill are equally as important. A handler cannot be successful if they do not have the dog to work with, and equally, a dog that has good natural ability and a handler that does not have the knowledge to recognise and nurture the potential in the dog, cannot succeed at the highest level. The imprinting of the pup from 7-16 weeks is essential and can mean the difference between good and excellent later in life.

The dog needs to have working drive (this does not mean speed), with a consuming passion for finding and retrieving all game in all terrains. This dog must have a temperament that happily and readily accepts training, and is eager and willing to please. The dog must work for and with the handler as part of the team; a dog that works for itself will never achieve the top level of performance. The dog must be anatomically well made in order to perform as a working dog with the attributes of stamina and strength.  His athletic ability will directly affect his olfactory senses (use of nose) and his game carrying ability as well as his ground covering ability.

The trainer needs to be able to feed and house the dog correctly, be aware of all its health issues and be observant in treating any acquired injury promptly.

Neglected injuries are responsible for a myriad of performance issues in good working dogs. As time goes by, acquired injuries become an entrenched problem with the dog compensating in itís movement and overall balance, thus radically affecting itís performance and ability to concentrate on the job at hand. Hence we see older dogs that have been great workers deteriorate with age because of unattended injury issues that occurred earlier in life or soundness issues due to Degenerative Joint Disease. Pain factors impact largely on concentration.

It is pointless to select a dog to work from anything but a work-bred pedigree, dogs do not have to be titled to be workers. The genetic predisposition of the dog to strongly carry the traits to hunt and retrieve is vital to give the trainer the best possible opportunity to achieve performance results at a higher level. If the trainer has to teach the dog to hunt and retrieve they are so far behind the mark, it is unlikely the dog will ever have the initiative do so naturally.  Two or three generations of selecting away from these traits have a huge impact on the outcome in the progeny.

The temperament is paramount in that a dog the trainer cannot communicate with will never do anything but frustrate each other. Temperament covers much more than the personality. Trainable, tractable and biddable dogs are the very best workers and they are the best dogs to live with. The Labrador is a people dog and a team member, which is why they are so successful in their field.

 The trainer must be able to note the differences in each individual dog. No two are the same and therefore cannot be trained exactly alike. It is a test of the trainer to recognise the differences and adjust the training methods to apply to each individual. This is probably why some trainers succeed with numerous dogs and others have great success with an individual dog but do not have follow up success with another as they never find another exactly the same. In this vein, it is important to get a dog, which suits the individual requirement of the trainer. Some like high activity dogs that need lots of work to keep them in line, others, like myself, like a calm, workmanlike dog who is more attentive to the handler because of the calm attitude. Both types are as good as each other when managed properly. The high activity dog is spectacular, but that also applies to the way they can blow up.

It has been essential to refresh the working lines with fresh working genetics in this country. The amazing results achieved by the importation of purely working lines to combine with the already proven working lines in Australia is proof positive of the benefit of working genetics in the dog selected for work.

Never lose sight of the fact that the breed standard was written about a working retriever, so although many say it does not matter what the dog looks like, it is very important to note that the construction of the dog is conducive to itís ability to work as a retriever. So breed type is an important component in your selection if the dog is to perform efficiently as a retriever.