Golden Retriever Coat – Nancy Talbot

The below is written by Nancy Talbot, and first appeared on Facebook. The author has granted the GRCC permission to reprint/republish.

This post (my last one on WKC, I promise) will likely only be interesting to those who show, judge, handle, and/or breed Goldens; or to those who are curious about what is happening in a dog judge’s mind (or at least this judge’s mind) as final decisions are made. 

It rained during Golden judging at Westminster, as those who toughed it out at ringside and those who watched remotely can attest. It started as a misty drizzle, moisture hanging in the air for an hour or so, and then began to rain in earnest — nothing torrential, but steady. Being retrievers, the dogs were simply joyful and even goofy in some cases in that wet ring, which was fabulous. Only for the final selection time did I finally give in to the rain jacket that Kelly and Beth had brought along for me (really good rain jacket, by the way…) because the St. John knit was getting a little waterlogged. ?

After all those words about the weather, here is the point I want to make about Golden coats and the rain (the “what was going on in her mind” piece). There were 15 or so in the beautiful final group from which I chose my winners. After one more admiring look at these treasures of a breed that I have loved for 46 years; having prioritized the hallmarks of the standard that set Goldens apart from other breeds and the importance of considering overall appearance, balance, gait, and purpose — I walked the line one more time, checking just one thing: coat. While not the only important specific characteristic, the rain brought a crucial breed trait to the forefront. 

After two hours in the rain, there were a number of dogs left in that ring who were dry at the skin. I will repeat that — dry at the skin. Those were the coats that represented the breed’s origins and purpose: primarily a hunting dog, developed in the harsh climate of Northern Scotland. Length varied, and amount of grooming varied, but the texture of those water repellent jackets was clearly evident. Was it genes for correct coat? Was it skilled grooming that did not ruin the wrap of a proper coat and the hard outer coat texture? Yes, and probably yes. 

It matters. And it played a significant role in the day’s outcome. I watched drops of water literally gliding off my top selections as they stood on their own in the rain, leaving the coat still wrapped around the ribcage and the skin dry. It made me smile. 

Breeders: please breed for it. Learn to appreciate a moderate coat that wraps the body instead of one that is soft and plush like memory foam or long and silky. They are pretty, and they are wrong. 

Handlers: please honor it, and support the breeders who ask you to present their dogs with a correct coat. You will show integrity and commitment to purposefully bred dogs. 

Judges: please look for it. You may not have the benefit of rain to bring it into obvious focus, but when you see a medium length jacket of weather resistant coat, straight or wavy, that can protect from harsh conditions — consider it strongly as you make your decisions. 

Dudley Marjoribanks, Lord Tweedmouth (who created our wonderful breed) and those who have followed his vision would smile. In the rain.