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Field Golden Retriever VS Show Golden Retriever

Published July 26, 2022

When choosing between field golden retriever vs. show golden retriever, consider the dog’s purpose and desired temperament traits.

Many people are confused about the difference between golden retriever types; some even think field and show goldens are different breeds.

Golden retrievers aren’t created equal, but rest assured that all golden retrievers are intelligent, obedient, playful, affectionate, friendly, loyal dogs with fantastic coats.

Still, even minor distinctions in energy levels, grooming needs, behavior, and appearance might affect a dog’s suitability for you.

Regardless of the type, all goldens make wonderful family, service, and hunting dogs, but some specializations require a specific set of skills prevalent in a particular golden retriever variety.

Purpose

The primary difference between field and show golden retrievers is their purpose. Initially, all golden retrievers were the same – they were bred to retrieve waterfowl.

But as the breed’s popularity grew among non-hunters, breeders began reinforcing traits desirable for family dogs.

Nowadays, we have show goldens bred with an emphasis on a specific look and family-friendliness, and field goldens bred to hunt.

Field golden retrievers are meant to spend their day out in the field, hunting waterfowl and tracking scents. The focus is on personality and prey drive rather than the look.

Field golden retriever breeders focus specifically on hunting talents in their dogs, such as tracking abilities, stamina, swimming skills, and obedience.

This fact doesn’t mean that a show golden cannot be trained to be a hunting dog or that a field golden retriever will make a poor family dog. Still, both types have traits that make them better suitable for a particular purpose.

Field goldens also make excellent search and rescue dogs because of their temperament and immense stamina. Show goldens are perfect service, therapy, and emotional support dogs because they are more empathetic.

Appearance

Field and show goldens have a few crucial distinctions in appearance, but you can still recognize a golden retriever in both. For inexperienced people, these golden retriever types may look the same.

Field golden retrievers are typically leaner and more athletic because they need to run miles, jump, and swim all day. They have wedge-shaped heads with a relatively narrow skull and longish snout.

Show golden retrievers are bigger and stockier. They appear to be big-boned and have blocky heads with shorter snouts.

Field golden retrievers have shorter, straighter fur that’s easier to groom. Because dog judges emphasize golden retriever coat quality, show-type goldens have longer, denser fur that can be straight or wavy.

Lastly, field and show golden retrievers differ in color. The golden retriever breed standard states that the coat color can be of any shade of gold, from cream to dark gold, but red is undesirable.

Field golden retrievers are usually dark gold or red. For this reason, they cannot participate in dog shows.

Temperament

The difference in field vs. show golden retriever personality arises from different purposes of these golden retriever types.

Because show golden retrievers are intended to participate in competitions and be family dogs, they have milder temperaments.

Show goldens are gentle and patient with kids. They have a low prey drive and are unlikely to chase smaller pets. They also tend to be more sociable, happily letting strangers pet them and playing with other dogs.

Field golden retrievers have more driven personalities. They are more energetic and can be over-the-top for babies or calm pets. They have excellent work ethics and communication skills.

However, there are more similarities in the field and show golden retriever temperament than distinctions. All goldens are eager to please, intelligent, affectionate with family, and loyal.

Any golden retriever can be a wonderful family pet or service dog with proper training and socialization. But a field golden can accidentally knock over a child or annoy an older dog if it doesn’t get enough exercise and training.

So, if you have kids, it’s best to choose a show golden retriever – they typically make great nannies. Note that each dog is unique, and some may not have the traits expected from their breed.

Intelligence & Trainability

All golden retrievers are intelligent. Canine researcher Stanley Coren ranks them fourth among 138 breeds in his working dog intelligence study.

However, there’s a slight difference in the field and show golden retriever trainability and brainpower.

Both field and show goldens are great students who can memorize commands from under five repetitions, have a high obedience rate and read human emotions from body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions.

However, field goldens need more work because they are more mentally active. They need constant mental stimulation, or they get bored and mischievous.

For example, an under-stimulated field golden retriever may steal socks, dig flowers in the garden, or chew furniture. Show goldens, too, need plenty of mental stimulation, but not as much as field goldens.

Health

There’s no big difference in field vs. show golden retriever health. Both types are prone to the same health conditions, including hip dysplasia, respiratory issues, ear infections, cancer, hypothyroidism, and progressive retinal atrophy.

However, field goldens are at a higher risk of ear infections because of their lifestyle. Hunting dogs frequently swim, and moisture trapped in the ear canal creates a beneficial environment for thriving bacteria.

Owners of field golden retrievers must establish an ear cleaning routine. Veterinarian-approved ear cleaning solutions effectively remove water from the ear canal. Regular water or homemade solutions aren’t suitable for this purpose.

Show goldens are more susceptible to obesity because they are generally stockier and don’t get as much exercise. Owners can keep their dog’s weight at bay with a healthy diet and long walks.

Some suggest that field goldens are at a lower risk of cancer because breeders don’t use line breeding as much to achieve specific appearance traits, but we need more research to back up this claim.

Grooming

Because field golden retrievers have shorter fur and not as dense undercoats, their shedding is less noticeable. Still, all goldens shed a lot with extra intense shedding phases in spring and fall, so they need regular grooming.

All golden retrievers need daily brushing to untangle fur and prevent matting. Field golden retrievers might need more frequent baths because they spend more time outdoors, swimming in stagnant water and rolling in mud.

Field goldens might also need their fur checked for parasites more frequently. Ear cleaning and claw trimming are a must for all golden retrievers.

Note that if a field golden retriever lives the life of a regular family dog, its grooming needs won’t differ from those of a show golden.

On the same note, a show golden retriever that often walks in wild terrains and swims will need extensive grooming. It’s merely about the lifestyle than the type.

Exercise Needs

Field golden retrievers have higher energy levels and stamina than show golden retrievers, so they need more exercise.

As a rule of thumb, show golden retrievers should get at least an hour of walking daily, and field golden retrievers should get at least two hours.

Vigorous exercise sessions involving running, jumping, or swimming can be shorter because they are more energy-consuming. Puppies and senior dogs need less exercise than adults, regardless of the type.

Remember that all golden retrievers are active dogs and even show goldens shouldn’t spend their lives on a couch. Still, an under-exercised field golden retriever is a bigger problem than a slightly bored show golden.

Behavior Problems

Show and field golden retriever behavior problems differ because of temperament distinctions.

Field golden retrievers tend to be mouthier, chewing on furniture, shoes, and other items in the house because of their retrieving instincts.

They also have a higher prey drive and might chase small pets or kids. Field goldens need plenty of physical activity and mental stimulation and can engage in destructive behavior if they don’t get enough.

Show-type golden retrievers are more attached to their owners and can suffer from separation anxiety. They can also be anxious about unfamiliar environments, people, and situations.

All golden retrievers tend to pull on the leash and jump on people, particularly in puppyhood. Fortunately, owners can resolve most golden retriever behavior problems with socialization, training, and sufficient exercise.

Rarity

Golden retrievers, in general, are among the most popular dog breeds in the U.S., so they are easy to find.

However, field golden retrievers, particularly in red color, are relatively rare because the demand for them is lower, and the red color results from a recessive gene.

Not that many people are interested in hunting, and field goldens cannot participate in dog shows, so most choose show goldens. As a result, only hunting enthusiasts breed field golden retrievers.

Price

The difference in field vs. show golden retriever price is more about the lineage and a specific puppy’s temperament and appearance than about the type.

Golden retriever puppy prices range from $500 to over $5,000. Puppies from champion parents, whether field or show champions are more expensive.

The breeder’s reputation and location also play a role. Red goldens cost more on average because it’s a rare color.

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