This dog’s got game!
Photos by Jeffrey C. Lim
You’re probably very familiar with the Golden Retriever because it’s been featured in many advertisements and dog memes. This breed is considered one of the most lovable, and Animal Scene talked to breeder Arby Estolano. He has owned dogs since 2001, and began showing them in 2007. “I stayed out of showing for a few years to focus on my studies and work, but I’m now back, showing and breeding the breed that I love. I have 4 titled dogs at home, and aside from these, all of them are my loving pets and spend time with them and just have fun. Having dogs relaxes me, and takes off all the stress from my work,” he says happily. He’s the owner of our cover model Lupo and he cheerfully shared his knowledge and expertise with you, our readers, about the Golden Retriever.
Q: The Golden Retriever is a very beautiful dog, often used for pet food ads. In your opinion, what should a dog fancier look for when it comes to the breed?
A: Indeed, they are very beautiful! As a dog fancier, you should always do your research first before getting a Golden, or any breed, for that matter. A purebred dog has a breed conformation standard; this is sort of like the “Bible” of what a particular breed should look like and what his temperament should be.
Q: For you, what defines the breed?
A: For me, what defines the Golden Retriever is its temperament. They’re always happy and fun to be around with. Very sweet.
Q: It’s a fairly common breed in the country but there are many misconceptions that can be found on selling and other local forums, such as “the golden retriever needs to be fed raw meat and milk or it will be weak” or “keep it chained or it will be wild.” Can you share the worst misconceptions about the Golden Retriever that you’ve heard, and how you answer them?
A: There is no such thing as an XL, or XXL, or XXXL Golden. They should always be within the acceptable range as indicated in the breed standard. Goldens are bred to be gun dogs and to retrieve shot prey. They can’t be too big as they will be difficult to bring on a boat, and not too small that they will have a hard time carrying the prey.
Q: What do you breed for or choose when you breed or buy a Golden Retriever?
A: I always choose a puppy who is the closest representative of what the breed should be like. (reference breed standard http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/services/public/breed/standard.aspx?id=2047).
Q: How well has the breed adapted to the Philippines? Are there things you need to do to acclimatize them?
A: They have adjusted to our climate pretty well. Most of the dogs and the ancestors of those dogs have been bred locally already. But of course, you won’t get the full and fluffy-coated Goldens like the ones from countries with a cooler climate.
Q: In your experience, what are the characteristics of a healthy Golden Retriever puppy? How about the adult?
A: They are always active and playful. No skin abnormalities of any kind. They should always be “curious” and “inspect” everything in their surroundings.
Q: How big can you expect one to grow, and what is its lifespan, in your experience?
A: Up to around 24 inches from the withers (top of the shoulder). They are a medium to large sized breed. In my experience, they live from 9-12 years
Q: What do you feed your Golden Retrievers? What diet does it prefer? You mentioned a specific type of good and economical food you feed yours which has resulted in healthy coats.
A: I’ve given Go Natural! Salmon flavor to my dogs for some time now. Haven’t changed their diet. It is an all-stage variant so I can give the same to both puppies and adults. It is a bit pricey, but it’s value for money. When you give good dog food, you don’t have to give any vitamins and supplements anymore, so you get to save as well on that.
Q: Are there any health problems or conditions the breed is prone to, such as with hip joints or the legs? If so then how do you deal with these?
A: As with most large breeds, Goldens are prone to hip dysplasia. This is also genetic, so when getting a dog or a puppy, make sure you also look at the hip clearances of the parents. Locally, there is no certification for this though.
Q: How much care and commitment should a Golden Retriever’s owner be prepared to give them? Are they, in your experience, emotionally needy dogs or are they more independent?
A: Golden retrievers love people. So it’s sad to see some that are just chained and lack interaction with humans. I may not be around the kennel all the time but I make sure someone is looking after them 24/7. They tend to be less hyper and destructive when they are well socialized and get ample play time with humans and other dogs on a daily basis. Owning any dog is a huge commitment because you have to make sure your dog is healthy and happy for his or her whole lifespan. This includes vet checks and vaccinations, grooming, and exercise.
Q: Can you tell us about how you groom them? You mentioned a specific way to cut for the tail, and layering for the rest of the coat. Can you tell us why these are necessary?
A: I groom my dogs once a week using good shampoo and conditioners. It’s really worth the investment because you can really see the difference. And, good dog shampoo also promotes healthy coat and skin, so less skin problems like hotspots and the like! (laughs)
Q: What are the things or qualities that attracted you to the Golden Retriever?
A: As a kid I’ve always loved pets and dogs in particular. What first attracted me to the Golden Retriever was the movie “Air Bud” from the 90s. They are very friendly and they look very good because of their long coats. I got my first Golden way back in 2001 and named him “Douglas” after my Dad’s childhood dog. From the first day, I knew the breed was the perfect breed for me. They are very intelligent and can cheer you up all the time.
Q: Can you describe the kind of person or family for whom the Golden Retriever is best suited as a pet? Or is it better as a working dog, in your opinion and experience?
A: I would say the Golden Retriever is an all-around dog. They are perfect companion dogs or pet dogs. They can be service dogs as well. Although you can’t train them to be attack dogs because of their given temperament.
Q: You mentioned that they like rubber balls, and sometimes show affection by suckling on the hands or arms of those they love and trust. Can you explain this for our readers?
A: The “suckling” of the arms/hands is their way to show affection. Some call it “play biting.” Retrievers love put anything on their mouths. As in anything. Lupo’s favorite is a tennis ball. Once you show it to him, he will forget about everything he is doing and focus on that. For hours!
Q: In your experience, how does the Golden Retriever handle threats to its owners?
A: Because of their friendly nature, they don’t really show any act of aggression towards anyone. I mean, they just bark once there are unfamiliar people around the kennel, but they don’t really “attack” or anything. I mean, if a robber would enter the house, I think Goldens will even help them carry their flashlights! (laughter)
Q: How much exercise does the Golden Retriever require? Do they also need intellectual stimulation—such as games or toys?
A: My Goldens have play time twice a day, 30-45 minutes per session. One really early in the morning, and one late in the afternoon. I don’t let them out during hot hours. Their playtime is playing fetch. They love to run and retrieve so I just throw the ball and they give it back to me.
Q: Who or what kind of family is the ideal owner for a Golden Retriever?
A: A family who can provide care and time for one. I hate to see owners who just leave their dogs unattended and caged. All dogs don’t deserve to have a life like that.
Q: What are the three most important things you want dog fanciers to know about the Golden Retriever?
A: It takes one’s full commitment to own them. They deserve all the love and care. As with any other dog (smiles).Never, ever, be a cheapskate to your dogs. Give them the best that you can afford. We have our own lives, and our dogs are only part of it. But to them, we are their only source of joy. So spend time with them and make them part of your own family.
This appeared in Animal Scene’s September 2016 issue.