BRIEF HISTORY COMPARISON
The GSP was created to fulfil the need for a versatile hunting dog due to the rise of the German Empire in the 1880s. The heightened demand for meat and hides required a dog with a sensitive nose, discipline and an instinct to focus on the hunt! The GSP we know today were developed from old Spanish Pointers and Braque Francais with the addition of German bloodhounds for tracking and scent-work purposes whilst also softening the breeds temperament. In the 1860s, this mixture was further crossed with English pointers to improve their speed and pointing instincts. The end product was a sleek, intelligent, loyal and versatile gundog with incredible stamina, a highly developed pointing instinct and an eagerness to retrieve game.
Now the Golden Retriever has a history based largely upon chance! In 1865, a Scottish noble, Lord Tweedmouth, purchased a golden wavy-haired retriever called Nous from a cobbler on the streets of Brighton. This chance purchase is made even more remarkable when you learn that black retrievers were favoured as working dogs, other colour variations were often disposed of… After working the dog for 3 years at his stately home in Scotland, Nous was mated with Belle, a Tweed Water Spaniel. This pairing created a robust hunter, capable of navigating both land and water to hunt grouse, partridge and even deer! The litter produced in 1868, Cowslip, Crocus and Primrose, are now considered to be the first true Golden Retrievers.
Now that we know a little bit about the history of the breeds, let’s look into a brief comparison of their strikingly different appearances.
BRIEF APPEARANCE COMPARISON
Both of these breeds are of similar height and weight, the male GSP stands at around 23-25 inches to the shoulder and weighs 30kg at its healthiest, females stand at 21-23 inches and should weigh 25kg. The male Golden Retriever stands at 23-24 inches and is healthy at also 30kg whereas the females stand at 21-23 inches and should be around 27kg.
Now, the GSP has a short, smooth coat which is typically speckled across the body and legs in a common liver and white paired with a solid liver head. Another recognised colour is white and black. Large, solid patches of colour across the body are also common. These dogs are athletic to look at, with a large-barrelled chest, powerful hind quarters and a typically docked tail. They have alert expressions, bright eyes and wide, sleek ears that hang below their jowls. This aids in scent-work as their ears trail along the ground, picking up as many smells as possible! When moving, they are to be elegant and sure-footed, which is a testament to their working heritage in versatile terrain.
The Golden Retriever is structurally similar in respects to their deep chest and muscular physique. However, they possess a slightly broader skull than the GSP with smaller ears that hang above their jowls as they have little need to pick up all the scents they come across. They possess an inherently friendly expression; this is arguably what has made them one of the most popular family pets! Their suitability to family life is aided by their sturdy stance and sure gait. And the most notable difference from the GSP is their coat. It should be soft and wavy, with a feathered effect on their chest and tail. The colour can vary between a deep gold to a light beige with lightened fur across the chest and tail. However, an all-white coat is not recognised in the official Breed Standard.
Enough about the aesthetics, we’ll now look into the temperaments of the two breeds!
It should come as no surprise that these dogs thrive in a busy, active lifestyle. Loyalty and close bonds to their family are what can be expected from a GSP. But this can lead to them incapable of coping to being alone for extended period of times. If they are left in an unstimulating environment, they tend to display destructive behaviours. This may never be an issue should you provide the right setting for them. They are also best suited to experienced dog owners or those that can allow for their GSP to be predominantly outside exploring or working. Another key aspect of this dog’s personality is that they instinctively have a very high prey drive, this is something that can only be curbed by consistent, strong training. Even so, you should be wary when your GSP is off-lead, it can prove too tempting to most should a rabbit come into its eyeline!
Whilst the Golden Retriever also responds well to mental stimulation, they are eager to please people, their affectionate nature makes them more suited to service dog duties. The Breed Standard for this dog is that they are friendly, reliable and trustworthy. With the proper socialisation, they are even-tempered, playful and gentle with children (it is worthy to note never to leave dogs and children unattended, no matter the breed!). They are also one of the more intelligent breeds and they respond will to positive reinforcement, they aim to please! And like their ancestors Nous and Belle, they are working dogs and so thrive with consistent training and structure in their life.
Time to explore the typical health expectancies!
If properly cared for, these dogs have similar life expectancies. A GSP can be with you for up to 14 years, and a Golden Retriever up to 12 years. Now due to the similarities in their physical stature, they share some of the same common ailments. Both breeds are typical to suffer from either hip or elbow dysplasia. This can be prevented with responsible breeding but it wont outlaw it completely. Cancer is another devasting health issue common with both breeds, close communication with your vet, and the right insurance, can help spot the early signs that something isn’t right, hopefully preventing any serious issues to arise.
To focus on the GSP, a very common and very serious health concern is bloating. Their deep chest allows for the stomach to twist should enough gas develop. This is known as GDV (Gastric Dilatation and Volvulus). Should this happen, surgery is the only response to return the stomach to its proper position. Ways to prevent this is to use a slow feeder, not exercising for at least an hour after food and serving smaller portions throughout the day. Aside from this, should they be fed properly and cared for in a suitable manner, these dogs are generally healthy. The previous notes are just things that you should be aware of before you think of buying one!
Now to the Golden Retriever, despite the previously mentioned issues. This breed can live a long, happy life should they be cared for properly. They have a higher maintenance coat than the GSP and should be groomed once a week to keep skin issues at bay. Weekly ears cleaning is also a must to prevent matting and infection. Oh, and whilst it isn’t a technical ‘health’ issue. It is worth mentioning that the majority of Retrievers are commonly seen in surgery due to ingesting foreign bodies. Whether that be socks, toys or rocks! Keeping an eye on what’s in their mouth is a must from a young age!
Now for more on their training and intelligence!
INTELLIGENCE AND TRAINABILITY COMPARISON
It could be argued that a GSP is best suited to a working lifestyle or a hunting family but this isn’t a necessity should you provide the correct stimulation. As mentioned, they are highly intelligent and so need to be consistently trained with stimulating activities. A firm hand is best when training this breed, they have been known to ignore commands should they feel their attention is best spent elsewhere! For example, you may struggle to recall a Pointer if they have already caught the scent of a rabbit. They need structure in their life, all in all, they are loyal to their owners and love to work. Keeping them occupied with fun, stimulating training is what will give them a high quality of life with you!
Much like the GSP, the Golden Retriever is also very intelligent and aim to please! They are eager to learn, which is what makes them so popular as service dogs. Even from a young age, they are susceptible to training and positive reinforcement so you can teach good habits into them from the moment you get them home! The only minor pitfall is that you may need to remind your pup of the task you gave them if they become overexcited!