The official term for dog shows is conformation — as in, the act of conforming or producing conformity
While a dog show may look like a beauty pageant, it’s not
Dogs are not being compared to each other; they’re being measured by how closely they conform to the standard of their particular breed. So before starting your efforts in Conformation it’s critical to understand the Golden Retriever Standard. The breed standard can be found HERE. GRCA has several great illustrated study guides that can help you understand the standard. These include “Judging the Golden Retriever, A Discussion of the Breed Standard”, “A Study of the Golden Retriever” and “An Introduction to the Golden Retriever”. These can be ordered from the GRCA Store.
Before you attend a Conformation show you may want to attend one or more Matches. Matches are a great opportunity to socialize your dog in an informal and educational dog show environment, all while meeting other dog lovers who are already part of the AKC community. Matches are often used as practice for puppies and their owners, providing guidance and feedback from seasoned handlers and judges. The other benefit matches offer is that you are meeting other people that are trying to learn about their dog and the various dog sports. Matches give you and your dog a relaxing fun no pressure environment to come and learn.
Another educational and fun event is the GRCA Certificate of Conformation Assessment (CCA). The CCA event is a noncompetitive event open to all Golden Retrievers over the age of 18 months that are AKC or CKC registered or that have an AKC PAL or ILP number. Spayed and neutered animals are expressly permitted to participate, as are dogs owned by non-members of the GRCA. The purposes of the CCA program are to provide a non-competitive means of evaluating and scoring the conformation qualities of individual Golden Retrievers against the Breed Standard (as opposed to a competitive “dog-to-dog” comparison as in dog show competition) and to provide a useful and informative evaluation with verbal and recorded assessments by knowledgeable evaluators of the conformation qualities of individual Golden Retrievers.
MHGRC offers the following events annually
Back to Back Specialty: A Specialty is limited to one breed (i.e. Golden Retrievers). We hold 2 Specialties, normally on Thursday and Friday before the Greeley KC All-Breed show in August at Island Grove. Our Specialty has Conformation, Puppy and Veteran Sweepstakes, 4-6 Month Beginner Puppy Competition as well as Obedience and Rally. We also hold an All-Breed Agility trial in conjunction with the Specialty.
Goldens Only Fun Match: The club holds a Golden Only fun match, typically in May, in conjunction with a Obedience and Rally Goldens Only fun match and a Club Meeting. The event is typically held outdoors at a local park or at a club members home.
Sporting Dog Conformation Fun Match: We hold a Sporting Dog Conformation Fun match in conjunction with an all-breed obedience and rally match. The match has typically been held in December/January.
MHGRC offers the following events periodically:
GRCA Certificate of Conformation Assessment (CCA): Periodically the Club offers a CCA. Our recent CCA events have been held the Saturday following our August Specialty but a CCA event can be held in conjunction with any club event or as a stand-alone event.
GRCA Regional Specialty: Periodically the Club will host the GRCA Western Regional Specialty. The Regional Specialty will typically be in conjunction with our Back to Back Specialty in August.
The Mile Hi Golden Retriever club endorses the breed standard for golden retrievers as “primarily a hunting dog”
“That dog can HUNT!” “Let them do what they were bred to do!”
MHGRC offers the following events annually:
Hunt Test: An all-breed hunt test, usually offered in September, for the junior, senior and master level. A hunt test is an event/competition where the natural ability and training of gun dogs are evaluated against a written standard. Each dog that meets this standard earns a pass. This is unlike a field trial in which dog/handler teams compete against one another with only one dog being declared the winner.
Field Trial: A field trial is a competitive event at which dogs compete against one another for placements. There are field trials for retrievers, pointing dogs and flushing dogs. Field trials are usually organized by kennel clubs or other gun dog organizations. Field trials are generally considered more competitive than hunt tests in that success at a field trial requires a higher level of training than simply qualifying to the standard that a hunt test requires.
Working Certificate test: The annual “Working Certificate/Working Certificate Excellent” (WC/WCX) is open to golden retrievers and any breed who follows the same test rules, specifically Flat Coat Retrievers. In past years, the test may be opened to other retriever breeds that can provide their test requirements if we can accommodate them.
These events both offer a competition where the dogs are asked to find and retrieve game. The levels of competition vary from beginner to advanced. The difficulty increases with the challenges of distance, water and terrain. To perform/compete, the dog has been trained extensively. The American Kennel Club (AKC) awards the titles of Junior Hunter (JH), Senior Hunter (SH), Master Hunter (MH) and Master National Hunter (MNH) for performance in hunt tests. The standards for the various levels are designed to approximate the situations and conditions encountered when hunting. Dogs are required to prove the ability to retrieve and find birds. The AKC provides different hunt test formats for different types of gun dogs.
You can compete at all levels, so if you are curious and want to see exactly what your dog was “bred to do” then attend a few trials. As always, ask a lot of questions, read, contact the club field representative, and find a mentor. This is a sport that takes a lot of time, training, a willing dog, and patience. The rewards are HIGH!
Training days: Each year, the club hosts a weekend of “Training Days” to support club members, as well as introduce your dog to the sport. Open to all, it is always fun to watch and learn about the sport and consider joining the competitions.
Seminars: Each year, the club attempts to offer a “field seminar” which is open to ALL with priority given to MHGRC members. In recent years, Mitch White has come to Colorado and the events have been very well attended.
Scent work is one of the newest dog sports
Dogs love doing what comes naturally
Scent Work challenges your dog to find specific odors such as birch, anise, clove or cypress. You can also teach your dog to find your own scent or the scent of family members and comes in handy when you need help finding misplaced items at home. Using their keen sense of smell and being rewarded for it builds your dog’s confidence and provides mental stimulation. If you have been reluctant to participant in dog sports because your dog is timid or aggressive with other dogs, this is a great opportunity to get your dog focused on a simple and fun task that doesn’t involve other dogs. If you have been managing physical challenges, this sport has low physical requirements for you and your dog. Scent Work / Nose Work builds teamwork between you and your dog by learning to trust your dog’s abilities while supporting their efforts. Search areas and tasks change and get more challenging as your dog’s skills increase if you choose to enter scent work trials.
Scent Work/ Nose Work is popular because it can be practiced anywhere, requires very little supplies or tools. It can be learned from various online resources and many local classes/instructors are available to help you improve skills. Scent Work can be just for fun or you and your dog can compete in Scent work/nose work trials through different organizations.
Organizations such as AKC (American Kennel Club), NACSW (National Association of Canine Scent Work, and USCSS (United States Canine Scent Sports) have practice guidelines and various local clubs host Scent Work Trials under one of these organization’s guidelines.
Looking forward to seeing you at our next Scent Work trial or just around having fun with our dog!
Scent Work Supplies
All Good Dogs
Agility is one of the fastest growing dog sports in the country
Golden Retrievers make excellent agility partners
Agility provides great exercise for you and your dog and involves training your dog to navigate and maneuver around a course of obstacles with tunnels, jumps and weave poles. The trainer directs the dog to perform the proper sequences using verbal and body language cues, so developing teamwork is part of the game.
Golden Retrievers excel due to their athleticism. They learn quickly and love a good time playing with their teammates.
For an introduction to the sport of agility, you can attend a local trial or search for videos on YouTube. It is best to attend a beginner’s class so that you and your dog can learn the safe and correct ways to handle the equipment involved. You can also practice moves that you learn in class with just some very basic homemade equipment you can set up in your backyard.
The Mile Hi Golden Retriever Club holds three agility trials annually that are open to all dogs registered with the AKC. The events in April and July take place at an indoor arena in Douglas County and the trial in August takes place outdoors as part of our club’s Independent Specialty.
Obedience And Rally
Obedience Competition is fun and provides the foundation for communication and trust between you and your dog
If you don’t provide learning opportunities and challenges for your Golden, they will create their own
Obedience training is essential for a well-behaved dog you can take anywhere and trust that they will be welcome. It can start with Puppy Kindergarten to teach early socialization with other dogs and people. Also learned are basic skills your puppy will need to become an enjoyable, confident companion and loved family member.
Golden Retrievers are considered one of the most intelligent canines. Early and consistent training is a form of enrichment for this active breed. If you don’t provide learning opportunities and challenges for your Golden, they will create their own, and what they display may not be an agreeable behavior.
There are many dog training classes available from private trainers, humane societies and retail stores. For training resources, do an online search for dog training classes in your area. Visit and observe how the classes are conducted to see if it’s a good fit for you and your dog. Keep in-mind, these trainers are training YOU to train your dog. Once you have developed your own training skills and understand what works for your dog, it will be a fun activity you and your dog can share at home, in the neighborhood or in the dog show environment.
You can take training as far as you decide is appropriate for you and your dog. Even if your dog is mature, they are still able to learn new things, so get them involved in something challenging. Possibly compete in obedience, starting with the Novice level, moving up to the Open classes followed by Utility. Each level requires more challenges and skills. Obedience training goes beyond teaching your dog to obey commands. It’s a foundation for communication and trust between you and your dog. It enables you to do so many other dog activities; such as field work, tracking, search and rescue, freestyle dance with your dog, scent work, and therapy work in hospitals, senior centers and airports.
Rally is another fun dog companion sport. This activity develops teamwork and confidence as your dog increases their ability to focus in a fun activity. A trainer or judge will set up a course laying out ten to twenty signs, spaced appropriately, telling you the behavior you and your dog are required to perform. Side by side you walk with your dog through the course, performing all the required tasks. It can be a simple-- dog sits, handler walks around dog or more complex as your dog’s skills increase. Depending on the level, you can verbally coach your dog as needed. This sport truly displays the teamwork and talent you and your dog have developed together. There are many trainers and classes you can attend and it’s easy to practice at home even if you don’t want to compete.
To observe actual Rally performances, do a YouTube search for Dog Rally videos. It’s fun to watch and even more fun to perform with your dog.
In March and August, the Mile Hi Golden Retriever Club hosts two days of Obedience and Rally trials open to all dogs registered with the AKC.