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“The popular saying ‘a dog is man’s best friend’ is no longer enough,” according to veterinarian Dot Spot (2006b). “In fact,” she continued, “dogs are helpers and healers as well” (p.12). Golden Retrievers especially fit Spot’s new definition of dogs’ relations with humans. As a breed in general, Retrievers are one of the most intelligent. Their versatility makes them ideally suited for a variety of tasks, including work with senses, prisoner reform, and physiotherapy programs. So although Golden Retrievers make great pets, they are also valuable as support animals.
The intelligence of Golden Retrievers has long been recognized. They were originally bred in the 19th century as hunting dogs, their soft mouths ideal for carrying downed fowl back to the hunter (Benji, 1992). In more recent times, Retrievers have shown that they are capable of more than just finding dead birds. As Maximillian (2003), an animal psychologist, noted, “In several current studies, Golden Retrievers have consistently placed in the top five breeds when tested for intelligence and trainability” (p. 1238). His findings were based on a ten-year survey of breeders and trainers. Such survey results are not rare. In fact, in a landmark study released by Albert Huff (2008), Retrievers placed first in a survey of fourteen different intelligence and training categories. While Golden Retrievers, German Shepherds and Labrador Retrievers all placed consistently at the top of the tests, Retrievers’ dispositions made them marginally more trainable than these other breeds. So Golden Retrievers are not only highly intelligent but they are willing to be trained as well. In a study by The Scientific Canine Report, Retrievers were the only breed with a 100% passing rate at obedience schools (“The semi-annual study,” 2008). Thus, Retrievers’ intelligence makes them able and willing to perform tasks requested of them. This superior intelligence and trainability have made Retrievers successful helping dogs.
As helping dogs, Retrievers participate in a variety of tasks; they have been used with great success as both seeing-eye dogs for the blind and drug-sniffing dogs for police and
Bauwau, J. (2009, January 23). Research shows dogs useful. The New York Times, p. 12.
Benji, R. (1992). Retrievers: A guide for breeders. Toronto, Canada: Little Brown Dog Press.
Fido, R. F., & Rover, C. Q. (2008, December 6). New training techniques for Labs and Retrievers. Dogs Today, 132. Retrieved from http://www.dogstoday.com/fido-rover /2008/12/06/newtraining.htm
Huff, A. B. (Presenter). (2008, March 1). The intelligence of Retrievers. The intelligence of dogs (part 2) [Video podcast]. Retrieved from University of Intelligence Psychology Department website: http://www.intelligence.edu/psy/studieswedid/dogsmarts/2/huff /video.mp3
Maximillian, D. W. (2003). So, you want to own a Golden Retriever? Journal of Dogs, 121(3), 1234-1240. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.