Retrieve; to bring back. Over the years I have temperament tested many puppies; testing involves multiple tests, one of which is retrieving. I am offered several different responses when I throw out a small toy or ball and every so often I get a natural retrieve. I cannot help but smile; the sight of a seven week old puppy bringing me back the toy I have tossed out is impressive. But not all puppies have the desire nor natural ability to retrieve.
Over thousands of years humans have been manipulating the dog. It began from the start; dogs bringing prey to their human companions, a natural behavior passed down from the wolf. Then as man evolved so did their reason for keeping dogs; different aspects of the canine were concentrated on by different people. Some desired a cute dog sitting on their lap; with no desire to chase other animals. While others wanted a dog to help in their daily hunting; these were the people who sharpened the natural retrieve instinct.
Most dogs today have some sort of chase drive; although I have seen many of the companion "lapdog" breeds who do not exhibit even the tiniest of drive that was once innate to the canine species. Various dogs will follow an object; contact is made and the item may or may not be taken by mouth. At this point a variety of dogs will end the behavior sequence; while others continue with the retrieve and drop. Even the best of retrievers will often refuse to drop the item. As much as they would like us to toss it again they really don't want to give up their possession.
Much to the dismay of a few canine guardians; the naturally retrieving breed that they selected may not retrieve at all. Why does this happen? A golden retriever that doesn't retrieve? For the same reason a major dog loving person can come from a non dog loving family; individualism. Certain breeds tend to have the same hardwired traits but it is not a surefire guarantee. I have met several Labradors who wanted nothing to do with swimming; odd but these dogs had other things that they loved to do.
So while a breed may be predisposed to natural retrieving; within a litter you may have a vast difference between each puppy. Retrieving can be a wonderful thing; it makes exercising your dog very easy, it can be used to teach a dog to focus and of course be used for many of the performance activities. But retrieving can also go very wrong. Some dogs have such a strong desire to retrieve that it becomes an obsessive one. Tilley is an obsessive retriever; her retrieve took a turn for the worst when she learned about the virtue of a shadow. Shadows are always around; for a dog who wants nothing more than to chase then the shadow is a great thing. But Tilley's problem is her drive to chase more than the retrieve; although given an object to chase she will retrieve until she drops.
Many golden retrievers have driven their guardians to the brink with retrieving. Even the wonderful retrieve can become a problem behavior. Like any behavior; left unchecked and driven by an obsession can unravel, becoming an issue.
So there you have it; if having a retriever carries some importance when choosing a dog, toss something to see if there is any natural retriever in that little puppy. Of course not all amazing retrievers are born; many are created.