Who’s a good golf dog?
A common reaction we get to Grace on the golf course is, “I would love to take my own dog out on the course, but I know that he/she just wouldn’t behave.” After our last round, as we noted, we went to go see our son’s new pup, a retired greyhound named Bonbon. She was so calm and quiet, but obviously enjoys a bit of exercise, so we thought that she would make an exemplary golfing dog (and we hope to get her on the course some day). It made us a reflect on the question of “what are the key qualities to being a ‘good dog’ on the golf course?”
Many people ask about Grace’s breed thinking since she is such a fine golf partner that others of her type will be the same. Temperaments vary hugely even among dogs of the same breed. And temperament is paramount for being on your best canine behaviour on the course.
That said, Vizslas are great – clean (short-hair), intelligent, affectionate (they will often leave their food to get affection). Their biggest downside is that they require LOTS of exercise. A minimum of an hour off-lead running around and sniffing every day. It is their gluttony for particular desire which led us to dog golfing in the first place. The 7k+ walk just about starts to tire a Vizsla out.
If you are looking for a dog that you might consider taking out on the fairways with you, consider these qualities:
- Volubility: Quiet Please! Probably the most important aspect of good behaviour is quiet. Golf courses are second only to libraries for their sensitivity to auditory distraction. So dog barking is definitely bang out of order. A few good-natured woofs to great someone, for example, are fine. But a dog who does not control their barking will be as unwelcome as a chatterbox at the tee-off. Frustratingly, how vocal a particular dog is seems to be very intrinsic to their individual nature and is very hard to train (you can train a dog to bark on command, but much hard to get them to *not* bark on command).
- Energy: The more docile ambler is going to be easier than someone who likes to tear around (Grace definitely channels her inner Labrador in her more placid demeanour, but Rusty was a bit of a speed demon who liked to tear around). But a quite older or heavier dog, might not be up to managing an entire 18 holes.
- Gregariousness: Golf is a social sport and even outside your playing foursome, golfers are generally congenial and cross paths on the course as balls stray near (or even into) each other’s fairway. A dog that is generally comfortable with strangers will be a much more content companion and also make such serendipitous encounters more enjoyable.
- Biddability: It’s hard enough to get humans to behave according to the exacting protocol of the golf course, especially around minimising distractions with noise and eye line. Dogs need to follow all of these human rules. Even on a lead, the dog needs to be able to control all barking which would be a real course faux paw. And if you intend going around the “under control” courses without lead, exacting biddability is an imperative.
- Scent: Of course, bonus fun for you and your pup is finding the ball in the rough. This will require (a) a good scent dog (like a Hunt/Point/Retrieve breed), and (b) extra training to find the scent and to point to it (don’t pick it up!).
You can see why Grace is the “face” of Dog Golf. But Rusty was just as central to our outings (when she was still with us) as she loved the outdoor adventure much more than Grace so she exemplifies the very spirit of dog golf.