Ran into another woman with a golden in obedience training. She mentioned that she has a POND and invited me over last weekend to work with my dog. (I tried not to obviously beg or drool.)
Her golden is 21 months old from field lines, but has no hunt training. High energy, loves water, makes astounding leaps into very cold water for a bumper. I threw a few marks for the dog, who up to then, had only done retrieves with the owner throwing from the side. I went as far out as about 125/150 yards in an open area, tossing orange bumpers. Dog pinned the marks, no gun-shyness at all. In other words, great natural ability as far as I can tell, and owner is interested in learning about hunt training. Has hunted with prior goldens, but not for many decades.
The problem came when I showed the dog a bird. Dog has never been hunted over or retrieved a bird. I showed the dog a dead pigeion I'd been using as a mark for Maple. I sort of expected cautious sniffing and perhaps reluctance to hold the bird. The dog snatched the pigeon, chomped down, and tried to gulp it down as fast as possible. The owner grabbed the dog's collar and was able to extract the pigeon (what was left of it) after a long period of lip squeezing.
She asked me what I would suggest (as if I had a clue). I suggested no more birds until the dog has been through a formal force fetch, with an emphasis on no mouthing, and then start with frozen birds under very controlled conditions.
Was that good advice? Is there any hope for this dog? It grew up on the owner's 26 acres in rural Idaho and has, no doubt, eaten plenty of scaveneged birds.