The Pet Buyer’s Guide to Finding a Golden Retriever

By Cheryl Minnier

Your Search Begins….

The golden retriever is the 2nd most popular breed according to the AKC. That means everyday people begin their search for a golden retriever who can become a healthy, stable member of their family.  However, finding a puppy is not as easy as it once was.  The days of opening the newspaper or stopping at a roadside sign and finding the dog of your dreams are long past.  This article can help you make more informed decisions about finding a puppy.

Today several problems plague our canine friends and any breed that reaches a certain level of popularity will face many challenges.  Whenever it appears that there is money to be made breeding dogs, there will be people who will do it without the knowledge, skill and dedication that it takes to produce quality dogs.  This can lead to puppies being born that have physical and/or temperament problems that make them unsuitable for family companionship.  It can also lead to poor placement of puppies that results in adult dogs needing new homes.  To maximize your chances of finding a wonderful companion, it is recommended that you purchase a puppy from a responsible breeder or consider an adult rescue dog,

Problems? What Problems?….

Goldens should be healthy stable dogs but unfortunately there are several problems that can occur.  Among them are:

Canine Hip Dysplasia CHD and Elbow Dysplasia ED- CHD is a malformation of the hip joint that can cause pain and lameness.  Symptomatic CHD may respond to medical treatment that will be lifelong.  For dogs that do no respond surgery is recommended at an estimated cost $1000-3000 per hip.  Often owners facing a dog in severe pain will have to consider the option of euthanasia.  Elbow dysplasia is a group of malformations of the elbow that can cause lameness and require surgery that may or may not be effective.

Cataracts and other eye diseases-These may result in impaired vision, blindness or severe pain.

Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis or SAS– This condition involving the main blood supply from the heart can be fatal.  There can be a management of symptoms with medication or surgery.

Hypothyroidism– Dogs who don’t produce enough thyroid hormone, or whose bodies produce antibodies to the hormone, often have poor coat, obesity and have skin and possibly temperament issues. Treatment consists of daily medication and periodic blood work.

Allergies  While people suffering from allergies have respiratory symptoms, dogs usually have skin and ear problems.

Seizures  Idiopathic epilepsy affects some goldens who may have seizures of varying severity.  Treatment consists of daily medication for life.

Temperament Problems  Goldens should be happy, responsive and eager to please. Aggression in a golden should not be tolerated or used in breeding. Temperament is usually considered a hereditary trait.

Early onset cancers  Unfortunately there may be evidence that some forms of cancer that strike young dogs may have a hereditary factor.

Bleeding problems  Some goldens suffer from a condition similar to hemophilia known as Von Willebrands disease

Swallowing disorders  These affect the dogs ability to swallow


So if you think a puppy might be in your future there are several factors to consider if you are ready to make the commitment to a new family member.  You should be sure that:

-You are ready to take responsibility for the dog for its lifetime and not just until your circumstances change.

-You can provide either a fenced in yard or make the commitment to walk the dog on leash, keeping in mind that goldens need LOTS of supervised and safe exercise.  You also need to incorporate your dog into your home. Goldens are not meant to be outside only dogs.

-You are prepared to invest the time to train your puppy to be a responsible canine citizen.  They do not come fully trained!!

-You can put up with shedding, retrieving,(and this includes everything from underwear to Tupperware!) and high energy of a growing puppy.

-You can afford the veterinary costs associated with having a dog, including regular exams, vaccinations and heartworm preventative.

-You have considered the grooming needs of a golden.  While they are not extensive, a well groomed dog is less likely to have skin problems and will track in less debris!

-You are not planning on adding a dog simply to teach your children a lesson on responsibility.  While children can and do become terrific owners, parents need to be ultimately responsible.

-You are prepared to put some time and effort in finding the RIGHT puppy for your family.  You need to resist the impulse to support puppy mills or irresponsible breeders.  You also need to find a breeder you are comfortable with.  One you can turn to with questions and problems.


What Questions Do I Need To Ask?….

Think of finding the right breeder as entering a partnership.  This partnership will last for the life of the puppy and hopefully beyond.  While it may take some time and patience to find someone you are comfortable with, the end result is worth it!

There are several questions you can ask breeders that will allow you to determine if this breeder espouses the highest standards.  While you may not find one that can answer yes to all of these questions, you should expect an affirmative answer to most.

  1. Will the breeder agree in writing to take back the puppy AT ANY TIME, FOR ANY REASON, if you cannot keep it?  This is the hallmark of a responsible breeder.
  2. Do both parents have OFA ratings for hips and elbows.
  3. Do both parents have current CERF certificates or proof of normal eye exams from an ACVO certified doctor.
  4. Do both parents have heart clearances?  This is a statement from a canine cardiologist that the heart is free of any murmurs that might indicate SAS.
  5. Are  the parents free of allergies, seizures and thyroid normal?
  6. Are both parents temperamentally sound?  I t should never be necessary to make excuses for a golden’s temperament.  “He’s a little shy” or “She just doesn’t like kids should NOT be said about a golden!
  7. Does the breeder have information about the grandparents, siblings and other puppies produced by this pair?  A conscientious breeder will loo for depth in a pedigree.  For instance, knowing the OFA status for several generations as well as the longevity of grandparents and siblings, is a helpful way to predict what the health of the litter will be.
  8. Will the puppy be sold on a limited registration with a spay/neuter contract?  As you can see, breeding involves LOTS of work and is not for the newcomer.  A caring, responsible breeder will be interested in seeing that carelessly thought out litters or accidental breeding cannot happen.
  9. Is there a written guarantee covering the puppy for hereditary or congenital defects?
  10. Is the breeder involved in competition? Most serious breeders compete on some level with their dogs to see if the stock they have is worth perpetuating.  Conformation competition judges the form and function of the dog as it gaits for the judge.  Dogs compete for points and after 15 points they become a champion.  Champions will have the initials CH before their name.  Obedience is another area where dogs are tested as well as agility, field work, scent work and many others.
  11. How many litters has the Dam (mother) had? If a female has been bred every season repeatedly it may by an indication that profit is the motive.
  12. Why was the breeding done? “To teach the kids the miracle of birth”‘ “Because we thought it was something she needed to do”. Or “Well she is a sweet girl and I want to pass that on”. These are not reasons to breed.  ***A note about “Both parents on Premises”. Having both parents may mean that instead of the most complimentary sire being chosen, the closest was used.  You should always receive info on both parents, many breeders will send their females out to be bred or have semen shipped in to get the best results.
  13. Does the breeder seem knowledgeable about the breed and the art of puppy raising?  Does she/he seem willing to answer your questions- do you get the feeling she/he will be available on an ongoing basis?  Will he/she help you select a puppy based on the puppy’s temperament and your lifestyle?
  14. Are the puppies raised in the house with lots of socialization and acclimation to sights, sounds and smells they can expect to encounter everyday?  Are they kept with the mother and littermates for 8 weeks? Without this critical intervention, puppies can have temperament issues that can be life long.
  15. Is the breeder willing to provide you with references of others who have purchased puppies from her?
  16. What written material will the breeder provide you when you purchase a puppy? It should include a written contract that covers both the breeder’s guarantees to you and your commitment to keep the puppy safe, vaccinated, in good condition and to spay/neuter at the right time. It should also include a copy of pedigree and clearances.
  17. Lastly, if there are puppies currently available, do they seem health? (No nasal discharge, no loose stools, eyes bright, clean puppies and environment, activity levels high.) Have they had their first shots and been wormed? Have they been vet checked? Also, how many puppies are available? Most responsible breeders will only tackle one litter at a time. Also they will specialize in one or at the most 2 breeds-not “Over 100 breeds available!”


COST:  A well bred puppy can cost between $1700-$2500, depending on where you live.  Remember a “cheap” puppy is often no bargain!

Disclaimer:  The author makes no warrantee of puppies sold by GRCA or AVGRC members.  Following all the above guidelines does not guarantee that no problems will arise.  The author cannot make recommendation about specific breeders.

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