So You Want a Golden Retriever Puppy?


Congratulations. Few things in life are more satisfying than giving a good home to a cuddly, loving and ravenous ball of joy - otherwise known as a puppy. But right now, before you start your search, a little research will go a long way to ensure that the puppy you take home is likely to be just the companion you hope it will be, and nothing less.

The following is a list of questions adapted from the Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue. Before you even go look at that fluffy golden litter, take the time to do an initial phone call to ask these questions. If you receive more than two negative responses to these questions, consider another breeder. REMEMBER you are adding a new member to your family for the next 10-15 years. "You may have known someone who has (or you may yourself have purchased) a 'backyard' bred dog, a pet store or puppy mill dog and had great success. However, the growing incidence of serious problems in the breed makes it prudent to be on guard. Among the undesirable traits are temperament problems including aggression, shyness or hyperactivity. Hip dysplasia, eye problems causing early blindness, heart defects that can severely shorten life span and auto immune disorders such as thyroid disease and cancer are also becoming prevalent. Responsible breeders do all they can to avoid these problems by researching pedigrees and screening parents for certain inherited problems before breeding." (DVGRR)

  1. Where did you find out about this breeder? Responsible breeders are expected to produce Goldens that meet the breed standard in both conformation and temperament. They usually don't find it necessary to advertise in newspapers or with a sign out in the front yard. To assist you in locating a breeder that as obtained all the necessary clearances before breeding, the Golden Retriever Club of America maintains a breeder/puppy referral network for the entire U.S.
  2. Do both parents (the sire and dam) have hip and elbow clearances from the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, )? Ask to see the certificates. "My vet okayed the x-ray" is not a valid clearance.
  3. Do both parents have current eye clearances? This must be performed every year. Ask to see the certificates ( ).
  4. Do both parents have a Cardiac clearance, preferably with ultrasound by a canine cardiologist, on the hearts of both parents? Ask to see the certificates. ( )
  5. Are both parents at least 2 years old? OFA hip clearances cannot be obtained before that age.
  6. How often is the dam breed? Breeding every heat cycle IS TOO OFTEN and may indicate that profit is the primary motive for the breeding.
  7. Do all four grandparents, siblings of the parents and any other puppies that they may have produced have these clearances? A responsible breeder will keep track of these statistics and honestly discuss any problems that have occurred in the lines and what has been done to prevent them from recurring.
  8. Are both parents free of allergies of epilepsy?
  9. Is the breeder willing to provide you with references and telephone numbers of other people who have purchased puppies from him/her?
  10. Will the puppy have limited registration (which means if the dog is bred, the puppies cannot be AKC registered) with a mandatory spay/neuter contract? A breeder who cares enough about the breed to insist on these is probably a responsible breeder.
  11. On what basis was the sire chosen? If the answer is "because he lives right down the street" or "because he is really sweet", it may be that sufficient thought was put into the breeding.
  12. WILL THE BREEDER TAKE THE DOG BACK AT ANY TIME, FOR ANY REASON, IF YOU CANNOT KEEP IT?!! This is the hallmark of responsible breeding (and the quickest, best way to make rescue obsolete).
  13. Will the breeder be available for the life of the dog to answer any questions you might have? Is this someone you would feel comfortable asking any type of question?
  14. Is the breeder knowledgeable about the breed? Is he or she involved in competition with their dogs (field, obedience or conformation)?
  15. Are there a majority of titled dogs (the initials CH, OTCH, CD, JH, WC... before or after the names) in the first two generations? The term "champion lines" means nothing if those titles are back three or more generations or there are only one or two in the whole pedigree.
  16. Are the puppy's sire and dam available for you to meet? If the sire is unavailable can you call his owners or people who have his puppies to ask about temperament or health problems? You should also be provided with pictures or videos.
  17. Have the puppies been raised in the home - not in a kennel, barn or the backyard?
  18. Is the breeder knowledgeable about raising puppies, critical neonatal periods, proper socialization techniques? Puppies that are raised without high exposure to gentle handling, human contact and a wide variety of noises and experience OR are removed from their dam or litter mates before at least 7 weeks may exhibit a wide variety of behavioral problems! Temperament, a genetic trait carried over from the parents, still needs development from the early beginnings of a puppy's life. The breeder should provide extensive socialization and human interaction to the puppies in the litter.
  19. Does the breed provide a 3-5 generation pedigree, copies of all clearances, the guarantee, health records and material to help you with feeding, training and housebreaking?
  20. Have the puppies' temperament been evaluated and can the breeder guide you to the puppy that will best suit your lifestyle? A very shy puppy will not do well in a noisy household with small children, just as a very dominate puppy won't flourish in a sedate, senior citizen household. A caring breeder will know the puppies and will be able to show you how to test them so that good matches can be made.
  21. Do the puppies seem healthy, with no discharge from the eyes or nose, no loose stools, no foul smelling ears? Are their coats soft, full and clean? Do they have plenty of energy when awake, yet calm down easily when gently stroked?
  22. Do the puppies have their first shots and have they been wormed?
  23. Does the breeder have only 1 or at the most 2 breeds of dogs and only 1 litter at a time? If there are several breeds of dogs, chances are the breeder cannot devote the time it takes to become really knowledgeable about the breed. If there is more than one litter at a time, it is very difficult to give the puppies the attention they need and may indicate that the primary purpose for breeding is for profit, rather than a sincere desire to sustain and improve the breed.
  24. Does the breeder belong to the Golden Retriever Club of American and/or a local Golden Club and has he/she signed a breeder's "Code of Ethics"?
  25. Do you feel comfortable with this person? Keep in mind that you are entering into a decade long relationship. If you feel intimidated or pressured, keep looking! It's worth the effort.

Use the preceding questions when talking to breeders about their litters.