Please read this information before you purchase a Golden Retriever puppy from anyone!

The following contains excerpts from the publication “Acquiring a Golden Retriever” copyrighted by the Golden Retriever Club of America.

You may be interested in a Golden Retriever for a variety of reasons . . . as a pet, a hunting dog, an obedience competitor, a show dog, or a combination of these things. Whatever your objective, you, as the dog’s owner, will be responsible for the care and training that will enable your Golden to fulfill its potential.

If you want a watchdog, you shouldn’t get a Golden Retriever. Although its size and initial barking might deter an intruder, the typical Golden is adaptable, friendly to everyone, gentle (although physically active), and committed to carrying things around in its mouth… including the intruder’s flashlight.

If you are a fastidious housekeeper (or are married to one), you shouldn’t get a Golden Retriever. Most Goldens shed somewhat throughout the year, and quite profusely in the spring, in spite of diligent daily brushings. Also, most Goldens love to get wet. If there is water on your property your Golden will be wet, and possibly muddy, a frustrating amount of time.

If you want a one-man dog, prefer cats to dogs, or aren’t home much, you shouldn’t get a Golden Retriever. Goldens are very people-oriented, and aren’t happy alone in a kennel.

The Golden Retriever was developed in Scotland and England in the late 19th Century for the purpose of retrieving wildfowl on land and water. Its physical characteristics and its willing, adaptable, trainable nature have also fitted it for usefulness in many other endeavors.

What are you looking for in a Golden Retriever? A beautiful animal? A good family pet? A good hunting dog? A good obedience worker? There are Golden Retrievers that fit each description, and some that fit all of these descriptions.

Goldens also work as guide dogs for the blind, as narcotics detection dogs, as tracking dogs, appear in commercials and advertisements, and are one of the “preferred” breeds of veterinarians. There is no question that the Golden Retriever is a versatile and remarkable breed.

Before you even start looking at litters of puppies, take time to learn about the breed. Attend dog shows and field trials, Golden Retriever club meetings, and local kennel club meetings, and talk with and question Golden owners. They are proud of their dogs and are happy to share their enthusiasm.

Look around. It is much easier to find a “puppy mill” or “backyard breeder” that knows and cares little about the welfare of the breed than it is to find a reputable breeder. Have patience and never buy impulsively. . .all puppies are cute. The Golden Retriever Club of America and many of its local member clubs can supply you with a list of conscientious breeders in your area who will help you in your search even though they may not have anything for sale themselves.

Poor quality puppies are produced by people who breed their pets just to have a litter, or by profit seekers who give little thought to quality, looks or temperament in the puppies they produce. Many of these indiscriminately-bred puppies have health problems, poor temperaments, and/or breed disqualifications. Remember, you are choosing a companion for the next ten to fifteen years.


A poorly-bred, badly-raised puppy, no matter how cheap, is NO BARGAIN! Chances are that the parents were not screened appropriately for hereditary defects, that the puppies have had little, if any, veterinary care, and that the pups were not given the proper socialization and TLC that is needed to raise a healthy litter of Golden puppies. You should expect to pay a reasonable price for a sound, healthy, properly raised pet from good parentage sold on a spay/neuter contract and/or AKC Limited Registration. Show and breeding prospects may well be more expensive. Specific prices vary depending on the area of the country.


Temperamentally, there is little difference between the sexes in Goldens. Neither sex is harder to housetrain, and both are equally intelligent and affectionate. Both are excellent with children, and both make excellent companions. Problems of aggressiveness, which males of other breeds may exhibit, rarely occur in the Golden. Sex-related behavior such as mounting and marking may be exhibited by some male Goldens, particularly if other males are present or if the male has been used for breeding. Neutering a male before a year of age will not only help to alleviate these problems, but will also eliminate the risk of testicular cancer and lower the risk of prostate problems. Since there is no responsible reason NOT to neuter a bitch (unless she was bought from a serious hobby breeder specifically for showing or breeding), the estrous cycle in the female need not be a consideration.

Choosing a Reputable Breeder

Choosing a reputable breeder is very important. Since it would be almost impossible for you to know what the puppy you are buying will grow up to be physically and emotionally, you must rely on your faith in the person from whom you are purchasing your puppy. There are three options open to you in choosing this person.

1. Pet Shop or Dealer

The worst possible choice. The puppies are poorly bred and raised. They are thought of as merchandise to be sold for a high profit. The high profit results because little has been put into the breeding or the care of the puppies. Many are sickly. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying, which is no way to choose an addition to the family.

2. Backyard Breeder

Also a poor choice. This is the person who owns a pet Golden and thinks it would be “fun” to have puppies, that it would be a great experience for the children, or that the bitch “should be bred once before she is spayed.” Even worse, perhaps it’s being done just to make money. Usually this breeder knows little about the standard or history of the breed, and still less about proper care. The backyard breeder is not aware of breed problems, and doesn’t care. This person’s only goal is to produce puppies, and when the “fun” is over, to sell them quickly.

3. Serious Hobby Breeder

The very best choice. The serious and dedicated hobby breeder regards his/her dogs as even more than a hobby, although the true fancier does not expect to make a profit. When someone is involved in dogs for the enjoyment of each individual animal, for participating in any of the many aspects of “dogsport,” and for producing the finest animals possible, the results are SUPERIOR. The best breeders acknowledge responsibility for each and every puppy produced, and stand behind every dog they have bred.

Unequivocally, your choice should be from the ranks of the SERIOUS HOBBY BREEDER. It is an interesting fact that poor quality puppies from pet shops and backyard breeders are often sold for the same price and sometimes even more than those purchased from the experienced hobby breeder. The question is: How does one recognize the responsible breeder? Presented below is a list of requirements the breeder should meet before you consider purchasing a puppy. Don’t be afraid to confront the breeder with these requirements. It is your right, and you can rest assured that the dedicated breeder will respond positively and with pride.

The breeder should:

  1. Belong to the Golden Retriever Club of America, a local Golden Retriever club, or an all-breed club. Ideally he/she should belong to all three; however, sometimes this is impossible. The reason for this requirement is that this sort of participation indicates depth of involvement. This breeder is exposed to other points of view, learns more about the breed and modern breeding practices, and is kept up to date on AKC Rules and Regulations.
  2. Be involved in showing his/her dogs in the breed ring, the obedience ring, in hunting tests/field trials, agility, tracking, or in a combination of any of these. The reason for this requirement is that it means that the breeder is not working in a vacuum. The breeder who does not participate has no idea how good his/her dogs really are, and is deprived of the opportunity to share information and ideas with others. Showing provides the competition which encourages breeders to produce better dogs. The breeder who competes wants to prove how good his/her dogs are and is putting his/her breeding program on the line. This breeder is not relying on just a pedigree to indicate quality. Even if you do not want a competition animal, you deserve a companion that is the end result of a carefully planned litter; a puppy which received the same care as a potential champion. The breeder who competes in organized activities is known by others and has a reputation to uphold. This breeder will be as careful and honest in selling you your pet puppy as in selling show stock.
  3. Be able to show you a clean environment; healthy, well-socialized puppies; and a dam with a good temperament. You should avoid: a) shy, whimpering, fearful puppies; b) puppies with dull coats, crusty or running eyes, signs of diarrhea, rashes or sores on their abdomens; c) signs of neglect, such as lack of water, pans of uneaten food, and dirty conditions; d) a breeder who will sell a puppy under seven weeks of age, as early separation from the dam and littermates can be very detrimental both psychologically and physically.
  4. Give you a period of time in which to allow you to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to determine its state of health, so that both of you are assured as to the condition of the puppy at the time of sale. If a problem should arise, it can then be quickly resolved.
  5. Provide you with a record of the dates and types of vaccinations and de-worming done, feeding instructions, a 3-to 5-generation pedigree, and a “blue slip” to apply for registration of the puppy in your own name with the American Kennel Club (AKC). Sometimes the “blue slips” are not available at the time you take your puppy home. If this is the case, have the breeder state on a dated, signed receipt of payment that the application will be sent to you as soon as possible. The registered names and AKC numbers of both parents, date of birth of the litter, and puppy’s color and sex should be indicated. You can then contact AKC with complete information should there later be a problem with the papers.
  6. Give you written instructions on feeding, training and care. This booklet was designed in part for that purpose. There are other materials that are useful; some are listed in Appendix B.
  7. Be able to show you proof that both the sire and dam of the litter have had their hips x-rayed, and evaluated as normal by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and/or PennHIP; have had their hearts examined by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist; and have had their eyes examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist within the last 12-18 months. The breeder should also be willing to answer your questions about any other possible hereditary problems, including but not limited to seizures, hypothyroidism, and skin problems or allergies.
  8. Ask you what kind of dogs you have had in the past, and what happened to them; whether or not you have a fenced yard; and whether or not the dog will be allowed to be a house dog and a member of the family. Sincere breeders will be a bit hesitant to sell you a puppy until they know more about you, what you are looking for in a dog, and what “lifestyle” you have in mind for your dog. Having the best interest of the puppy at heart, reputable breeders will take great pains to place puppies properly the first time around. A returned puppy is a traumatic experience for all concerned, so the breeder who is always willing to accept a puppy back will try to make certain that a Golden is the breed for you.
  9. Be able to give you references: the names of people who have purchased puppies in the past, the names of other breeders, and the veterinarian who provides care for the breeder’s dogs.
  10. Provide some sort of written contract and/or conditions of sale. Any warranty of quality or health of the dog, and any warranty against development of hereditary problems or show-ring disqualifications in an animal intended for showing or breeding, should be in writing. The warranty should be absolutely explicit and a signed copy should be provided to each party.
  11. Both pedigree and registration papers are provided by reputable breeders at NO extra charge. The practice of charging extra for “papers” is forbidden by the AKC, and should be reported. This should not be confused with withholding papers until the dog has been spayed or neutered, which is how puppies not purchased for showing/breeding are sold by many reputable breeders.
  12. Make it clear that his/her responsibility continues long after you have taken your puppy home, in fact as long as the dog is alive. Many dedicated breeders will ask that the dog be returned to them, or placed with new owners who meet their approval, if ever for any reason you are unable to keep the dog. They’ll cheerfully be available for advice whenever needed, and can ease your way over many rough spots.

If your breeder meets all of these requirements you are in good hands. If you find yourself with a negative response to any of these requirements, think twice and discuss the situation with someone else. DON’T be impulsive and DO ask questions.

Picking Your Puppy

Once you have found a breeder that you trust it’s time to think about a puppy again. Take your time. You might have to wait weeks or even months for the “right” litter to be whelped, and it can be well worth the wait. If you are fortunate, and more than one litter is available at the same time in your area, you can compare puppies, pedigrees and parents. You may be asked to put a deposit of $100 or more on a puppy from the litter of your choice if the puppies are not yet seven weeks old. Good litters seldom go begging, and it is not uncommon for a choice litter to be completely spoken for by the time the puppies are seven weeks of age and ready to go to their new homes.

Not all litters are created equally, not even well bred litters. Some litters will be genetically predisposed for a higher energy level and others for a lower energy level. Some litters will have a tendency to be more dominant and others more submissive. There will be differences among individual puppies in the same litter. Discuss with the breeder the type of dog you are looking for and how you expect it to fit into your lifestyle. Will this be a companion for very small children, a hunting companion, or are you considering competing in obedience or conformation? Expect the breeder to ask several questions in order to determine if a certain litter will be an appropriate match for you. A good breeder is concerned about the puppy’s welfare and wants the puppy to be carefully matched to his new home. The perfect home for one puppy might not be the best match for a different puppy.

Don’t be surprised if you are not permitted to “pick” your puppy. Often the breeder does this for you. The breeder spends a great deal of time with the puppies and will be in a position to observe their individual temperaments. Many breeders do temperament tests on the puppies in their litters. These tests, combined with their daily interaction with the litter, help the breeder match each individual puppy to the best home. If you have a breeeder that is knowledgeable and caring enough to want to find the puppy that is the perfect match for you, let them do their work. They will do a better job selecting your puppy than you will be able to do by evaluating a litter for 15 minutes.

Almost all Golden puppies are appealing, but you need to look for more than “cuteness.” They should be sturdy in build with straight legs. They should feel firm and muscular, and be squirmy and active at first when picked up, but be willing to relax and accept being held and cuddled for a short time. Coats should be clean and thick; eyes, nose and ears free of discharge or irritation; and the puppies should not be pot-bellied. Gums should be pink, not pale. Dark pigment around the eyes, with black nose and feetpads is preferred, although this might not be important to you in a dog that is to be a companion only. White markings are not correct in a show or breeding animal, but again, this does not affect the puppy’s usefulness otherwise. Golden puppies are born much lighter than their adult color; even a very pale colored puppy will probably become a good golden shade if the ears show the proper gold color.

If the breeder offers you several puppies to select from, take each of the puppies you are considering away from the rest of its littermates and observe its reaction to its environment and to you. Puppies at seven to eight weeks of age should be willing to explore their environment, and although perhaps a little bit cautious at first, they should investigate new objects and be fairly self-assured. Speak to the puppy and see if it will follow you as you move away. Roll a ball or other toy to see if it has the instinct to watch, chase, carry and possibly even return to you with the ball. Some puppies are slower to develop the retrieving instinct than others, but you should not consider a puppy who does not show some interest in or awareness of a moving object. See if the puppy exhibits the type of personality you would want to live with. Perhaps the bold, brash puppy that never stops getting into things would be too much for you, and the more easy-going fellow who’s agreeable and a bit more receptive to your guidance would be a better choice.

While observing the puppies, observe the dam as well. Any shyness or aggression on her part is probably indicative of a poor temperament, and the puppies might well inherit these undesirable traits. A Golden Retriever bitch should be watchful and patient with her puppies and should be happy to show them to you. If the sire is available, ask to meet him too.

Considering the Older Dog

If you aren’t prepared to go through the trials and training of a baby puppy, an older puppy or even a mature dog can be a good alternative, especially in households in which the family pet may have to spend much of the day unsupervised. Goldens are very adaptable, and a Golden Retriever of any age with a good temperament can become a member of the family in a very short time. There are many reasons that older dogs are available. Breeders often hold a puppy until it is old enough to determine its show or breeding potential; a brood bitch that has been bred once or twice is retired; or circumstances change and the breeder is helping someone place a much-loved pet they have had to part with. The reasons are myriad, but whatever they may be, the grown dog is available. He is housebroken, knows many commands, and has formed many behavior patterns. If the dog has been loved and well taken care of, he will continue to give love and devotion to his new owners because A PROPERLY RAISED GOLDEN LOVES AND NEEDS PEOPLE. Never be hesitant to take an outgoing, good-natured older dog into your home. Although it may be confused at first and cause a few problems, patience, consistency, and reassurance are the key words. The dog’s self-confidence will return, and it will adapt readily to your routine.

Try to find out all that you can about the older dog that you are considering, so that you can determine if his temperament is compatible with yours. Learn as much as possible about his habits, daily routine, likes and dislikes, diet and past history. It is important that all family members meet the dog before its adoption, and agree that this is the dog they want.

It is best to acquire the dog when the household member with primary responsibility for the dog’s care and training will be at home full time for the first few days. Time must be taken to make clear that the dog knows where it is to sleep, relieve itself, where and when it will eat, and what it can and cannot do in the house. In short, it has to learn the routine it will be following and what is expected of it.

Give the dog a month or so to settle in to its new environment and gain confidence in its new owners before beginning formal obedience training. Even if the dog has had some obedience training, attending class is an excellent way to brush up on its training and help you understand its responses and personality more completely. You’ll enjoy working together.

If you rescue a mistreated or abandoned Golden Retriever through a Golden Retriever Club Referral/Rescue Service or a humane society and give it your affection, it will reward you with eternal love and gratitude. These dogs may well be of unknown background and bring you a few more problems than those with a more favorable history, but the rewards can be great.

Hereditary Problems

The vast majority of dogs of all breeds (as well as mixed breeds) can live long, healthy lives if given proper care and routine veterinary attention. Nevertheless, any dog can fall victim to a wide range of acquired problems, just as humans can, that range from acne to viral diseases, from allergies to cancer and so on. In addition, each breed of dogs has its own particular hereditary problems; some minor, some impairing, and some possibly fatal. Some may show a very strong hereditary basis and others not much more than a tendency to “run in families.” The Golden Retriever is no exception and unfortunately the problems multiply as the breed continues to increase in popularity and there is an increase in indiscriminant breeding. Failure to screen for hereditary problems before breeding often results in the “doubling up” of unfavorable genes, and the results are distressing for the buyer and dog alike. The following, while not all-inclusive, are some of the more common hereditary problems that may be encountered in Goldens.


The term hip dysplasia means poor formation of the hip joint, and describes a developmental disease in young dogs of many different breeds. Unsound hip joints are a common problem in the larger breeds, and hip dysplasia can be a serious problem in any dog that is to be trained for a demanding activity. Hip dysplasia is an inherited defect which is believed to have a polygenic mode of inheritance. The expression of this genetic defect can be modified by environmental factors, such as changes in nutrition, exercise and trauma. The degree of heritability is moderate in nature, meaning that the formation of the hip joints can also be modified by environmental factors such as overnutrition, excessively rapid growth, and certain traumas during the growth period of the skeleton. As with any quantitative trait, hip joint conformation can range from good to bad with all degrees in between.

Signs of hip dysplasia cannot be detected in the new born puppy, but usually appear in the rapid growth period between four and nine months of age. Signs of the disease can vary widely from slight irregularities of gait to crippling lameness. Improvement or even apparent disappearance of lameness can occur as the dog matures, as a result of the joint stabilizing, inflammation subsiding, and musculature strengthening. However, the dysplastic dog will usually develop some degree of arthritis later in life. X-rays should be sent to either the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or to Synbiotics (PennHIP) for diagnostic evaluation. While the two evaluation procedures differ somewhat, GRCA recognizes the validity of both and encourages all breeders of Golden Retrievers to determine the conformation health of the hips for any potential breeding animal.

The dysplastic dog should not be used for breeding, but may well lead a long, happy, useful life. During the acute phase of the disease, your veterinarian may suggest rest and supportive care. Moderate and regular exercise, control of weight, and perhaps anti-inflammatory drugs, are helpful in the management of arthritis associated with hip dysplasia in the older dog. Many Goldens with hip dysplasia will show no outward signs at all, until perhaps 7 or 8 years of age when muscle tone decreases and arthritis and wear and tear on the joint become more noticeable. Surgical procedures are also available to alleviate the pain of hip dysplasia. Goldens and other breeds of retrievers often seem to have high pain thresholds, and do not show signs of pain when other breeds might be very uncomfortable. An X-ray does not always show you how your dog feels, as many dysplastic Goldens are completely unaware that they have a problem!


Hereditary cataracts are a common eye problem in Golden Retrievers. (“Cataract” is defined as any opacity within the lens of the eye.) At least one type of hereditary cataract appears at an early age in affected Goldens, and while these may or may not interfere with the dog’s vision, some do progress into severe or total loss of vision. There are also non-hereditary cataracts which sometimes occur, and examination by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary to determine if the cataract is or is not of concern from a genetic standpoint. If there is any question, the dog is certainly not to be recommended for breeding.

A few families of Goldens carry genes for Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA) which is progressive deterioration of the light-receptive area (retina) of the eye, and may result in complete blindness at a fairly young age. There are also other eye defects, such as retinal dysplasia, that prevent consideration of a dog as a breeding animal.

Eyelid and eyelash problems also may occur in the breed; some have an hereditary basis, and some are due to other factors. Entropion and ectropion are the turning in or turning out of the eyelids. Trichiasis and distichiasis involve eyelashes or hairs rubbing on and irritating the eye. Surgery may be needed to correct these problems, and while it is a fairly simple procedure, such dogs should not be bred and are ineligible to be shown under AKC rules.

Examination of breeding stock should be done annually, until at least eight years of age and preferably longer, as hereditary eye problems can develop at varying ages. The examination should be made by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist, who has the special equipment and training needed to properly examine the dog’s eyes.

Dogs that have been examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and found to be free of hereditary eye disease can be registered with the the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF). CERF assigns the dog a number which, when properly understood, helps to make eye clearances more meaningful. For example, CERF GR 1857/89-102 means that this dog was the 1,857th Golden Retriever to be registered with CERF; that the most recent examination indicating this dog free of hereditary eye disease was done in 1989; and that the dog was 102 months old at the time of the examination. Dogs with hereditary eye disease should not be used for breeding.


Hereditary heart disease, most commonly Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS), is known to occur in the Golden Retriever breed. All prospective breeding animals should be examined by a board certified veterinary cardiologist. If a murmur is detected through auscultation (listening with a stethoscope), additional diagnostic tests are available and may be recommended. However, even if the results are negative, this does not rule out heart disease, as some mild but hereditary forms may be undetectable except on necropsy. Animals with hereditary heart disease should not be used for breeding. There are additional topics such as hypothyroidism, seizure disorders and other orthopedic disorders for which routine screening of Golden Retrievers is not performed. This may be because acceptable examination standards have not yet been developed or because the incidence of the defect is low in the Golden Retriever breed. Potential buyers should feel free to ask the breeder about these, or any subjects of concern to them. The exchange of such information is an expected and customary practice.

Breeding Your Golden Retriever

Breeding is not for beginners. It is as hard to do well as it is easy to do. Until you can satisfy the requirements that the serious hobby breeder should meet, as presented in the section of this booklet entitled “Choosing A Reputable Breeder,” you will be doing the breed an injustice if you have a litter of puppies.


If you think that:

  1. HAVING PUPPIES WOULD BE FUN; it is also very time consuming and demanding. By four weeks of age a Golden litter of eight, twelve or possibly even fourteen puppies is active, dirty, noisy and potentially destructive. Illness or death of the dam or puppies can be expensive, emotional . . . and no fun at all.
  2. IT WOULD BE EDUCATIONAL FOR THE CHILDREN; so would a litter of hamsters. Bitches do not whelp at your convenience, and the children are often in school or in bed at the time of delivery. Care of the pregnant bitch, and properly raising and socializing puppies, is work for a responsible adult.
  3. IT WOULD HELP US GET BACK OUR INVESTMENT; you may find that the rate of return is very low. Stud fee, veterinary fees, advertising, and the daily care and feeding of a litter are very expensive. You may only be able to sell three or four puppies out of a litter of ten or twelve; even experienced breeders sometimes have difficulty selling puppies.
  4. IT WOULD HELP FULFILL THE DOG’S NEEDS; you are anthropomorphizing. While the instinct for procreation is strong, the dog has no conscious knowledge of what it is missing, no regrets and no guilt feelings. Spaying or neutering will remove the instinct and the problems often associated with it, such as wandering and marking. Pregnancy not only contributes nothing to a bitch’s health, but sometimes causes problems. A spayed bitch cannot be accidentally bred, and will not be subject to the uterine infections common in older, intact females.
  5. IT WILL IMPROVE THE BITCH’S TEMPERAMENT IF SHE IS BRED; you are wrong. No animal whose temperament needs improving should be bred in the first place, since temperament is most often the result of hereditary factors. And while raising a litter will not only NOT make an improvement in the dam’s temperament, it will also probably result in a litter of unsatisfactory puppies who have been imprinted by their unstable dam. There is also the possibility that the bitch will be an unsatisfactory mother, necessitating much more work on your part.


Raising a litter is a demanding project. Do you:

  1. HAVE THE FACILITIES FOR WHELPING AND RAISING A LITTER PROPERLY? You need a warm, quiet, secure area, easily cleaned, for properly confining and caring for a litter of eight, ten or twelve fast-growing puppies while they are with their mother, and a similar, larger area for use after weaning.
  2. HAVE THE TIME TO DEVOTE TO THIS PROJECT? Time to take or send a bitch for breeding, sit up for hours during whelping, and hand-raise the litter if the bitch is unable to? Time to buy and prepare food, feed, and clean up four or five times daily? Time to go to the veterinarian for check-ups, inoculations, and with a sick dam or puppy? Time to scrub floors and pens, clean up feces and urine, and give medication? Time to individually socialize each puppy daily? Time to answer phone calls, talk with prospective buyers, and answer the same questions over and over again? Time for all the paperwork required, including typing accurate pedigrees, health records, care instructions, records of sales, and so on?
  3. HAVE THE MONEY TO PUT INTO THE PROJECT? Can you afford to pay the stud fee, inoculations and veterinary care for the bitch and puppies, as well as other expenses? What if the bitch has problems that necessitate a caesarean section? What if the puppies die? What if the bitch dies, or cannot raise the puppies? Can you afford to feed and provide veterinary care for two or three four-month-old puppies that didn’t sell? Can you afford to refund the purchase price on a puppy that proves to be unsound or unsuitable?


Is your dog truly an outstanding representative of the breed? “Pretty, friendly and smart” is not nearly enough.

  1. TEMPERAMENT. Your dog must be absolutely sound and stable, with a personality and disposition appropriate for the breed. Shyness, aggressiveness, gunshyness, lack of retrieving ability or trainability, and hyperactivity are all reasons not to breed, regardless of other problems.
  2. BREED TYPE AND QUALITY. Your dog must be structurally and functionally sound, with conformation characteristics appropriate for the breed. An experienced, knowledgeable exhibitor/breeder can assist in the evaluation of your dog’s adherence to the Breed Standard.
  3. SOUNDNESS. Your dog should be tested free of certain genetic defects, as should the proposed mate. Knowledge of the status of parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. with regard to genetic testing is also desirable. HIPS should be properly X-rayed, and the X-rays submitted to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals or PennHIP to be read as free of hip dysplasia. HEARTS should be examined by a board-certified cardiologist. EYES should be examined annually by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist and be free of hereditary cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, and any other eye anomaly. Any inheritable defects, including but not limited to retained testicles, overshot or undershot jaw, congenital heart defects, recurrent skin problems, thyroid deficiency, immunological problems, orthopedic problems and recurrent seizures or epilepsy occurring in either parent are all reasons not to breed, regardless of other qualities.
  4. PEDIGREE. A four or five generation pedigree on the proposed litter should be read and interpreted by a person with extensive knowledge of the breed and of the dogs involved. Titles alone are no guarantee of genetic value.
  5. HEALTH. A breeding animal must be fully mature, in the prime of health, and in lean muscular condition. All inoculations should be up to date, and the animal should be free of both internal and external parasites. Acquired problems such as narrow birth canal from previous injury, canine brucellosis, transmissible venereal tumor, anemia, any disease or infection of the reproductive organs, concurrent diseases of other organ systems, or any contagious diseases are all reasons not to breed.


If you are thinking of using your male at stud, you are no less responsible for the quality of the litter than the owner of the brood bitch. You have the obligation of thoroughly screening every owner that inquires for stud service and the bitch to be bred; of traveling to and from the airport to pick up and return bitches sent in for breeding; of boarding and caring for bitches that are sent to you; of carrying out the breeding; of supplying pedigrees, photos, and examination reports; and of keeping meticulous records. This is all done as circumstances dictate, and not at your convenience; the weekend away you had planned may well be spent at home looking after a visiting bitch instead.


If, at this point, you are still considering breeding your dog, VISIT the dog pound, Humane Society or animal shelter in the city nearest you. Ask how many dogs are euthanized monthly, and how many euthanized in the last month were Golden Retrievers.

The Case For Spaying And Neutering

Many reputable breeders sell “pet” quality puppies with the agreement that the animal will be neutered. These puppies are sometimes sold at a lower price than the “show prospect” puppies, even though they have the same excellent pedigree and have received the same care and attention.

The basic disposition and temperament of your dog WILL NOT be changed by removing his or her reproductive capability. Neutering a male can make him more tolerant of other males, but neutering will not, by itself, turn your Golden into an obese, lazy animal. . .that is the result of excess food and insufficient exercise.

Benefits of spaying include not having to worry about accidental breedings, the stress and inconvenience of confining the bitch in season, risky “mismating” shots, and unwanted puppies. The spayed bitch will not develop uterine infections or tumors of the reproductive system as do so many older unspayed bitches.

The American Kennel Club permits spayed and neutered Goldens to participate in all phases of obedience, tracking, field work, agility and junior handling, but not in most conformation classes.

Reprinted with permission from the GRCA from the booklet “Acquiring a Golden Retriever”, copyright GRCA.