How to Buy a Golden Retriever Puppy
The Golden retriever is an energetic, active, sporting breed of dog that requires daily exercise. They adapt well to new homes, are eager to please and easy to train. If you're interested in adopting a Golden Retriever, learn a little about the breed and then carefully select a puppy from a reputable breeder.
Preparing for the Commitment
1. Learn about the breed.
Before you commit to owning a Golden Retriever, you should learn a little about the breed to make sure their personality fits with your lifestyle and expectations for a pet.
- Golden Retrievers are very popular dogs. They are the 3rd most popular dog breed in the US and much of this is due to their friendly nature. They are a highly adaptable breed and can be comfortable in a rural or urban setting. They do need daily exercise, however, usually in the form of a walk or a run.
- Golden Retrievers are good family dogs and do well with children. They also tend to be highly trainable and behave amicably with other pets. The one downside is they do not always do well when left along for long periods, so crate training may take extra time.
- Golden Retrievers are generally well behaved, but they do sometimes act out if they're not getting enough attention. As they are highly social, they need a lot of interaction to stay happy. If you work a lot and have a busy schedule, you may want to consider a different, more independent breed.
2. Prepare for owning a puppy.
If you have your heart set on a puppy, you need to stop and consider the time commitment behind owning a young dog.
- When you get a puppy, you will need to train him for basic behaviors like house breaking, leash manners, and crate training. This takes a great deal of time and patience, so make sure you have free time throughout the day to dedicate to training sessions.
- Puppies also need more vet appointments during the first year for vaccinations. Even if your puppy has already certain shots, many vaccinations come in multiple rounds. Make sure you have the time and money for extra vet trips.
- As puppies do not have as full an understanding of boundaries as adult dogs, you'll need to puppy-proof your house before bringing a puppy to your home. That means keeping food, breakable materials, and other items you do not want chewed on or soiled out of the puppy's reach until he's fully trained.
3. Consider adopting an adult dog through a rescue.
While owning a puppy can be a fun experience, if you do not feel up to the commitment consider taking in an adult dog. Many people are hesitant to adopt if they want a specific breed, but there are Golden Retriever rescues across the country.
- Rescues take in Golden Retrievers that have been abandoned by previous owners or rescued from bad pet stores and puppy mills and seek to find permanent homes. Qualifications for adoption vary between rescues, but the application process can be somewhat lengthy. However, the good news is adoption fees for rescued goldens are generally lower than for puppies from breeders.
- Many people want to go through a rescue for ethical reasons, but still want a puppy. While it is not impossible to secure a puppy through a rescue, it is not highly likely and there may be a very long wait. If you want a puppy, your best bet is to go through a reputable breeder. If you're dedicated to adopting through a rescue, open yourself up to adopting an older dog.
Finding a Breeder
1. Stay away from pet stores and puppy mills.
Breeders and puppy mills are appealing to many because they can provide puppies quickly and with less applications and sometimes less cost. However, there are many, many downsides to adopting through a puppy mill or pet store.
- Puppies from pet stores and mills are usually poorly bred, meaning they're prone to more health problems down the road. As they're usually kept in poor conditions before being sold, they usually already have certain behavioral problems at the time of purchase.
- Pet shop breeders also rely heavily on impulse buys. This is part of the reason it's so easy to get a puppy from a pet store. However, the practice is ethically questionable as it results in many dogs being returned or abandoned at shelters. Buying from a pet store puts money towards such practices that would be betters spent on responsible breeders.
- While not as bad as a pet store, backyard breeders are also not a good choice. Backyard breeder refers to someone who owns a Golden Retriever and casually decided to breed her for fun. Usually, such owners do not understand how to care for puppies or how to breed responsibly, in a way that minimizes the risk of genetic disorders.
2. Familiarize yourself with the qualities of a good breeder.
When selecting puppy breeders, learn the qualities of a good breeder so you can select someone responsible who will provide with a healthy puppy.
- Good breeders will belong to organizations like the American Kennel Club, the Golden Retriever Club of America, or a local Golden Retriever club.
- A good breeder will also be involved in showing in agility competitions, hunting shows, tracking, or in any combination of fields. A good breeder is dedicated to networking with other dog enthusiasts to keep a long line of healthy dogs coming for generations.
- A good breeder will keep his dogs in a clean facility. Puppies should be relatively well socialized with clean, glossy coats. They should be excited to see visitors and not behave fearfully or whimper. A good breeder will also never offer to sell a puppy under seven weeks as this can be emotionally difficult for that puppy and lead to behavioral issues.
- A good breeder will provide extensive medical records, including dates, of any vaccinations, exams, and dewormings. He will also provide an pedigree for both parents, including information on any hereditary disorders in your puppy's bloodline. Ideally, a good breeder will have had both parents tested for a number of diseases commonly found in Golden Retrievers.
- A good breeder will not sell his puppies to just anyone. He will want to go over conditions for care and instructions for feeding and training your new puppy. He will also probably ask you a lot of questions about your experience owning dogs and your interest in Golden Retrievers specifically. While many people feel confused when breeders ask a lot of questions, this is a good sign. This means the breeder is dedicated to finding the best possible homes for his puppies, which means he's dedicated to the ethical care and treatment of animals.
3. Contact a breeder in your area.
Understanding how to spot a good breeder, start looking for breeders in your area.
- The American Kennel Club website has a great search engine to locate local breeders. This is an excellent place to start. You can also go through the Golden Retriever Club of America or any local organizations you know of.
- You can also check at local vet clinics and ask anyone you know who owns a Golden Retriever.
- You may have to travel, especially if you live in a rural area. The closest breeder may be a few hours outside of town, so make sure you're prepared to make a few long visits to meet and select a puppy.
Selecting A Puppy
1. Discuss what type of dog you want with the breeder.
A good breeder will want to work with you to find the right dog for you. Explain the qualities you're looking for in a dog and ask the breeder to help you select the right puppy.
- Oftentimes, breeders will not let you pick from the whole litter. They may narrow down your search to 2 or 3 puppies that meet your qualifications and have you choose from them.
- The breeder will ask you a lot of questions while you explain what you want. Once again, this is a good thing. A quality breeder wants to make sure his puppies are matched in good homes and won't end up in shelters down the road.
2. Ask to see the health records of the parents.
You should also ask for the health records of the parents of any litter. Golden Retrievers are generally healthy, but there are a few concerns that are inheritable you should watch for.
- Cancer is a major killer for Golden Retrievers, but seeing cancer in your puppy's lineage is not necessarily a red flag. It is unknown whether cancer in goldens is genetic and, as over half of all goldens eventually get cancer, it may unfortunately be an inevitable part of owning the breed.
- Hip dysplasia, however, is a genetic disease and can be very painful for your dog and costly to treat. Make sure your retrievers parents have been tested for hip dysplasia and get regular hip x-rays to make sure the disease is not developing.
- Heart disease is also common in goldens, and can lead to unexpected deaths when your puppy is still young. Heart disease is not always inherited however, but you should still watch for it in your puppy's pedigree. While you might still choose to adopt the puppy if he has a family history of heart disease, you should talk to your vet about periodic chest x-rays to monitor him for the condition.
3. Meet the puppies as a group.
You should observe how puppies behave in a group to select the best puppy for you.
- The puppy you select should be social. He should engage with his litter mates without behaving in an overly aggressive, overly alpha way.
- See how the puppy responds to moving objects. You want a puppy that's smart and active, so make sure he has at least some instinct to follow and chase any balls. You also want a puppy that shares toys, one that will now fight with other pets over a rope, ball, or chew toy.
4. Interact with the puppies one-on-one.
You can learn a lot about puppies based on how they behave during one-on-one interactions.
- You want a puppy that's not shy when separated from its litter mates. Puppies should be curious about new surroundings at 7 to 8 weeks, and should explore the territory while occasionally interacting with you.
- Make sure the puppy is relatively well behaved. A puppy that's too bold and is constantly getting into things might be more commitment than you're ready for.
- A puppy that seems shy when separated from its litter may not be a good option. That puppy may develop behavioral issues down the road.
5. Watch for signs of good health.
Make sure the puppy you choose is in good health. You do not want to adopt a puppy with any signs of disease.
- Healthy puppies should be energetic with glossy coats and clear eyes.
- Closely examine the puppy's eyelid and eyelashes, as certain hereditary disorders are marked by drainage from the eyes.
- Never adopt a Golden Retriever if the breeder does not offer a health clearance or health papers. A reputable breeder will want to keep you informed of any possible health conditions or genetic disorders your puppy may experience to assure that you're prepare for the commitment and the dog will not end up abandoned later in life.
- Pay attention to ear size. Some goldens have floppier ears than others. While this is not necessarily a red flag, be aware a floppy-eared dog may be prone to ear infections, especially if you allow him to swim.