How to choose a reputable breeder

Golden Retrievers are a fantastic breed of dog. Before we raised Golden Retrievers, we owned them as pets and enthusiastically recommended them to our dog training clients when they asked us to help them choose a dog for their family. Apparently, a lot of people agree with us about how great Golden Retrievers are and unfortunately there are many unscrupulous breeders that have figured out what a huge market there is for selling Golden Retrievers. Even more unfortunate is that many families are fooled into purchasing a poorly bred Golden with health and/or temperament problems. These dogs are likely to end up in shelters or rescue, or simply relegated to back yard. There is a vast difference between a well bred Golden Retriever with a correct temperament, and a poorly bred Golden. When out in public, I almost always have one of our Goldens with me so I end up speaking with fellow dog lovers that approach me to pet my dog. I always cringe when people bring up stories of other Golden retrievers they know and how they are dog aggressive, hyperactive, or extremely fearful. These are examples of poor temperament and are most often caused by careless breeding. I have included some information below to help educate potential Golden Retriever owners on how to choose a Golden Retriever. Please continue to do more research on your own. A dog is a fifteen year commitment so it definitely behooves you to spend some time making the right choice instead of regretting that you didn’t a year down the line.

Golden Retriever health problems

The Golden Retriever breed has a lot of health problems. Fortunately, purchasing your dog from a reputable breeder will greatly reduce your risk that your puppy will end up with one. Below is information on what to look for when considering a litter, and what to look out for. As potential owners become more educated, unscrupulous breeders have gotten better at conning the public.

What to look for – Health clearances

OFA Hip Clearance – Hip Dysplasia is the most common heath issue in the Golden Retriever breed. The OFA currently reports that just over 20% of the Golden Retriever hip x-rays sent to them are considered dysplastic. The actual number of dysplasia cases is probably higher because the most severe cases of hip dysplasia present themselves at a young age and are not sent in for evaluation.

OFA elbow clearance – Elbow dysplasia is currently at about 11.5%, (again per the OFA statistics). While this is the newest health clearance recommended for Golden Retrievers, it has been required for years now, so there is really no excuse to not have this clearance done on a living dog.

OFA Cardiac clearance – Heart murmurs and defects are fairly common in Golden Retrievers. SAS, (subaortic stenosis), is both the most common heart defect and the most troublesome. SAS can go undiagnosed for years and then lead to sudden death.

CERF clearance – The CERF clearance rules out inherited eye diseases such as juvenile cataracts and PRA, (progressive retinal atrophy), which can lead to blindness. I always advise owners to verify that the sire and dam of a litter have the above health clearances before they go out to see the puppies. Puppy cuteness can sometimes surpass your common sense, so it’s a good idea to make sure everything is in order before you are confronted with a fluffy puppy licking your chin! The OFA makes it easy to research clearances. Ask the breeder for the parents registered names, and then you can type them into the OFA search box to see the results. A dog with all four clearances results will look like this:


Registration: SR18110103 Sire: SN81629606
Breed: GOLDEN RETRIEVER Dam: SN90052504
Sex: F *Titles:
Birthdate: Jun 24 2004 Addtl. Reg. #

DNA Profile:

OFA Number Registry Report Date Age Final Conclusion
GR-90634F26F-PI HIPS Sep 7 2006 26 FAIR
GR-EL14245F26-PI ELBOW Sep 7 2006 26 NORMAL
GR-31960 CERF Oct 6 2006 27 TESTED: 06

What to look out for – Lack of Health Clearances

Unscrupulous breeders are full of excuses. If you research clearances and find some missing you are likely to hear a lot of stories, like their hips and elbows were fine so we didn’t send them in, OFA lost my application, you don’t need all those clearances, my dog ate my copy of the health clearances, etc. There isn’t ANY excuse to not have ALL FOUR health clearances on BOTH PARENTS! Run away from any breeder that doesn’t have all of the appropriate information listed on the OFA site. Also, many unscrupulous breeders are breeding dogs under 24 months of age, (and dogs must be 24 months of age before receiving hip and elbow clearances), this practice is not only bad for the puppy buyer due to the lack of clearances, but bad for the poor Dam who is still developing and should net be having puppies at that young of an age.

The Golden Retriever temperament is the hallmark of the breed

What to look for

Golden Retrievers should be calm, friendly, outgoing and have an innate love for children and other dogs. They make such great family companions because they are able to fit in with all of a family’s activities, and are wonderful dogs in the house. Golden Retrievers love to be with people and should never be relegated to a back yard for the majority of the day. Golden Retrievers should be able to adapt quickly into a new environment with no timidity or fear, and they should be friendly and playful whenever meeting new dogs. They should also be able to live harmoniously with other dogs, cats, and whatever other pets may reside in a home.

What to look out for

Hyperactivity and low impulse control

Golden Retrievers should not be hyperactive. They are enthusiastic and athletic, but a Golden Retriever with a proper temperament should be able to settle while indoors, and have good impulse control. Hyperactivity is the most common complaint of Golden owners that hire us to train their dog. Hyperactivity can be managed through training, but it is a long process. Dogs with low impulse control are much harder to train than Goldens with proper temperaments because they lack the ability to stop themselves from doing things that they are temped to do like jumping up on family members, stealing food, or any other behavior that is self rewarding. Hyperactive dogs usually WANT to please you; they are just unable to focus long enough to do so.

Dog aggression and food aggression

Golden Retrievers should never be aggressive. Unfortunately we commonly see both dog aggressive and food aggressive Goldens in our dog training practice. In Golden Retrievers dog aggression and food aggression both have genetic components that cause the majority of the cases. Many unscrupulous breeders make excuses for the dogs, or simply hide the fact that they have aggressive dogs by not showing puppy buyers the parents of a litter around other dogs or food. Other breeders don’t know what kind of temperament that their dogs have because they have a huge facility and the dogs all live in dog runs without interaction with humans or other dogs. Even if you find a breeder that seems to be reputable, ask to see their dogs interact in a group, and ask to watch them take a bowl of food from their dog. Dams should never be protective of their puppies. Any aggression in Golden Retrievers is unacceptable and poses a big hazard to humans. We often see owners that are bitten by their own dogs while breaking up a dog fight, and their children bitten by their dog when they try to take away or move a food bowl.

Beware of marketing scams.

The Goldendoodle

How to you get a Goldendoodle? You cross a poor quality Golden Retriever, with a poor quality Poodle and end up with a poor quality mixed breed prone to the same health and temperament problems s a Golden, except they are almost guaranteed to be hyperactive due to the influence of the Poodle temperament. Both Golden Retrievers and Poodles are prone to hip dysplasia, heart disease and eye defects such as cataracts and PRA. When you breed them together you are just as likely to end up with a health problem as when you breed together two poor quality Goldens or Poodles. Goldendoodles have been a jackpot for unscrupulous breeders because they don’t have to follow AKC regulations, (since Goldendoodles are mixed breeds and not AKC registerable), and they have promoted the “hybrid vigor” myth so much that buyers don’t expect to see health clearances. They then sell these dogs at a premium because they are “rare”. And here’s the kicker . . . they do shed and mat, (create tangles that are hard to brush out), so they are not a good dog for people with allergies like they have been promoted. If you are truly allergic to dogs, consider getting a very well bred poodle. They can be great dogs with proper training. And if you are not allergic to dogs. . . . get a well bred Golden and a Dyson vacuum.

The “rare white Golden Retriever”

Very light colored Golden Retrievers are popular right now. Everyone seems to want a dog like Oprah and a few other Hollywood types have. This has created a large market for unscrupulous breeders. I like English type Golden Retrievers as much as the next person but just because a dog is white or cream does not mean it is a quality dog. Make sure that you thoroughly check out a breeder even if their puppies “are the right color”.

Now do some more research!

Below are some links to help you learn even more about Golden Retrievers.

GRCA Public education – buying a puppy

GRCA stance on Goldendoodles

GRCA stance on the “Rare White Golden”

Orthopedic Foundation for Animals

OFA disease information

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