Finding a Quality Breeder
If your heart is set on a Golden Retriever and you don't want to consider rescue or an adult, the first step is to find a breeder who knows what she is doing. Unlike pet stores and unscrupulous breeders - better known as puppy mills, good breeders are careful to breed only healthy dogs with good temperaments. This means that any puppy you get from them has a better chance of turning out to be a good family pet. They also know how to raise their puppies in way that prepares them for life as a family dog. Buying a puppy from a good breeder makes a big difference to the welfare of the breed. Not only does it increase the chance of a positive experience for the puppy buyer, but it strengthens the breed itself by supporting one of its better wardens while denying those trying to profit from the breed's popularity. Buying from a responsible breeder is part of the solution of stopping back yard breeders and puppy mills, but alas it is too easy to get it wrong and become part of the problem.
There are plenty of breeders out there who are uninformed, unscrupulous or both. Take your time and be picky about finding the right one. This involves documentation beyond simple ANKC registration. ANKC registration does not mean anything more than the fact that the sire and dam of your puppy are both golden retrievers. It does NOT indicate health, temperament, structural soundness or breeding quality. The best source of a healthy, well-socialised puppy is a conscientious breeder with a long-term commitment to the breed and a reputation to uphold. Always personally visit the breeder and meet their dogs and find out where the puppy was born and raised. Take your time now to find the right breeder and you'll thank yourself for the rest of your dog's life.
Looking for a way to keep track of all the information you gather in your search for a good breeder - then download the club's "Responsible Dog Breeders Checklist" print one for every breeder you talk to.
Questions to ask a Breeder
Talk to several breeders, so you get a sense of what separates the really dedicated breeder from the so-so one.
The checklist has three sections. The first section is designed to help you rule out breeders that you do not want a puppy from. The second and third sections give you an idea how well the breeder provides for your needs and the needs of their puppies. The more check marks you are able to put in section 2 and 3, the more reputable and responsible the breeder is likely to be. Printing out a checklist for each breeder enables you to keep a detailed record of each breeder as things tend to mix together after talking to a few breeders.
If you like the breeder's answers to all of the above questions and it feels good to interact with the breeder, they can be added to your keeper list. Any that didn’t answer questions to your satisfaction, you didn’t like the answers to their questions or don’t feel right, or maybe don’t come across as knowing their dogs, can be crossed off your list for further consideration.
To help you know what is a good answer and what isn't for each question, there is more detailed information at the following link: Responsible Dog Breeders Checklist and Answers
You can see that quality breeders care about the health and welfare of the pups they produce. It is a very time consuming 24 hour a day job from the time the mother gets pregnant to the time the puppies come home with you, and long after that! They want to see you succeed as much as possible as it makes a good name for their kennel to produce healthy, well-adjusted adult dogs.
Avoid breeders that require spayed or neutered at a young age. Many breeds are negatively affected when they are spayed under 18 months or neutered under a year. Affects can be both behaviour and medical/structural.
Be very hesitant to buy a pup without seeing the parents first. What your interpretation of what a dog is may be very different than what the breeder's interpretation is.
If you are seriously interested in the breed, join the states breed club and see what other breeders say about a prospective breeder. They know the strength and weaknesses of their competition. If you talk to them, you'll find out pretty quickly what a breeder focuses on.
Puppy Buyer Etiquette
Finding a Quality Puppy has two sides to the coin. Just as you are looking for some specific things from the breeder, they are also looking for some specific things from you. A reputable breeder wants to know the people their puppy is going to spend his life with and in what environment it will be raised and what you will be doing with the pup. Here is a list of questions breeders often ask. Be prepared to answer them. They may even have a form for you to fill out on their website before they will talk to you. This is a good sign. Check out their form for the types of questions asked. Are they similar to this list? How do they differ?
Where do you live (city, state)
Where will puppy live? house, apartment, acreage
Do you rent or own?
Will the puppy live indoors/outdoors/spend time in both
How many people in the home?
What are their ages?
Do you have many visitors?
What are your plans for your puppy?
Are there other animals in the home? Which ones?
Do you have a fenced yard? Height?
What is your activity level?
How do you plan to exercise your puppy/dog?
How many hours a day will the dog be at home alone?
Where will the dog be when you are away from home?
Do you travel?Do you move around much?
What training approach do you use?
Do you have trainers available locally?
What do you plan on feeding your dog? Are you open to other options?
Who is your vet?Who takes care of your dog when you go away?
Have you had a similar breed before?
What features do you like about the breed? Dislike?
Describe your knowledge level of dogs.
What types of equipment will you use on your dog? What dogs have you previously owned?
How long did they live?
What happened to them?
Do you plan to crate training?
They will ask for references. A veterinarian, a trainer, a groomer etc.
Anything else that may be relevant to your situation. (Do you have an assistant to help train, family support etc).
Knowing how to communicate with the breeder will help you in finding the best breeder for you.
What about mixed breed puppies? Aren’t they healthier than purebred dogs?
Hybrid vigour is a myth. When breeding two breeds of dog together both breeds are part of the same species and therefore the result is not a hybrid. A hybrid occurs when two different species intermix. Like a mule is a cross between a horse and donkey. When talking about mixed breed dogs, breeding two different breeds together may result in more genetic variety in some individuals, while in others that have similar health issues, may result in dogs that have the same or higher risk of health issues than the parents. So the pup as an adult dog might have less risk, same risk or higher risk than their parents for temperament and health issues.
Be very careful with ‘designer' breeds. Check to see if the parents have health tests for health issues specific to those breeds. An assurance that the vet said “the adults are healthy” is not good enough. An example of this are the labradoodles whose parent breeds of labrador retriever and standard or mini poodle who both tend towards dysplasia. The hips need to be tested.