Frequently Asked Questions:
What does OFA mean?
OFA is the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. They make sure that dogs hips and elbows are okay. Goldens and labs and most large dogs commonly have "hip dysplasia" which is an abnormal hip socket that is a genetic trait also affected by environment. The larger the dog the more likely to have problems. Make sure you get a dog that both parents are "OFA certified". Get an actual copy of the certificate. Xrays are the only way to tell if they have it so don't let someone tell you "My dogs hips are fine" if they don't have that done. They don't know that. PLEASE wherever you purchase your dog, make sure the parents are OFA certified. Also, this cannot be done until dogs are 2 years old, so if someone tells you their PUPPIES are OFA certified, puppies cannot be, only the parents can be after age of 2.
If a dog is AKC registered that means it's a quality dog, right?
This is a quote from the AKC's - American Kennel Club's- own website: "There is a widely held belief that AKC papers and quality are one and the same. This is not the case. AKC is a registry body. A registration certificate identifies the dog as the offspring of a known sire and dam, born on a known date. It in no way indicates the quality or state of health of the dog." That pretty much says it all ... that the dog is purebred, nothing more. It does not mean it is healthy, it does not mean it can hunt.
My neighbors have a purebred puppy they are selling for $400. What's wrong with that?
Well, perhaps nothing, they may turn out to be an awesome hunter and family pet. On the other hand, if they are selling them cheap, chances are they do not have the parents hips or eyes or anything else checked or they couldn't sell them for that price. So you may save a few bucks up front, but what happens when your beloved pet has hip dysplasia or other problems and you have to choose between putting them down or spending thousands of dollars on surgery? Or what if you want to hunt and put in lots of time and money into training and they don't have a hunting bone in their body or have hip problems? Now you have a nice house pet for 10-15 years that can't hunt or is lame. Do you want to gamble on the health of your pet who may live to be 15 to save a few bucks up front?
There are titles in the puppy's background, so that means it will be a good hunter, right?
Well, first of all make sure those "titles" are for field trials and not show titles. Golden retrievers from show backgrounds may or may not hunt. They are bred to look pretty and conform to a certain standard based on their looks. They are not bred to hunt, so it is possible their hunting instincts have been bred out of the line. Generally, show goldens are much lighter in color and fluffier with longer fur and often are more inbred to get that perfect look. Generally, goldens from hunting and field trial backgrounds have darker and shorter coats. If they do have field trial titles, and they are only in one of the grandparents or further back, there is not much blood from them in the puppy. That being said, we don't personally do field trials, as we don't have time, but we do a lot of hunting and we chose a stud who not only does field trials but also actually hunts. If they don't have field trial backgrounds, and you are looking for a hunter, at least make sure the puppy's parents hunt. Like all genetics, the apple doesn't fall from the tree. There's never any guarantees, but you are more likely to get a dog similar to the parents than not.
How do I choose a puppy?
We spend a lot of time with our puppies. They are around kids of all ages. We bring them to our beach so they are around water. When you go on just one day to pick a puppy, you don't know if they just woke up and are full of energy, or if they just ate and are ready for a nap. We know what their personalities are like, because we see them interact all the time. We know which ones get more excited when they smell feathers. We know which ones are more shy and which ones are more adventurous. So we prefer to pick puppies for people based on what they are looking for whenever possible.
Should I get a Male or Female?
There is no right answer. Many golden retriever owners say their males are more affectionate and loyal and bond more with their owners. Some people say females are easier to train and some say males. Both can be great hunters and great family dogs. Our first golden (and first baby!) was a male and he was wonderful and sweet. After we had kids, he was totally accepting and wonderful with them and they climbed all over him. All our other dogs have been females, only because we enjoy having puppies so much, and they were all wonderful too. Our son has a male from Lily's last litter and he is the sweetest dog ever. If we were talking pit bulls or some more aggressive breed of dog, perhaps you would need to worry more about aggression in males, but these are golden retrievers after all. There is one thing that all dog breeders and trainers agree on, and that is that the personality differences between individual dogs are definitely greater than that which may exist between the sexes.
Should I neuter my male?
Remember, if you choose to breed your male, do not allow him to breed until you get his hips certified thru the OFA after 2 years of age. We used to say, If you do not want to breed him, there is absolutely no good reason to not have him neutered. It makes for a healthier, happier dog and it's easier for you. It removes sexual urges, which usually decreases roaming behaviors.
However ... some recent studies have shown, especially in golden retrievers, that it may be healthier for your male to wait until they are at least one year old to neuter him. Here is some info to discuss with your vet.
Should I spay my female?
Dogs can get pregnant as early as their first heat, which can be as early as 6 months. Veterinarians commonly recommend that all dogs should be spayed before their first heat. Not only to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but to reduce and eliminate the risk of some health conditions:
However....some recent studies have shown, especially in golden retrievers, that it might be healthier to wait a little longer to spay females. You definitely don't want a litter of unwanted puppies so you will need to balance out the pros and cons on when to do it. Here is some info to discuss with your vet.
Should I have puppies?
You may think it will be fun to have puppies, and it is, but it is also expensive and a lot of work if you want to do it right. If you both work, you need to have somebody at home to take care of them and the mom. You need to wait until they are 2 and deal with heat cycles and make sure they don't accidentally get pregnant from the neighbors mutt. You need to pay to get their hips and elbows x-rayed, pay to send the x-rays to the OFA, pay to have DNA tests done for certain hereditary diseases (at least you should be doing all this if you are responsible). Find a stud that has had the same health clearances done and has the characteristics you are looking for. Pay a stud fee, which can be substantial. Possibly pay a vet for delivery complications or c-section. Take the puppies to vet within a few days for dewclaw removal and checkup for the mom and pups, take the puppies in for shots and checkups, etc. Unlike many breeders, we do not require you spay and neuter your puppies, but most do get them sterilized, as most people do not have the time or desire to have puppies.
What are dewclaws and why are they removed?
Dewclaws are unnecessary toes on the backs of dogs legs. In some breeds, dog dewclaws are usually removed, especially if they are hunters, due to the risk of injury. If you purchased a puppy from a reputable breeder, dewclaws should have been removed when the dog was three to five days old. At this age, it is a simple procedure. Dewclaws serve no purpose other than getting in the way, they snag on carpets, they can get caught on things while in the outdoors, etc. Dogs routinely suffer dewclaw injury. Better to have it removed cleanly than to have your dog accidentally rip a dewclaw off, causing him unnecessary pain and risking infection. Some breeders don't automatically perform a dewclaw removal, and some dog owners prefer to leave it in place until the dog has a problem and needs to have it removed. However, the procedure is considerably more complicated if you wait until your dog is older, when a veterinarian will have to perform the procedure under anesthesia. It will also require post-operative care and more expense for the dog owner. We have the vet remove the dewclaws on our puppies within a few days of birth.
What guarantees do you have on the puppies?
In 8 litters and 70 puppies over 30 years, we have never had a puppy returned for any reason. However, in the unlikely chance your puppy ends up having hip dysplasia, verified by the OFA, we will replace the dog at no charge. Unlike many breeders guarantees, we will not make you return your dog. Who wants to do that after they are attached to them? However, the dog cannot have whelped or sired a litter of puppies yet and must be sterilized, if it is not already, so as not to pass on the genetics. We do everything we can on our end to ensure good genetics. However, on the owners end, you also must follow good health practices, such as not letting your dog get overweight, feeding nutritionally sound dog food, not over exercising your pup at a young age, etc.
What should I feed my puppy and adult golden retriever?
Dog food companies like to confuse people and it isn't always easy to decipher what is a good food. Here is a good article that talks about what to look for. We have always done "free feeding" with our dogs and haven't had a problem with overeating, but each dog is different. Most people probably feed them on a schedule. So whatever works best for your dog and making sure it doesn't overeat and get overweight as that puts a lot of pressure on their growing bones. Here are a couple websites that talk about nutrition in dog foods.
New recent info: Do not feed your dog grain free food. There have been numerous problems (especially in certain breeds such as goldens) where they have been fed a grain free diet and have heart problems. See the following article: https://www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/news/uc-davis-investigates-link-between-dog-diets-and-deadly-heart-disease
Genetic Diseases in Goldens:
Now that testing DNA for humans and animals is everywhere, more and more tests are being done on dogs.
There are a few in goldens that are commonly tested for.
Ichthyosis: This is a common recessive trait skin disease in goldens that usually is not a big deal, causes excessively dry skin. Even dogs who have it, often the dog is very mildly affected. In any case, the dad is clear for it, so the puppies cannot have it.
Neuronal Ceroid Lipofucinosis or NCL
This is a newer recessive trait disease they have been testing for. It is serious neurological disease but very rare and I have never heard of it until recently and know no dogs who have it. Anyway, dad is clear for it, so the pups cannot have it.