Q: With spring right around the corner, our family has decided to get a puppy. We have young children and would like a puppy to grow up with them. We have decided on a Golden Retriever. Some friends are saying don’t go to a breeder, but rather a shelter or rescue group. Where would you recommend getting a Golden Retriever puppy from?
A: Golden Retrievers are wonderful family dogs. I believe your best chance of getting a puppy would be through a reputable breeder. Some folks think all breeders are bad because of the dog overpopulation. This just isn’t the case. The purebreds in shelters and rescues are likely the products of backyard breeders (BYB) and puppy mills who have no concern about breed standards, genetics, socialization or health issues, with profit as their one and only motive.
The reputable dog breeder will heavily screen families to make sure they’re the right fit for one of their puppies and they are going to give them the care they need. They do genetic testing so their dogs pass on healthy genes, and they raise them to have good temperaments. They do not place their pups before 10-12 weeks of age. They only breed one or two litters a year, so don’t be surprised to be asked if you would like to be put on a waiting list. They will belong to breed clubs. Their dogs are titled in confirmation, obedience, etc. to show what their dogs are capable of.
You will be asked to sign a contract to have the dog spayed or neutered. The breeder will take the dog back for any reason at any age and will ask to be notified first if you can no longer keep the dog. They will have extensive knowledge on the breed and be able to give you details on the dam (mother) and sire (father) of your pup.
If you have any questions about your pet, the breeder will be there to help answer them for you. Most of all they love the breed and money is not the reason for breeding, it is to better a breed they are so fond of.
Even though no one can predict the future health of a dog, coming from a responsible breeder gives the dog a good shot at a healthy life. Most shelter and rescue dogs don’t have the luxury of that good start in life coming from puppy mills or BYB. Unfortunately this can produce dogs with genetic health issues or some serious ingrained issues that can persist a lifetime or require years of rehabilitation.
Another option is a Golden Retriever rescue group, although it is rare for them to have puppies for adoption. There are rescue groups for just about any breed dog. They take in dogs from crowded shelters, from people who for one reason or another can no longer keep their pet, dogs picked up as strays (yes, a lot of purebred dogs are acquired this way). The rescue group will put the dog up in a foster home, take care of any medical needs and evaluate the dog’s temperament.
A good rescue should be able to match a dog with your family’s needs and be honest with you about any issues the dog is having. There will be paperwork to fill out, references contacted and a home visit to see where the dog will live to make sure it is a safe environment. Some people seem to think this is an attack on their character, but you have to remember a lot of the dogs they are placing have come from questionable backgrounds and need a stable home to heal in. No one who rescues dogs want to see them shuffled around.
And don’t forget your local shelter. If you ask they may put you on a waiting list and if a golden puppy comes in they can contact you.
To understand more about puppy mills go to nowisconsinpuppymills.com. The site will also give you more tips on locating a reputable breeder, rescue group or shelter.
Best of luck with your search for a new family member.
Sally Salopek is the owner and operator of Attend-A-Pet pet sitting services in northern Door County. She has also worked professionally with animals in health care, pet grooming, training, wildlife rehab and rescue. Send your pet-related questions to her at [email protected].