THE (VERY) BASICS ABOUT
BREEDING YOUR GOLDEN RETRIEVER
Elizabeth B. Sommers
GRROWLS (Golden Retriever
Rescue group in upstate New York),
and members of the Golden-L, the Internet
mail list for Golden Retriever enthusiasts.
The (Very) Basics About Selecting The Breeder of Your Golden
NetPetMagazine editor's note: This sobering article should be read by
anyone who is considering breeding dogs.
This is little more than a checklist of things that should be considered and
done in connection with breeding a Golden Retriever. Anyone seriously
interested in breeding their dog (or in choosing a breeder from whom to buy a
puppy) is encouraged to consult the many sources of more in-depth knowledge,
a few of which are listed at the end of this document. These standards
apply to all breedings, especially those of puppies intended to be "just"
pets (or, in other words, life-long and very important members of a family).
Before breeding your dog or purchasing a puppy, you should be aware that more
than 60,000 additional Golden Retrievers are registered with the AKC each
year and that millions of dogs, many of them purebred, are put to sleep in
pounds and shelters each year. Working with a rescue group may be a
satisfying alternative to becoming a breeder, and many responsible breeders
contribute significantly to rescue efforts. For the person wanting a dog,
obtaining an older dog who needs a home with the assistance of experienced
rescue workers may meet their needs as well as -- and often better than --
acquiring a puppy.
NOTE TO PUPPY-PURCHASERS: Be prepared, and willing, to wait. Most
carefully-bred Golden litters are already sold before, or shortly after,
birth. You may have to be on several waiting lists and to travel some
distance before actually getting a puppy. It is worth the wait!! If you are
unable to wait, or your children unwilling to let you wait, consider saving a
life at the local shelter or getting a slightly older dog through rescue. If
puppy purchasers are prepared to wait for a carefully-bred puppy, the puppy
mills will shut down. You are the most powerful force in that particular
battle. For a glimpse at a puppy mill, read "Bloodlines", by Susan Conant
(available in paperback in the mystery section of most stores). By your
actions, you will either help to eliminate these places or encourage their
WHAT DOGS SHOULD BE BRED?
Before it is bred, a Golden Retriever should, at a mimimum:
Many breeders and puppy-purchasers will require much more -- that
the dog have proven itself by success in some form of competition
(conformation, obedience, field and hunting events, agility) and/or that it
be the offspring of parents and grandparents or as many as five generations
of dogs who also satisfied the criteria listed above. On the other hand,
responsible breeders will not breed any dog who does NOT meet these criteria
except in unusual circumstances. If one of the requirements is not
being met, the breeder should be able, and willing, to provide a satisfactory
explanation. (For example, some particular complications of pregnancy may
make it advisable to breed a female in successive cycles.)
- Have the sound and stable temperament appropriate to the breed
- Meet the official "breed standard" that has been established and adopted
by the Golden Retreiver Club of America (GRCA), with respect to appearance,
physical ability and behavior.
- Be at least two years of age, both for sufficient physical maturity and in
order to have all necessary clearances.
- Have hips that are rated "excellent," "good," or "fair" by the Orthopedic
Foundation of America (OFA) to reduce the chance that it will develop canine
hip dysplasia and/or have an acceptable rating when assessed by the
PennHip (tm) technique.
- Have eyes that are free of cataracts or hereditary eye disease such as
progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), as certified by a board-certified
veterinary opthamologist and registered with the Canine Eye Registration
Foundation (CERF) - or - an official ACVO report from a board-certified
opthalmologist exam within 12 months prior to breeding.
- Be certified, after the age of one year, to be free of hereditary heart
disease such as Subvalvular Aortic Stenosis (SAS), preferably by a
Board-certified veterinary cardiologist if there is one in the area, and
registered with the national heart registry which is currently being
established. Even "innocent" murmurs should be investigated by a color
- Be of general good health and free of other diseases that may be
hereditary to some degree. These include thyroid malfunction, serious
orthopedic conditions other than hip dysplasia, serious allergies, and
epilepsy and some other causes of recurring seizures.
- Be free of internal infection, parasites and canine brucellosis, verified
immediately before the breeding.
- (For the dam) Have had at least one non-breeding heat cycle between the
birth of an earlier litter and the current breeding.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE BREEDER IN RAISING THE LITTER:
In addition to owning a dog that is suitable for breeding, the breeder
- Exercise care and knowledge in selecting a mate for their dog and be
willing and able to talk about the reasons for the selection.
- Provide regular and comprehensive veterinary care for the dam and the
puppies at all stages, including examination of the bitch and puppies soon
after whelping and an additional examination of the puppies at least once
prior to their release. Many breeders will also have the puppies examined by
a specialist in cardiology prior to release.
- Be financially able to absorb the costs of raising a litter,
understanding that because of complications or illness or a small litter,
there will often be NO income from the undertaking and it may actually cost
substantial sums. The cost of raising a first litter of puppies, if no
complications are encountered, will be several thousand dollars at least.
- Be financially and emotionally able to cope with any complications of
pregnancy, delivery, and/or puppy health problems that may require immediate
- Be prepared to lose the mother.
- Be prepared to hand-raise the litter if necessary, which will often
require taking time off from jobs -- whether or not that will cost you your
- Carry out all necessary initial worming and innoculation of the puppies.
- Make informed choices regarding the food given to both the dam and the
puppies and supply good-quality food.
- Provide a clean, healthy, safe, and appropriate physical setting for the
puppies' early weeks. After the first two weeks or so, this includes toys
and other sources of stimulation, as well as play time outside the whelping
box or pen.
- Provide adequate socialization opportunities to the puppies, including
sufficient individual time with each puppy to assess its unique personality
- Maintain individual weight and health records for each puppy.
- Permit the puppies to nurse (with supplement if necessary) for no less
than four weeks, preferably longer, and keep the puppies with their
littermates, and preferably their mother, for seven or seven and one half
- Be responsible for each puppy produced for the rest of its life. This
includes accepting its return at any time - even years later - and for any
reason if the dog's owner becomes unable to keep and care for it.
RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE STUD DOG'S OWNER:
- To assume responsibility for the breeding itself and for the safety and
well-being of the female being bred (except where the breeding is
accomplished at a distance through AI).
- To assure that the breeder of litters sired by their dog will raise and
sell the puppies responsibly, understands the financial risks, and can handle
dealing with the welfare of the puppies they produce, from birth through
their entire lives. Most stud
dog owners will also assist in placing puppies.
- To be willing and able to step in and assume the job of the breeder in
the event the breeder becomes unwilling/unable to carry through. This may
include hand-raising the litter or making arrangements for someone to do that
- To assume responsibility for -- either by keeping or finding a good home
for -- any offspring of their dog, in the event that the dog's owner and the
breeder becomes unwilling or unable to care for it.
WHAT SHOULD BE PROVIDED TO/ REQUIRED OF POTENTIAL BUYERS:
At the time of initial inquiry, the breeder should be prepared to:
- Make available copies of the actual OFA (and/or PennHip), CERF or AVCO,
and cardiac certifications for both dogs and, upon request, exhibit the
original certifications for their dog.
- Provide a 4 or 5 generation pedigree of the litter, with health
clearances (OFA, CERF, etc.) noted.
- Make their dog and, insofar as geographically possible, the other parent
available to prospective owners, giving them time and opportunity to interact
with the dog. If the other parent cannot be met, picutres and detailed
information should be provided.
- Provide references to other people who own other offspring of the dog(s)
and permit prospective owners to meet and interact with any other offspring
on the premises or living nearby.
- Discuss throughly and carefully with each prospective owner the qualities
of the breed, the qualities of the puppies' parents, and reasonable
expectations of the puppies skills and abilities.
- Thoroughly screen potential owners by inquiring carefully into their
suitability for owning a Golden Retriever. This includes gathering
information about the owner's physical situation (fencing, etc.), whether
there are children or other pets in the home, past pet-owning experiences,
plans for basic obedience training, plans regarding competition or other
special activity with the puppy, and committment to the health, safety and
development needs of the animal. References may be required.
- Discuss, in detail, plans or expectations regarding any future breeding
of the dog and/or requirements that the dog be spayed or neutered. Some
breeders may require or request that the dog have hip evaluations performed
at the time of spaying or neutering, both to learn the dog's individual
condition and to obtain information for future decisions about breeding
- Explain, in detail, the terms and conditions under which the puppies will
be sold, including gurantees that will be given, restrictions that will
placed on the owners, whether the puppy may be bred in the future, and what
support that will be given to the puppy and its owners in the future.
- Be prepared to carry out the steps mentioned above *before* the
prospective buyer sees the puppies, as informed purchasers may wish to obtain
the relevant information before being swayed by the enticing sight of Golden
- Freely permit prospective buyers to see where the puppies are being
raised and (within restrictions necessary to protect the puppies' health) to
interact with the puppies.
WHAT SHOULD BE PROVIDED TO/ REQUIRED OF THE PUPPIES' NEW OWNERS:
- Informed assistance in helping the owner select the appropriate puppy,
including realistic estimates of its potential for special purposes such as
show or other types of competition, activity level, and tendency toward
dominance or submissiveness.
- AKC registration forms (either an Individual Registration Certificate or
the blue Registration Application form) for the puppy, or arrangments for
- Instructions and advice regarding feeding, current and future, and other
anticipated physical needs of the puppy.
- A written statement of all worm medications and innoculations that have
been given to the puppy, as well as any other medical records.
In most cases, a written contract that will include some of all of the
- health and temperament guarantees that do *not* require that the dog be
returned in order to have any effect and that do extend for one year,
- the breeder's retention of the "right of first refusal" (or right of
approval) in the event that ownership of the dog is transferred in the
- the breeder's guarantee that he or she will accept the return of the dog,
and find a suitable home for it, at any time in the future, for any reason;
- restrictions on the owner's ability or right to breed the dog (which may
be spay/neuter requirements, limited registration, contractual requirement
that health and temperament be suitable for breeding, or non-breeding
clauses requiring the breeder's permission if there are future litters);
- commitments by the new owner, sometimes very specific, that the dog will
receive the proper living environment, grooming and routine health care,
professional health treatment, exercise, training, and safeguarding.
- Agreement that the breeder will provide support and advice as needed in
the future and that the owner will provide periodic information to the
breeder about the health and development of the dog.
The above statement is intended to only alert potential breeders and
potential puppy purchasers to the many things that need to be considered. It
is not, by any means, all that either should know before making the decision
to breed or to buy.
Sources for further information:
- "Acquiring A Golden Retriever" ($1.50)
- "Introduction to the Golden Retriever" ($5.00)
Information about Golden Retriever clubs in your area
- all available from GRCA, 9900 Broadway, Suite 102, Oklahoma City, OK 73114
- GRCA Breeder/Puppy Referral Contacts:
- Ann Grundy, 313/281-0814
- American Kennel Club, 51 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10010 212/696-8200
(which has a pamphlet entitled "Should I Breed My Dog?")
This article is copyrighted to Elizabeth B. Sommers, GRROWLS Golden Retriever
Rescue group in upstate New York, and members of the Golden-L, the Internet
mail list for Golden Retriever enthusiasts. It may be reprinted in whole
with this attribution. If reprinted in part, it should include this
attribution and indicate the location of any deletions.
Document date: August 1996.
NetPetMagazine Editor Note May 1998. I have deleted the contact phone numbers that I
was not able to verify as still being working numbers.