Finding The Right Retriever

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So you have decided a Lab or a Golden Retriever is the dog for you. Now is the time to take those steps to ensure that the puppy you choose to share your life with for the next 10 to 15 years is the “right” dog for you and your family.

Now you should begin your homework. DO NOT start by looking at litters – every puppy is cute and your heart can overrule your head. There is a great wealth of information available on the internet and in books. You can also go to shows, obedience trials and hunting tests and talk to owners and breeders. You will surely find an abundance of information. Do not be afraid to ask questions.

Next, prepare your home and your family to welcome your new pet. If an area is set up for the newcomer and the family knows how to interact with your new pup, the transition will be greatly eased.

Finally, start looking for a breeder.


Serious Hobby Breeders
This is an excellent source of pure-bred puppies and adult dogs. This breeder is easy to spot. The serious hobby breeder:

  1. Will ask you many questions about your previous experience with dogs and the environment in which you plan to keep your dog.
  2. Will want to know what your expectations are and what your family is like.
  3. Will have socialized and evaluated each puppy in the litter, have a very good idea about their individual personalities, and may recommend a puppy that matches your expectations.
  4. Will participate in some dog organization such as a breed, obedience or hunting club. Ribbons, pictures or trophies may be in evidence. The breeder should be involved in the breed. The reason for this is that this means the breeder is not working in a vacuum. The breeder who does not participate has no idea how good his/her dogs really are and is deprived of the opportunity to share information and ideas with others involved with the breed. Participation encourages breeders to produce better dogs.
  5. Will have a clean well-organized environment for the puppies and older dogs. Some breeders may ask you not to handle the puppies since transmittable diseases are a serious problem with animals too young to have had all their shots.
  6. Will ask you to have the puppy checked by your veterinarian to satisfy everyone that the puppy is sound and in good health.
  7. Will provide you with health and inoculation records.
  8. Will provide you with instructions for the care and feeding of your puppy and encourage you to call if you have any questions.
  9. Will provide proof that both parents of the puppies have been cleared for hereditary diseases, such as hip, eye, elbow, heart and breed specific DNA health clearances.
  10. Will provide the puppy’s three generation pedigree and registration papers. A limited registration will probably be used for dogs which are not intended to be bred.
  11. Will be available for support or questions for the life of the puppy.

Professional Breeders
This person makes a living from involvement with dogs. Sometimes this breeder will specialize in selling field trained animals to hunters who do not have the time and experience to train a dog themselves. Be cautious here, since not all of these breeders put the kind of thought and care into the breeding of their animals as the above mentioned hobby breeder. Remember — ask questions, questions, questions.

Backyard Breeders
This person, for any of a variety of reasons, has decided to breed his or her female and raise a litter of puppies. The incentive may be to make money, get a second dog just like Mom without paying for it, or provide an educational experience for the children. In any event, the breeding was unlikely to have been carefully thought out. The mother may not have been given good prenatal care. The puppies may not have been properly nourished and socialized after they were born. The father may have been selected for the simple reason that he lived in the neighborhood or was owned by their friends.

With these litters, it is unlikely that the parents were screened for certified free of breed specific hereditary diseases. The puppies may come with AKC registration but may have little else to recommend them. These typically would be the puppies you’d see advertised in the newspaper or on craigslist.

Pet Stores or Puppy Mills
These are the worst possible places to find a puppy. Puppy mills are facilities where dogs are kept in masses in small cages in terrible conditions. The dogs in puppy mills are used for breeding purposes only and the dogs are bred every heat cycle. They receive very little, if any, medical care and the puppy mill owners have no interest in the health, temperament or socialization of the puppy. These dogs are cash cows for the puppy mill owners and many of them live a lifetime in a small, filthy cage where their sole purpose in life is to produce puppies. Once their purpose in life is fulfilled and they can no longer produce babies they are discarded as trash and either put down, dumped or sold at auction. To see a real puppy mill you can view this video of a real puppy mill, which was secretly filmed by a person who posed as a potential buyer for a puppy mill that was for sale. The owner of the puppy mill in the video is licensed by the USDA!

Sadly, puppy mills are the number one supplier of pet stores in the United States. Pet store owners have very little concern about the health or care of the puppies as long as the puppies are purebred with papers, can be cleaned up and marketed to make money. Pet stores rely heavily on impulse buying, which is no way to choose an addition to the family. Most of the purebred dogs you see in rescues and shelters come from these types of places. A reputable breeder will always take a puppy back that a family can no longer care for and would never allow a puppy they bred to end up in a shelter! 

The decision to get a puppy is a big one, and your choice of where to buy a puppy may be even bigger. Be selective!