Buying a puppy is a long-term commitment, so learn how to find a golden retriever breeder you can trust.
The choice of a puppy is a bit more complicated than searching for “golden retriever puppies for sale” and buying the first one you find.
If you want your dog to be a worthy example of the breed, with a lustrous gold coat, lovely temperament, and good behavior, invest time and effort into finding a good breeder.
Neglecting the breeder research can have horrible consequences. The stories of people having unhealthy or anxious dogs because they wanted to save money or were too naïve are way too common.
Reputable golden retriever breeders socialize their puppies, attend dog shows, ensure their dogs are healthy and provide buyers with all the necessary documentation.
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Check The AKC Registry
You can find a golden retriever breeder by Googling “golden retrievers in (state),” but websites showing up high in search results aren’t necessarily the most trustworthy.
A better idea is to search for a breeder via the American Kennel Club (AKC) registry.
American Kennel Club is the authoritative body regulating all things dogs – it issues registration certificates, provides advice to dog owners, funds canine health research, and helps rescue dogs.
Every kennel in the U.S. must be registered with the AKC. Unfortunately, the AKC website doesn’t have an open-source golden retriever breeder list, but you can contact them for a referral.
The AKC doesn’t endorse specific breeders but can help you find a breeder in your area. Note that the AKC is not-for-profit, so everyone working there does it out of pure enthusiasm.
You aren’t calling an office, so the volunteers who know breeders in your area may be away at dog shows or on vacations and not be available when you call. They will contact you once they are back.
Contact Local Golden Retriever Clubs
Alternatively, you can take the initiative into your hands and check the AKC local club search page to find kennel clubs in your area. On the page, select the breed and your state, then click on “Submit.”
Then, you will see a list with contact details of golden retriever clubs in your state. Some will have a website, while others only have a phone and email.
Many kennel clubs with proper websites have a handy breeder registry page where you can find the personal websites and contact details of breeders in your area. You can navigate to different websites and see which one appears the most trustworthy.
If there’s no link to the kennel club website, you can call them and ask them to refer you to some golden retriever breeders they know. Don’t hesitate to ask. That’s what kennel clubs are for – helping people find their perfect dog.
Ask Golden Retriever Owners
The problem with searching for a breeder via the AKC registry or kennel clubs is that they can’t express their personal opinions regarding particular breeders. In other words, you can get the contact details, but you likely won’t get an opinion.
Not every registered breeder is a reputable breeder. Registration doesn’t yet guarantee that a dog will comply with the breed standard and have an excellent temperament, so you need to be careful.
If you know someone who owns a golden retriever, talk to them. Ask from whom they bought the dog, whether they are happy with it (99% of owners will answer they are), and whether they’ve encountered any issues.
Even if the dog’s owners cannot recommend the breeder they’ve bought from, they are likely to know better breeders. Dog owners often communicate with other owners of the same breed and share their experiences.
Getting a personal opinion and having an opportunity to meet the dog and interact with it before contacting a breeder is highly beneficial.
If you don’t know anyone in person, find a golden retriever lover group on social media and ask its members to recommend someone. Most will be happy to refer you to their breeders and share their opinion.
Visit Dog Shows
Reputable dog breeders typically participate in dog shows. Even if they don’t win, they want to get a judge’s opinion reading their breeding and what could be improved.
Visiting dog shows is an opportunity to meet with dog breeders and owners who can share their experiences and give you valuable advice on choosing a puppy.
Seeing many golden retrievers in one space is great because you can interact with different dogs to understand the breed’s temperament and compare them.
If you’re looking for a show-class puppy, see which dog wins and get a contact of the breeder. They may not sell you a puppy of the same quality as the one that won the show.
Breeders tend to save the best puppies for further breeding work. Still, they are likely to have high-quality puppies in general.
Note that not all dog shows allow visitors. Check the show’s website or contact the organizers beforehand to ensure you are allowed to visit.
Questions To Ask a Golden Retriever Breeder
Buying a puppy from the first breeder you find, especially without a proper meeting, isn’t wise. Visit several kennels and make a list of questions to ask a golden retriever breeder to choose the best option.
Ask the breeder why they decided to breed dogs. You want to buy a puppy off someone genuinely passionate about their job rather than breeding dogs for the money and not caring about their well-being.
Ask how long they’ve been breeding dogs because quality comes with experience. The breeder should be knowledgeable about golden retriever strengths and weaknesses, health issues, care, temperament, and bloodlines.
Buying a puppy from a beginner isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but the price should reflect the lack of experience, and the puppy should have all the necessary documents and health checks regardless.
Ask the breeder how they socialize their puppies. Golden retrievers are naturally wonderful, friendly dogs, but even they can grow up shy, aggressive, or anxious without proper socialization.
The puppy should be accustomed to being around people, other dogs, and children and not be afraid of noises and new surroundings.
Ask the breeder whether they provide a contract that outlines your and their rights and responsibilities. The contract should also outline your options if something goes wrong with the puppy.
Ask when you will be able to take the puppy home. A reputable golden retriever breeder won’t let you take a puppy until it’s eight weeks old and all the vaccinations have been made.
Ask the breeder to meet the sire and dam. Judging a puppy’s appearance and temperament is difficult even for experienced golden retriever owners.
The look and personalities of its parents can give you an idea of what the puppy will be like in the future.
Find out how old the parents are and how often the dam has puppies. Dogs shouldn’t have over one litter a year and shouldn’t participate in the breeding program for too long.
Naturally, you should ask whether the breeder has performed health tests for the puppy and its parents and whether they provide a complete document package.
Optionally, ask for references from puppy owners. The breeder may not be willing to share the contact details of puppy owners for privacy reasons but could at least provide you with written reviews.
The Puppy Document Package
Learn which documents a puppy should have before visiting a kennel. The standard puppy document package includes a registration certificate, pedigree, health test documentation, veterinary documentation, and contract of sale.
The registration certificate is issued by the AKC or kennel club and contains a puppy’s unique identification number, its name, breed, color, sex, birth date, and other essential information.
Pedigree is the proof of a puppy’s lineage. Without a pedigree, you can’t be sure that a puppy is purebred and isn’t inbred.
A golden retriever’s pedigree contains essential information on a puppy’s ancestors, such as their names, titles, colors, and birth dates.
If you’re curious about the titles of a puppy’s ancestors, check the meaning of abbreviations on the AKC website. Ensure that the same names don’t repeat too often in the puppy’s pedigree.
Health test documentation for golden retrievers should include clearances on the breed’s most common genetic conditions – hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, exercise-induced collapse, and eye conditions.
Other necessary veterinary certification includes a vaccine passport, proof of initial health check-up, and flea and worm treatment.
The contract of sale may differ, but ensure that it outlines whether you can return the puppy to the breeder if something goes wrong.
How To Spot a Backyard Breeder
Know how to spot a backyard breeder when choosing a puppy. So-called backyard breeders often refuse prospective buyers to meet the sire and dam or show the puppy’s living environment.
They may not have the full document package or genetic clearances, explaining it by the high price of documentation and veterinary services.
Backyard breeders may sell puppies under eight weeks old or set lower than average prices. However, a high price isn’t a guarantee of high quality.
Bad breeders don’t accept their puppies back if they get sick or the owner develops an allergy. Lastly, they don’t ask you questions and generally don’t care what happens to the puppies once they’re gone.