The (very) Basics About
Breeding Your Golden Retriever
The (Very) Basics About Selecting
The Breeder of Your Golden Pup
contributed by: Betsy Sommers
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. Information about Golden Retriever rescue groups can be obtained from Jolene Carey, 405/478-0800.
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 growth.
What Dogs Should Be Bred?
Before it is bred, a Golden Retriever should, at a minimum:
- Have the sound and stable temperament appropriate to the breed
- Meet the official "breed standard" that has been established and adopted by the Golden Retriever 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 ophthalmologist and registered with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) - or - an official ACVO report from a board-certified ophthalmologist 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 doppler echocardiogram.
- 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.
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.)
Responsibilities of the breeder in raising the litter:
In addition to owning a dog that is suitable for breeding, the breeder should:
- 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 surgery.
- 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 job.
- Carry out all necessary initial worming and inoculation 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 and qualities.
- 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 weeks.
- 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 job.
- 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, pictures 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 thoroughly 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 commitment 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 siblings.
- Explain, in detail, the terms and conditions under which the puppies will be sold, including guarantees 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 puppies.
- 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 required of / provided to the puppy's 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 arrangements for their provision.
- Instructions and advice regarding feeding, current and future, and other anticipated physical needs of the puppy.
- A written statement of all worm medications and inoculations 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 following:
- 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, preferably longer;
- 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 future;
- 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:
Information about Golden Retriever clubs in your area, puppy referral, etc. - http://www.grca.org/
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.