The Golden Retriever Club of America National Rescue Committee

Frequently Asked Questions

1. I just want a pet. Why do I need to talk to a breeder and WHY are dogs from breeders so expensive?  Answer

"Just a pet" encompasses an awful lot! You want your pet to be healthy - no crippling hip problems, no potentially fatal heart defects, no chronic skin and ear problems, and most of all - you want that golden temperament that you've heard so much about! There are no guarantees in dog breeding, but as with most other things, a person's skills improve with experience and study. A responsible hobby breeder knows that breeding means much more than putting two intact dogs together and waiting 9 weeks for puppies. It involves carefully researching pedigrees, screening for defects, proper care of the dam (mother) while she's pregnant and skillful handling of the new puppies during the critical first 8 weeks of life.

Finding a responsible breeder who has become a student of the breed and has the level of knowledge necessary to make good decisions significantly raises your chances of finding the healthy, stable pet you are looking for.

As far as expense, you are adding a new member to your family for the next 10-15 years. Now is not the time to penny pinch! The breeder you are seeking will have considerable expense involved in the selection, raising, competition and screening of her dogs. A pet store puppy often costs as much as a well bred one and a "bargain" puppy from the newspaper is frequently NO bargain when you take into account the possible costs involved with serious medical or temperament problems.

2. What are the main differences between a male and a female? Answer

Temperamentally, there is little difference between the sexes in Goldens. Neither sex is harder to housetrain, and both are equally intelligent and affectionate. Both are excellent with children, and both make excellent companions. Problems of aggressiveness, which males of other breeds may exhibit, should not occur in the Golden. Sex-related behavior such as mounting and marking may be exhibited by some male Goldens, particularly if other males are present or if the male has been used for breeding. Neutering a male before a year of age will not only help to alleviate these problems, but will also eliminate the risk of testicular cancer. Since there is no responsible reason NOT to spay a bitch (unless she was bought from a serious hobby breeder specifically for showing or breeding), the estrous cycle in the female need not be a consideration.

3. How do I find a golden retriever puppy?  Answer

To locate a responsible breeder visit the Golden Retriever Club of America's (GRCA) website ( The GRCA has a puppy referral system to help you find a responsible breeder in your area. You can find the puppy referral volunteer nearest you here.

To locate a Golden Retriever rescue, visit this page. They maintain a list of rescue by state to help you find the rescue closest to you.

Goldens are the second most popular AKC breed and well-bred litters are in high demand. Many breeders have a waiting list but most will be happy to talk with you about any upcoming litters. AKC dog shows are another place to meet breeders. You can find shows near you on the AKC site on the AKC site or by contacting your local kennel club. You can find information about how to contact your local kennel club here. Most local kennel club also have a breeder referral program.

Golden Retriever rescue groups also may have a waiting list but all of the Goldens that come through their programs should be already spayed and neutered, up to date on vaccine and heartworm tested. They have the further advantage of being evaluated by the rescue so that they can be matched with potential adoptive homes based on activity level, age and any training needed.

4. Do Goldens shed? Answer

Absolutely! Goldens shed a little all year round and twice a year they lose most of their coat. Anyone intent on a hair free home, should reconsider getting a Golden. Their coat requires brushing of at least once a week. Their hair can be long and can become matted if it isn't properly cared for. A thorough grooming to trim the hair on the paws, tail, and around the ears needs to be done on a monthly basis.

5. I work. How can I properly raise a puppy? Answer

Working should not prohibit you from raising a puppy, however a puppy does demand extra time and attention, you will need to make provisions to care for your puppy. Caring for a puppy brings responsibilities and obligations that need to be considered. A puppy turns into a dog and a Golden will eventually grow to be between 65-80 lbs. and stand 21-26" high. This puppy will need to be cared for on a daily basis for the next 10-16 years, this will become a family member, (living/breathing) not an item or thing that is disposable.

A puppy needs the following:

  • A puppy needs to relieve himself every 2-4 hours, until they are at least 6 months old. Puppies generally defecate 5 to 6 times a day and urinate even more.
  • You will need to get up during the night to take your puppy out. An easy way to figure out how many hours a puppy can be expected to control their bladder is to take the puppy's age in months and add 1. For example a 4-month-old puppy will need to go out every 5 hours.
  • Housetraining a puppy can take at least 6 months. With a daily time commitment of every 2-4 hours.
  • A puppy will benefit from a socialization class at around 12-14 weeks old and an obedience class after 6 months. Even people who adopt older rescue dogs can benefit from a class to help them teach the dog what is expected of him.
  • Puppies require a minimum of three 20-minute low-impact aerobic play sessions per day and older dogs need regular exercise on a daily basis. A tired puppy is a calm puppy.

If the time constraints of raising a puppy seem too much, an older rescue dog may better fit your needs. A listing of Golden Retriever Rescue groups can be found here.

6. I have children, how are golden retrievers with children?   Answer

Goldens can be wonderful family dogs, however parents need to be aware of a few precautions.

First and foremost, children need to be taught how to interact with a dog and goldens are no exception. Each year many children are victims of dog bites and this can be due to ongoing mistreatment of the dog by children or because the dog and family were not properly matched by the breeder or rescue. A responsible breeder or rescue organization will make sure that any puppy they place with children is temperamentally suited for an active family.

Many Goldens become homeless due to the fact that an adult has added a Golden to the family for the wrong reasons:

  • As a gift to a child with the expectation that the child will be the primary caretaker.
  • To play with the children and keep them occupied, giving the adults more free time, without plans to supervise the interactions.

Adding a Golden Retriever to the family can be wonderful, but adults must understand the responsibilities that are involved. The feeding, grooming, exercising, formal obedience lessons, etc are the entire family's responsibility but must be supervised and coordinated by an adult. Being the primary caretaker for a dog is not a job that can be left to the children.

You should be certain that your busy life leaves time for an active Golden Retriever before you purchase or adopt one.

Recommended reading: "Childproofing Your Dog" by Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson

7. How are goldens with other pets? Answer

Each dog is different and some goldens relish time with another dog and others are more solitary. However, even if the dog is more solitary it is VERY important to socialize your puppy when they are young and continue to do so throughout their lives. Socializing means exposing your puppy to a variety of other puppies and dogs, people, places, things, sights, smells and sounds. Rescue goldens are evaluated with other dogs and cats before they are placed, giving you a good idea if they will get along with any other pets they might be exposed to.

8. Are they easy to train? Answer

Goldens are generally easy to train; however training takes time and repetition. It is highly suggested that you sign up for an obedience class. Methods have changed throughout the years and training in general will help to bond you and your golden. Learning how to communicate with your dog will ensure a successful relationship. Goldens respond very well to positive reinforcement of good behavior. Use treats and praise to train, never harsh punishments.

9. What about spaying and neutering? Answer

The GRCA Public Education Committee wrote "The Case For Spaying And Neutering":

"Many reputable breeders sell 'pet' quality puppies with the agreement that the animal will be neutered. These puppies are sometimes sold at a lower price than the "show prospect" puppies, even though they have the same excellent pedigree and have received the same care and attention.

The basic disposition and temperament of your dog WILL NOT be changed by removing his or her reproductive capability. Neutering a male can make him more tolerant of other males, but neutering will not, by itself, turn your golden into an obese, lazy animal, that is the result of excess food and insufficient exercise.

Benefits of spaying include not having to worry about accidental breeding, the stress and inconvenience of confining the bitch in season, risky "mismating" shots, and unwanted puppies. The spayed bitch will not develop uterine infections or tumors of the reproductive system, as do so many older unspayed bitches.

The American Kennel Club permits spayed and neutered goldens to participate in all phases of obedience, tracking, field work, agility and junior handling, but not in most conformation classes."

10. How much space do they need? How much exercise do they need? Answer

Goldens are energetic dogs, bred to spend long hours in the field. Exercise requirements will depend largely on the age and condition of the dog. Young, healthy dogs will require several aerobically paced walks or interactive play sessions per day. Space need not be a major factor, as it is generally considered a myth that big dogs need room to run. Most dogs left alone, outdoors, will nap rather than exercise. Goldens require mental stimulation, as well as regular exercise; if your life-style is sedentary, or you don't have a few hours a day to interact with your dog, a Golden may not be the best choice.

11. How big do they get? Answer

A well-bred male will stand 22"-25" high at the shoulder and weigh between 65-75 lbs. Females stand 20"-23" at the shoulder and weigh between 55-65 lbs. However in reality there are many goldens that range outside of the standard.

12. How long do they live? Answer

A well-bred, well-cared for golden lives 10 -12 years on average.

13. Can we raise two puppies at one time? Answer

Yes, but this will be twice as much mess, time, training, and expense. An important part of adopting a golden is the continuing financial responsibility. Routine veterinary care and food range from $800 to $1200 per year for one dog that has no health issues. Yearly shots, heartworm preventative, flea/tick treatment throughout the summer, grooming and feeding a premium food add up quickly. This does not include any emergency medical treatments or surgeries that a dog may need at some point in his/her life. Many breeders will not sell two puppies a the same time, worrying that the arrangement is not in the puppy's best interest. Some recommend that you consider a puppy and then an older rescue dog or that you wait until your puppy is at least 6 months old before getting another.

14. Will my golden make a good outdoor dog? Answer

The Golden Retriever is not intended to live as an outside dog as they are very people orientated and are miserable being separated from the family they love! If you are not interested in keeping your golden indoors, this is not the dog for you. A lonely golden may bark incessantly, dig up the back yard or continuously escape to roam the neighborhood.

15. I have heard that a good hunting dog should be kept outside in a kennel or they aren't good for hunting, is this true? Answer

This notion is an old and outdated myth. The best hunting dog you will ever get will be happiest when he has bonded closely to you and is living inside your home as a well loved pet. Again, goldens are miserable when left alone for long periods of time. Goldens, when sharing the home with their family, will bond with their owners and work hard to please them in the home and the field.

16. What health problems are seen in goldens? Answer

Goldens, unfortunately, are subject to a number of health issues. Canine hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia can occur as can several eye problems such as Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Uveitis and Cataracts. Goldens can also have a serious heart defect known as Sub Aortic Stenosis. Other problems include allergies and chronic skin and ear problems, epilepsy, swallowing disorders, hypothyroidism and temperament issues.

To lower your chances of encountering these problems, goldens should be purchased from responsible hobby breeders or reputable Golden Retriever rescue organizations. Responsible breeders will screen parents for genetic disease and have health information on many, if not all the dogs for several generations back. Rescue groups will have adult dogs checked by a veterinarian, will investigate any apparent problems and will give adopters all health information they have discovered so an informed decision can be made.