An Introduction to the Golden Retriever
This information is intended for prospective owners of Golden Retrievers. It's purpose is to help you determine if the Golden Retriever is the right breed for you, and if it is, how to select one.
THE GOLDEN RETRIEVER
You may be interested in a Golden Retriever for a variety of reasons:
1. A family pet.
2. A hunting dog.
3. An obedience competitor.
4. A show dog.
5. A combination of all the above.
Whatever your objective, YOU, as the dog owner, will be responsible for the care and training that will enable your Golden to fulfill its potential.
If you just want a watchdog, you should not get a Golden Retriever. Although its size and initial barking might deter an intruder, the typical Golden is adaptable, friendly to everyone, gentle (although physically active), and committed to carry things around in its mouth ...... including the intruder's flashlight.
If you are a fastidious housekeeper (or live with one), you shouldn't get a Golden. Most Goldens shed their coat throughout the year, and quite profusely in the spring, in spite of diligent daily brushing. Also most Goldens love to get wet. If there is water on your property your Golden will be wet, and possibly muddy, a frustrating amount of the time.
If you want a one man dog, prefer cats to dogs, or aren't home much, you shouldn't get a Golden Retriever. Goldens are very people orientated, and aren't happy as kennel dogs.
Most people prefer to get a young puppy and raise it themselves. This can be very rewarding, but also time consuming and sometimes frustrating. Other people prefer a dog that is out of its puppyhood and has already been "civilised". This article will discuss the pros and cons of both, and how to select a Golden Retriever of any age.
Our hope is that this information will help you understand the Golden Retriever, and decide if this is the breed for you.
WHAT IS A GOLDEN RETRIEVER?
The Golden Retriever was developed in Scotland and England in the late 19th Century for the purpose of retrieving wild fowl on land or water. Its physical characteristics and its willing, adaptable, trainable nature make it suitable for many purposes.
The Golden Retriever is a "natural" dog, needing no surgical alterations to ears or tails, and no exotic grooming (as opposed to some terriers, poodles, etc.). Basic grooming for a Golden should take no more than 20 to 30 minutes a week.
The mature male Golden is ideally 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder, and weighs 32 to 37 kgs. Bitches, 20 to 22 inches, and weight 27 to 32 kgs. The Golden has a normal canine structure without distortions of leg, jaw or tail. The build is sturdy and muscular, but neither massive like a Newfoundland, nor refined like a Setter. The temperament should be steady, adaptable and kind. The head is broad, with well proportioned, well set on ears, and a kind expression. The coat, which is one of the hallmarks of the breed, is a "double coat" with a thick, weather proof top coat, and a dense, soft undercoat. There are featherings of longer hair on the backs of the legs, on the front of the neck and chest, and on the tail. The adult coat may range in colour from a cream to dark gold, and the darker Golden can have a lighter feathering. A predominate colour of either white or setter red, or white markings on the head, feet or chest, are not desirable, but will have no affect on the dogs usefulness for work or companionship. The physical characteristics of the Golden Retriever are described fully in the breed standard.
CHOOSING A GOLDEN RETRIEVER
What are you looking for in a Golden Retriever?
* A beautiful animal
* A good family pet
* A good hunting dog
* A good Obedience worker
There are Goldens that fit each description, and some that fit all of the descriptions. THE GOLDEN RETRIEVER CLUB OF NSW INC has members' whose interest in the breed has led them to develop the potential of the Golden in each of these areas.
Goldens also work as "Pets as Therapy", appear in many commercials and advertisements, and are one of the preferred breeds of veterinarians. There is no question that the Golden is a versatile and remarkable breed.
Before you start looking at litters of puppies, take time to learn about the breed. Attend dog shows, obedience trials or field trials, Golden Retriever Club of NSW Inc meetings, and talk with and question Golden owners. They are proud of their dogs and are happy to share their enthusiasm.
Look around. It's much easier to find the "puppy farm" or "backyard breeder", who knows and cares little about the welfare of the breed, than it is to find a reputable breeder. Have patience and never buy on impulse .... ALL puppies are cute. The Golden Retriever Club Of NSW Inc, and other interstate breed clubs can supply you with a list of conscientious breeders who either have, or are about to have puppies.
Read and re-read the section on hereditary problems. You want a sound, healthy representative of the breed.
Careful selection now will save heartache and money later. Poor quality puppies are produced by people who breed their pets just to have a litter, or by profit seekers who give little thought to quality, looks or temperament in the puppies they produce. Many of these indiscriminately bred puppies have health problems, poor temperaments, and or breed disqualifications. Remember, you are choosing a companion for the next 10 to 15 years.
A poorly bred 6 week old puppy selling for [many hundreds of dollars] is NO BARGAIN! The chances are that the parents were not tested for hereditary defects, that the puppies had little, if any, veterinary care, and that they were not given the proper socialisation and the TLC that is needed to raise a healthy litter of Golden Retriever puppies. The litter is probably not ANKC registered, so you have no guarantee that the puppy you are thinking of buying is even a purebred golden retriever.
You should expect to pay [check with a reputable breeder for current prices] for a sound, healthy, properly raised puppy from good parentage with ANKC Registration Papers, Vaccination Certificate, Microchipped and including copies of the parents' clear Eye Certificates, Hip and Elbow Scoring Certificates and Heart Certificates.
Temperamentally, there is very little difference between the male and female Golden Retriever. Neither is harder to house train, 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, rarely occur in the Golden.
Sex related behaviour 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 at stud. Neutering a male before one (1) year of age will not only help to alleviate these problems, but will eliminate the risk of testicular cancer, and lower the risk of prostate cancer. Since there is no responsible reason not to spay a bitch unless she was bought specifically for showing or breeding, the oestrus cycle in the female need not be a consideration.
CHOOSING A REPUTABLE BREEDER
Choosing a reputable breeder is very important. Since it is almost impossible for you to know what the puppy you are buying will grow to be physically and emotionally, you must put your faith in the person from whom you are purchasing your puppy. There are three (3) options open to you in choosing this person.
1. Pet Shop or Dealer
The worst possible choice. It is against Dogs NSW's and the Club's Codes of Ethics to sell puppies to pet shops or dealers. As a consequence, puppies sold through such outlets are likely to be poorly bred and raised. They are merchandise to be sold for a high profit. The high profit is the result of little thought being given to the breeding or the care of the puppies. Some may be sickly. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying. This is not the way to choose an addition to your family.
2. Backyard Breeder
Also a poor choice. This is the person who owns a pet Golden and thinks it would be "fun" to have puppies, that it would be a great experience for the children, or that the bitch should be bred once before she is spayed. Even worse, perhaps the breeding occurred just to make money. Usually this breeder knows little about the "breed standard" or history of the breed, and still less about care. The casual breeder does not have annual eye examinations by a veterinary ophthalmologist, and does not submit hip and elbow xrays for scoring. The backyard breeder is not aware of breed problems, and usually doesn't care. The backyard breeder's only goal is to produce puppies, and when the "fun" is over, sell them quickly.
3. Serious Hobby Breeder
The very best choice. The serious and dedicated hobby breeder regards his/her dogs as even more than a hobby. The true enthusiast does not expect to make a profit. When someone is involved in dogs for the enjoyment of each individual animal, for participating in any of the many aspects of "dog sports", and for the challenge of producing the finest animals possible, the result is superior. These breeders acknowledge responsibility for each and every puppy produced, and stand behind every dog they have bred.
Unequivocally, your choice should be from the ranks of the serious hobby breeder. It is an interesting fact that poor quality puppies from pet shops and backyard breeders are often sold for the same price, and sometimes even more, than those purchased from the serious hobby breeder.
HOW DOES ONE RECOGNISE THE SERIOUS HOBBY BREEDER?
Presented below is a list of requirements the breeder should meet before you consider purchasing a puppy. Don't be afraid to confront the breeder with these requirements. It is your right, and you can rest assured that the dedicated breeder will respond positively and with pride.
The breeder should:
* Belong to a Golden Retriever Club, which are located in NSW, VIC, QLD, SA, WA and Tasmania. The reason for this requirement is that this sort of participation indicates depth of involvement in the breed. This breeder is exposed to other points of view, learns more about the breed and modern breeding practices, and is kept up to date on Australian National Canine Council Rules and Regulations.
* Be involved in showing his/her dogs in the breed ring, the obedience ring, retrieving trials or in a combination of all three. The reason for this requirement is that it means that the breeder is not breeding 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. Showing dogs provides the competition which encourages breeders to produce better dogs. The breeder who competes wants to prove how good his/her dogs are and is putting his/her breeding program on the line. This breeder is not relying on just a pedigree to indicate quality.
* Even if you do not want a competition animal, you deserve a pet that is the end result of a carefully planned litter, a puppy which received the same care as a potential champion. The breeder who competes in organised activities is known by others, and has a reputation to uphold. This breeder will be as careful and honest in selling you your pet puppy as in selling show stock.
* Ask you what kind of dogs you have had in the past, and what happened to them; whether or not you have fenced yard; if the dog will be allowed to be a member of the family. Sincere breeders will be a bit hesitant to sell you a puppy until they know more about you, what you are looking for in a dog, and what "life style" you have in mind for your dog. They have the best interests of the puppy at heart, to say nothing of yours. Reputable breeders will take great pains to place puppies properly the first time round. A returned puppy is a traumatic experience for all concerned, so the breeder who is always willing to accept a puppy back will try to make certain that a Golden Retriever is the breed for you.
* Be able to give you references; names of people who have purchased puppies in the past, names of other breeders, name of the veterinarian who provides care for the breeder's dogs.
* Be able to show you proof that both the sire and dam of the litter have had their eyes examined by a ophthalmologist within the last twelve (12) months, have had their hips and elbows xrayed and scored and have their hearts examined by an experienced specialist veterinarian. The breeder should also be willing to answer your questions about any other possible hereditary problems.
* Be able to show you a clean environment, healthy, well socialised puppies, and a dam with a good temperament.
* Provide you with a record of the dates and types of vaccinations, microchipping documentation and worming medication, a copy of a three (3) to five (5) generation pedigree, and ANKC registration papers. Most breeders register puppies on the ANKC's Limit Register unless you, as the new owner have negotiated the purchase of the puppy for exhibition and/or breeding. The breeder should explain the different categories of registration and how to register the puppy in your name.
* Provide you with written instructions on feeding, training and care. Both the pedigree and registration document are provided by reputable breeders at NO extra charge for show and trial dogs.
* Give you a period of time in which to allow you to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to determine its state of health, so that both of you are assured as to the condition of the puppy at the time of sale. If a problem should arise, it can then be quickly resolved.
* Make it clear that his/her responsibility continues long after you have taken your puppy home and in fact as long as the dog is alive. Many dedicated breeders will ask that the dog be returned to them, or placed with new owners who meet their approval if for any reason you are unable to keep the dog. They'll cheerfully be available for advice whenever needed, and can ease your way over many rough spots.
If your breeder meets all these requirements, you are in good hands. If you find yourself with a negative response to any of these requirements, think twice and discuss the situation with someone else. DON'T be impulsive and DO ask questions.
You should avoid:
· shy, whimpering, tearful puppies.
· puppies with dull coats, crusty or running eyes, signs of diarrhoea, rashes or sores on their abdomen.
· signs of neglect, such as lack of water, pans of uneaten food, and dirty conditions.
· a breeder who will sell a puppy under eight (8) weeks of age, as early separation from the dam and litter mates can be very detrimental both psychologically and physically.
· a breeder who lets you handle a very young puppy, as there is a real risk of transmitting disease before they are vaccinated.
PICKING A PUPPY
Once you have found a breeder you trust, it's time to think about a puppy again. Take your time. You might have to wait weeks, or even months, for the "right" litter to be whelped, and it can be well worth the wait. If you are fortunate, and more than one good litter is available at the same time in your area, you can compare puppies, pedigrees and parents. You may be asked to put a deposit of $100.00 or more on the puppy of your choice if the puppies are not yet eight (8) weeks old. Good litters seldom go begging, and it is not uncommon for a choice litter to be completely spoken for by the time the puppies are eight (8) weeks of age, and ready to go to their new homes. Think twice about paying a deposit if the breeder has not satisfied you on all the issues raised above.
Be sure that the breeder knows you want the puppy for a particular purpose other than just a companion (such as a show prospect, obedience dog or hunting dog), and have the breeder help with the selection of the puppy. Very few litters have more than a few real "show prospects" in them, but a "pet quality" puppy from a well bred litter has all the potential for maturing into a sturdy, healthy Golden of proper size, appearance and temperament.
Almost all Golden puppies are appealing, but you need to look for more than "cuteness". They should be sturdy in build, with straight legs. They should feel firm and muscular, and be squirmy and active at first when picked up, but willing to relax and accept being held and cuddled for a short time. Coats should be clean and thick; eyes, nose and ears free of discharge or irritation, and the puppies should not be pot bellied. Gums should be pink, not pale. Dark pigment around the eyes, a black nose and foot pads are preferable, although this might not be important to you in a dog that is to be a companion only. White markings are not correct in a show or breeding animal, but do not affect the puppy's potential to be a very loving, intelligent and special companion animal.
Golden puppies are born much lighter in colour than their final adult colour. The ear colour is the best indicator of the colour of a puppy's future adult coat.
If the breeder offers you several puppies to choose from, take each of the puppies you are considering away from the rest of its litter mates, and observe its reactions to the environment and to you. Puppies at seven (7) to eight (8) weeks of age should be willing to explore their environment, and although a little cautious at first, they should investigate new objects and be fairly self assured. Speak to the puppy and see if it will follow you as you move away. Roll a ball or other toy to see if it has the instinct to watch, chase, carry and possibly even return to you with the ball. Some puppies are slower to develop the retrieving instinct than others, but you should not consider a puppy which does not show some interest in or awareness of a moving object. See if the puppy exhibits the type of personality you would want to live with.
Perhaps the bold, brash puppy that never stops getting into things would be too much for you, and the more easy going fellow who's agreeable and a bit more receptive to your guidance would be a better choice.
While observing the puppies, observe the dam as well. Any shyness or aggressiveness on her part is indicative of a poor temperament, and the puppies might inherit these undesirable traits. A Golden Retriever bitch should be watchful and patient with her puppies, and should be happy to show them to you. If the sire is available, ask to see him too.
CONSIDERING THE OLDER DOG
If you aren't prepared to go through the trials and training of a baby puppy, an older puppy, or even a mature dog, can be a good alternative, especially in households in which the family pet may have to spend much of the day unsupervised. Goldens are very adaptable, and a Golden of any age with a good temperament can become a member of the family in a very short time. There are many reasons for older dogs becoming available:
~ breeders often hold a puppy until it is old enough to determine its show or breeding potential;
~ a brood bitch that has been bred once or twice and is to be retired;
~ circumstances change and the breeder/owner is placing a much loved pet they have to part with;
~ the dog has been rescued from a dog pound or other similar situation.
Usually these dogs are house broken, know many commands, and have formed many behaviour patterns. If the dog has been loved and well cared for, he/she will continue to give love and devotion to his/her new owners because a properly raised Golden loves and needs people. Never be hesitant to take a good natured older dog into your home. Although it may be confused at first and cause a few problems, patience, consistency and reassurance are the key words. The dog's self confidence will return, and it will adapt readily to your routine.
Try to find out all that you can about the older dog that you are considering, so that you can determine if his/her temperament is compatible with yours. Learn as much as possible about his/her habits, daily routine, likes and dislikes, diet and past history. It is important that all family members meet the dog before its adoption, and agree that this is the dog they want.
It is best to acquire the dog when the household member with primary responsibility for the dog's care and training will be at home full time for the first few days. Time must be taken to make clear to the dog where it is to sleep, relieve itself, where and when it will eat, and what it can and cannot do in the house. In short, it has to learn the routine it will be following and what is expected of it.
Give the dog a month or so to settle into its new environment, and gain confidence in its new owners before beginning formal obedience training. Even if the dog has had some obedience training, attending class is an excellent way of brushing up on its training and will help you to understand its responses and personality more completely. You'll enjoy working together.
If you rescue a mistreated or abandoned Golden Retriever through a Golden Retriever Club rescue service or a Humane Society, and give it your affection, it will reward you with eternal love and gratitude. These dogs may well be of unknown background, and bring you a few more problems than those with a more favourable history, but the rewards can be great.
The vast majority of dogs of all breeds (as well as mixed breeds) can live long, healthy lives if given proper care and routine veterinary attention. However, any dog can fall victim to a wide range of acquired problems, just as humans can. Each pure breed of dog has its own particular hereditary problems, some minor, some impairing, and some possibly fatal.
The Golden Retriever is no exception and unfortunately, the problems multiply with indiscriminate breeding. Failure to screen for hereditary problems before breeding often results in the "doubling up" of unfavourable genes, and the results are distressing for the buyer and dog alike. The following, while not all inclusive, are some of the more common hereditary problems that may be encountered in Goldens.
* HIP DYSPLASIA
The term hip dysplasia means poor development in the formation of the hip joint, and describes a developmental disease in young dogs of many breeds. Unsound hip joints are a common problem in the larger breeds, and hip dysplasia can be a serious problem in any dog.
Hip dysplasia is an inherited defect with a polygenic (many genes) mode of inheritance. The degree of hereditability is moderate in nature, meaning that the formation of the hip joints can also be modified by environmental factors such as poor nutrition, excessively rapid growth, and certain traumas during the growth period of the skeleton. As with any quantitative trait, hip joint conformation can range from good to bad, with all shades in between.
Signs of hip dysplasia cannot be detected in the newborn puppy, but usually appear in the rapid growth period between four (4) and nine (9) months of age. Signs of the disease can vary widely from slight irregularities of gait, to crippling lameness.
Improvement or even apparent disappearance of lameness can occur as the dog matures, as a result of the joint stabilising, inflammation subsiding, and muscular strengthening. However, the dysplastic dog will usually develop arthritis in later life.
The only accurate means of determining the condition of the hip joint is by x-ray examination. Sedation will be needed to restrain the dog so that a diagnostic film can be made, as positioning of the hips is of great importance. Signs of hip dysplasia found on x-ray include shallow sockets, irregular shape of the femoral heads, looseness of the joint, and degenerative joint disease or osteoarthritis.
Hip dysplasia can sometimes be diagnosed by x-ray between six (6) and twelve (12) months of age, but this is not entirely reliable, and dogs intended for breeding should be x-rayed when fully mature in order to select for sound hips. Twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months of age is considered to be minimum age for accurate x-ray determination of desirable conformation.
X-rays should be submitted for scoring by the Australian Veterinary Association or other Australian Canine Scoring Schemes.
The dysplastic dog should not be used for breeding, but may well lead a long, happy, useful life. During the acute phase of the disease, your veterinarian may suggest rest and supportive care. Moderate and regular exercise, control of weight, and perhaps anti-inflammatory drugs are helpful in the older dog. Many Goldens with hip dysplasia will show no outward signs at all, until perhaps seven (7) or eight (8) years of age when muscle tone decreases and arthritis and wear and tear on the joint becomes more noticeable.
Goldens and other breeds of retrievers often seem to have high pain thresholds, and do not show signs of pain when other breeds might be very uncomfortable. An xray does not always show how your dog feels, as many dysplastic Goldens are completely unaware that they have a problem.
* EYE DISEASE
Hereditary cataracts are a common hereditary eye problem in the Golden Retriever. "Cataract" by definition is any opacity within the lens of the eye. At least one type of hereditary cataract appears at an early age in affected Goldens, and while these may or may not interfere with the dog's vision, some do progress into severe or total loss of sight. There are also non-hereditary cataracts which sometimes occur, and examination by a veterinary ophthalmologist is necessary to determine if the cataract is or is not of concern from a genetic standpoint. If there is any question, the dog is certainly not to be recommended for breeding. A few families of Goldens carry genes for progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) which is progressive deterioration of the light receptive area (retina) of the eye, and may result in complete blindness at a fairly young age. There are also other eye defects, such as retinal dysplasia, that prevent consideration of a dog as a breeding animal.
Eyelid and eyelash problems also occur in the breed, some with a hereditary basis, others are sometimes due to other factors. Entropion and ectropion is the turning in or turning out of the eyelids. Distichiasis involves eyelashes rubbing on, and irritating, the eye. Surgery may be needed to correct these problems, and while it is a fairly simple procedure, such dogs should not be bred with.
Nuclear sclerosis, the "bluish haze" of the eye seen in older dogs, is a normal part of the age related change in the lens of the eye and is not a hereditary problem. Examination of breeding stock should be done annually, until at least eight (8) years of age and preferably longer, as hereditary eye problems can develop at varying ages. The examination should be conducted by a veterinary ophthalmologist, who has the special equipment and training needed to properly examine the dog's eyes.
* OTHER ORTHOPAEDIC PROBLEMS INCLUDING ELBOW DYSPLASIA
There a number of orthopeadic problems besides hip dysplasia which may also occur in the growing dog. Among these are panosteitis, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), luxated patella, and other problems. It is suspected that there may well be some hereditary disposition to such conditions, so even though surgery may correct some of these problems, there is some question whether dogs affected with any of these conditions should be considered for breeding.
Nevertheless, when purchasing puppy, it is important to ensure that the parents have been screened by x-ray for elbow dysplasia.
* HEART CONDITIONS: SUB AORTIC STENOSIS (SAS)
Like humans, dogs can and do suffer from heart problems. Of particular concern in the golden retriever is Sub Aortic Stenosis (SAS), a condition basically caused by a faulty valve in the aorta. At this point in time SAS is regarded as an hereditary condition. Dogs severely affected by this condition may not survive puppyhood, or, if they survive early life, may suddenly collapse and die prematurely. When choosing a puppy it is important for you to know that its parents have been screened by a specialist veterinary practitioner for hereditary heart conditions.
Seizure disorders may arise from a variety of environmental factors including viral infections, other diseases, and trauma. In some cases, there is no ascertainable cause other than perhaps some inherent factor resulting in a low threshold to the stimuli setting off the seizures. One or perhaps two isolated seizures do not necessarily constitute a problem, but dogs subject to recurring seizures should not be bred. Often the veterinarian can recommend medication which will control the seizures, although medication is not always effective, and many dog owners are not always willing to try and live with this problem.
BREEDING YOUR GOLDEN RETRIEVER
Breeding is NOT for beginners. It is as hard to do well as it is easy to do. UNTIL you can satisfy the requirements that the serious hobby breeder should meet, (see the section of this booklet entitled "Choosing a Reputable Breeder"), you will be doing the breed an injustice if you have a litter of puppies.
Consider Your Motives
If you think that:
1. Having Puppies Would Be Fun
It is also very time consuming and demanding. By four (4) weeks of age a Golden litter of eight is active, dirty, noisy and potentially destructive. Illness or death of the dam or puppies can be expensive, emotional ..... and no fun at all.
2. It Would Be Educational For The Children
So would a litter of mice. Bitches do not whelp at your convenience, and the children are often in school, or in bed at the time of delivery. Care of the pregnant bitch, and properly raising and socialising puppies is work for a responsible adult.
3. It Would Help Us Get Back Our Investment
You may find that the rate of return is very low. Stud fee, veterinary fees, advertising, and the daily care and feeding of a litter is very expensive. You may be able to sell three (3) or four (4) puppies out of a litter of ten (10). Even experienced breeders sometimes have difficulty selling puppies.
4. It Would Help Fulfill The Dogs Needs
You are anthropomorphising. While the instinct for procreation is strong, the dog has no conscious knowledge of what it is missing, no regrets and no guilt feelings. Spaying or neutering will remove the instinct and the problems often associated with the desire to mate, such as wandering and marking. Pregnancy not only contributes nothing to a bitch's health, but sometimes causes problems. A spayed bitch cannot be accidentally bred, and will not be subject to the uterine infections that can affect older, intact females.
5. It Will Improve The Bitches Temperament If She Is Bred
You are wrong. No animal whose temperament needs improving should be bred in the first place, since temperament is most often the result of hereditary factors. And while raising a litter will not only not make an improvement in the dam's temperament, it will also probably result in a litter of unsatisfactory puppies who will be imprinted by their unstable dam. There is also the possibility that the bitch will be an unsatisfactory mother, necessitating much more work on your part.
Consider Your Resources
Raising a litter is a demanding project. Do you:
1. Have The Facilities For Whelping And Raising A Litter Properly?
You need a warm, quiet, secure area, easily cleaned, to properly confine and care for a litter of eight (8) or more fast growing puppies while they are with their mother, and a similar larger area for use after weaning.
2. Have The Time To Devote To This Project?
Time to take or send a bitch for breeding, sit up for hours during whelping, and hand raise the litter if the bitch is unable to. Time to buy and prepare food, feed and clean up four (4) to five (5) times daily. Time to go to the veterinarian for check ups, inoculations, or with a sick dam or puppy. Time to individually socialise each puppy daily. Time to answer phone calls, talk with prospective buyers, and answer the same questions over and over again. Time for all the paper work required, including typing accurate pedigrees, health records, care instructions, records of sale, and so on.
3. Have The Money To Put Into The Project?
Can you afford to pay the stud fee, inoculations and veterinary care for the bitch and puppies, as well as other expenses. What if the bitch has problems which necessitate a Caesarean section? What if the puppies die? What if the bitch dies, or cannot raise the puppies? Can you afford to feed and provide veterinary care for 2 or 3 four (4) month old puppies that didn't sell? Can you afford to refund the purchase price on a puppy that proves to be unsound or unsuitable?
Consider Your Dog's Quality
Is your dog or bitch truly an outstanding representative of the breed? "Pretty, friendly and smart" is not nearly enough.
Your dog/bitch must be absolutely sound and stable, with a personality and disposition appropriate for the breed. Shyness, aggressiveness, gunshyness, lack of retrieving ability or trainability, and hyperactivity are all reasons not to breed, regardless of other qualities.
2. Breed Type And Quality
Your dog/bitch must be structurally and functionally sound, with conformation characteristics appropriate for the breed. An experienced, knowledgeable exhibitor/breeder can assist in the evaluation of your dog's adherence to the breed standard.
Your dog/bitch should be tested free of certain genetic defects, as should the proposed mate. Knowledge of the status of parents, grandparents, siblings, etc., with regard to genetic testing is also desirable. Hips and elbows should be properly x-rayed and submitted for scoring. Eyes should be examined annually and be free of hereditary cataracts, central progressive retinal atrophy, and any eye anomaly. The heart should have been examined by a specialist veterinary practitioner and certified free of any abnormality.
A four (4) or five (5) generation pedigree on the proposed litter should be read and interpreted by a person with extensive knowledge of the breed, and of the dogs involved. Titles alone are no guarantee of genetic value.
A breeding animal must be fully mature, in the prime of health, and in lean muscular condition. All inoculations should be up to date, and the animal should be free of both internal and external parasites. Acquired problems such as a narrow birth canal from previous injury, transmissible venereal tumour, anaemia, any disease or infection of the reproductive organs, concurrent diseases of other organ systems, or any contagious diseases are all reasons not to be bred.
Considerations for The Stud Dog Owner
If you are thinking of using your male at stud, you are no less responsible for the quality of the litter than the owner of the brood bitch. You have an obligation to thoroughly screen every owner that inquires for stud service, and the bitch to be bred, the boarding and caring for the bitch in your care, of effecting the mating, of supplying pedigrees, photos and examination reports, and of keeping meticulous records. This is all done as circumstances dictate, and not at your convenience - the weekend away you had planned may well be spent at home looking after a visiting bitch instead.
Consider The Current Dog Population
If at this point, you are still considering breeding your dog, visit the local dog pound. Ask how many dogs are put down monthly, and how many put down in the last month were Golden Retrievers.
THE CASE FOR SPAYING AND NEUTERING
Many reputable breeders sell their "pet quality" puppies with the agreement that the animal will be spayed or neutered. These puppies are usually sold with limited registration papers.
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 neither neutering or spaying him will by itself turn your Golden into an obese, lazy animal ...... that it 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 tumours of the reproductive system as many older, unspayed bitches may do.
Neutered males will not be stressed and upset by the scent of bitches in season, and are less tempted to wander or be distracted from their work. The neutered male will not develop testicle cancer, and the risk of prostate cancer is lowered.
Most veterinarians like to do the spaying or neutering at a fairly young age (approximately six (6) months). It is recommended that a bitch be spayed before her first season, usually at 7-9 months.
A male neutered before he learns to lift his leg, probably will not do so later, and will not "mark" his territory.