BEWARE Checklist

The following checklist will help you distinguish an ethical breeder from a puppymill and backyard breeder. Be better informed about what to look for before buying a puppy!

  1. Beware of breeders advertising “Rare”, “White”, “British Whites”, “Platinum Blondes”, “Ultra Lights” etc.Many breeders are exploiting their dogs for a profit. The Golden Retriever Club of America deems the very light color “undesirable” so most American breeders only breed shades of gold in order to be competitive in AKC shows. Outside of this country, the “cream” color (the term for what looks white or off-white) is acceptable in the show ring and VERY common. Breeders of the “English-style” goldens that are very light (cream), can show in other venues in the states (i.e. IABCA, UKC).
  2. Beware of breeders charging exorbitant prices for their puppies.The price for an AKC registered “English style” golden retriever with hip, heart, eye and elbow clearances as well as Champion bloodlines from a great, reputable breeder is never more than $2,000 nationwide and averages closer to $1,800.You are not getting anything better by paying more!
  3. A good breeder will have pictures of their dogs with all of the dog’s information listed on their website.This includes registered names, ALL health clearances including hip, heart, eye and elbows. Pedigree information should be included and/or a link to K9 Data – The open database for Goldens Retriever pedigrees and supporting health information.
  4. Beware of breeders who do not list all of their dog’s clearances or say that these clearances are not necessary.1 in 5 golden retrievers is diagnosed with hip dysplasia. 1 in 10 are diagnosed with elbow dysplasia. Although not as common, eye and heart problems also occur in this breed. IF THIS INFORMATION IS NOT LISTED – ASK FOR IT! YOU NEED TO SEE THE PAPERWORK OR THE DOG LISTED ON THE OFA WEBSITE! THERE ARE MANY BREEDERS OUT THERE LYING ABOUT THEIR DOGS HAVING THE PROPER HEALTH CLEARANCES! We have seen breeder websites claiming their dogs have OFA “excellent” hips but in reality have NO clearances at all. Also, a veterinarian is NOT qualified to score hips or elbows. They must be submitted to OFA, OVC, Pennhip or BVA and you need to see that certificate yourself.
  5. A good, reputable breeder NEVER advertises “unlimited registration available”.There is a difference between not selling puppies on unlimited and not advertising unlimited registration as a sales tactic to make more money. Most reputable breeders will sell a show quality puppy on unlimited registration – but only to someone they feel is ethical and trustworthy – someone who wants to improve the breed. Most of these GOOD breeders will charge the same or only slightly more for a show quality puppy – not thousands of dollars.
  6. A good breeder will ask you a lot of questions about the home you will provide for a puppy.If you feel you have to prove yourself, that is GOOD! A reputable breeder cares where their puppies will live out their lives.
  7. A good, reputable breeder will invite you to their home to meet them, their dogs and to see the environment where the dogs are living.
  8. A good breeder will educate you about owning a golden retriever.Golden retrievers are VERY active. They chew, dig and get into a lot of mischief. A good breeder will want you to understand exactly what you are getting yourself into!
  9. A good breeder will insist that if you can not provide a good home for your puppy at any given time in its life, the puppy will be returned to them – the breeder.
  10. If you don’t feel comfortable with a breeder you need to look elsewhere.A good breeder will be a part of your life for the lifetime of your dog. They will always be available to you for any question or concern – no matter how small!
  11. A good, ethical breeder will not ask for a deposit that is completely nonrefundable – especially if the litter is not even born!

RESOURCES– K9 Data – An online database of golden retriever pedigrees. This is a resource to research a dog’s pedigree. Many good breeders will have this linked right from their own websites and will list clearance information as well.– OFA – The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. At this website you can verify all of a dog’s clearances by simply inputting the registered name or AKC number.– CERF- Canine Eye Registration Foundation. Verify that the Sire and Dam of a litter have a CURRENT eye clearance. Unlike the others, eye clearances must be repeated annually.

What Is a Reputable Breeder?

Note:The Following Content has been taken from “Acquiring a Golden Retriever” (GRCA publication)

Choosing a reputable breeder is very important. Since it would be almost impossible for you to know what the puppy you are buying will grow up to be physically and emotionally, you must rely on your faith in the person from whom you are purchasing your puppy. There are three options open to you in choosing this person.


The worst possible choice. The puppies are poorly bred and raised. They are thought of as merchandise to be sold for a high profit. The high profit results because little has been put into the breeding or the care of the puppies. Many are sickly. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying, which is no way to choose an addition to the family.


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 it’s being done just to make money. Usually this breeder knows little about the standard or history of the breed, and still less about proper care. The backyard breeder is not aware of breed problems, and doesn’t care. This person’s only goal is to produce puppies, and when the fun is over, to sell them quickly.


The very best choice. The serious and dedicated hobby breeder regards his/her dogs as even more than a hobby, although the true fancier 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 dogsport, and for producing the finest animals possible, the results are SUPERIOR. The best 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 experienced hobby breeder. The question is: How does one recognize the responsible 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…

  1. Belong to their country’s Golden Retriever Club, a local Golden Retriever club or an all-breed club. Ideally he/she should belong to all three; however, sometimes this is impossible. The reason for this requirement is that this sort of participation indicates depth of involvement. 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 Kennel Club rules and regulations.
  2. Be involved in showing his/her dogs in the breed ring, the obedience ring, in hunting tests/field trials, agility, tracking, or in a combination of any of these. The reason for this requirement is that it means that 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. Showing 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 companion 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 organized 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.
  3. Be able to show you a clean environment; healthy, well-socialized puppies; and a dam with a good temperament. You should avoid: a) shy, whimpering, fearful puppies; b) puppies with dull coats, crusty or running eyes, signs of diarrhea, rashes or sores; c) signs of neglect, such as lack of water, pans of uneaten food, and dirty conditions; d) a breeder who will sell a puppy under seven weeks of age, as early separation from the dam and littermates can be very detrimental both psychologically and physically.
  4. Give you a period of time in which to allow you to have the puppy examined by a veterinarian to determine it’s 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.
  5. Provide you with a record of the dates and types of vaccinations and de-worming done, feeding instructions, a 3-to 5-generation pedigree, and a Kennel Club registration application to apply for registration of the puppy in your own name. Sometimes the registration application is not available at the time you take your puppy home. If this is the case, have the breeder state on a dated, signed receipt of payment that the application will be sent to you as soon as possible. The registered names and numbers of both parents, date of birth of the litter, and puppy’s color and sex should be indicated. You can then contact your Kennel Club with complete information should there later be a problem with the papers.
  6. Give you written instructions on feeding, training and care.
  7. Be able to show you proof that both the sire and dam of the litter have had their hips X-rayed, and evaluated as normal by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), BVA and/or PennHIP; have had their elbows x-rayed and evaluated as normal by a board-certified veterinary radiologist: have had their hearts examined by a board-certified veterinary cardiologist; and have had their eyes examined by a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist within the last 12-18 months. The breeder should also be willing to answer your questions about any other possible hereditary problems, including but not limited to seizures, hypothyroidism, and skin problems or allergies.
  8. Ask you what kind of dogs you have had in the past, and what happened to them; whether or not you have a fenced yard; and whether or not the dog will be allowed to be a house dog and 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 lifestyle you have in mind for your dog. Having the best interest of the puppy at heart, reputable breeders will take great pains to place puppies properly the first time around. 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 is the breed for you.
  9. Be able to give you references: the names of people who have purchased puppies in the past, the names of other breeders, and the veterinarian who provides care for the breeder’s dogs.
  10. Provide some sort of written contract and/or conditions of sale. Any warranty of quality or health of the dog, and any warranty against development of hereditary problems or show-ring disqualifications in an animal intended for showing or breeding, should be in writing. The warranty should be absolutely explicit and a signed copy should be provided to each party.

    * Both pedigree and registration papers are provided by reputable breeders at NO extra charge. The practice of charging extra for papers is forbidden by the AKC, and should be reported. This should not be confused with withholding papers until the dog has been spayed or neutered, which is how puppies not purchased for showing/breeding are sold by many reputable breeders.

  11. Make it clear that his/her responsibility continues long after you have taken your puppy home, 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 ever 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 of 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.