OH THANK YOU EVERYBODY for the reassurance.
Please bear with me in this post while I tell you why I'm uneasy. I need to hear, if possible, that the same thing that happened last summer with the other puppy, which was traumatic to us in the extreme, won't likely happen again.
OK--this re-triggered my anxiety--a friend of mine who is active in rescue just yesterday sent me a story circulating in her rescue group. This group used to specialize in Goldens and almost-Goldens, but since there is already another active Golden rescue group here, they have now expanded to include "dogs of good temperament" similar to Goldens, who of course are known for good temperament.
It's a great group--the co-founder is a Golden person who still keeps one purebred Golden, coming from a breeder as a puppy, in addition to her and her husband's rescued dogs and the other work she does in running the rescue organization. She trains her Golden as a kind of sweet "enabler" in her home, welcoming dogs who are coming into rescue and generally showing them the ropes and helping them fit in.
We adopted our Jasper through this rescue group. They are great--we have always donated to them in gratitude.
Well, unfortunately the story that my friend, who is a foster mother for the group, sent to me yesterday was about a Golden whose temperament was troubled, likely for genetic reasons. She had failed her first home and come into rescue because her original family, despite seeking help and being a good, loving home, did not dare to keep her after the age of six months. She would suddenly "go off" and have often-short fits of rage, triggered by things that you wouldn't think would do it--for example, she had resource-guarding issues around paper, of all things.
Then, once she was in rescue, a terrible event occurred in her foster home when the (experienced) foster mother reached down to pick up a piece of paper she had dropped. When the foster father tried to intervene, the foster parents both wound up with serious injuries to their hands from deep puncture bite wounds. The whole group was aghast and absolutely miserable when this happened.
And the veterinarian who has helped the rescue group through the many years of their existence has finally, reluctantly admitted that their practice has over recent years treated an increasing number of certain breeds of dogs, for the first time including Goldens, who had unpredictable "rage" episodes, leading to their placement in rescue. Some of these dogs could not be rehabilitated. The core of this rescue group is very, very upset about these developments and trying to figure out how to assess and handle any similar future problems with future rescues. I believe these were the worst injuries that any of their fosters had sustained.
So I worry...honestly, the puppy we returned last summer had "rage" episodes very uncharacteristic of 8-week-old puppies (according to our very experienced vet). And I don't mean "bitey" behavior in the normal, natural sense--gosh, our Jasper was a "bitey dog" his entire life, in terms of play biting--if anything, we tended to under-react to it. He thought our fingers were intended for play bites when he was young, and we kinda thought it was cute, he had such a soft mouth and control of his bite.
But the critical difference between Jasper's biting, and what our new puppy last summer did, was that she was angry, snarling, snapping, showing teeth, and generally acting like a full-grown dog who is genuinely warning you that she's going to bite--even trying to bite--if you don't stop what you're doing that is angering her. For example, my husband tried to distract her, with a toy and a treat, from eating her feces when she'd just pooped, and when she wouldn't be distracted, gently picked her up to remove her from this temptation. This provoked her to a real fit of rage. She was snarling, snapping and trying hard to bite my husband. Fortunately, because she was only 8 weeks old, he could easily hold her in such a way that he didn't get hurt.
There were other such episodes and other quite uncharacteristic behaviors for a puppy so young. We were very concerned, almost from day one. We had had only Jasper, who was by all accounts an easy puppy, so we didn't really know what was normal. When we told our well- respected trainer (hired privately; she writes a column on positive dog training for our local newspaper) and our veterinarian about it, they each evaluated her, consulted with one another and told us in no uncertain terms that we should return her to the breeder (and the vet wanted to talk to the breeder). As mentioned above, they believed her problems were "genetic."
With heavy, miserable hearts, we did. I am praying that she is with the right family now and that she'll turn out ok. Maybe I'm just too much of a softie or not consistent enough...not a day has gone by since then that I haven't thought of her, and worried about her.
So one thing our vet said at that time is that if we would adopt only adult dogs, whose temperament was established, we wouldn't have this problem ever again. And, of course, we didn't follow his advice. We want a puppy, just one more time in our lives. I swear that after this, I'm only interested in rescue--particularly in Golden rescue. But we're 60--if we want a Golden puppy--and you know, we really do!--it's kind of "now or never."
Does anyone know of a story similar to ours? This puppy last summer, I'm pretty sure, was not abused at the breeder's; they are a reasonably reputable kennel (not my favorite, for various reasons, including turning nasty when we returned her--but they are probably trying their best to do the right thing with their dogs). IS there any kind of "rage" syndrome seen in Golden puppies sometimes? If so, how unusual must it be?
I think this is why I am wanting reassurance. I KNOW Jasper was my heart dog, but I'm equally sure I can easily love another sweet, normal-but-flawed-like-any-of-God's-creatures puppy. Jasper had plenty of flaws! For starters, he growled at any other male dog of his size after about age 5, and tried to chase cats to the point that he has pulled me over trying to hold his leash (but I didn't let go!). And he loved to play bite while playing with us. And he knocked my frail mother-in-law down once, he was so excited to see her. These flaws and episodes had no effect on my loving him. They were mostly our fault for not training him enough and not socializing him enough with other dogs during the critical period of his development, as a puppy. Mistakes I'm determined not to make again! Still, Jasper was basically a sweet, loving, smart dog who certainly proved the old adage "if you're not training your dog, your dog is training you." We didn't care if he was an obedience champion, and his natural good nature largely made up for our deficiencies.
Reassurances welcome. Thank you all in advance; I'm so glad I found this group.