....When looking to buy a puppy, most of us just have a vague vision of getting "a dog.".... try to think specifically about what you envision before you buy.
What is it you want in a dog? What traits are you looking for? And what do the breeders you're considering have to offer? What are their goals with their breedings? What are your goals with a dog? ...if you have a vision that goes beyond "a dog," then you should start thinking about what breeders have to offer, and perhaps ask questions or check out their dogs, for starters, and get the best match you can.
So...what's your vision?
Unfortunately, I suspect you spent more time putting this post together than most people spend thinking about what the reality of life with a dog will actually be like. I'd say that those who do put the thought into it imagine it will be like they remember a family dog from their childhood: when their parents did all the work and cleaning up and it seemed like dogs were just part of the fabric of existence.
Either that or they assume that the dog will be a Disney character and simply morph from the cute, fluffy puppy stage straight to the wise, dignified adult lying under the kitchen table, emerging only to eat and go on an occasional walk at the convenience of the owner. No matter how many books you read, the reality of your first Golden puppy can be a real wake up call
I know I thought I understood what I was getting into, I was familiar with how inbred instincts work since i grew up with herding dogs - how strong they can be. I didn't understand how much the classic Golden traits would be so different to live with. How different a hunting dog/sporting dog would be. I continue to be awed and amazed by those traits in my dogs. As long as I am physically able to properly care for a dog, I will have a Golden in my home.
Before I bought my first Golden, I thought a Golden was a Golden was a Golden. I wanted a friendly, fun, up-for-anything family dog. I completely stumbled onto my fantastic first dog through the Atlanta GRC puppy referral person. The litter was from someone who trained gun dogs and she had a litter which was Conformation (Pekay)/Field- (the first 3 generations has 2 master hunters and 3 field trial champions) - I learned what a phenomenal Golden results from good genetics and (by trial and error
) a little effort with obedience training and exercise. I will be forever grateful for my first Golden boy, Baxter.
I continue to learn and am SO grateful for continuing education from people who have incredible dedication to preserving both instinct AND correct structure in the breed. Like DblTrbl, I have a love for good movement. I believe big time in the idea that efficient movement is a thing of beauty. My Ellie girl doesn't have the structure to win in the ring but there isn't a day we aren't hiking in the woods that she doesn't stop me in my tracks with her gorgeous, effortless trot. I love moderate build and bone and especially moderate coat, correct for the field, not the show ring. I care about an attractive dog, form following function.
I definitely am interested in a Golden who wants to work with people and doesn't require a pro to train, a dog who wants to play any game, so long as it's with me. I strongly believe that the original traits that were in place when the breed was developed to be a nice hunting dog are what made the breed so popular. I want a breeder who thinks it's crucial to retain prey drive, retrieving instinct, love of water, temperament that welcomes strangers and tolerates other dogs with no aggression.
When I considering Goldens 20-something years ago, I never imagined I'd end up with such a detailed wish list for my Goldens and for the breeders I want to support. Thanks for bringing up this subject Dana. It's definitely fun to think about and it's so important.