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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I've seen some questions about "finding healthy puppies" or "is this a good breeder". As a newb to goldens, and a certified Google fiend, I want to share what I discovered in my search for answers to these questions.

I started with finding the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA). I was a bit surprised to find it, but not sure I should have been. There is, quite frankly, enough information here to overwhelm anyone looking for "quick answers".

But, there is also a section that addresses GRCA's Code-of-Ethics for breeders that GRCA recommends to consumers looking to buy a golden retriever puppy. It's important to note that while these are GRCA's standards, when you hear the term "ethical breeder" associated with goldens, this is likely what is being referred to.

With that said, GRCA's code requires both parents of a litter being sold in the USofA to have hip, elbow, heart, and eye certifications. You can read more on their website, but the short version is that the hip and elbow certifications require the dogs to be 24-months or older. The heart certification can be done at 12-months, and the eyes need to have been done within 12-months of breeding. If you're doing the math, this means the earliest any dogs should be breeding is 2 years-of-age.

Okay, so how to determine if the tests have been done? Enter the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). This organization certifies and tracks test results for a variety of animals/breeds. OFA's online database is easily searched, using either a dog's AKC number, or their AKC registered name. Once inside the database, all the exam/certification information is easily researched, including the ability to go back multiple generations (assuming the information has been provided) to verify a history of sound health.

There was recently some discussion about these exams, certifications, and the term "ethical breeder". As mentioned previously, many use the term "ethical breeder" in the context of the GRCA Code-of-Ethics. Can a breeder be ethical and do all the necessary exams, without adhering strictly to the GRCA Code-of-Ethics. Of course they can.

But...

#1 - Having the information posted to the OFA database makes it independently searchable.
#2 - Having the information posted to the OFA database makes it possible to search through multiple generations, as well as siblings.
#3 - Submitting the exam results to OFA for certification means that the results will be peer-reviewed. So, you have the confidence of the original veterinarian's assessment, backed by an independent peer group.
#4 - If the recommended testing is done, the incremental cost to post this information into the OFA database is minimal (i.e., "cost" is not a valid reason for not posting results with OFA).

If you've read this far, I hope the information was helpful. Better yet, I hope it inspires you to take some time and read through the linked websites for additional information. Why? Because (a) there's no way I can include all the "important information" and keep this post a reasonable length, (b) there's information I skipped over that you may find really interesting/important, and (c) I'm a newb and may have gotten some things incorrect (yes, this is an edit after reading initial responses! 馃榿).
 

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I've seen some questions about "finding healthy puppies" or "is this a good breeder". As a newb to goldens, and a certified Google fiend, I want to share what I discovered in my search for answers to these questions.

I started with finding the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA). I was a bit surprised to find it, but not sure I should have been. There is, quite frankly, enough information here to overwhelm anyone looking for "quick answers".

But, there is also a section that addresses GRCA's Code-of-Ethics for breeders that GRCA recommends to consumers looking to buy a golden retriever puppy. It's important to note that while these are GRCA's standards, when you hear the term "ethical breeder" associated with goldens, this is likely what is being referred to.

With that said, GRCA's code requires both parents of a litter being sold in the USofA to have hip, elbow, heart, and eye certifications. You can read more on their website, but the short version is that the hip and elbow certifications require the dogs to be 24-months or older. The heart certification can be done at 12-months, and the eyes need to have been done within 12-months of breeding. If you're doing the math, this means the earliest any dogs should be breeding is 2 years-of-age.

Okay, so how to determine if the tests have been done? Enter the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). This organization certifies and tracks test results for a variety of animals/breeds. OFA's online database is easily searched, using either a dog's AKC number, or their AKC registered name. Once inside the database, all the exam/certification information is easily researched, including the ability to go back multiple generations (assuming the information has been provided) to verify a history of sound health.

There was recently some discussion about these exams, certifications, and the term "ethical breeder". As mentioned previously, many use the term "ethical breeder" in the context of the GRCA Code-of-Ethics. Can a breeder be ethical and do all the necessary exams, without adhering strictly to the GRCA Code-of-Ethics. Of course they can.

But...

#1 - Having the information posted to the OFA database makes it independently searchable.
#2 - Having the information posted to the OFA database makes it possible to search through multiple generations, as well as siblings.
#3 - Submitting the exam results to OFA for certification means that the results will be peer-reviewed. So, you have the confidence of the original veterinarian's assessment, backed by an independent peer group.
#4 - If the recommended testing is done, the incremental cost to post this information into the OFA database is minimal (i.e., "cost" is not a valid reason for not posting results with OFA).

If you've read this far, I hope the information was helpful. Better yet, I hope it inspires you to take some time and read through the linked websites for additional information. Why? Because (a) there's no way I can include all the "important information" and keep this post a reasonable length, and (b) there's information I skipped over that you may find really interesting/important.
A couple things I would correct or clarify.. first is you didn't mention that the heart exam MUST be done by a cardiologist and not by a practitioner. Heart exams are not assessed by OFA, only recorded by the paperwork sent in by the cardiologist and matched with you copy of the report. Same with the eyes done by an ophthalmologist too and match with you copy of the report.

Second is your #3. With hips and elbows, only OFA grades the x-rays. Your vet can take them and review then before they send them in but that literally means nothing, they just aren't trained to grade them. The "original veterinarian's assessment" doesn't exist to OFA. There x-rays are sent in and 3 board certified orthos grades the x-rays then posts the results.

Very good summation though overall but people should know the little details I went over.
 

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Not to mention the DNA testing that is recommended, but not required in the GRCA CoE to my knowledge. A full panel of all DNA testing can be done now for well under $200.

That speaks on behalf of the minimum health requirements, but there's a lot more that goes into being "ethical" other than just the health clearances IMO.

There are a lot of mills that will do the health clearances, but having 20 bitches in a kennel and breeding them all every 6 months doesn't mean you're ethical. You're farming for profit at that point. It doesn't take a lot of bitches to make a career from breeding particularly when you do absolutely nothing with them (conformation, obedience, field, etc). I know my opinion isn't very popular with some breeders, but I stand by it. I believe the breed is to be part of the family, not kept outside like livestock.

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Very good summation though overall but people should know the little details I went over.
Not to mention the DNA testing that is recommended, but not required in the GRCA CoE to my knowledge. A full panel of all DNA testing can be done now for well under $200.

That speaks on behalf of the minimum health requirements, but there's a lot more that goes into being "ethical" other than just the health clearances IMO.
Fully agree with both responses. My main goal in posting was to provide some context for the GRCA/OFA discussion, and to encourage folks to follow the links. Some (many?) folks seem to be unaware of where to start looking. But, there's nothing that can substitute for doing your own research and forming your own opinions.
 

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Great post, and thanks for taking the time to do it. Hopefully other "newbs" will be able to find it when they search. I know that we've provided similar info across multiple posts, but it helps to have the basics all in one place...
 
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