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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi all,

I'm wondering if anyone has any concise tips to selecting a field style golden retriever breeder.

Our previous 5 dogs (2 shep mutts, 1 black mouthed curr, 1 field style golden, 1 blonde chonka golden (my made up term for huge male golden) were all rescues (3 foundlings, the 2 goldens from a golden rescue).

We just lost our beautiful wonderful field style golden retriever Scarlet to cutaneous lymphoma at 12.3 y/o. We are heart broken (and not ready for another dog quite yet) but I'm starting to think about how we might get another golden somewhat like her (no need or desire for identicalness of course!). (and also thinking about whether there are other breeds we want to consider, though so far not much makes the list (toller? viszla? chessie?).

She was long, lean, red, level from shoulders to hips, loved to run when she was younger, jumped into water from the day we got her, loved to swim until almost the end, and didn't look a thing like my friend's English Cream goldens or our recently rescued 11 y/o chonka golden retriever.

I'd love to rescue another golden and we'll try that first but we are also recognizing that we really don't want what a lot of breeders are producing (and thus what a lot of rescues are placing): shorter in both length and height, drop from shoulder to hips, non-runner, non-swimmer, almost white dogs. My apologies if you love your english cream; I'm sure your dog is great (just not for us).

We also want a strong retrieving and swimming drive (we have a pool, pretty much for our dearly departed girl, our chonka boy doesn't like water) and I'm surprised by the number of golden retrievers these days that have little to no swim or retriever drive.

So, having never purchased a dog...
  • What do I look for in a breeder?
  • I certainly don't want to support a puppymill breeder but I don't really understand the term 'backyard' breeder as that is exactly where a lot of good breeders have their dogs.
  • What medical certifications are critical? Which are just desirable?
  • Some field breeders seem to want you to compete? We don't have any plans to show or compete so how do you work with that?
  • It seems like the field style breeders I've found online (is there a different term??) aren't close by. Do people drive out to pre-visit breeders or is there a reliable network of recommended breeders that eliminates the need to do that?
Maybe there is a guide here I missed for this question. If so, feel free to say 'please read this first'.

Thanks.
 

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Kate
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1. Don't write off show bred goldens... there are a lot of stereotypes that get shared around by people whose idea of a show golden is something that is 5+ generations away from the show ring... :)

2. Based on your description (leggy, red/dark gold, lean, athletic), you are looking for a performance bred golden.

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  • What do I look for in a breeder?
- You want somebody who knows the breed, has a track history of being active in one or more sports with the breed, does full clearances and maintains connections with the local golden retriever club. Doesn't have to be a "big name" breeder like Topbrass, but you want somebody who is doing their due diligence before and as they breed. No corner cutting.

As well, field goldens are identified by WHAT THEY DO vs what they look like. You are looking for one or both parents to have field test titles and/or Field Champion titles behind them. THAT is a field bred golden.
  • I certainly don't want to support a puppymill breeder but I don't really understand the term 'backyard' breeder as that is exactly where a lot of good breeders have their dogs.
- A Backyard breeder is just anyone who buys a girlie puppy and decided they just want to breed her once for fun and maybe a little pocket cash. So as soon as she starts going into season, they ask around for somebody with an intact dog or they buy a male dog. They make puppies and sell them. And so on, over and over. The dogs never leave home except for vet appointments. There are no health tests done to rule out genetic conditions and diseases. Likewise, there is nobody who knows the breed looking the dogs over and verifying if they are even good specimens of the breed. Many cases they are not. There's high chances of temperament issues, bad hips and elbows, cataracts, etc. And then beyond that, if the people who buy the pups need to get rid of the dogs later on, there is no breeder taking responsibility for the dog and they end up in shelters or rescues.
  • What medical certifications are critical? Which are just desirable?
  • Hips - OFA cleared after 24 months, and passing grades (fair, good, excellent)
  • Elbows - OFA cleared after 24 months and graded NORMAL
  • Eyes - OFA cleared every year. A 4 year old breeding dog should have record of eyes clearing the last 4 years.
  • Heart - OFA cleared by a cardiologist.
^^^ These are required before considering breeding a dog. Period.

Genetic DNA tests for ichthyosis, PRA, PRA2, DM, and NCL are optional - however it's a good idea depending on pedigree. Most field/performance pedigrees NCL clearance is pretty critical.
  • Some field breeders seem to want you to compete? We don't have any plans to show or compete so how do you work with that?
Depends on the pedigree.

The more high gear and big name the pedigree, yeah - the breeder is looking for experienced homes who are committed to competing with the dogs. However that isn't everyone. Some breeders want people to do stuff with the dogs.... but they also want the dogs in good homes.
  • It seems like the field style breeders I've found online (is there a different term??) aren't close by. Do people drive out to pre-visit breeders or is there a reliable network of recommended breeders that eliminates the need to do that?
Go through your local breed clubs.

Good example of a breeder to look at would be Highroller Goldens. I thought they were in Wisconsin, but seems like I saw something recently where they were in Indiana....
 

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I'm going to weigh in here and some may disagree with my opinion but here it goes....

So I own a "Field Golden" he is dark red, slender build, tall and lean, faster then any golden I've ever owned. FC/AFC titles one generation back. He weighs around 62 - 65 lbs. He is birdy. I don't just mean he retrieves, I mean if a bird is anywhere near him he will spot it and you can watch him follow it with his eyes. I love him to pieces. He is back with a Pro trainer right now preparing for some higher level hunt tests as soon as they open up anywhere near me. He does have a natural desire to hunt. He earned his Senior Dock diving title in one weekend with no experience. He swims daily. He is gentle and loving but a ball of energy. He is just over 2 years old. He is easy to train but also easily distracted. (that is his one draw back IMO) He earned his CGC at one year old with the only obedience training up until that point coming from me at a large dog show in Richmond. Same weekend we earned his Dock title. I put him in a higher level obedience class last winter for something to do and can tell you he is not cut out for it. He knows what to do but the distraction level is to much. He needs wide open spaces. (hear the song in the background)

I own a field/conformation cross that is 9 years old. He is hard headed and has the heart of a lion. He has no stop. He can hunt all day and come home and play ball for hours in the yard. He's the dog that you stop from working because your afraid he will die doing what he loves. He's has a larger frame and in peak condition weighed in at 83 lbs. He was pro trained to a Master Hunt level but we really hunted him and never ran tests with him. He has some great field dogs behind him on one side and none on the other. He is a Velcro style dog. He had absolutely no off switch until he turned 7 years old. Much harder to train then my "field bred", but much more focused. He's my fastest swimmer.

I just bought a conformation bred puppy that I consider to be a really great all around golden. The lines show diversity in titling, although currently I think the highest hunt title is a JH in the lines. There are some in the line working on a SH and I have watched them work. My opinion is that if they focused on hunt they would have no problems going all the way. His lines are amazing to me even though they are more conformation then hunt/field. I don't plan to try and compete in field but have every intention of hunt titling as far as I can go. I also will do a CCA and some obedience or fun titles. He will dock dive for fun. Keep in mind I asked for the best hunt prospect from the litter. I wanted confidence. I can tell you that at 9 weeks old he reminds me more of my conformation/field cross personality wise then my field bred. He is not afraid of anything. He is already doing little retrieves and bringing a baby bumper back to me. If it's hot here this weekend we will start swimming in the pool. He has focus, he's 9 weeks old but there is a difference. He has prey drive. I will have no problems in hunt testing him. In fairness my conformation breeder runs hunt tests so she knew what I was looking for. She also went the extra step and introduced birds and had a pro look at the puppies response to birds for me. I got to see the videos of the introductions to birds and the difference among the puppies was fun to see. There is a difference in each puppy. I will let you know in 2-3 years what the big differences are in this baby and my field bred.

Now with all that here's my point. In my opinion a WELL BRED GOLDEN CAN DO ANYTHING it was originally meant to do. I don't want an overly coated show golden. I also don't want a field golden with poor conformation. Conformation is important for proper balance and movement. I want that Golden that I bought in 1985. I want a healthy, active, friendly dog that I can take anywhere and it can do anything. I love them all but I lean towards good breeding and good health. I think that with a well bred golden the training makes the dog. I start doing exercises that build prey drive from day one. I don't intentionally do it, it's just what is fun for me to do with my dogs. I like a high energy, well behaved, confident, beautiful dog. A conformation Golden with a correct coat is not the crazy fluffy dog you see. Most golden's I see in my area are overweight to begin with. I went to a dock diving last year and several golden's had life jackets on to dock dive. I was shocked, but some owners put coats on for them to play in the snow too. It's all in what you do with them. (if their purposely bred to begin with)

You need the core clearances hips, elbows, heart, eyes. I also want DNA tests and especially ICT and NCL, not to discount the others but the ICT tends to be acceptable to some. My field bred is ICT affected. It's not the end of the world but it can be avoided. If we want to use today's terms I guess I want a preservation breeder. They are trying to maintain the characteristics in the breed that made us fall in love with them to begin with.

Just my 2 ..
 

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Kristy
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You've had some nice replies, You might consider printing them out and keeping a notebook to refer to as you continue your research and see how your knowledge evolves. I also am glad to see you're working on this now even though you're not ready to bring a puppy home yet. Expect to wait months for a breeding from a good breeder. I believe DblTrbl said she waited 9 months on the puppy she just brought home. That is exactly what I would expect because these type breeders (more moderate, all around Goldens) are not as easy to find and typically not producing tons of puppies. As soon as you start seeing breeders you're interested in, I'd start connecting and discussing future wait lists.
You already have the info from above responses on health clearances, when the time comes, I would also have someone here look at the OFA information (public database of clearances) and help you look at siblings and relatives to get the whole pictures. All you need is registered names of the parents of the litter you're looking at. I want to emphasize that if you're going to spend the kind of money to get a high quality Golden with working ability, I would not consider genetic testing (Ichthyosis, NCL, PRA) etc. optional. When a puppy is in the $2-3k range you should not be dealing with an absolutely unnecessary risk of a puppy with a preventable problem. Those genetic tests eliminate the concern for NCL which is deadly and a nightmare or ichthyosis which is a skin condition that ranges from a few flakes of dandruff to utterly disgusting piles of greasy peeling skin. Insist on the genetic testing in addition to the core clearances.

Be prepared to travel for the right breeder, it's worth it. I've flown twice for puppies and it's easy. This will also help you narrow down your timelines. If you tell us your region we can help you come up with ideas.

I strongly encourage you to make sure that the breeder you choose is titling dogs in something like obedience or hunt tests. You don't need the highest level field trial dogs but you want MH (Master Hunter) or UD (Utility Dog) titles to show that these dogs have the gene pool that contains the focus and biddability to work with people. If having a dog that loves water and loves retrieving is important to you, a pedigree with Master Hunter and HRC titles go a long way toward making sure those traits will show up in your puppy.
 

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All of my Golden's have been from a Field Line of Golden's, meaning the parents and usually the Grandparents have field titles. Some titles are from Field competition where the dog had to out perform other dogs. These title abbreviations become part of the dogs name, on the front of the name. Goldigger becomes FC Goldigger ! Then in field work we have hunt tests where all the dogs that run these tests and pass the tests get the titles Goldigger becomes Goldigger MH. Pedigrees with FC or AFC will cost more because competitive titles are much harder to get than hunt test titles.

Therefore, to have a 'field' dog the pedigree of the parents should show some of these titles. the more the better. Also many of these dogs will also have Obedience Titles and Agility Titles. And you are correct, most field breeders will not sell their pups to homes that do not trial, test, or actually hunt birds...

entryexpress.net is a website for people with retrievers to find field trials and hunt tests to run their dogs in. But, if you look you can find a place where they post breeders with puppies for sale, Many of these are field lines. You also will see a listing for 'Started Dogs' which are younger dogs that have some field training that they want to sell.

Good luck
 

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I can tell you both of my girls come from someone who shows heavily but she also does a ton of stuff with her dogs outside of the confirmation ring. She does a lot of hunt with them and dock diving. She’s even done rally with some of hers. So don’t necessarily leave out people you may deem as “show dog” people. Basically, my dogs come from a family of dogs who are active in multiple categories. And her dogs love every minute of everything she does with them.
 

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Be aware that if you go for a breeder of "field Goldens" you're not just getting that body type/look but all the drive that goes with it. That can be a LOT of dog for someone who doesn't intend to hunt or work the dog.

Based on your original description I think that kind of dog can be more typical of what I see, or used to see, coming from backyard bred dogs. If that's what appeals to you, but you don't really want to deal with all that drive and energy, you might do best trying to go the rescue route again. Unfortunately, that route also is likely to come with health issues and a lot of unknowns.... It's a trade off...
 

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Kate
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I went to a dock diving last year and several golden's had life jackets on to dock dive. I was shocked, but some owners put coats on for them to play in the snow too. It's all in what you do with them. (if their purposely bred to begin with)
To be fair, I think that some of that is the owners being real birdbrains too. :)

It would never occur to me to put a life jacket on my dogs. And I have dogs who will try swimming out to sea if they are searching for something that they know is out there - even my pup.

And in winter, the dogs tend to like going out there and wallowing in the nice cold snow. If they have a correct double coat, they should be fine going potty and for walks without anything extra.

A lot of people apparently look at their dogs like malibu barbie and needing extra accessories depending on the time and season.... :D

Biggest compliment I ever heard for this breed was somebody griping about entering an obedience trial that was technically a golden specialty (all breeds allowed, but special awards for goldens). This person had dogs of another breed and she was griping about having to compete against more goldens than usual.

This breed tends to be the best when it comes to obedience + in the hands of a good trainer using the right training methods for that dog. Big tool box and generally positive works best with this breed.
 

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Some field breeders seem to want you to compete? We don't have any plans to show or compete so how do you work with that?
This will be a large obstacle for you. Performance breeders want people to put titles on their pups.
 

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It will be a problem. There is a thread re Rally/Ob desires for litters, breeders whose desire it is to put puppies in the sort of homes who will compete to the level possible with the puppies they produce. Serious breeders of a venue have to limit who they will sell to - I can think of several long time breeders who do not sell to pet homes generally. Some breeders - not coming up with field folks- generally only sell to pet homes... but they are generally more the show type. The reason for limiting litters to homes that will compete is it is hard work to breed. It's not as simple as making a litter then keeping ones own competition hopeful, then putting the rest in pet homes if one's area of expertise is performance of any type. It's easier to do that with show bred puppies. Some of the payoff for that work done is money but the money is truly the least of the payoff- becoming known for a venue, consistent success in the venue, etc are the real payoff. Discerning buyers will find their 'appearance' style and then search out breeders who do sell to pet homes and then go from there. It adds another hurdle to the mix but if it is what you want, find it!
 

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  • Some field breeders seem to want you to compete? We don't have any plans to show or compete so how do you work with that?
You never know... I didn't know what hunt training was when I got my field-type pup (she is actually a versatile Golden - mix of field and conformation). I am a total city girl. But now I spend weekends out wearing field camo and having my dog retrieve birds and bumpers for me. :)
 

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The best thing you can do, is get to know parents, grandparents, cousins, brothers/sisters of any puppy you purchase. I compete in a variety of venues. My last 2 purchases I knew many family members, so I knew what I was bringing home. I could plan ahead on a training program and what my life was going to be like with that new puppy. My puppies have come from a wide variety of breeders, and it's taken me a few years to figure out the type of puppy I want in my life.

So the question then is, how did I get to know the relatives of my puppies? Both Canada and the US have a Golden Retriever National Specialty and have regional and local specialties. The best thing you can do, is go to those specialties and watch the dogs and talk to the owners. Unfortunately, the virus has meant many specialties have been canceled in 2020, including the national. There are other all breed events you can attend - hunt tests, field trials, obedience trials, dog shows, but the specialties are golden retrievers only. But if at all possible visit a specialty, that's the best route to go when choosing a puppy.

Right now breeders are overwhelmed with puppy inquiries. It might be very hard to find the puppy you want this year. 2021 might be a better year to find the right pup. Don't rush, I know that after a loss we can be in a hurry to miss that gaping wound in our hearts. Good luck and I really hope you get exactly the right puppy you want.
 

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Discussion Starter #13
Thanks for all the replies guys and gals.

You've given me a lot of information and I've been parsing it as I read breeder pages.

Probably the most disappointing thing is that litters through Oct/Nov at reputable breeder who genetically and orthopedically test seem to be pre-reserved to sell out. We weren't really looking to wait until Spring 2021. We were really hoping for Sept/Oct or maybe Nov.

Regarding drive: yup, we want drive. And athleticism. We don't want a couch retriever. Our last girl would fetch the ball in the pool while the snow was falling until hypothermia set in if we'd let her.

Well, if anyone has breeder recommendations for a darker color (red etc) performance oriented golden, I'd be all ears. More interested in possibly taking up formal dock or agility with this dog. Not so interested in hunting trials.

Cheers.

PS: I miss her so much!
 

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Don't rule out someone who 'goes both ways' when it comes to conformation vs performance. Most of my puppies go into companion homes, and some are very active with their dogs. One even got bit by the dog show bug. :)

My current "money pit" is a champion with grand champion points, obedience, rally, and field titles. He earned his 3rd Master Hunter leg yesterday.
874457


But this is him after winning in the conformation ring.
874458
 

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Don't rule out someone who 'goes both ways' when it comes to conformation vs performance. Most of my puppies go into companion homes, and some are very active with their dogs. One even got bit by the dog show bug. :)

My current "money pit" is a champion with grand champion points, obedience, rally, and field titles. He earned his 3rd Master Hunter leg yesterday. View attachment 874457

But this is him after winning in the conformation ring.
View attachment 874458
This just makes me happy! Congrats on the 3rd MH leg!
 

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Kate
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Don't rule out someone who 'goes both ways' when it comes to conformation vs performance. Most of my puppies go into companion homes, and some are very active with their dogs. One even got bit by the dog show bug. :)

My current "money pit" is a champion with grand champion points, obedience, rally, and field titles. He earned his 3rd Master Hunter leg yesterday. View attachment 874457

But this is him after winning in the conformation ring.
View attachment 874458
I haven't seen what he's done in field, but I am almost 100% pretty sure I remember seeing him in person (I'm pretty sure???) out in Kalamazoo a couple years ago. Handled by Nikki R? She set up right next to me. Every time she had him up on the table, local breeders were walking up to check him out and ask questions about him. They really liked him. :)
 

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Handled by Nikki R? She set up right next to me. Every time she had him up on the table, local breeders were walking up to check him out and ask questions about him. They really liked him. :)
Thank you; he is really a special dog in a lot of ways and I wish I could clone him. I have gotten a lot of questions about him. He is very much his father in so many ways; I wish I had more than 1 breeding unit of his sire.
 
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