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Esquire Golden Retrievers
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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Some advice from a breeder:

One thing you should look for in your search for breeders and puppies, is a breeder who goes out of her way to rear confident, happy, courageous puppies. This is done by putting puppies through controlled, stressful situations, and making them overcome, think, try, and succeed. This is one of the biggest differences between breeders who are just "selling puppies" and those who are trying to create the best Golden Retrievers they can. Good breeders do this, the rest do not.

Our tongue-in-cheek mantra is, "Puppies must be abused!" In order to rear puppies who are not fearful, who are calm in stressful situations, who know their bodies well, and who have learned how to solve problems, it's important to put puppies in increasingly challenging, stressful (but safe!) situations where they have to problem-solve, and which gives them increasing confidence in themselves throughout the time they are with the breeder. We start doing that to puppies at Day 3, believe it or not.

Here's a super fun "agility" course we're going to do. Click Here for Video This video isn't us, and we're going to be a little more careful about tiny puppies jumping and landing, but we are in the process of building something very much like this at our home for our Halloween litter. It will start small and change and grow every day until it winds up looking something like this. (I love the idea of Cavaletti for body awareness.) Your breeder may not go this far, but ask potential breeders what they do (if anything) to give their puppies confidence and to make them courageous problem solvers.

We do things like early neurological stimulation, adventure boxes, "woods" walks, slides, wobble boards, obstacle courses, and now this little puppy agility course. The challenges change almost every day. So every day the puppies have something new and stimulating, some new problems to solve, some new courage to work up, and some new game to play. We also teach puppies to follow their humans even when they have to overcome challenges to do it, and not to freak out in crates or when they are put in strange places, with strange people or animals.

Ask your potential breeders what they do to sell you a puppy that is confident, friendly, courageous, socialized, and knows his/her body. Such questions are one way telling one breeder from another, and shows breeders that you know a little something and aren't just out to snag "a puppy."

I usually like to start by saying something like, "We're interested in getting a puppy that is well socialized, has a lot of confidence in themselves, and knows their bodies well. Is there anything you do to try to rear confident, friendly, courageous problem solvers?" And see what they say. If they are like me, I light up at the chance for such a conversation, and I'll talk you ear off about it. OTOH, if they just give you a couple platitudes or excuses, then that tells you something about that breeder, too.
 

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I 100% agree. Stress is good. Good stress is great.
and knowing where their bodies are in space is a superb skill for any puppy/dog. It's what athletes are made of.

Did you see the way cool puppy walk on my FB page? There'll be one in the 2020 raffle, too. This fellow makes them for breeders, I can hook you up unless you want to wait to see if you win it at 2020 lol
 

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Esquire Golden Retrievers
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Discussion Starter #3
Did you see the way cool puppy walk on my FB page? There'll be one in the 2020 raffle, too. This fellow makes them for breeders, I can hook you up unless you want to wait to see if you win it at 2020 lol
No, didn't see it. For some reason, you and I are not FB friends. I'm going to go remedy that right now and see the puppy walk. Sounds cool! :)
 

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No, it's a puppy walk- some very nice people made it for me, they bred to my boy Bourbon- and I think they found a niche market- it's absolutely wonderful. Folds up, takes no space, and is sturdy. Marsha Fuzia is her name- her husband is the one who's the woodworking genius.
 

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Esquire Golden Retrievers
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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
One thing buyers should look for when visiting the breeder is how the puppies are kept. Is it a pen that is otherwise empty except for puppies? Or are there toys and adventures inside? I can't speak for other breeders, but even before the puppies' eyes are open we modify their whelping box to make life more challenging. We put objects under the pad to make the terrain varied and challenging, so they can't just crawl or walk across a flat surface. They encounter bumps, and hills, and plateaus that they have to negotiate, even before they can see.

If you visit a litter of 6-week old puppies, and the pen is empty (especially if they don't even have a place for the pups to potty), that's a big red flag for me. By 6 weeks old, our litters have a wobble board, slide, adventure box, toys, puppy walk, and all manner of fun and challenging things in the puppy pen, where the puppies encounter these games and challenges 24/7. It's good stimulation for them, aids in mylenation of the nerve pathways in the brain, aids in motor skill development, and increases socialization.

If they live like this, I'd run away.



If their space looks like this, MUCH better!



Look for evidence that the puppies are constantly stimulated. Look for challenging things, like things to climb on or obstacles to overcome, and toys of all different materials, shapes, sizes, and sounds. Look to see that they have a devoted potty box or potty area, and that they know to pee and poop there (our litters learn that the first day we put the potty box in -- it's incredibly fast). Also look to see that they have plenty of interaction with people and dog(s). By the time the breeder will let you visit, ideally the puppy pen isn't hidden away in a bedroom or garage, but is right in the middle of everything going on, so that pups see and hear the TV, vacuum cleaner, kids playing, dogs and cats in the house, and of course that they have lots of interaction with people.

The busier, noisier, more chaotic, more stimulating their environment, the better. If they live like in that first photo, you'll be getting a puppy that has had no stimulation, no socialization, isn't prepared to live in a human society, and will likely be afraid of everyday things.

Here you can see the daily routine of changing out the puppy pen. Most of the toys have been removed and Theresa is cleaning. Of course, as you'll see, it's easier if you take the puppies outside first. These pups must be 5 weeks old. This is our intermediate puppy pen. There is usually much more in the way of fun stuff. They stay here from 3.5-6 weeks old. At 6 weeks they get transferred to a much larger space down in the living area. The puppies do manage to get some human interaction.

 

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Esquire Golden Retrievers
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Discussion Starter #7 (Edited)
Aha! Here's an example of a great puppy pen. By the time these pups are 7-8 weeks old, they can have a pen this size and look at all the wonderful, challenging, stimulating stuff in here! This breeder is doing a good job.

While I don't see too many breeders who have it blinged out to this degree, this is the kind of thing you should look for.

 

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I recognized that voice 'BAD puppy'...

I think exposing puppies to noises (fireworks, gunshot, pots and pans, vacuums) and situations (swimming pools, cats) and car rides- lots of car rides- and strangers (usually @ destination of those car rides) is so important. I don't want to send home pups who will get carsick or be frightened on the 4th of July.
I noticed you use pellets- I use grates- but whatever a breeder uses, I think the important piece is that the breeder doesn't let puppies potty all over the place. That takes some pretty intensive work keeping everywhere immaculate except the potty, all the time the first few days - like- sitting there ALL DAY long. And cleaning any potties not where I want them immediately as well as any feet that tracked through the mistake.

None of raising a confident litter is easy. All of it takes time and thought.
Breeders who let puppies raise themselves do the breed a disservice, do their puppy people a disservice and do the dogs they raise a disservice. I've seen (when looking @ breeders asked about on here) things that should red flag a puppy person, such as huge water buckets or no potty place (even if it appears clean in that one photo, no potty says it stays that way only for the photo) or no toys, no crates to explore, etc.. I don't get how people don't see what I see.
 

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Great thread. As now the mamma of a pup we continue with exposing ours to new situations. I just exposed tucker to quite the travel trip. These dogs are smart, active and happy to take on the world if raised to do so. Just a quick note and thanks for this thread !!
 

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Maegan
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I don't get how people don't see what I see.
My personal opinion: I think a lot of people legitimately just don't know how puppies should be raised. If they don't know that clearances exist and that a vet checkup saying "yep, she's healthy" isn't good enough, then they probably also don't know that ENS, Puppy Culture, Avidog, etc. exist either. They just don't know what they don't know. One of those pictures above perfectly illustrates how their grandma's 3rd cousin raised puppies when they were kids, so they think that's how puppies should be raised. Grandma's 3rd cousin was obviously a good person, so she must have been raising puppies the right way...


I got the honor to watch the puppy evaluations and temperament testing for a recent litter near me, and it was very cool to see how all the enrichment they had done played out when a big umbrella suddenly opened, when there was a big banging noise, when a stranger picked them up and held them above the ground, and all of the other tests. They were all very consistent in their reactions and not one of them was startled for more than a second or two. The ones that were caught off guard recovered almost immediately and were not at all fearful of the big scary umbrella. It was a really cool experience to get to just sit and watch all of their hard work and careful breeding decisions come to fruition in these beautiful, confident puppies.
 

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Kate
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I just came home from an obedience class with my Jovi.... and was saddened to see somebody who has been to a lot of classes with her prior dog (I think she got an OTCH on her? Or got very close)... her current dog is about 4 years old? And apparently had a meltdown a couple years ago. She went from having a very cocky and confident dog to one that is very shaky-stressed about other dogs, about noise, and things like that.

It reminded me SO MUCH of what happened with my Jacks. Or in his case, he was OK with people and dogs, but noises always had him freaking out so much that I could not get through to him. He just would be shut down.

It's slightly off topic, but it's a small reminder that even with tip-top work by the breeder and even the owner doing everything right - dogs can be pretty abrupt and unreasonable when they develop phobias.

With both Jovi and Glee - their mama was never shown in conformation because she could not handle car rides. She would stress out primarily, but there would also be vomiting at the worst. And the breeder did everything she could to work the girlie out or through the car problem. And took her for rides everywhere, took out to just hang out in the car, and other different things (position in the car, covered crate in the car, sitting with a buddy in the car) and nothing really fixed the problem.

So you had a very nice dog (I loved her when she was a puppy - just perfect attitude and temperament and then as an adult - I liked her looks + she was as athletic as my Bertie) who by choice was primarily a homebody. Car issue had nothing to do with the rest of her temperament and attitude, as this is a very confident, outgoing, friendly and sweet dog.

With my two babies not really knowing if motion sickness runs in the family or if it was something during a fear stage with their mom, I've done a little extra with them and that's running errands and finding reasons to go get coffee from shops that give donuts to the dogs. And no idea if I succeeded in preventing something or if there was nothing to worry about to begin with. I have dogs who love car rides. And this includes all 3 who go running to jump in the car when I'm just cleaning it out and they REFUSE to get out because they insist on going somewhere.

I think what I'm saying is the breeders working with the pups and getting them used to various things helps the owner a TON when the pup goes home. But owners have a continued job to do. And then even there, bad luck happens too for no reason at all...

W/R to setups in pens. <= I honestly don't know either Bertie's breeder or the breeder for my younger two did all that. I do know the pups had a ton of handling, got used to other people coming to visit and play with them, were used to playing outside and hanging out there, used to being in crates, used to car rides, used to having nails trimmed, used to being groomed, used to cats and other dogs, etc. Pretty common sense things.

As far as courageous goes - my younger two especially are either fearless or a little stupid. LOL.

Jovi was so excited doing a retrieve over the high jump (he's up to 20" now), that he knocked the part of the jump down. He did not even flinch - he just kept going to get his dumbbell. And came back over the jump that I'd hastily fixed by then.

Baby pup's form of fearlessness was in full display not even a 1/2 hour ago. He jumped off our front porch into the shrubs in front of the porch. And he was caught in the middle of the shrub and worked his way out on his own and zoomied, and then went right back into the shrub like he thought it was the coolest thing. >.<
 

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Thats the one thing about Denver I wish I could change. He HATES car rides. He has never gotten carsick to the point of vomiting...so I can't say for sure he doesn't get carsick..maybe he gets queasy?

If we are going for a walk and walk past my car on the way back home he will speed up to get by it because he thinks he may have to go for a ride. I don't really get it...we have been taking him in the car with us everywhere and frequently since we brought him home. AND most places we go in the car with him are FUN places for dogs, or we are driving to a trailhead for hiking, or to the lake, or to go meet up with other doggy friends. It drives me nuts that he hates being in the car so much!

We have to lift his front legs in (he rides in the trunk of my SUV) and then push his rear up into the car. We'd be there all day if we didn't make him get in!
 

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Kate
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This is probably heresy for a lot of people and I get it - any accident, the dogs will go flying if they are not crated in the far back or whatnot....

However, I do start pups out being crated in the front seat right next to me. That way they can see me, I can open the window so they aren't hot and uncomfortable, I can stick fingers through in front so they have some comfort/reassurance, but mainly there is just less stress.

Then as they outgrow that crate (that can fit in the front seat), they transition to either sitting very nicely in the front seat, or sitting in the back.
 

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At 10 months, Zelda is always in the back seat in a travel harness and secured with a seat belt since I drive a 2-door coupe and can't fit a crate in the back of my vehicle. I don't think she hates car rides, but I also don't think she's super excited about them either. She seems decidedly neutral from what I can tell. She mostly sleeps and rests in the back seat with her nose on my center console, likely to get some of that AC. The only times she's vomited in the car (on the seat cover thank god) was my fault. First time was feeding her right before we got into the car to go to work (she came to work with me) instead of giving her time to digest like I typically do, and the other time was right after running around in a park for a doggy birthday party for a few hours then being in the car for about an hour and a half on the way home.
 

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This is probably heresy for a lot of people and I get it - any accident, the dogs will go flying if they are not crated in the far back or whatnot....

However, I do start pups out being crated in the front seat right next to me. That way they can see me, I can open the window so they aren't hot and uncomfortable, I can stick fingers through in front so they have some comfort/reassurance, but mainly there is just less stress.

Then as they outgrow that crate (that can fit in the front seat), they transition to either sitting very nicely in the front seat, or sitting in the back.
That's exactly how we started. As he got bigger he moved from the front seat next to me, to the back seat in a dog-hammock (out of the crate). Once he was about 8/9 months he would just pace across the seats, so we tried him in the trunk, and he settles much better back there. I think he likes that the floor is firm and he can lay down and have some space, but still feel safe.
 

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Esquire Golden Retrievers
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Discussion Starter #16
Once he was about 8/9 months he would just pace across the seats, so we tried him in the trunk, and he settles much better back there. I think he likes that the floor is firm and he can lay down and have some space, but still feel safe.
Excuse me? You put your dog in the trunk!?!?!?!? Please tell me that by "trunk" you mean something different than what I'm thinking of. :surprise:
 

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Doing things to stimulate, challenge/stress, and expose the puppies to noises and experiences is so important. It makes me so sad to think there are breeders out there who wouldn't do this. As a breeder caretaker with a service dog organization, litters are whelped in my home and we care for them for the first 8 weeks before they go out to the organization's volunteer puppy raisers. There are specific protocols that we are required to follow to provide these experiences and opportunities to the puppies during their first 8 weeks of life because they are critical to helping them become service dogs. The organization is constantly doing research, such as cognition studies, with leading universities to determine better and better ways for us to work with our litters in those critical first 8 weeks.



In addition to my breeder from the service dog organization, I have three personal Goldens that I purchased from breeders and one rescue Golden that I got at 8 weeks. He was bred by a meth head who used the money from selling the puppies on Craigslist to fund his meth habit. Fortunately, a rescue group seized the litter at 5 weeks. Nevertheless, exposure to meth fumes, the relative isolation the puppies endured during the 5 first weeks, and no stimulation experience (not to mention a dam who was suffering from cancer while caring for the litter) has left lifetime scars that years and years of good care and training simply can not overcome. The first few weeks of a puppy's life are so important.



It's also worth noting that 8 weeks is a guideline. For some breeds, such as Clumber Spaniels, it is not uncommon for those puppies to stay with the dam anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks. As for my lab puppies, they turned 6 weeks last Friday and I can't believe puppies used to go home at that age. They get so much critical litter interaction and additional stimulation in these last two weeks. I'm so thankful many states don't let puppies go to homes before 8 weeks. That should be the law in every state.
 

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Esquire Golden Retrievers
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Discussion Starter #19
It's also worth noting that 8 weeks is a guideline. For some breeds, such as Clumber Spaniels, it is not uncommon for those puppies to stay with the dam anywhere from 12 to 16 weeks. As for my lab puppies, they turned 6 weeks last Friday and I can't believe puppies used to go home at that age. They get so much critical litter interaction and additional stimulation in these last two weeks. I'm so thankful many states don't let puppies go to homes before 8 weeks. That should be the law in every state.
Good post. We keep puppies for 9 weeks just to get that extra week. We would keep them longer, but it becomes a battle between giving them as much socialization and early training as we can, and going bananas because we need to get our lives back. :D By the time the puppies go home, boy are we ready for it...
 
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