Many people contacting me regarding a puppy are serious, have done their research and understand that they need to be genuinely interested in really working with their dog in order to have a working golden retriever. But I actually also have had quite a few who contacted me about a puppy that I had to decline.
And lately, I have, on several occasions, seen discussions on social media and in different online dog forums read posts from people wanting to buy a working golden retriever. They are frustrated and they are very upset sometimes. The reason behind the anger and frustration is that they have been declined to buy a puppy over and over again from various breeders. They don’t understand why we are being so difficult and so demanding. All they want is that nicely red coloured, slim and “good-looking” golden retriever pup. Should it really have to be that hard?
The reaction they get in these forums varies. Some people defend us breeders, others agree with the writer and encourage him/her to “just lie to the breeder” to get the puppy that he/she wants. I think that lying is a bad idea and good breeder will see right through that most of the times anyway.
These posts have made me think about it and instead of answering to all these posts, I thought I’d write a blog post about it. Of course, I can only speak for myself – but I think that there quite a few breeders that will agree with me.
So, here it goes:
1: It’s my breeding
I own the mother of my litter and I have carefully selected the father. I know what kind of dogs I expect these small ones to become when they are grow-ups. And I can promise you they will be more than a nicely coloured pet. There will be lots of working ability, speed and agility, energy, power, intelligence and a particular passion for hunting.
I would not breed that kind of dogs if I were trying to breed a good pet dog. Don’t misunderstand me – they DO make wonderful pets as well. But they are working dogs. And working dogs need to have a work to do. It does not absolutely HAVE to be field trials and hunting – but nonetheless, they need to have proper exercise, activity and some kind of job in order to be happy. It might be search and rescue work, obedience, agility, freestyle, tracking, service dog training or something else. But I will never sell a puppy from my breeding as only “a pet”.
That will never happen. It just won’t.
2: It’s not really about you – at least not in the way you think
Many people take offense if they are denied buying a puppy from a breeder. They take it personally and think they are not good enough to be dog owners in the eyes of the breeder. I’m sorry to tell you – but it’s really not about you as a person. It’s not about you being a good or bad person or even a good or bad dog owner! It’s about what you have to offer and what kind of life you can and are planning to give a dog. You might be able to offer an absolutely perfect home for a dog that suits better as a pet dog. But it might just not be enough for a working line Golden retriever to be happy.
And; have you ever considered that the reason the breeder might be denying you to buy a puppy from them could be for your own sake as well? You might think you want a working dog – but listening to you, the breeder realises that you and a dog from his or her breeding just is not a good match?
Real working dogs can be a handful in a family situation. They need a huge amount of exercise, stimulation, and training. If you are not into dog training several days a week – you will experience a dog that is less and less fun to be around and more and more likely to find its own job (i.e., mischief).
You just won’t be a happy dog owner.
3: It is mostly about the dog
A dog that is bred to work will not be happy in a home that consists of daily walks and a little bit of training every now and then. Some individuals might settle and get used to the low activity level over time – but it is not a happy dog. It is a dog that has gotten used to having nothing to do. I feel sorry for those dogs and I consider it a waste of a fantastic dog with good working capabilities.
A dog that does not settle will start showing different kind of unwanted behaviours. What kind of behaviour it is will vary from time to time and from dog to dog. It is often behaviours such as jumping, biting, lunging, barking and different kind of destruction behaviours. They could also show physical signs of stress from under-stimulation such as stomach problems, allergies, loss of appetite and skin problems.
So, when a breeder is denying you a puppy – it most probably is because he or she wants what is best for the dog. And in the end that is also what is best for you.
It is not because he or she is evil.
4: It’s about my responsibility as a breeder
In my work as a dog trainer/dog psychologist I have seen several working retrievers ending up as pet dogs with many of the stress symptoms mentioned earlier. It is a very sad situation. The dog owner is unhappy, feeling insufficient. The dog is unhappy, feeling stressed and under-stimulated.
As a breeder I don’t want this situation for anyone, dog or dog owner, and I will do whatever I can to avoid it. And that includes denying you a puppy if I feel that it’s the right thing to do. I have brought the puppies into the world and I feel responsible to make sure they are ending up in the best suited home possible. I need to give them a home where they have the highest likelihood to live a long, happy and active life.
If I can’t find that home, I’d rather keep them until I do.
Because it is my responsibility to do so.
5: It’s about chemistry
I won’t deny it – but of course chemistry plays its part here as well. As a breeder I expect to be in contact with you during the dog’s entire life. I want to know how everything is going, your ups and downs and I want you to join our training sessions, kennel meetings and other activities – as much as time and distance allows you to.
That means we need to be at least be comfortable enough with each other to be able to imagine contact for the coming 10-15 years.
6: Lying will most probably not get you there
I also want to add that lying about your intentions most probably is a really bad idea. A good breeder will rather quickly find that out anyway and you might burn more bridges than you counted on. My advice is for you to be honest. It is what is best for you, the dog and for you future life together. You have to trust that the breeder is selecting homes that is most suitable for the dogs he or she is breeding.
I just want to end this post by saying that all dogs require activity and exercise. Most dogs will not be happy with short daily walks and then lay on the couch for 5 days a week, with a longer walk (if the weather is nice) in the weekend. All dogs need to have both physical and mental exercise daily. The difference is the amount and effort of time you need to put in.
I have an example of a dog owner who approached a few breeders telling them that they were specifically looking for an athletic but easy-going golden that would be suitable for therapy work. Two working-line breeders turned them down for that reason. They ended up with a show line golden, whose parents also do field trials, and today they say that they got a perfect dog for them. An easy-going dog who is also currently training for tracking and therapy work. They are thankful to the two breeders who turned them down, as they today realize that what they were looking for was not a working line golden.
And to be honest, I have way too much experience from my everyday obedience classes with pet dog owners not being able to find something to train (even if it is easy stuff like spin, roll over, get the remote control etc.) to feel comfortable with selling a puppy from working lines to them. If you are committed to a dog sport I know that you will have things to work with. I also believe that if you have no experience from dog training at all and don’t know if it is something for you – then you should go for another kind of dog first and try it out. At least that is my recommendation.
And please realise, that the important thing when choosing your dog for the coming 10-15 years is NOT the coat colour. I am sure you understand that breeders of working line dogs spend a lot of time evaluating working capabilities and mentality. For me, the “nice colour” is just a bonus and it should be for you as well. When you call me – you should be able to tell me what working capabilities you are after, and what mental characteristics you would like to see in your future dog. And please understand that sometimes that just does not fit with what I foresee in my coming litter.