Management & Training

How To Choose a Breeder

how to choose a dog breeder

An important moment in our life is the choice of a puppy and we often have to solve the big dilemma: how should I choose the dog breeder?

In our Facebook group (Golden Retriever – Italia) people who are approaching for the first time the big and complex “4-legged” world, use to ask this question several times.

A dog changes your life, it is undeniable, so the first steps are very important to start with the right foot…or better, with the right paw!

In this article, we will try to give you some simple suggestions, so that you can better understand which are the principles that should define a serious and professional dog breeder.

Our first suggestion is to find all the information about the breed that you have chosen with the support of specific books or web sites; once you learned the main characteristics, you must understand if they match perfectly with your lifestyle. Is thisthe right dog for me? Am I really able to satisfy its needs? If the answer is definitely YES (you have to think about it very seriously) …you can go on.


Choice of an expert dog breeder

About the choice, we obviously think to a Golden Retriever, but many of these suggestions are valid also for other breeds.

  • We have to consider only the dog breeder specialized in one single breed.

The dog breeder should deeply know the breed.. He/she should also attend the expo…in other words, he/she should be in a constant research of his/her ideals way to improve the breed. This will also help us to understand how long and how much experience he/she has reached and he/she will be surely proud to show us the results obtained.

  • Always visit the breeder personally, paying attention to the cleanliness, the space reserved to the dogs (living in box 2×2 far from everything and everybody it is not good) and the presence of one or both parents. Let’s try to observe their reaction. Extreme shyness or unmotivated aggression should be a first sign of the personality of their puppies.

Don’t trust dog breeders who show you only the puppies. Primary socialization is very important and for the first 60 days of life, puppies must interact each other and mainly with the mother. This is important for their future emotional balance.

  • Curiosity should be mutual and a respectable dog breeder will ask you many focused questions to understand if you are good for his/her puppies. If so, he/she will suggest you the puppy or puppies with the best suitable personality for you. Please, consider that you are not buying some shoes, so don’t trust people using on-line sales or advertisement on newspapers to sell their puppies.
  •  Take a look to all the documents that certify the exemption of the main hereditary diseases.

The issue is complicated because nobody can guarantee 100% the puppy’s health (don’t trust people that assure to sell the absolute perfection), but at least you can require complete examination and certificates for hip and elbow that testify the exemption of both parents. Moreover, looking behind in the genealogy, if the breeder show you also certificates of grandparents and great-grandparents (unfortunately dysplasia can skip one or two generations), it will be a further demonstration of a focused job, developed to achieve the 100% healthy.

For more information about dysplasia, please read this article:

To be sure about the parents and ancestors’s health there is only one way: you must read the pedigree (a sort of family tree 😉 ).

At 12 months the breeder should submit their dogs to X-ray examination for the official evaluation of hips and elbows. The results are indicated on the Pedigree, reporting the dysplasia grade:

HD (Hip Dysplasia)

ED (Elbow Dysplasia)

On the pedigree you can also find the information about the date of  reading, the reading structure (FSA o Ce.Le.Ma.Sche) and the signature of the official person appointee of reading.

Hip dysplasia grade is classified by F.C.I. in 5 levels:

  • R = HDA, Grade A (no evidence of hip dysplasia)
  • S = HDB, Grade B (near normal hip joints)
  • T = HDC, Grade C (mild hip dysplasia)
  • U = HDD, Grade D (moderate hip dysplasia)
  • V = HDE, Grado E (severe hip dysplasia)

Elbow dysplasia classification by F.C.I. – IEWG:

  • Grade 0: no evidence of elbow dysplasia
  • Grade BL (borderline): minimal joints alteration
  • Grade 1: mild bone osteophytes
  • Grade 2: moderate bone osteophytes
  • Grade 3: severe bone osteophytes


It is very important to evaluate these results for all the genealogy of our puppy (mother, father, maternal and paternal grandparents and great – grandparents and so on).


At 12 months, the breeder’s dogs should be submitted also to echocardiographic examination with wave Doppler evaluation, that means heart echography.

The Golden Retriever, as other breeds, can be subjected to some congenital cardiac disease that are thought to be genetically transmitted from parents to offspring.

One of the most common heart conditions seen in Golden Retrievers is sub aortic stenosis (SAS), then mitral and tricuspid valve dysplasia.

Sub aortic stenosis is a disease not well known, but Golden Retriever is often affected by this disease. A California University study dated 1994 states that Golden Retriever has a risk to take this disease 5,5 times higher than other breeds.

Moreover, it has been demonstrated that this disease is transmitted by a dominant gene with an incomplete penetrance mechanism. This means that it is enough that only one of the parents has the disease to give birth to ill puppies and even if the parent has a mild pathology, the puppies could have the severe form of the same pathology.

The RCI suggests to submit at 1 year of age all the breeder’s dogs to a cardiac checkup executed by a vet specialized in cardiology and Doppler echocardiography and to reproduce only the subjects with genetic cardiopathic disease exemption.



When we have to choose a puppy, in addition to pedigree evaluation and echocardiographic certificate, we have to ask also for the certificate about eye genetic disease exemption.

While certificate for dysplasia and heart disease are stipulated at 12 months of age and are valid for the entire life of the dog, the eye certificate must be renewed every year and the date of the certificate must not be older then 12 months from the date of the “matching”.

Some eye’s genetic diseases are very severe and can lead to blindness but some others are less severe and can modify partially the eye functionality, causing in addition an esthetic damage.

Severe diseases:

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Genetic Cataract Congenital
  • Retinal Dysplasia (“local” or “total” form).

Moderate diseases:

  • ectropion (It is an outward turning of the eyelid margin)
  • entropion (It is an inward turning of the eyelid margin)
  • distichiasis (It is an eyelash that arises from an abnormal location on the eyelid or grows in an abnormal direction)

Here in Italy, it is possible to do genetic test in many labs to individuate the subjects effected by Progressive Retinal Atrophy. This tests tell us if the breeder’s dog is effected, bearer or immune.

The pathology is transmitted through a recessive gene. This means that bearer and immune subjects can be used for breeding, while the affected ones should be excluded.

  • For Laws the puppy, even if it seems unfair, is considered as an “object”. So, we suggest to check carefully the contract that you will sign with the seller, taking also a look to the clauses about “hidden defects” to be claimed to the dog breeder. The defects for which there is a direct responsibility of the seller, as laws tells us, are subjected to guarantee independently to any contract. We can consider “defects” viral disease not certificated at the purchase date and appeared few days later or one or two testicles missing. At this purpose, it should be good to receive at the purchase date a good health certificate signed by the veterinary that cooperates with the dog breeder.
  •  We are buying a purebred puppy and, to be defined as purebred, the puppy needs to have the Pedigree. The selling of dogs without Pedigree is forbidden by the laws. But please, pay attention! The Pedigree release is not a guarantee. It is the identity card of the dog that certifies its provenience and shows information about the 4 previous generations, including results of beauty/work expo and certificates of pathologies. So, the puppy we have in our hands is the results of all these information. An incomplete pedigree with no information in the comments fields and in the “Various Titles” fields should make us to think about it.


  • Behind a dog there is passion, selection, time and mainly work…all of this is included in a price to pay. But which is the proper price? A Golden Retriever is sold at an average price between 1.000 and 1.500 euro. Lower prices without proper documentation must alert us. You don’t have to look at saving money. You must look at professionality.


  • Breeding farm are not factories that give puppies to birth as an assembly chain. One exhausted female used for breeding at each heat is not a good signal. Looking at how many females are used in the same time can help us to think about dimension of the farm and attention that the dog breeder can reserve to each dog. Better a few puppies but healty!


These suggestions should make you think about that simply ask to a dog breeder is not enough. You need a GOOD dog breeder. This is the difference. Many profiteers, putting in your arms a lovely puppy – 3 months aged or even less, bet miserably on your predictable emotional reaction, without taking care of all other issues.

Please, try also to be rational in your choice. We never get bored repeating that the choice of a dog is an enormous responsibility and only with the knowledge we can defeat unscrupulousness dog breeders.

Thanks to the vets of the group Sofia Stillitano and Luca Romano. Without them the article cannot be properly completed and professional.