With an adult dog, you don’t have to guess about its coat type or adult size or its personality. An older or more mature Golden is often already housebroken and has some degree of basic house manners or training. Of course, puppies are great fun, but they’re also work, and you can eliminate those challenges if you bypass adolescence and go directly to adulthood.
If you worry that an older Golden will not bond or relate to you because you didn’t nurture him from infancy, forget it. An almost unfortunate fact about this breed is that they will love just about anyone who loves them back. As much as I hate to think about it, I know that my beloved Goldens would be just as happy with someone else who loved and cared for them the way I do. That’s just the nature of this sweet beast.
If you don’t think you’d enjoy the puppy stage, consider adopting an older Golden.
You can often find adult Goldens and older Golden puppies through breeders, Golden Retriever rescue services, or animal shelters, as discussed in the following sections. Having adopted a few senior Goldens myself, I can happily attest that they are the “lovingest” and sweetest dogs ever! Rescue Goldens at 10 or 11 years of age are understandably harder to place because of their limited life expectancy. However, they deserve a happy, loving home in which to enjoy their last few years.
BreedersOccasionally, a breeder will keep more than one puppy from a litter to evaluate his potential as a future show dog or field prospect. If and when the pup doesn’t fulfill her expectations, she places him in a pet home. These dogs are usually excellent companions, sometimes even fine competitors, for a novice Golden owner. If they have been well socialized and cared for, they will bond easily with a loving human being.
Once in a while, a breeder also gets a puppy or older Golden back from a previous litter for some unfortunate reason. (Some reasons are legitimate, like divorce or allergies, while some are inexcusable, such as he barked too much, jumped on the kids, got hair in the pool, don’t have time, and so on.) The breeder will evaluate the dog and you before placing him in second home to prevent another life change for the dog. If you work with a breeder, make your preferences known so that she can arrange a perfect match.
Rescue groupsGolden Retriever rescue services work with animal shelters, animal control agencies, and dog owners to assist in relocating and rehabilitating abandoned, abused, and confiscated (from puppy mills and brokers) Goldens into healthy, loving homes. Over 100 rescue services are affiliated with Golden Retriever clubs across the country. They rescue and rehome thousands of Goldens every year. (While local Golden clubs are supportive of these rescue groups, they do not set policy, and the rescues operate independently of the affiliate clubs. You can find names and locations of Golden rescue groups by visiting the GRCA website.)
The GRCA also awards a variety of titles that are GRCA titles, and not recognized by AKC and will not appear on an AKC pedigree. If the sire or dam has earned any GRCA title, the breeder may add him or her to her copy of the pedigree or inform the client of the dog’s achievements. Complete information on those titles can be found on the GRCA website.
The rescue process can range from very simple to extremely complicated, depending on the geographical area and the number of people and dogs involved in each rescue operation. Rescue volunteers provide health care and foster care, and do personality and temperament evaluations before each placement. They want permanent loving homes for these Golden victims, so they look for lifetime commitments from adoptive families.
If you work with a Golden rescue group to find an older puppy or adult (puppies come along infrequently), you can usually rely on their evaluation of the dog, their choice for you, and their help in the dog’s adjustment to his new environment. The last thing the rescue group wants is for this dog to be uprooted once again. Expect them to be firm and possibly intimidating to make sure that you’re the right person for this dog. They already know the dog. They don’t know you!
On a personal note: For years I worked independently with local agencies and area veterinarians as a Golden Retriever rescue committee of one. Now I act as an interim liaison between those sources and my Golden club’s official Golden rescue group, which is 200 miles away. In years past, I averaged two or three Golden strays a year from this rural community, and I am absolutely thrilled to tell you that every single Golden who came into my home from who-knows-where was an absolute peach who I would have kept in a heartbeat if I wasn’t already over-dogged. Each one went on to a good home with a family who swears this was the best dog they ever saw. I rest my case!
Animal sheltersMany animal shelters work with area breed rescue groups when a purebred dog arrives. If no Golden Retriever organization or dedicated volunteer is available to assist with the adoption, the dog goes into the general shelter population. Shelters in smaller communities of under 100,000 often work with a few reliable individuals who raise certain breeds and are willing to assist or act as an adoption agent on their own. The vast majority of shelters have the dog’s best interests at heart and do their best to screen and evaluate their animals to determine whether they are adoptable, and to ensure a good match with the adoptive person.
When you visit a shelter, bring a prepared checklist, just as if you were adopting a puppy. Don’t be shy. Ask lots of questions and spend time alone with a dog before you agree to take him home. Your best choice is that middle-of-the-road guy we always talk about. Not too timid or too pushy, and never aggressive in any way. Don’t cave in or feel sorry for a dog who isn’t right for you or who could present more problems than you’re prepared to handle. The awful truth is that you and I can’t save them all.There will be paperwork with each adoption agency, whether shelter or rescue organization, which is for the dog’s protection as well as yours. They will charge an adoption fee, which may include certain health services for the dog. Almost all require that every adopted Golden must be spayed or neutered.
If you adopt or purchase an adult Golden or older puppy, bring him home during a vacation period or at least over a weekend when you can spend 2 or 3 days helping him adjust to his new home. All dogs, regardless of age, need reassurance and attention to make them feel safe and comfortable in a new environment.
After a reasonable adjustment period, take your new Golden to obedience school. Like all Goldens, he’ll love doing something with his person, he’ll enjoy learning new things, and he’ll especially like knowing you’re in charge, which is the main benefit of the obedience experience.