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Hello!

We are a family of five + cat (6?) interested in getting a Golden Retriever puppy. Could anyone, please, help? We're still researching the details of where, when, how to do this right. Do you recommend any specific places (breeders, kennels?) to get the puppy from? To be respectful of your time here are the important things about us and present habits in short form:

  • LOCATION: Detached house in Markham, Ontario, backing onto a ravine/forest with trail. 50x50ft fenced and gated backyard (large deck, greenery and lawn, no pool). We often get squirrels, rabbits and raccoons as "visitors". Both immediate neighbours have dogs (I believe some sort of poodles) + 1 also has a (rather old) cat.

  • KIDS: 11th grade son, 9th grade daughter and 3rd grade son.

  • CAT: 4.5 years old bluepoint ragdoll that we were told by the vet to always keep indoors (never leaves the house).

  • SCHOOL: 3rd grader is away from home 8:40am - 3:40pm. High schoolers are away 7:40am - 3:40pm.

  • WORK: I take kids to school, then go to work, come back ~6pm. Wife works from home 80% of days. When she has to be away, it is 6:30am - 3:30pm.

  • AWAY TIME: School and work mean that when we all have to be away it is between 8:40pm and 3:40pm - 7 hours. We may be able to enlist some help from family and/or neighbours temporarily.

  • EXPERIENCE: My wife and I have some but insufficient experience owning family dogs.
WHAT WE (DON'T) "KNOW" OR PLAN

  • We learned that the dog should have a single master. The plan is for our daughter to fill that role.

  • We are planning for the puppy to become a "member of the family" and object of love, not a source of revenue or fame. As such we do not understand or know much about the reasons or benefits of dog shows or related activities.

  • We are leaning towards a male puppy but aren't 100% set yet.

  • We care about the puppy being healthy and having good chances of a quality life. As such we are careful/concerned about where we get the puppy from. We'd like a reputable source, but we know very little about the differences between "breeders", "kennels", etc. I/WE PLAN TO VISIT BEFORE WE DECIDE. We ARE familiar with CKC's (Canadian Kennel Club) "Finding a Reputable Breeder" web page but aren't sure where to start.

  • We plan on having the pet insurance.

  • We DON'T KNOW when is the possible/appropriate/best time of year to get this puppy. We are eager (esp. our daughter) but not "too eager to do it wrong". We also don't know what should be the age of the puppy when we get it, w.r.t. its needs, well-being and training (having in mind our inexperience). We don't know if we have to "reserve" and "wait in line" or how does this work at all.
We appreciate all the advice we can get, including behaviour, training, food and vets (we lost trust in the vets we used so far for our cat).

Thanks!
 

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If the Canadian Golden Retriever club is like the US one, they will have a list of breeders that are club members. If so, then that is a good place to start. Going to shows and checking out the dogs, and making a note of the breeders of the ones you like is a good idea. I want to say that the website my Canadian friends use for shows is called Canuk Dogs.

Goldens can have some pretty significant health issues, so you want a breeder who does the recommended testing. Show breeders tend to be the ones doing the most testing, I've found. And before you say "but I don't want a show dog!", there are pet puppies in every litter. The difference between a show prospect and a pet or performance puppy can be so subtle that the average person wouldn't even notice them.

I will say that I wouldn't want to try house training a puppy in a Canadian winter. Heck, I don't even want to do it in a Texas gulf coast winter, and we have rain, not snow. :)

As for the "having a single master", while there might be one primary caretaker and trainer, everyone in the family needs to work together to avoid confusion. Set ground rules, and make sure they are followed through on them.

Good breeders typically have a waiting list for their puppies, and sell pet puppies on non-breeding registration. They will also match you with the puppy they think will best suit your family, and provide a lifetime of support.

The best thing you can do is make contact with breeders, find one you click with, and whose dogs you like and get on their list.
 
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