Adopting a Golden Retriever: 2 Tables to Compare the Options

Adopting an Adult Golden Retriever

So you have decided on adopting a Golden Retriever, congratulations! You are ready for your new family member, but how you go about adopting a Golden Retriever, will depend on a few key decisions. Do you want a puppy or an adult? Do you want to rescue a golden from a shelter or purchase from a reputable breeder? This article will help you make the decisions needed to adopt a Golden Retriever that is best suited to your family.

Should I Adopt a Golden Retriever Puppy or an Adult Golden Retriever?

While Golden Retriever puppies are adorable and fun, they may not be the best option for your family. Here we break down the pros and cons of adopting a Golden Retriever puppy vs. an adult.

Adopting a Golden Retriever Puppy, Advantages and Challenges

Adopting a Golden Retriever Puppy

Puppies are cute and enchanting and if you have experience training dogs, adopting a golden as a baby will allow you to shape them into the perfect pet for your family. In addition, if you are adopting a Golden Retriever to use as a future hunting or retrieving dog, a puppy is likely to be your best choice. Although, don’t assume older goldens can’t learn the ropes too, after all that is what the breed was created for.

On the other hand, puppies need a tremendous amount of care and attention in order to become great adult dogs. Puppies are more unpredictable in regards to future size and personality than adult dogs. You can not always tell how big your puppy will grow to be. The personality they have as a puppy may not be predictive of what personality they will develop as an adult. This is especially true if you choose a golden mix puppy, as the other breed will play a part in size and behavior.

Golden Retriever puppies require a lot of exercise in a safe environment where they can not get into trouble (chewing, making messes, eating inappropriate items, having accidents in the house, etc.). In addition, puppies need to be trained so they know what behaviors are appropriate and where it is appropriate to go to the bathroom.

Keep in mind that puppies need to be let out several times a day for the first few months. The general rule is that puppies can not be expected to “hold it” for more than one more hour than they are months old. So for example, a brand new 2 month old puppy should go out, at minimum, every 3 hours during the day.

It is ideal to crate puppies at night. Remember puppies grow up and this is a much better alternative than having a 70 pound dog sleeping on your legs at night, or worse pushing you out of bed. Dogs instinctively like to rest in a “den” where they feel safe. They can learn to see the crate as that den, see our article on How to Crate Train a Golden Retriever Puppy.

In short, puppies are a lot of work, but so worth it if you are willing to put in the time and effort.

Adopting a Golden Retriever Adult, Advantages and Challenges

Adopting an Adult Golden Retriever

Adult dogs on the other hand, already have established personalities. This means that when you adopt an adult Golden Retriever, you will have a good idea of how they behave and if they will get along with your other pets and/or do well with children.

On the other hand, an adult golden may have behavioral concerns or health issues as the reason they were surrendered and these will need to be addressed. Keep in mind that dogs in shelters and rescues may not show their true personality right away (it can be a scary time for them).

Golden Retrievers older than 1 year have reached their full height (though they may gain bulk until 2 yrs) so you know where they are on the Golden Retriever size spectrum. Many adult dogs have already been housetrained, so for busy families or individuals they may be a better choice.

Comparison Chart: Adopting a Golden Retriever as an Adult or Puppy

Weather you choose to adopt an adult Golden Retriever or a Golden Retriever puppy, you can be sure that you will develop a special bond. In fact, training your Golden Retriever will only increase that bond. Goldens have open hearts, are remarkably resilient, and can overcome a less than perfect history. With time and care, either a puppy or an adult Golden Retriever can become your new best friend.

Puppy– Adorable but grow quickly
– Easily adaptable to your home
– No bad habits have formed
– Long life ahead with many years ahead
– easier to shape behavior
– More work: Puppy behaviors (play biting, house soiling, chewing) must be trained out, require socialization
– Energetic and rambunctious often lasting 2 years or so.
– May be less suited to homes with very young children
– Unpredictable personality, size and weight especially with Golden mix puppies
– If you have chosen to rescue, may be unknown mix
– Require more veterinary care (2-3 rounds of shots, spay or neuter, wellness exams, etc.)
Adult– Known size and weight
– Personality is already established and known
– Most adults are already house trained
– Great for first time dog parents
– May have bad behaviors that need to be retrained
– Older dogs may have special health concerns
– May have health or behavioral issues that caused the dog to be surrendered.
– Finding a purebred adult may be difficult
– If a Golden Mix, the other breed may be more easily guessed
– Senior dogs have fewer years left to share
Table comparing adoption of puppy vs. adult Golden Retrievers.

Adopting a Golden Retriever: Rescue vs. Breeder Comparison

We have detailed the advantages and disadvantages of adopting from a Golden Retriever rescue or shelter in the sections below. In this section we have added a comparison table to make your decision process easier.

Rescue / Shelter– Feel good about saving a life by giving an unwanted dog a great home
– Adult dogs are easier to find
– Lower adoption fees
– Staff can judge a dog’s personality
– Most dogs are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and microchipped
– Many private rescues will take the dog back if it is not a good fit
– Purebred dogs are more difficult to find
– Puppies are harder to find, most will be mixed
– Background maybe unknown
– Health issues and genetic potential are often unknown
– Some rescues and shelters have very difficult approval process prior to adoption
Breeder– Puppies are easy to find
– Possible to meet your puppies parents
– Breeder can help judge future personality and size
– Good breeders screen for health issues common in the breed (like hip dysplasia) and complete genetic testing.
– Reputable breeders are experts in the breed and can help match you to the right puppy
– rarely have adults available (but sometimes happens)
– The best breeders charge high adoption fees
– spay/neuter and shots are not typically included
– Backyard breeders may not know how to properly raise a puppy or screen for diseases, use caution.
Table comparing adoption of Golden Retrievers from Rescue Organizations vs. Golden Retriever Breeders.

Adopting a Golden Retriever from a Rescue

Adopting a Golden Retriever from a shelter or rescue organization can be very rewarding. According to, “The stigma that all shelter dogs are unpredictable and come with behavioral issues is simply not true”. There are so many older dogs out there, desperately in need of a home, that were surrendered for reasons that have nothing to do with the dog, but because of a change in the owner’s situation.

Rescue organizations take surrendered Golden Retrievers directly from owners, or pull Golden Retrievers out of shelters. Many take in both purebred goldens as well as mixed breed dogs that appear to be in large part Golden Retriever. They can help you in adopting a Golden Retriever, exist in most states, and can refer you to other resources. You can find a complete list by state in our resource: Golden Retriever Rescue Organizations.

While you many prefer adopting a purebred Golden Retriever puppy, they are very hard to find in a rescue or shelter situation. Although it does happen, most puppies placed for adoption in a shelter or rescue are likely to be Golden Retriever mixes rather than purebred Golden Retrievers. However, keep in mind that Golden Retriever mixed dogs can be wonderful pets.

Consider adopting a Golden Retriever with some age on him or her. Not everyone has the heart to adopt an older dog. They may have health problems, like dental disease or arthritis, that require veterinary care. However, many things are easily treated if you budget for the possibility. Although you will not get as many years with an older dog as you would with a younger adult, senior dogs are often much calmer than young adults. Not only will you help to save a life, but a senior dog can make an amazing companion.

Adopting from a Golden Retriever Breeder

First you should decide on a field or show golden when adopting a Golden Retriever puppy. Check out our article on Show Golden Retrievers vs. Field Golden Retrievers.

Good breeders take care to select only the best for future generations so you can be sure that the Golden Retriever you are adopting is the best possible. They do this by selecting dogs that perform well in either the show ring or in the field, as well as screening potential moms and dads (also called dams and sires) for genetic diseases.

When adopting your Golden Retriever, you should look for breeders that have dogs with titles indicating they have demonstrated excellence. There are different titles for hunting Golden Retrievers than titles for conformation (“show”) Golden Retrievers. A list of potential titles and what they mean is available on the American Kennel Club (AKC) website. Some exceptional breeders breed dogs that have both show and field titles, these are called “Dual Champions”.

The GRCA states that “Reputable breeders are expected to conduct screening examinations for these diseases on the parents of a litter, and to disclose the results to prospective puppy buyers.” Common diseases in Golden Retrievers that have available testing include: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, heart disease (sub-aortic stenosis) and eye disease (several types of genetic eye diseases). An organization called the OFA keeps a registry of the test results of each dog. So before adopting a Golden Retriever puppy, look for a breeder who screens for these diseases in their breeding dogs and posts every result.

A big advantage to adopting a Golden Retriever puppy (or the occasional adult dog) from a breeder is the ability to meet the parents and know the genetic and medical history of the dogs. This gives you a good idea of what your golden puppy will grow to look like and what their personality might be. In addition, reputable breeders are experts and can help match your family with the right puppy.

Although adopting a Golden Retriever adult from a breeder is rare, they do occasionally have adults available. This could be because the dog was not a good fit for the owner (but may be a great fit for you) or due to other reasons. One former client of mine pulled off adopting a Golden Retriever adult from a breeder. The dog was available because she had trouble getting pregnant. She was not listed as for sale but my client called several breeders asking for available adults and was able to purchase a great dog.

Conclusions on Adopting a Golden Retriever

No matter where you obtain your dog or at what age, adopting a Golden Retriever is an amazingly rewarding experience. For those that have never enjoyed the rewards of owning one of these caring and majestic dogs, I hope you find the experience to be incredibly rewarding.

Congratulations on your decision to be a dog parent to this amazing breed! They are golden not only in appearance but have hearts of gold as well. Good luck and best wishes on adopting a Golden Retriever that is just right for you.

Dr. Anne Traas

Anne Traas, DVM, MS, Diplomate ACT is a veterinarian and the new President of Golden Retriever Society. She is board certified (a specialist) in canine reproduction. In her day job, she is a leader in a small biotech where she and a team of veterinarians and scientists work to develop new medications for pets. She enjoys sharing her knowledge of this wonderful breed of dogs. She and her husband have 2 children, 3 dogs and one cat. They love camping and hiking and she can often be found with her head in a good book.

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