Choosing A Retriever Puppy

When we are looking for a new retriever puppy, it can be a daunting task for anyone. We are adding someone to our family that could be around for 12 to 14 years, so we try to get the “right “ one.

Here are some guidelines that are important in making this important choice:

1. It is important to purchase a pup only from a reputable breeder. The breeder should be willing to answer your questions about their dogs, including questions about the health of the parents of a potential puppy, and should provide documentation that these dogs have been screened for some of the inheritable conditions that are prevalent in your chosen breed.  Breeders should be able to provide references for you to contact for more information that you may wish to have.  All puppies that are sold as purebred dogs must have Canadian Kennel Club (CKC)  or American Kennel Club (AKC) registration papers that will be provided to the new owner as per your contract.

2. It is important to determine why you want this addition to the family.  Is your new dog to be a family pet whose main goal in life is to romp with the kids, play fetch or go on walks.  Perhaps, in addition to being a good family member, you want a hunting dog and/or to be able to participate in CKC or AKC events such as Working Certificate Tests, Hunt Tests or Field Trials. Only puppies/dogs registered with the CKC or the AKC are eligible to participate in these events and in the Saskatoon Retriever Club training class.  Therefore, obtaining the appropriate registration papers is necessary for this participation.   The right dog and right breeder are there for you to find exactly what you need.

3. The pedigree of a puppy is very important in shaping it’s physical and mental makeup in later life. If you want a good retrieving dog, you will likely have more success if it comes from parents with lots of retrieving drive and very solid retrieving genes. Many people mistakenly believe that just because it’s a Labrador Retriever or Golden Retriever, it automatically is a dynamite retriever. Wrong!

4. Why are titles important? When a dog achieves a certain title, it demonstrates that this individual had the genetic potential to be successful at this level and will most likely pass these important genes on to their offspring. If you want a dog to compete in CKC Retrieving Trials, you will likely have more success if it comes from good retrieving stock.

5. And, just because a pup has good retrieving bloodlines, doesn’t necessarily make it a good family pet. Many dynamic retrievers are very high energy dogs which can create some social issues as a pet, they need lots of work and exercise to keep them happy.  You should plan on investing the time and energy to socialize any puppy you purchase and enroll them in obedience classes at a young age.  If you are interested in using your dog to retrieve or to compete in retriever events then it is also a good idea to enroll in a retriever class, such as the one offered by the Saskatoon Retriever Club each spring.

6. In any litter of puppies, there can be a difference in the personalities of individual members. Some are highly sociable and others are more laid back and sometimes they may even be fearful.

Some suggestions:

Once you have determined what your pup will be expected to do, it’s important to communicate with various reputable breeders to find out what litters are available or planned.  You can attend retriever events or training sessions and speak with the owners of dogs you meet there to get contact information for some breeders or you can visit the National Retriever Club of Canada website ( to find a listing of some breeders that specialize in breeding dogs that participate in retrieving events.

It is important to see first hand, if possible, what the parents of your potential puppy look like, act like and retrieve like. Size of dog matters to some people, so the parents are a good indication of this.

Once a litter is on the ground, it is important to assess the potential of individual pups. For a newbie, it’s sometimes daunting to decide and a reputable breeder will be a big help in selecting the right one for you.  Or you may ask an experienced handler/trainer to help you.