How to Find a Good Breeder of English Golden Retrievers

Since our litters are always booked far in advance and since most people don't want to wait so long, I have in the past had a large number of people asking for my opinion on specific breeders and even specific litters. I enjoy talking to people, but because I need to better protect my time with my own dogs and family and because I do not want to judge another breeder, I am no longer willing to do this. Instead I have written this page to give some help so that people can figure out for themselves who the good and the bad breeders are.

There are many excellent breeders of imported Golden Retrievers with English or European lines. We know and recommend the breeders at Honor Therapy Dogs, Silk Spun Goldens, Tanglewood, Goldens Glenn, Nolichucky, Talini, as well as many others. However, there are at least two large puppy mills in the U.S. and several more that I suspect of being puppy mills. There are also a lot of breeders who do not do health testing and make no claims to, many others who say their dogs are health tested but are not, and still others who have tested their dogs but are exaggerating their results. Hopefully this page will be a help in recognizing these good breeders and weeding out some of the less desirable ones.

First, make sure that the breeder you are considering has done at a minimum tests for hips, elbows, heart, and eyes (yearly tests for the eyes). See our page on health which will take you to several other pages to learn about what kinds of tests should be done and what results to look for. The breeder should be willing to show you proof of the results of these tests or have them linked to their website or show you how to verify these results through OFA. There are quite a few breeders who will guarantee hips, elbows, heart, and eyes but this does not equate to having the parents tested. Their guarantee will be the same as many good breeders, but what good is a guarantee when you've fallen in love with your puppy and are facing a future of taking care of a puppy with genetic problems that could have possibly been prevented in the first place. No breeder can truly guarantee a perfect puppy, but a breeder who does health testing and then retires those that don't score well will give you the best chance of a healthy puppy.

Second, be careful of those who do not have proof of health testing. There are many breeders who are claiming to do health testing when they have not. If breeders use OFA, you can verify results on If dogs were either evaluated by Penn Hip, BVA, or FCI, you should ask to see proof of that if the test results aren't scanned into their site. Though a Penn Hip clearance is an acceptable clearance, Penn Hip will give a dog a number whether they have good hips or not. Having a Penn Hip number means nothing unless you know what the results show. Penn Hip suggests only breeding dogs who rate better than a 50%. Ask to see the results to verify that the hips are in the top 50%.

Third, make sure that the breeder is honest. If you discover that they are dishonest about one issue, there could be others. A fairly common exaggeration is with regard to health results. Some breeders claim to have dogs better than they are and take advantage of the public's ignorance with regard to how the European hip and elbow schemes compare to the American scheme. BVA and FCI scores are sometimes exagerrated with regard to how they compare to OFA. A BVA score must be a TOTAL of both hips of 4 or less to be equivalent to an OFA excellent. There are some breeders who are claiming that their dogs have excellent hips when only one hip is 4 or less. By the time the other hip score is added in, these dogs are almost always in the good range which is a total of both hips added together in the 5-10 range. There are also many breeders misrepresenting FCI hip scores and how they compare to OFA. (Often the same breeders exaggerate both.) An FCI score of A does not necessarily mean an excellent. It is a broader range and could be a good or an excellent. A B is either a fair or border line. A C is mildly displastic. A lot of breeders are claiming that an A is excellent, B is good, and C is fair. If a breeder has a comparison of their BVA or FCI scores on their site, you can verify how they really compare by looking at OFA's site and scrolling to a comparison chart at the bottom of this page:

Fourth, make sure that a breeder has their dogs identified with their registered names and that there is a way to make sure of which dog's health results are whose. There are breeders who only identify their dogs with Fido or whatever their call name is who are hiding things about their dogs. If the registered names of dogs aren't available for the public to see, I'd question if you are getting health results that really belong to the parents of the puppy you are getting. A registered name will also give you the ability to check out the health clearances of the dog's relatives.

Look at the pedigrees of any puppy you are considering and verify that the relatives have not come from either of the puppy mills in the U.S. You will know these puppy mills by the fact that they have large numbers of dogs and no verifiable health testing. I not only recommend that people stay away from these puppy mills but also that they stay away from breeders who have purchased dogs from them. Sadly there are many honest, well-meaning new breeders whose dogs came from one of these puppy mills with poor health backgrounds. These puppy mills, unlike most reputable breeders, will sell their puppies with full-registration to anyone. This is flooding the American market with poorly bred English Goldens with bad health.

I've written this little section to hopefully help people find a nice puppy from a good breeder without anyone contacting me directly for help. I don't want to be in a position of having to judge another breeder. Thank you for understanding.