The Golden Retriever Puppy Checklist

Remembering that the essentials for any good Golden Retriever is good health, temperament, and looks?
For health, ask breeders about longevity and health of the potential pup’s ancestors. You don’t necessarily need to forget about a line with some problems as no line of dogs is ever perfect. A good breeder will have Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHIP hip dysplasia clearance, a heart clearance for subaortic stenosis, and a recent CERF eye clearance. No matter how much research you do into the background of any puppy, there is no guarantee that your dog will live a long and healthy life. But why not go with the odds and choose a dog from the healthiest background possible?
When you go to see a potential puppy, take a look. Are they being raised in sanitary conditions? Do they have their puppy vaccinations? Have they been checked or treated for internal parasites?

Avoid puppies that:


  • are excessively dirty or soiled with feces.
  • are covered with fleas or ticks.
  • are missing hair.
  • have crusted or reddened skin.
  • are coughing, sneezing, or vomiting.
  • have discharge from the eyes, ears, or nose.
  • are red or irritated around the anus.
  • have diarrhea. are thin or potbellied.
  • have pale gums.
  • are apathetic, lethargic, shy, or hostile.
  • are dehydrated. You can test for dehydration by picking up a fold of the skin and releasing it. The skin should pop back into place.



When looking at the temperament of a puppy, consider the basics of the Golden Retriever standard. The ideal Golden Retriever should be eager, alert, and self-confident. Many people tend to go for the extremes in temperament, but for most family pets you are better off choosing the pup that is neither the rowdiest nor the shyest in the litter. Many people who can’t decide let the puppy pick them. It’s hard to say no to a little cute pup that stumbles over to say hello and ends up falling asleep in your lap.

When evaluating the looks of a pup, again refer to the Golden Retriever standard. The ideal Golden Retriever is a powerful, athletic dog, neither clumsy nor lanky, with a soft, kindly expression and a golden coat of medium length. If you were buying a dog to show, your criteria would be more rigid, and in that case you should rely on the advice of the breeder.
Golden Retriever  puppies are like little army tanks. They waddle along on short, wide, moving legs with a much choppier movement than they would have as adults. Pups of this breed are born light and darken with age; a very light pup may turn into a good golden shade, whereas a very dark pup may be almost red as an adult. The ear color is often a clue as to what the adult color will be. Small white markings in young puppies may go away, but by seven weeks they should be almost gone if they are going to vanish.

The younger the dog, the more difficult it is to predict how it will look and move as an adult. This means that if you are looking for a Golden Retriever with a particular look, your best bet may be to buy an adult. 

By eight weeks of age, most Golden Retriever puppies should be curious about their surroundings. While they may show some caution, they should still be willing to investigate. Most puppies should also tend to follow you, especially if you call. A puppy that consistently ignores you may be too independent. It’s a good sign if the pup chases and even retrieves a rolled ball or tossed toy, but many Goldens develop the retrieving urge at a much later age. 

Please note: This article is part of a collection of dog-related content that we purchased the rights to. Opinions expressed may or may not agree with those espoused by Master Dog Trainer Adam G. Katz. When in doubt, please refer to the advice given in Adam’s dog training book.  This article is provided for your enjoyment, only. It’s relevance to real world working dog training may be limited.