Who gives up a Golden Retriever?
Many people are astounded to hear how many Golden Retrievers are surrendered to rescue programs like DVGRR each year. “Why would someone give up a Golden?” they wonder, knowing the breed’s reputation for being loving, affectionate, gentle, and happy.
Goldens enter our program for many reasons. Relinquishing owners tell us that they:
- Are moving
- Can no longer afford the care of the dog
- Are experiencing an upheaval due to divorce, death, or loss of employment
- Have found that someone in the family is allergic to the dog.
The number one reason we hear for surrendering a Golden is "not enough time". This is especially true for the younger, higher energy Goldens.
Phrases we hear over and over again are “too much dog,” “too much to handle,” “too jumpy, mouthy, energetic”, etc. Because of the popularity of the breed as a family dog, people sometimes do not realize that Golden Retrievers do not raise themselves. They need lots of exercise and socialization with other dogs and humans, however, most of all, they need a commitment of time to help them find a secure place in the family "pack”. Today's busy lifestyle sometimes leaves little room for that training and exercise, both of which are critical requirements for any well behaved companion animal.
So, when that sweet 8-week old fur face turns into a rowdy, untrained adolescent who steals toys and socks, jumps on guests, knocks over the children, sheds like crazy, grabs wrists or chews inappropriately, many families realize too late that this is not the breed for them after all, and turn to rescue for help.
We also get occasional strays or abuse cases, in which we have no background on the Golden. Additionally, we have developed numerous cooperative relationships with local SPCAs and humane societies where space is at a premium. In some cases, they will call us for assistance if a purebred Golden is turned into their shelter. Lastly, puppy mill breeder dogs are another source of incoming Golden Retrievers.
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Is a Golden Retriever Right for You?
Before you make the decision to adopt a Golden Retriever, learn as much as you can about the breed to be sure that your lifestyle, work schedule, personality, etc. are the right “fit” for this type of dog. In addition to the information on our site, we urge you to visit the Golden Retriever Club of America website where you can find helpful information regarding the breed, as well as visit our Education page.
Here are three questions to review and think about before adopting a Golden:
Am I prepared to devote the necessary time to a Golden Retriever?
The single most common reason Goldens are surrendered to rescue is “not enough time”. Your Golden, especially if still young, will need brisk walks on a leash, play-time with the family in a fenced yard, and training classes. If you work during the day, you’ll need to be sure you come home promptly after work to care for your dog, and/or arrange for a pet sitter to give the dog a potty break during the day. Additionally, Golden Retrievers are “family dogs” and you will not meet our adoption requirements if you plan to house your dog in a kennel daily, or if you plan to leave the dog alone for long periods of time on a regular basis.
Your Golden will shed throughout the year, with substantial shedding (blowing coat), up to twice a year. Will you have time to brush your Golden daily? Does your family have an allergy problem? Does your lifestyle require uncompromising housekeeping? If so, a non-shedding dog breed may be more suitable.
Lastly, Golden Retrievers are extremely intelligent, which is why they are often used as guide dogs and assistance dogs. This intelligence is certainly a positive factor in your companion, but it also means that you must take the time to take your Golden through a basic obedience class, train the dog to be a well mannered member of your family, and provide daily exercise and stimulation to keep your dog from getting bored.
Am I physically capable of caring for a large, often strong dog?
Goldens are sporting dogs that can be very exuberant and active. Many of those surrendered to rescue have been allowed to jump on people, pull on the leash, grab at clothing or arms with their mouths, or “counter surf” – steal food or other desirable objects from kitchen counters, tables, desks, etc. Will you be able to handle a 65-86 pound dog, even in all kinds of weather?
Can I afford the costs involved in caring for a dog?
Adopting a dog is not an inexpensive venture. Beyond the short-term costs of adoption fees and initial supplies, such as a leash, collar, food bowls, toys and brushes, you need to be able to afford the long-term costs, such as high-quality food, health/medical care, training, and regular grooming for the duration of the dog’s life.
Long-term costs can include:
- Quality dog food - Can range between $600-$700 a year. If your Golden develops allergies (very common in the breed), the cost of diagnostic and veterinary care will exceed any funds you saved by purchasing less expensive food. At Golden Gateway, we use Nutrisource Seafood Select.
- Preventive medications/exams - Annual exams, vaccinations, fecal checks, heartworm/Lyme testing, heartworm preventive medications add up each year too.
- Medical emergencies - Unexpected emergency vet bills can accumulate to thousands of dollars! Trust us, it happens more than you may think. Goldens are prone to such conditions as hip dysplasia, arthritis, cancer, ear infections, skin and allergy problems, and hypothyroidism.
- Training - Can range from $125-$300 for an average 6-8 week group class (required for DVGRR adopters). If your rescued Golden develops a challenging behavior or training problem, you may need to enlist the help of a private trainer or behaviorist, which may cost the same for just one session.
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Why adopt, rather than purchase a puppy?
Well, to start, there is no such thing as a perfect dog. A puppy comes with a big medical question mark, whereas a dog that is older than two years has most likely been identified with any obvious congenital medical conditions. An older dog also allows us to determine their temperament and activity level.
Raising a puppy is a huge undertaking that generally involves far more time, work and patience than the average family expects. An adult dog requires a very significant commitment as well, but many of the first year challenges, like housebreaking, initial medical care, and spaying/neutering are already done.
Most importantly, the number of young adult, mature, and senior dogs in need of new homes is staggering. A quick perusal of Pet finder will verify the number of shelters and rescue organizations seeking adopters for displaced dogs, whether purebred or mixed breed. Most of our prospective adopters tell us they have come to rescue because they want to give something back to the breed and help a Golden Retriever in need, and we are very grateful for their willingness to do so. Bringing a “second hand” dog into your home is not always smooth sailing from the beginning, but once you get past any rough edges the rewards are amazing!
Still have your heart set on a puppy? Make sure you do your homework and purchase only from a reputable, responsible breeder. Read our brochure on “So You Want a Golden Retriever Puppy?” carefully, and use the excellent checklist contained in the brochure to find the best source for your pup.
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What Golden best fits my lifestyle?
They may all be Golden Retrievers, but the dogs in our program vary immensely with regard to age, size, color and length of coat, activity level, and personality! At any one time, we typically have everything from young, rowdy adolescents to white-faced, laid back seniors available for adoption. What characteristics are right for you?
Our best advice is to keep yourself open to as many different options as possible. You might be surprised at the number of adopters who think they know what they want, but end up adopting a dog that is very different from their initial vision! For example, they may come to us only wanting a young, high energy, petite female, but then fall hard for an easy going, well-mannered, “middle-aged” male. Flexibility in your preferences is key!
Male or Female
We hear from many people that they only want a female or only want a male, and when we ask “why?” we get some interesting answers! Perhaps the most common is “I’ve always heard that females are sweeter and more affectionate than males.” Not so! Trust us, some of the most lovable Goldens in our program are boys, and if you’ve ever met a big ole teddy bear type you know what we mean. And while any dog can initially have a few potty accidents in a new environment, it’s a misconception that males will mark in the house.
Lots of families who already have a dog express concern about how two males or two females will get along together. In our experience, the key factors in successfully bringing a new dog into the household are personality and activity level, not male or female. Keep an open mind and you just might be surprised what Golden you start to love.
Age is Just a Number
Once again, we strongly recommend staying open to various possibilities when it comes to age. As a large breed of dog, Goldens typically remain “puppies” for several years, often up to age three or four. We occasionally get very young puppies that are under four months in our program, but it is not typical.
The majority of our adopters come to us wanting to adopt a “young” Golden Retriever, generally from six months to two years. In many cases, this is largely because they want to spend a long time with their dog and feel that the younger they start out, the more years they will have together.
They may not realize, however, just how challenging those first few years with a young Golden will be! Many people see Goldens as great family dogs. While this is true, don’t lose sight of the fact that the Golden Retriever was originally bred for standing by his master for hours on end, jumping into icy waters to retrieve ducks and doing this on and on all day long. Okay, so you and your family don’t go duck hunting, but all that energy has to go somewhere! Therefore, a young Golden may be prone to such inappropriate behaviors as:
- mouthing (i.e., grabbing onto clothes, arms, hands, etc.)
- chewing furniture or rugs
- digging in the garden
- playing “keep away” with dish towels, socks, or other household items
- many other fun (for the dog!) games
Be sure you, and everyone else in the family, have the patience, desire, and training skills to turn your young “diamond-in-the-rough” Golden into a well-mannered member of the family! It can certainly be done, but you will need to commit significant amounts of time and energy every day.
If you are inclined to relaxing after a rough day at work, eating dinner, watching some prime-time TV and curling up for an early evening, a Golden five and above may be a better choice for you. These more mature dogs still have plenty of energy and love going for walks or chasing tennis balls in the back yard, but then easily settle down and nap happily at your feet (or on the sofa!) for the rest of the evening.
To that end, did you ever consider a senior Golden? Our staff and volunteers often think of seniors as the “best kept secret” in rescue. Those of us who have adopted a beautiful, wonderful white-faced Golden know the joy that comes from sharing life with a treasured older dog. Sure, the time spent together may not be as long as with a younger dog, but the rewards are incredible. Your senior dog may be gentle and dignified, calm and motherly, or silly and spunky! He or she may surprise you with an amazing tenacity for life, sticking around as part of the family for far longer than expected.
There is a look of gratitude in the eyes of a senior adopted dog that can never be replicated, and you have to experience it yourself to truly understand. Over the years, we have talked to many people who were, at first, reluctant to adopt a senior Golden, but we’ve never talked to anyone who regretted adopting a senior. The older dogs in rescue need wonderful homes just as much as the high energy teenagers. If you take a chance and open your heart to “Old Gold,” you will be rewarded ten times over!
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Why does my adopted dog have to remain on a leash?
The number one reason is safety. At DVGRR, we are passionately committed to ensuring the lifelong safety of the Goldens we place into adoptive homes. We have seen too many dogs hit by cars, and our Cody Fund was even named for a dog that was hit by a train. We have seen dogs get lost or end up as strays, and we know how easily this happens without a leash or fenced yard. As a result, we require that all dogs adopted from DVGRR be on a leash at all times except in a securely fenced area.
No matter how well trained, NO dog can be considered 100% reliable off leash – especially, a rescue dog whose background is unknown. You do not want to find out the hard way, or worse, the tragic way, that your adopted dog is terrified of some unexpected loud noise or suddenly remembers how much fun it is to chase a herd of deer that are galloping by at top speed.
When people adopt from us, their signature on our contract indicates that they will abide by our leash policy, and that they understand if they do not, we have the right to reclaim the dog – an action we are of course reluctant to pursue, but will and have if warranted.
You can still have fun!
There are alternative ways to give your dog some freedom, while still keeping him safe.
- Use a retractable leash such as a Flexi™, which requires some practice to use safely and correctly but can give your dog plenty of room to trot or even run alongside you.
- Attach a 50’ long line to your dog and he can still go swimming in that lake or pond while you hold the other end to keep him from getting into trouble or swimming out of sight.
- Or, try a “bungee” type leash that you attach around your waist for “hands free” strolling or jogging with your dog.
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Why does DVGRR require a fenced yard?
Goldens, especially the younger ones, are high energy dogs and must have a safe outlet for all that spirit and enthusiasm!
Visit us at Golden Gateway for a Meet and Greet the Goldens Day to watch some Goldens play in Keaton and Kelly’s Korral or Shana’s Shelter, our two largest exercise areas. The joy they experience when running and frolicking with abandon, chasing tennis balls, or simply prancing around happily is amazing and heartwarming. That kind of joyful play and exercise is essential to keeping a Golden from becoming bored and restless, otherwise, he or she can turn into a very undesirable companion!
Walks are not enough!
Puppy and adolescent Goldens simply cannot get enough exercise through walks on a leash to burn off all the “crazies and zoomies” that characterize a young, active Golden. Young Goldens not only need to run and play off leash, they want to run freely. A fenced yard gives your Golden the opportunity to safely get the proper exercise on a daily basis. Remember, it’s likely your adopted Golden ended up being surrendered by his first family largely because he didn’t get enough exercise – to truly be his forever home, you must be sure that doesn’t happen again.
Can’t I just train my dog to stay in the yard without a fence?
Allowing a dog to run and play off leash in an unfenced yard, park, or other location may seem like an alternative to having a fenced yard but make no mistake – it is a potentially dangerous practice that can result in tragedy if your dog decides to bolt and you can’t get him back. NO dog can be trusted 100% off leash, and a rescue dog brings many unknown past experiences that can, and will affect his reliability off leash. Therefore, when you adopt from DVGRR, you agree to comply with our leash policy and only exercise your dog off leash in a safely fenced area.
Review our eligibility requirements for further details on our fence policy.
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Are invisible fences accepted by DVGRR?
DVGRR will not approve any type of invisible or hidden fence system for first-time DVGRR adopters. Previous DVGRR adopters with this type of containment unit may be grandfathered under the previous policy and be considered for another DVGRR Golden. DVGRR will take these situations under consideration on a case-by-case basis.
Our reason for this: It has become apparent to DVGRR that the majority of dogs that come through our program are not appropriate candidates for an Invisible Fence® or hidden fence system. (Again, previous DVGRR adopters with this type of containment may be grandfathered in under the old policy.)
Review our eligibility requirements for further details on our fence policy.
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Why can’t families with children under 6 adopt from DVGRR?
Children and dogs are perfect together, right? Well, not always. Golden Retrievers have a reputation as the quintessential kid-friendly canines, so it comes as a surprise and big disappointment for many families to learn that we require all children to be at least age 6. This policy, while not always a well-received one, is truly in place for the benefit of both our dogs and our adoptive families. We pride ourselves on both successful and safe adoptions.
The Golden Retriever breed is, sadly, not the same as it was 20 or 30 years ago. Over-breeding and under-socializing have created many dogs that no longer fit that wonderful “family dog” image. This is not to say that it isn’t a wonderful breed, because it most certainly is! However, we are seeing many more behavior and temperament issues now than we did in the past, and this has affected our placement policies accordingly.
The following factors may help you further understand our policy:
- Many dogs are surrendered to rescue because the dual challenges of raising young children and a dog proved too overwhelming for the family. As you can hopefully appreciate, we are therefore reluctant to place dogs back into situations where the same issue may reoccur, even with the best of intentions.
- Other dogs come in as strays, so we don’t know their background. Was he abandoned because he growled at a child who tried to take away his toy or chewbone? Was he an outside dog who was tormented by neighborhood kids? How will she react if a child steps on her tail or pulls her ears? Will she guard resources she deems precious, like toys, food, etc., putting tiny fingers or faces at risk?
- Even if the dog was surrendered by a family or individual, we cannot always be sure the former owners have been completely forthcoming with us about the dog’s prior behavior. Sure, they may have said the dog was “great with kids,” but how can we really know for certain? Do we, or you, want to find out the hard way that a few important details were left out?
- Even a dog that loves children can be incompatible with small ones due to their size. Large, strong dogs like Goldens can easily prove to be unwelcome family members when they start knocking over little kids or playing too roughly with them, simply out of over-exuberance – a common trait in adolescent Goldens!
- Children left unsupervised around any pet can quickly make a wrong choice when it comes to interacting with the pet. Kids often don’t understand the “signals” a dog may be sending to “back off”, and as a result, the situation can quickly escalate. Just as kids cannot be expected to understand a dog’s language, dogs are not “little people.” They are driven by instincts, and they have a different language.
- The safety of the dog can be inadvertently compromised by young children. Children have been known to leave doors open or unlatched, presenting an opportunity for the dog to escape, where it could be hit by a car, lost, or stolen. It is unrealistic to think that young children can understand the consequences of the dog getting out.
Thousands of animals are euthanized every year, often for doing something that comes very natural to them – protecting themselves. Our experience has shown that even with the most knowledgeable parents, the most dog-savvy children, and the most child-friendly dogs, we can never be certain that an incident will not occur. We do not want to put the safety of family members, or one of our rescue dogs, at risk for such a situation.
Information partially adapted from material originally published by Golden Retriever Rescue of Mid-Florida. We are grateful for their assistance.
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Once approved, how will I be matched with a DVGRR Golden?
Our adoption process ensures that dogs are matched appropriately, and is based on mutual decision-making between you and our Adoption Team.
Like so many key decisions in life, matching dogs with new families tends to be two-fold: part “science”, part “art.” The “science”, or objective, element involves looking at each dog’s specific needs and comparing them to the adopter’s lifestyle, work schedule, family structure, etc. The subjective, or “art”, element centers on the emotional connection made between the dog and human(s) first meeting. By “connection”, we are referring to that “intangible spark”, or proverbial “gut feeling” that may or may not always occur. Both the objective and subjective elements come into play when finding that perfect match!
Once individuals or families have gone through our application process and have been approved, they can potentially be matched with a dog in our program via several different avenues:
- Our Adoption Team contacting approved applicants we feel are the best potential match for a dog
- Approved applicants contacting us after noticing an available dog on our website
- Through our Meet and Greet the Goldens Days
Once a prospective match is identified, we’ll set up a time for everyone in the family to come to our Golden Gateway facility to meet and/or spend more time with the prospective adoptee. All family members and any dog(s) living in the household must come to Gateway to meet the dog. If everything goes well during the appointment and all parties mutually agree that this is a good match, the adoption will be finalized. In most cases, the adopted dog can go home that same day!
An important note about the matching process:
One of the key phrases to keep in mind is "mutual decision-making." Our adopters are sometimes very disappointed if the dog they hoped to adopt is not one that they are ultimately matched with. Our goal when we work with each family or individual is to find that dog or dogs that all parties agree is “the one,” and most of the time that happens smoothly.
In some cases, however, differences of opinion may arise that need discussion and resolution. Sometimes we suggest a dog that we think could be a good match but the adopter isn't comfortable for one reason or another. Or, the opposite – the adopter may have their heart set on a particular dog but from our knowledge of that dog's needs or our observation of the interaction we are not comfortable finalizing the adoption for that family. In all cases, we are always striving to maximize the chances for a successful adoption, which is the outcome that will bring happiness and joy to the dogs AND the humans
Disappointment is a very strong emotion and we know that it can be very hard to have your heart set on a particular dog and not have that match approved. Please know that if we decide against sending a specific dog home with you, it is not a reflection of your ability to love and care for a rescued Golden; it is simply our belief that the match is not the right one for that dog. We have a 100% commitment to every dog in our program and take our responsibility to the dogs very seriously…as does any other responsible rescue or shelter. We would never claim to be infallible or all-knowing, but our success rate is very high, largely because we work so hard to make both the "art" and "science" mesh together for a great match.
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How long will I need to wait?
Each adoption is different, causing the process to range from several months to less than a week. We understand how anxious our applicants are to adopt and we make every effort to keep our process as smooth and efficient as possible. At the same time, however, we believe that there is little to be gained by cutting corners and rushing through the matching and adoption process. Adopting a dog is a major lifetime commitment and should be undertaken carefully and thoughtfully. If you feel that you must have a dog immediately, adopting from DVGRR may not be the best option for you to pursue.
On average, the time frame from filling out an application to being approved by DVGRR is two to three weeks. Once approved, the average time frame to be matched with a dog is about four weeks. Again, this can vary significantly due to an assortment of factors, including:
- Home visit scheduling– our volunteers work hard to be flexible, but often work schedules on both ends require visits to be held on weekends or evenings
- Applicant readiness – some of our applicants aren’t quite ready (emotionally or logistically) to bring a new dog home, but want to be on our approved list for when the time is right. Others are just waiting for us to say the word and they will be at our doorstep in a heartbeat!
- Age, gender, and personality preferences – the biggest factor by far. If you restrict yourself to waiting for the dog that meets your ideal specifications, you will most likely need to be patient. Realistically, the “ideal” dogs do not come along all that frequently in rescue. Reducing your waiting period can be achieved if you are more willing to consider: a male or female; an age range that may be a little older or younger than you originally had planned; possibly a dog with some special TLC needs.
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How much are the adoption fees?
As of January 14, 2013 our current adoption fees are:
|Puppies up to 6 months ||$780 |
|Dogs 6 months to 7 years ||$580 (one dog) |
|Dogs 6 months to 7 years ||$995 (two dogs) |
|Dogs 8 years to 12 years ||$350 |
|Senior for Senior Program ||$250 |
|Dogs 13 years and older or Special Needs ||$100 |
We accept cash, checks, or credit card as payment (Visa or MasterCard only). Due to hefty merchant fees, when credit cards are used we collect an additional $20 in cash or by check. To avoid the merchant fee, please use cash or check. To read more about how our adoption fees are determined, please click here.
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Will I have help after the dog comes home?
Absolutely. We are dedicated to making sure that each adoption is successful, and are just as anxious as our adopters to see a DVGRR Golden become a beloved companion and family member.
We know from our many years of experience that it is not always smooth sailing right from the beginning! The dogs in our program have been through a lot of change, and while most amaze us with their resilience and adaptability, others find the transition to a new home and family very stressful. We are always available to offer guidance, suggestions, information or lend a willing ear. We have the benefit of having seen many of the early “bumps in the road” before, and know that with time, patience, and love, they can be overcome.
When you adopt from DVGRR, you will speak via telephone with our volunteer Follow-up Coordinator two times: 2 days and one week after the dog goes home. You are always welcome to contact us in between or after those times for any questions or problems. You will also be required to complete an online follow-up survey one-year post adoption. Most of our adopters send us updates and pictures on a regular basis, and we LOVE receiving them! When we know we have brought together a dog in need with a family that loves them beyond words, it makes it all worthwhile for our staff and volunteers.
We offer multiple opportunities throughout the year for our canine alumni and their families to come back and visit, from Basic Manners and Obedience classes to our Annual Reunion. We also encourage our adopters to become volunteers with us; many do, and are happy to give back to the organization that matched them with their newest Golden!
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What if I can’t keep the dog any longer?
Our commitment to every dog in our program exists for the lifetime of each dog. If at any time an adopter can no longer continue to care for the dog, we require, via our Adoption Contract, that the Golden be returned to DVGRR so that we can find an appropriate new home. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen. Life is not perfect and circumstances sometimes change unexpectedly. We will always try to help rectify a problem situation, even if the Golden must ultimately return to DVGRR.
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