1. Who gives up a Golden Retriever or other “Golden-hearted” dog?

Many people are astounded to hear how many Golden Retrievers and other dogs are surrendered to rescue programs like DVGRR each year. “Why would someone give up a dog like this?” they wonder, knowing the breed’s reputation for being loving, affectionate, gentle, and happy.

Dogs 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 dog is “not enough time.” This is especially true for the younger, higher energy Goldens, Labrador Retrievers, Doodles, and dogs with “hearts of gold.”

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 breeds as family dogs, people sometimes do not realize that Golden Retrievers and dogs like them 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 eight-week-old fur face turns into a rowdy, untrained adolescent that 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 dog 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 dog. 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, Lab, or Golden-mix is turned into their shelter. Lastly, puppy mill breeder dogs are another source of incoming dogs.

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2. Is a DVGRR Dog Right for You?

Before you make the decision to adopt a DVGRR dog, learn as much as you can about the Golden Retriever (or similar) 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 Golden Retriever breed, as well as visit our Education page.

Here are three questions to review and think about before adopting a DVGRR dog:

Am I prepared to devote the necessary time to a dog?

The single most common reason dogs are surrendered to DVGRR is “not enough time.” Your dog, especially if still young, will need brisk walks on a leash, play-time with the family in a fenced yard (if required), 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, DVGRR dogs 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 dog will shed throughout the year, with substantial shedding (blowing coat in the case of a Golden Retriever), up to twice a year. Will you have time to brush your dog daily? Does anyone in 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 and similar dogs 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 DVGRR dog 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 and other DVGRR dogs 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 65-85 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 DVGRR dog 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, especially, 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 (strongly recommended for DVGRR adopters). If your rescued DVGRR dog 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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3. 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 DVGRR dog 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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4. What DVGRR dog best fits my lifestyle?

All 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 dogs in our program are boys, and if you’ve ever met a big ol’ 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 DVGRR dog you start to love.

Age is Just a Number

Once again, we strongly recommend staying open to various possibilities when it comes to age. Large breeds 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” dog, 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 dog will be! Many people see DVGRR dogs 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 (and DVGRR dogs with similar genetics) may be prone to such inappropriate behaviors as:

  • jumping
  • mouthing (i.e., grabbing onto clothes, arms, hands, etc.)
  • countersurfing
  • 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” DVGRR dog 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 dog aged 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 dog? 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 DVGRR dog 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 dog, 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!

Related Links

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5.Why should my adopted dog remain on a leash?

The number one reason is safety. At DVGRR, we are passionately committed to ensuring the lifelong safety of the dogs we place into adoptive homes. We have seen too many dogs hit by cars, and our Cody Medical 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 prefer that all dogs adopted from DVGRR be exercised on a leash or 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.

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.
  • If you choose to exercise your DVGRR dog off lead, please do so only after very carefully consideration of the risks involved and many hours spent teaching your dog a reliable recall. We strongly encourage you to work with a dog trainer to achieve goals and keep your dog safe.
Related links:

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6. Why does DVGRR prefer a fenced yard?

DVGRR dogs, especially the younger ones, are  typically high energy dogs and must have a safe outlet for all that spirit and enthusiasm! A fenced yard provides for secure exercise; however, a fenced yard does not exclude the need for human interaction during playtime. Exercise and security are both needed for a healthy, happy dog. A fence provides security, but you’ll also be needed to provide exercise stimulation during playtime. One without the other isn’t enough.

Visit us at Golden Gateway for a Meet & Greet Day to watch some DVGRR dogs 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 dog from becoming bored and restless; otherwise, he or she can turn into a very undesirable companion!

Walks are not enough!

Puppy and adolescent DVGRR dogs simply cannot get enough exercise through walks on a leash to burn off all the “crazies and zoomies” that characterize a young, active dog. Young dogs not only need to run and play off leash, they want to run freely. A fenced yard area gives your DVGRR dog the opportunity to safely get the proper exercise on a daily basis. Remember, it’s likely your adopted dog 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.

Review our eligibility requirements for further details on our fence policy.

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7. Are invisible fences accepted by DVGRR?

Many of the dogs that come into rescue are not good candidates for underground containment systems. This is because they may be stray (proven “runner”) or have high prey drive and will bolt through the system with little regarding to consequence (the “shock” as well as not being able to return without another shock). Underground fencing will not prevent any other animals from entering the area and thus may cause harm to the dog.

We know that many housing developments do not permit physical fencing. However, we may get a dog into the program that came from a home with successful use of an underground containment system or feel a dog may be a candidate for underground fencing.

We evaluate the suitability of underground fence on a case-by-case and dog-by-dog basis. We cannot estimate a time frame on the wait for a dog that will be suitable for underground fencing.

If and when a dog becomes available, the additional criteria must be met:

  • The system may not be self-installed.
  • The installation cannot abut a busy street.
  • The dog may not be left in the containment system unattended.
  • A home visit will be required.

Review our eligibility requirements for further details on our fence policy.

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8. What about families with kids?

We know many families want to have great memories of their kids growing up with a dog, like they did.

Dogs have changed since many of us were kids. Greed often causes indiscriminate breeding. Puppy mills that mass produce dogs do so for profit and not for betterment of the breed.

Some dogs that come into rescue may not, in our evaluation process, be suitable for families with young children. Please understand that we are not being judgmental of your skills or family dynamics if we advise you that a particular dog may not be a good match for your family.

We are committed to finding the right dog for your family, but this process may take time. Our dog population changes daily, and we never know the type of dog we are getting until he or she arrives on our doorstep.

If the wait becomes unbearable for your family and you choose to go elsewhere, please buy responsibly and avoid pet stores and Internet sites as these puppies have come from mass breeding facilities that have no regard for genetic integrity. See our So You Want a Golden Retriever Puppy on how to find a Golden puppy.

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9. Once approved, how will I be matched with a DVGRR dog?

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 & Greet 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  Golden 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 DVGRR dog; 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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10. 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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11. How much are the adoption fees?

As of November 1, 2015, our current adoption fees are:

Puppies up to 6 months   $940
Dogs 6 months to 5 years   $850 (one dog)
Dogs 6 months to 5 years   $1550 (two dogs)
Dogs 6 years to 8 years   $750
Dogs 9 years to 12 years   $590
Senior for Senior Program   $460 (includes annual wellness visit at BARK at a reduced cost)
Dogs 13 years and older / Special Needs   $275


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 see what the adoption fee covers, please click here.

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12. When are adoption appointments held?

We, like you, are eager to have our Golden Gateway guests in their new homes as soon as they are released for adoption by our Kennel Manager/Trainer. Adoptions are by appointment only and are generally made Mondays through Fridays (8am-4pm) and Saturdays (8am-noon). No Sunday hours.

If possible, we prefer that adoptions be made by Friday so that our adopters have a “full” weekend with their new family member.

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13. Will I have help after the dog comes home?

Absolutely. We are dedicated to ensuring that each adoption is successful and are just as anxious as our adopters to see a DVGRR dog 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 asked 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 dog! Membership is available to all DVGRR adopters and gives you boarding privileges, 10% Pap’s Place, a DVGRR full-color calendar and a year’s subscription to our award-winning newsletter Golden Opportunities.

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14. 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 dog 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 dog must ultimately return to DVGRR.

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15. What is the Seniors 4 Seniors program?

Seniors 4 Seniors is a program sponsored by DVGRR that matches senior DVGRR dogs (8 years and older) with senior adult adopters (65 years and older).  While adopting a senior dog is an invaluable experience for families and individuals of any age, the match between an older dog and an older adult carries some unique benefits. Learn more about this program.

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If you still have questions, email Zack Morgan, Director of Adoptions.