Golden & Labrador Retrievers

Parent Q&A

  • We have checked and are continuing to check rescue organizations but have so far not found a dog that we liked and that met our requirements, so we decided to look into breeders in parallel as well while continuing to check the rescue organization's websites and attending meets and greets.  Any recommendation for breeders of golden retriever, lab, or golden or lab mixes who breed medium sized dogs with good, chill temperament who will make for a good family pet in a family with very young kids.  And what is the average cost for a puppy from such a breeder for that type of dog?  We have started looking around and have been quoted anywhere from $600-3000 and it will be helpful to know what a reasonable amount is.  We were also advised that dogs of those type are sometimes bred/trained as guide dogs or other service animal type and that getting a dog from such breeder or a guide dog school drop out might be a good way to increase the odds of a well behaved and chill dog.  Any advice for those type of breeders or training places in the area?  We prefer in northern CA so we can visit the dog and see the parents, but will be ok with out of state and getting the dog shipped here if the breeder is recommended. Thanks. 

    I suggest that you consider adopting a labordoodle or a cockapoo. Check out It is located in Brentwood, east of Antioch. Malinda, the owner is a highly ethical breeder and has wonderful family dogs. I have a 12-year-old cockapoo that I got from her when he was 8 weeks old. Any of the dogs with poodle in their breeding shed very little or not at all, as is the case with my dog. They are generally very smart dogs and easy to train. They are gentle and are great with children. You may be able to find a dog with similar breeding from one of the rescue groups, however they usually get adopted very quickly. I wish you and your family good luck in finding the right dog for your family.

    Both Goldens and Labs are very popular which means that there are also a large number of unscrupulous breeders that are just in it for the money. 

    Here’s a great article that lays out some of the basics things to consider:

    I also encourage people to look at the websites for AKC parent clubs to understand required health testing:

    For example, Golden Retrievers should have had an OFA evaluation of hips and elbows and Have has a CERF or OFA eye exam to look for the possibility of hereditary cataracts.

    Both websites will also have listings for local clubs like the Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Club:  

    I have paid about $1,000 each for my past two dogs.

    That being said – I really encourage families with young children to take the time to reflect on is they have the time and attention to bring a dog into the family. Puppies, and sporting dog breeds in general, are a ton of work. For a family that is already feeling like their life is full, it can tip them over to feeling like they are drowning.    I have a young child and a young dog right now and despite over a decade of experience in training dogs, it's a difficult balancing act.

    No sporting or working breed, heck no puppy, is going to be chill. They have a ton of smarts and energy that will need to be focused into something good.  Many of my clients are well meaning families who overestimated the time and attention they would have for their dog. These dogs stay young, fit, and busy for most of their lives. So what I usually find is a bored dog who digs, barks, counter surfs, and destroys couches just to get some stimulus in their life.

    You may want to look into adopting a career change greyhound. They are really generally easy keepers and what you see is what you are going to get – the world’s fastest couch potato.

    This is not really about breeders, but wanted to share what I've learned about finding a puppy through a rescue organization.  We started volunteering as a foster family for puppies that were too young to be adopted.  Basically, you care for a litter of puppies in your home and often you get first pick when they are old enough to be adopted.  The SPCA breaks the litters up into groups of two or three so it is not as much work for the foster families.  Some other organizations may ask you to care for four or five at a time.  We have cared for four litters of puppies in our home over the years, and every time it was a really great experience.  The kids loved it, it was better for the dogs, and when we were finally ready to keep one forever, we picked the puppy that had the best temperament ever.  That puppy is now seven years old, and I can tell you that he is one of the best dogs I know.  Even if you don't find your dog this way, I highly recommend the experience.  

Archived Q&A and Reviews

July 2002

I think we have finally decided to buy a lab or golden retriever. So we are now looking for a reputable breeder who breeds for all the right reasons and not just to turn a fast profit. I would appreciate your recommendations both good bad about local breeders. Thanks for your help. Nilou

I wanted to respond to the person looking into either Labs or was this in Recommendations?? they are the greatest family dogs. I researched breeders for about a year before choosing one. Her name is Sally Kelley and she has been breeding labs for over 30 years. You can see her dogs at . She is all work, very to the point and brief but she breeds purely for tempermant. Translation-- she breeds them to withstand any amount of ''love'' your toddler can throw at them. The only thing I can warn you on is I wouldn't get ANY dog unless you are willing to be the main person in charge of feeding, walking, poop scooping, etc. Dogs are just like kids and require time and attention, which is alot to put on a 7 year old. Just my 2 cents! Hope it helps. Kinney

Try Pat and Jim Dunlavy of Hywind's Labrador retrievers at (209) 838-1164 in Escalon. We got our lab from them and thought they were great. They might also be able to recommend other breeders. N. California Lab or Golden rescue would also be a great way to go. Lisa

After six months of research and another few months of waiting for puppies to be born, I got my ''pet-quality'' chocolate lab from a breeder in Vancouver, WA, Chelons Labrador Retrievers. (It's harder to find a breeder of chocolates because, I'm told, the chocolates don't place well in dog shows.) Please be diligent; you can buy a dog with serious genetic problems that can be very debilitating to both the dog and your cash flow. My experience is that many of the best breeders in California have waiting lists for their dogs and do not advertise. I was strongly urged to avoid ''backyard breeders,'' who advertise in the newspaper. I did my research by attending local dog shows, talking to the breeders and meeting their dogs. I also met my dog's ''parents'' at a show before I bought him. If you are interested in the breeders I considered when I bought my dog, you can email me and I might be able to unearth the information. I must say, as much as I am completely in love with my dog, and as great as his breeders were/are, for ethical reasons I probably would not buy from a breeder in the future. The Golden Gate Labrador Retriever Club has an incredible Lab Rescue program with some beautiful dogs available. This, of course, would not work if you want to show your dog. Good luck!

There are a number of good local breeders you might want to contact to get connections. Masterson Kennels goldens have seemed pretty healthy to me. Martha Shaw raises nice labs. You might also consider contacting Guide Dogs for the Blind in San Rafael- not only do they have career change dogs, but Dr. Autumn Davidson one of vets raised retrievers and used to work in the Walnut Creek area, and probably knows a lot of good breeders in that area. anon

Please consider rescuing a lab instead of buying one! There are so many dogs who need loving homes. Check out Laurel

December 2001

We're comparing yellow labs to golden retrievers in making a decision about which dog would be right for our family. Our youngest child is 7 so is capable of this important responsibility. We know that goldens are wonderful family dogs but we were interested in learning if the same is true for yellow labs. Any information about personal experiences welcome. Thank you. Maggie Johnson

Regarding the question about dogs: we have two golden retrievers and they are absolutely great with our baby and all of our friends' kids. They will chase the ball for hours, don't get upset when the little ones scream, pull tails, or get in their faces, etc etc etc. I even put my baby on the floor and leave the room, so confident am I that the dogs will be fine. The only problem is that the dogs are so friendly they have frightened kids unfamiliar with dogs (a little too much bounce). We looked at Labradors when we went dog-shopping. Either breed is great with kids, probably about equal. Labs are a bit calmer than goldens. Still social, but not quite the frenetic energy. They also have LOTS less hair; we are vacuuming constantly with two goldens. I have noticed that my friend's lab seems to smell more doggy than my goldens. I think either one would be a great choice. By the way, there is no difference besides color between black, yellow, and chocolate labs. Catherine

After 20 years with German Shepherds, we got our first Labrador Retriever two years ago (ours is black, but they are genetically the same as the yellow ones -- just a color variation). We adopted him when he was 18 months old, from Guide Dogs for the Blind (he flunked). May of my friends also have labs (it seems to be the official dog of Orinda). Every one of the labs is a wonderful family dog: patient, great with kids, trainable, fun. I am a total lab devotee now. Go for it. Leslie

Responding the person about labs. I have had yellow labs all my life. For the past 13 years we have had a mother and daughter. (just lost the daughter to cancer in Sept). I can't say enough about their personality and disposition. I have a 14 month old daughter and she loves the dog. She lies on the dogs bed, rides her like a horse, pulls at her ears and always wants to look at her teeth. The dog just lies there and takes it. They are really sweet dogs. Carole

I had a yellow lab for 12 years and she was a great family dog. My kids could pull her tail, ears, etc., and she wouldn't do a thing. I highly recommend them. Gabrielle

I had the most wonderful sweet dear yellow lab for many years. She was very smart and very loving and all the best things I could imagine in a dog. I think either breed would be wonderful for a family. IAMIS

I have worked with Golden Retriever Rescue for a number of years and they are great dogs. However, I don't believe there is enough difference between the breeds to make Golden vs. Lab your primary decision. Each are known to be great with kids, but it always comes down to the individual dog. One big difference that you might think about is the amount of hair each breed will shed. Here are some recommendations to start you out.

If you get an adult dog, go to either Norcal Golden Retriever Rescue or Goldens in Cyberspace. It will take a while to find the right dog,but it is well worth the wait. If you get a dog who has not been personality tested, you could wind up with a dog that you can't live with and will have to return. This will, of course, only cause more heartache. You want to look for a dog on the lower end of the dominance scale, but not too low that it might be fear aggressive.

If you decide on a puppy, please know that it will be alot of work, but you can come out with a great dog if you put in the TIME and effort in the beginning. If you are thinking about a puppy, you should be able to put in a minimum o 1 hour of training time each day for at least the first 5 months. Also, large breed dogs need a minimum of 1-2 hours of exercise each day. This goes on for years. My 41/2 year olds go for 11/2 hours of off leash walks/runs every day. If you do decide on a puppy, please pick your breeder VERY carefully. Again, it is easy to end up with a dog that is too much for the family to comfortably handle.

O.k., off my soapbox now. I've just seen so many dogs get abandoned after a year by people that started out with good intentions.

If you have any more questions, please feel free to email me. I can give you some great referral emails and names and I promise not to get back on my high horse. Good luck Dawn

Congratulations on waiting till your child is 6 or over until you get a dog! That is ideal.

I have two labradors, yellow and black, and they are really great companions. They do vary greatly in temperament, though. My black girl is just a wild thing, and my yellow girl is a low-key cuddler. They are exactly the same age. The difference, IMO, is in the breeding (Max is from the Oakland shelter and Maddy, the quiet one, is from a local breeder). Please visit Am I Ready for Labrador Ownership? at for lots of info.

Oh, and as for the shedding: while a GR does have longer hair, don't think for a minute that a Lab sheds less. This does vary dog by dog, but my two Labradors shed enough that I need to Swiffer my floors daily. It's pretty significant.

I forget whether you wanted a puppy or not, but please consider getting a Lab from Labrador Rescue. The local organization is To be even- handed, the Golden Retriever rescue for this area is

Good luck with your choice. In my opinion, you can't go wrong with either breed. Jennie

The best advice concerning dogs is to talk to the people you are getting the animal from. Every dog is different. Labs are consistently a good family dog, but, just like people, not all of them are. It only takes a second to go over the line, which is long enough for a bite to occur when you're not looking. I think 7 is an old enough age for a child to know when enough is enough.

If you get a puppy or an adult from a shelter, be sure to get as much information from the officers there as possible. If you get it from a breeder, make sure they allow you to see where the animal was raised and ask for references from other buyers.

Most shelters have material for you to read concerning teaching your children how to behave around animals. Training your dog is important to make them a good addition to the family, but training your family will help ensure a safer environment for everyone involved, including the dog. Roberts, Marianne

I just wanted to correct a misconception that Labrador retrievers don't shed as much as other dogs. Although they are shorthaired dogs, Labs actually shed quite a bit-often more than their longhaired counterparts. That fine short fur comes off in your fingers and finds its way in every corner of the home. Labs are double-coated and so need a great deal of proper brushing to maintain their coats (and keep fur from flying everywhere in your home). I have a short-haired Lab mix who sheds much, much more than her longhaired Shetland sheepdog mix companion. Also, I would urge you to consider mixed-breed dogs. There are a lot of mixed-breed adults and puppies up for adoption at shelters. They are just as loving as purebred dogs, less expensive to purchase (most times you don't purchase them, just pay an adoption fee) and less likely to be wanted (e.g. more apt to go unwanted at a shelter). Unless you are planning to show or breed a dog, there's no reason to limit yourself to a pure breed. Gwynne and Mark