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About Golden Retrievers

Golden Retrievers are wonderful dogs. They are fun to live with, they are great family dogs. They are good at hunting, obedience, agility, therapy work and tracking. They are happy doing nothing (as long as it is with you) or doing everything (as long as it is with you). They are NOT outdoor dogs; that is, this is not a dog to acquire if you primarily want a dog that will live outside in your yard. They were bred to be gentlemen's hunting companions, with the emphasis on companion.

They shed and need constant watchfulness as puppies. They are terrible watch dogs. They love to play in mud and rain, and are extremely exuberant. In our view, they are all that a dog should be.
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Standard Clearances

In general you should expect to see the following clearances on the parents of any puppy you consider: OFA ( clearances on hips, elbows, hearts and eyes. Hip clearances come in Excellent, Good and Fair. All three are fine for breeding. Hearts are either clear of murmurs and SAS (sub-aorticstenosis) or they are not. The Golden Retriever Club of America prefers clearances from a Board Certified Cardiologist rather than a Specialist or General Practitioner. But there are parts of the county where this is not always possible. An eye clearance for dogs that are being bred or used at stud must be from a Board Certified ophthalmologist and eye clearances must be repeated every year.

If your puppy is being sired by a dog who is dead and frozen semen is being used, you may well not have elbow clearances. This is a newer clearance that is recommended and many older dogs never had this done. The GRCA does not allow Grade 1 elbow dysplasia; in other countries this is acceptable.

Not only do you want to know about the parents, but also about the siblings of parents and grandparents. The only dog in a litter who does not have hip displasia is probably not as good a bet as one who has littermate that are also cleared.

A note on checking the OFA website for clearances. Always use the dog’s registration number rather than the name as some of these databases are a bit wonky.

Once you have your puppy there is much you can do to keep it healthy. Be sure and read the pages on vaccinations and early spay and neuter.
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Pigmentary Uveitis

Pigmentary Uveitis, while not new for Goldens, has now been classified as a condition that should not be bred. This progressive disease of the eye appears to be a hereditary, immune-mediated disorder. This disorder affects older dogs (the average age of onset is 8 years old) of both sexes and is usually a bilateral condition. While there is much we don't know, the condition can be treated with daily, affordable eye drops. Treatment not only alleviates any pain, it can save the eyesight.

In the past breeders may have stopped getting annual eye clearances when their dogs were taken out of the breeding pool. We can no longer do that; we need to be checking eyes every year while our dogs are alive. But even experts are disagreeing about this. I co-own a dog whose owner was told could not get a clearance because ‘he probably would get’ pigmentary uveitis one day. The owner took him to be examined by Dr. Wendy Townsend, who is the foremost authority on this issue and who is working with the Golden Retriever Club of America to try and determine if there is a gene we can identify that will help us. Dr. Townsend, in her studies, is actually doing ultra-sounds on the eyes. After checking the dog is question we were told he does not have pigmentary uveitis nor is extra pigment necessarily a pre-curser to pigmentary uveitis. So experts cannot even agree on this yet.

However, pet owners should be checking their dogs eyes annually or every two years, probably beginning at about age 4. This annual examination probably costs about $80 and your local Golden Retriever Club probably sponsors a low-cost clinic. An early diagnosis can not only make the disease treatable with a low-cost, daily steroid drop but any information about PU should be relayed to your breeder so they can share that information with others. Your breeder will probably send you a reminder on this.
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Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

A word about hip and elbow dysplasia and surgery. We have seen an epidemic of surgeries for these items. There are some wonderful things that can be done - but it is also a very major profit center for veterinarians. Some of the unnecessary surgeries are done because a surgeon is looking at a bad x-ray without questioning the positioning and quality of the film.

If you are told there is a problem, go to someone who is known for the quality of the x-rays they take. Most vet schools spend little time teaching how to take good x-rays; the variance in quality is shocking.

Then submit well-positioned film to OFA - hips and elbows, regardless of the dogs' age. For $50.00 you'll get a reading from three board certified radiologists who are not making money based on (a) more referrals from your vet or (b) the diagnosis. It is cheap insurance.

The next tab gets you to an article from the Institute of Canine Biology about Hip Dysplasia. This should be required reading as it talks about the factors other than genetics that can increase the likelihood of hip dysplasia.
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Risks of Early Spay and Neuter

Most of us are bombarded with messages about taking the socially correct actions and that includes early spay or neuter of our dogs. But we need to be aware that early spay or neuter can leave dogs with their long-term health impaired and in the case of Golden Retrievers, it significantly increases the likelihood they will die of hemangiosarcoma, one of the most common types of cancer in Goldens.

In Sweden spaying and neutering is against the law, under the animal cruelty ordinances. Sterilization is a very uncommon practice in Western Europe and yet there is no animal overpopulation problem in those countries. The reason is responsibility. Puppies are produced either because people breed dogs on purpose, whether or not they should be doing so. Or we get puppies from accidental breedings because owners were not knowledgeable or did not pay attention. Since you are reading this website we assume you are responsible and are trying to learn about how to best acquire and care for a Golden Retriever.

How Did We Get Here?

How did we get to this place where it is socially preferable to subject our dogs to invasive surgeries that leave them less healthy than just to be responsible for their behavior? There are a tremendous number of people who get their dogs from shelters and, unlike responsible hobby breeders, the shelters cannot screen who is allowed to take their dogs. We know that in California 47% of the dogs adopted from shelters end up back in the shelters. So in that case it is appropriate to help society, even as it hurts the long-term health of the dogs, by making sure all shelter animals are altered before they are adopted.

What Does The Science Say?

For a long time there was no research done on this. Dogs were altered, they lived, no one followed sets of altered and unaltered dogs until recently, when medicine for dogs became a profitable business. The only side-by-side study of effects of early spay or neuter was done by Canine Companions for Independence. CCI would like to alter their trainee puppies as soon as possible to make life easier for their puppy raisers. CCI found that animals altered early could not be used as service dogs because of behavior issues.

Nature gave animals endocrine glands for the same reason people have them. They play a large part in behavior and physical development, the rate at which bones develop, the size of the dog and how the dogs behave. It is only in the last ten years that veterinary medicine has been profitable enough to fund the studies that are not being done, most of which provide surprising data on early spay or neuter. People getting dogs from Sunbeam are provided many articles on this.

Many uninformed people and veterinarians would probably tell you that six months of age is the optimum time. But there is absolutely no research to support this. Your veterinarian probably attended a vet school before this research was available. And they may have attended a school supported by HSUS (Humane Society of the United States). HSUS* promotes early spay and neuter without regard for the health of the dogs but even they no longer promote mandatory spay and neuter. In fact, some of the growth plates on Golden Retrievers don’t close until about 18 months so early surgery will ensure your Golden will not look like my Goldens.

What About the Impact on Goldens Specifically?

If you are considering a Golden Retriever, we assume temperament and behavior matters to you. If you have not considered Golden Retriever rescue, they have some wonderful dogs. If you feel you need to know more about the breeding, health and temperament of a potential family pet, that may be why you are at this website. And if you are wanting a Golden that looks like the dogs on this website, let me assure you that a Golden Retriever puppy that is altered early will have longer legs, less bone, a narrow and longer muzzle, be a couple inches taller and not resemble its litter mates. It will NOT look like the dogs you are seeing here.


But let's start with the benefits of early spay or neuter and there are some. Bitches that are spayed prior to their first season will not develop mammary cancer and not get pyometra. Dogs that are neutered have no testicles and therefore no testicular cancer. These are all low-incidence events and usually easily treated surgically.



• Urinary incontinence.
• Increased barking and aggression toward people and dogs.
• The likelihood of getting hemangiosarcoma (a non-treatable cancer that is the most common cancer in Golden Retrievers) is increased by 5 times.
• Triples the risk of hypothyroidism.
• If done before one year increases the risk of osteosarcoma.
• Increases the risk of orthopedic disorders, possibly including hip dysplasia.
• Recurrent urinary tract infections.
• Increases the risks of adverse reactions to vaccines.
• Increases the risk of obesity by 1.6 - 2 times.


• Quadruples the small risk of prostate cancer.
• Increased barking and aggression toward people and dogs.
• The likelihood of getting hemangiosarcoma is increased by at least 1.4 times.
• Triples the risk of hypothyroidism.
• If done before one year increases the risk of osteosarcoma.
• Increases the risk of CCL injuries.
• Significantly increases the risk of orthopedic disorders, including hip dysplasia.
• Triples the risk of obesity.
• Increases the risks of adverse reactions to vaccines.
• Increases the risk of geriatric positive impairment.

For these reasons anyone who acquires a Golden Retriever from Sunbeam is contractually obligated to leave their dog intact until it is mature. We realize in most communities that means paying a license fee that is significantly higher. But you need to weigh that against treating a lifetime of avoidable health problems.

Please feel free to share this information with you veterinarian. We don’t oppose the spaying or neutering of dogs that are not part of a breeding program, at the appropriate time. We are opposed to early spay and neuter of Golden Retrievers whether voluntary or mandatory. And if you would like more articles, please email us at

* HSUS operates no shelters; in fact the HSUS President, Wayne Pacelle has said this about distinct breeds "One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding." He has also stated: "I don't have a hands-on fondness for animals…To this day I don't feel bonded to any non-human animal. I like them and I pet them and I'm kind to them, but there's no special bond between me and other animals".

We urge donations to your local animal shelter, not to HSUS.

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Although there has been a great deal of research done with regard to appropriate vaccinations in dogs in the past few years, many veterinarians still like to stick to the old ways. This research has been critical for Golden Retrievers because it seems it is easy to compromise their immune systems with programs of aggressive and unnecessary vaccinations.

One of the leaders in this area is Dr. Jean Dodds and we strongly suggest that anything more aggressive than her schedule is not in the dog's best interests.

Dogs that leave Sunbeam have had one vaccination at 8-9 weeks. They are only vaccinated against parvo and distemper. At this writing, here is Southern California, we are not seeing significant problems with lepto, adenovirus or parainfluenza or corona to make a 5-in-one or a 7-in-one type of vaccine appropriate. We understand there are people who leave their dogs in commercial boarding kennels when they travel and those boarding facilities require extensive and regular vaccinations. Typically those people are not getting Sunbeam puppies.

We recommend the following schedule:


After one year, other than legally required rabies vaccinations, Sunbeam puppy owners agree to do titres to determine an appropriate level of protection. This requires drawing blood which is then analyzed to determine the level of protection that already exists and whether additional vaccinations are necessary. It is not uncommon for dogs to need only one other vaccination for distemper and parvo their entire lives. Most research shows the protection lasting about seven years yet you will encounter veterinarians who want to do ‘annual’ vaccinations.

The most progressive veterinarians have a program in which, if the dog needs a vaccination after the titre is done, the vaccination is done at no charge. So they are not double charging you. Progressive veterinarians do this because they have no interest in having you destroy an animals health with annual vaccines.

Even if you have a veterinarian who charges for every procedure, doing it right will save you money in the long-term. And you will have a dog that is healthier and will live longer as well.