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In this section you will find All Things Golden, whether you are a first time golden owner or have had your Golden for years. This section provides informative tips about:

Be Special – Adopt a Golden with Special Needs

Their bodies may be imperfect, but their spirit remains intact.

The statement above is said about special needs Goldens. Although caring for one can be challenging, more and more people are opening their hearts and their homes and adopting them. For this reason, more and more Goldens who might otherwise be euthanized are being given a new ‘leash’ on life.

Experts stress the importance of not viewing special needs dogs as ‘handicapped’. Although they have certain limitations (including partial paralysis, three leggedness, blindness or deafness), they’re usually not ‘aware’ of their limitations and can be as active and affectionate as any other dog.

Adopters of special needs Goldens insist the rewards outweigh the work. Many use social media to share their experiences, to interact with owners like them, and to encourage others to adopt. They don’t see their medical or physical differences as shortcomings.

Those interested in adopting a special needs Golden should first fully inform themselves about their particular condition, limitations, and maintenance. This includes meeting with their vet to talk about a care plan and any extra time schedule that may be involved.

The quality of life for special needs Goldens has been greatly enhanced by the growing number of products available to their owners. There are pet diapers, no-slip boots, orthotic braces, prosthetics, front, back, combination, and amputee harnesses, ramps, pet steps, pet stairs, pet carts, and adjustable wheelchairs that can accommodate dogs weighing up to 180 pounds. And because partially paralyzed pets frequently get carpet burns when out of their chairs, there are washable, heavy-duty ‘drag bags’ to protect their back ends.

Sadly, dogs who are blind or deaf have been characterized as aggressive, unpredictable, untrainable, prone to other health issues, and even a shorter life span. Studies, however, have proven otherwise. They have shown that despite their obvious issues, these dogs are generally quite healthy and capable of living long, otherwise normal lives. And that, whether blind or deaf, they are no more aggressive, unpredictable or untrainable than sighted or hearing dogs. They just need more time for introductions to new smells, people, and animals. They need to feel safe with their people and their environment at all times.

Blind Goldens are trained through the use of both sound and scent cues. By relying on their highly developed sense of smell, their noses let them know where and what things are and when combined with their owners’ reassuring voice and touch helps them live as normally and comfortably as possible.

They quickly learn and map out their surroundings and, for added protection, have their own ‘go to’ place, created by putting their food and water bowls, doggy bed, kennel, and several favourite toys (squeaky toys or ones with bells inside are best) on a distinctive mat and never moved. A carpeted runner or large area rug provides them with a safe play area because the traction is good and the edges clearly discernible. Blind dogs also do well with different fragrance scents to identify stairs, food and water bowls, doors, and toy baskets.

Sharp edges on furniture can be padded with bubble-wrap or foam pipe insulation to help prevent injury. Any stairways should be baby-gated and a textured mat laid before each one to alert them to the gates’ proximity. And all outside activities, from pottying to playing, should be done either in a securely fenced yard or securely on leash.

Deaf or hard-of-hearing Goldens are trained through the use of sign language or hand signals with treats as reinforcement. Vibrations are also used, such as walking with a ‘heavy foot’ if their attention is elsewhere, and stomping close to their bed or near their head to waken them rather than touching and startling them. Lights can also be used as a teaching tool to get their attention, but of course, this works best at night.

Since they often bond instantly with their owners, placing their trust and safekeeping in their hands, deaf Goldens always look to them for guidance and follow where their owner leads. As with blind Goldens, all outside activities, from pottying to playing, should be done either in a securely fenced yard or securely on leash.

Because there is nothing inherently ‘wrong’ with them, deaf Goldens can do almost anything hearing Goldens do. Many of them excel at agility and obedience and can make excellent therapy dogs.

As the owners of special needs Goldens readily agree, their own lives have been irrevocably changed by the sweetness and determination of the dogs they adopted ~ by the smiles they elicit and the kisses they distribute. And most importantly, the inspiration these Goldens provide is truly remarkable…not only for them but for everyone around them.

Forever Home – Now What?

Be an informed adopter and make your new Golden’s entry into your world as pleasurable as possible.

If this is your first pet, establish yourself with a vet or register your new Golden with your established vet. Then apply for the appropriate licences, etc., required in your area.

Remember that your Golden’s true personality may not reveal itself for several weeks. Therefore, these first few weeks require an atmosphere of calm and patience, not anger or punishment.

Knowing your new Golden’s established schedules for meals, pottying, walking, and exercise beforehand are essential to maintaining his/her sense of continuity.

Once you arrive home, bring your new Golden to his/her designated pottying place. Spend time letting your new Golden get accustomed to this area and if he/she potties, reward him/her with praise and a treat.

Repeat this (whether your Golden potties or not) to reinforce it, but be prepared for accidents. Even a housebroken Golden will be nervous in, and curious about, new surroundings.

Your new Golden may also pant or pace excessively, suffer from stomach upsets or have no appetite at all due to the sudden changes in his/her life.

Give your new Golden the same food that he/she ate before. If you want to switch brands, wait a week. Begin by adding one part new food to three parts of the old for several days. Then add half new to half old for several more days, followed by one part old to three parts new until it’s all new food and the transition is complete.

After 30 minutes, remove the food whether it’s been eaten or not. Do not allow your new Golden to ‘graze’.

Learn the commands your new Golden already knows and use the same commands for consistency’s sake.

Walk your new Golden slowly through your home allowing him/her plenty of time to sniff around and become familiar with all of its sights and smells.

If needed, teach your new Golden proper house manners from the start ~ calmly and patiently. Reward good behaviour with praise and treats for positive reinforcement.

Introduce your new Golden to the other members of your household one by one. Unless you know that your Golden enjoys approaching new people, instruct everyone to sit, silent and still, on a couch or chair and ignore him/her. Allow your new Golden to approach them, sniffing, whether it takes several seconds or several minutes. Only when he/she is relaxed should they begin to pet him/her lightly and gently. Children in particular should be closely supervised to ensure that they follow these same guidelines.

Show your new Golden his/her place to sleep and place a few treats around the area as added incentives.

Give your new Golden some quiet, alone time to get used to his/her space while you remain in the room for reassurance.

For the first few days, remain calm and quiet around your new Golden, allowing him/her to settle in comfortably while you become familiar with his/her likes and dislikes, quirks, and habits. In other words, give them time to chill and settle in.

Begin the routine you want to establish (according to your own lifestyle) for your new Golden’s pottying, eating, walking, playing and alone times, and maintain it ~ calmly but firmly.

Initial resistance is to be expected, but remain firm ~ without impatience or anger ~ while your new Golden gradually becomes accustomed to his/her new schedule.

To make the process as pleasant and reassuring as possible, spend quality time with your new Golden, stroking him/her or brushing his/her coat, while talking gently and soothingly to strengthen the bond and trust between you.

If you want to change your new Golden’s name, begin by saying his/her new name and giving him/her an especially good treat or a belly rub. This will teach your new dog to love the sound and respond to it. Repeating this numerous times a day will speed up the process.

Limit your new Golden’s activities to your home, potty and exercise areas, keeping away from neighbours and other dogs, public places, and dog parks.

Invite a relative or friend over to meet your new Golden. Hand them treats and tell them to be calm and gentle in their approach unless your new Golden calmly approaches them first.

Gradually accustom your new Golden to being alone by leaving your home briefly then returning, repeating this several times over a period of a day or two and gradually increasing the alone time from a few minutes to a half hour to an hour. This way he/she won’t feel abandoned. When you leave and return, walk out/in calmly and don’t fuss over your Golden. You don’t want him/her thinking that coming and/or going is something unusual.

If your new Golden whines or cries, don’t cuddle or console him/her. It only reinforces this behaviour. Instead, give him/her attention and praise for good behaviour, such as resting quietly or chewing on a toy instead. And treats always work wonders.

Slowly begin introducing your new Golden to your neighbours and other dogs, closely monitoring his/her reactions, especially towards other dogs.

Bring your new Golden to the vet to introduce them to each other, to address any health or behavioural concerns, and to get a new rabies certificate. For any behavioural issues you can’t resolve on your own, ask your vet for the name of a professional trainer or behaviourist.

Remember that making your new Golden the newest member of your family is a process, and that consistency is the key.

Your reward? A loving and happy companion and the satisfaction of knowing that you have saved his/her life.

Keeping your Golden Heartworm Safe

A single bite from a single infected mosquito can cause an otherwise healthy Golden to develop heartworm disease and potentially die.

A heartworm is a parasitic worm (Dirofilaria immitis) that lives in the heart and pulmonary arteries of an affected dog. The worms travel through the bloodstream, damaging arteries and vital organs as they go, before arriving at the lungs and heart, approximately six months after the initial mosquito bite. Several hundred worms can live in a single dog from between five and seven years and if left untreated, can prove fatal.

The best protection against this insidious disease? Prevention. Prevention is both safe and effective, whereas treating the disease itself is complicated, costly, and can, like the disease, have serious, even fatal, effects on the stricken dog.

Preventives work by killing the heartworm larvae (microfilariae) before they can grow and mature into adult heartworms. Although a variety of preventives are now available for conscientious pet owners everywhere, the first step in the prevention process is a visit to the vet to have a heartworm test performed.

Vets recommend yearly testing for heartworm in dogs older than six months of age, usually in late spring. If your Golden is heartworm negative, inexpensive, chewable pills are available with your vet’s prescription. The pills, which are palatable to most dogs, must be given to your dog monthly, and are manufactured by several companies. These can also be given to dogs under six months of age without a blood test.

Besides pills, there’s a vet-administered injection called ProHeart 6 whose effectiveness lasts for six months. There are also specially designed, chemical preventive products that you apply directly onto your dog’s skin. Application of these topical preventives should begin June 1st and continue for six months. Some heartworm preventives contain additional ingredients that will control other parasites, such as roundworms or hookworms, while the topical preventives prescribed by your vet will protect your dog against fleas and ticks as well.

If you choose the vet-prescribed pill, you can opt to give it to your dog only during mosquito season (from spring through the first frost). Please remember, although your dog may not go outside, mosquitoes can still get inside.

In short, consult with your vet. Protect the Golden you love against these invasive, potentially fatal parasites, and during the spring, summer, and fall months you can rest assured your Golden is safe.

Tick Alert

Historically, the arrival of spring brought the arrival of an annoying and possibly fatal pest ~ the tick. However, ticks have become a year-round concern now, particularly in some areas.

Once considered a nuisance found only in the wooded countryside, ticks have been persistently and increasingly invading cities and towns. Now, ticks can be as close as your neighborhood park or your own backyard.

What, precisely, is a tick? A tick is a fairly common, external parasite that embeds itself in the skin of both animals and humans. Once it lands, it inserts its mouthparts into the skin and feeds on blood. And that single tick has the potential to pass on multiple diseases.

Four species of ticks reside in Canada ~ the Brown Dog Tick, the Western Black Legged Tick, the American Dog Tick, and the Lone Star Tick. The most common tick in Canada is the American Dog Tick and is considered to be a danger to dogs wherever woodlands exist. While all ticks are capable of carrying various diseases, it’s the Western Black Legged Tick that’s responsible for the transmission of Lyme disease, which both animals and humans can contract.

Prevention and early detection are the best ways of protecting your Golden against Lyme disease. The intent is to stop it before any symptoms appear. Should the disease progress, symptoms can include stiff, painful, and swollen joints, and a limp that comes and goes, often appearing to switch sides. Some Goldens have an arched back and a stiff walk. More serious, however, are fever, difficulty breathing and kidney failure. Heart and neurological problems are rarer.

To help protect your Golden, there are several preventatives available which stop ticks BEFORE they bite, killing, not only all of the major tick species, but acting as a flea treatment as well. Such preventatives are particularly important for high-risk animals such as hunting dogs, cottage dogs, and dogs hiking through fields. But it’s important to remember that dogs can pick up ticks in the city as well. To err on the side of caution, always consult your vet before purchasing a preventative on your own.

When bitten, the skin of some pets may become red and irritated around the site, while others may not even notice the parasite attached to them. It is imperative then, that you inspect your Golden thoroughly when returning from areas known for ticks.

Should you find a tick on your Golden, it must be removed very carefully to ensure that the mouthparts are fully removed. If left behind, they can abscess and cause infection. Kill the tick by placing it in a zip-lock bag and pouring rubbing alcohol over it. For the uncertain owner, special tick removal devices are available or you can have your vet remove the tick to be safe.

Veterinarians now advise that when your Golden is tested annually for heartworm disease, the same test should include screening for Lyme disease, ehrlichiosis, and anaplasmosis (bacterial infections). A positive test result enables you to start treating your pet early ~ before the onset of any symptoms.

Tick activity is temperature-driven, not seasonal. Any day it’s above freezing, ticks come out of hiding in search of a meal. Many vets are recommending tick prevention throughout the year. Please check with your vet to ensure your Golden is protected.

Never was the expression “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” more accurate than in the case of tick prevention.

The Joys of Adopting a Senior Golden

Legendary screen actress, Bette Davis, once said, “Old age ain’t no place for sissies.”

Never was this quip truer than it is today. Men and women are living longer, family members and friends move and/or pass away, getting out becomes increasingly difficult, and once-loved activities fall by the wayside. But there is one constant source of comfort and companionship that benefits seniors in countless ways ~ a dog!

Think Golden. Brightening the lives of those in their golden years. How fitting is that?

Studies have shown that dogs like Golden Retrievers can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, and increase both social interaction and physical activity in their senior owners. They also have an extraordinarily positive effect on the symptoms of depression and feelings of loneliness their owners all too often experience. They can even prompt better memory recall in their owners. How? By helping
their owners focus and concentrate on something other than their physical problems and their preoccupation with loss and/or aging.

Known for their calm, friendly, and easygoing demeanor, Goldens are blessed with a sweet and gentle temperament. Extremely affectionate, they love to cuddle and please…and nothing is more satisfying or soul warming than a mutual admiration society made for two! Infinitely intuitive, they can sense when their owners are troubled or need a sympathetic ‘ear’, soothing them simply by their reassuring presence and comfortable silence. And if the seniors adopting them are still fairly active, a daily walk will prove beneficial to them both.

Their keen intelligence, reliability, and muscular build make Goldens ideal assistance dogs for seniors living alone with conditions that require an extra pair of hands or, in this case, paws. Service dogs can retrieve items for them, pull wheelchairs, open doors, and turn lights on and off. They can also help their
owners get up if they fall down. Hearing dogs prove invaluable to seniors who are either deaf or partially deaf by alerting them to such important sounds as doorbells, smoke alarms, telephones, and so on. Seizure response dogs assist people with epilepsy or other seizure disorders, summoning help if necessary and bringing them food and/or medication.

While the advantages of seniors adopting a Golden are many, there are several issues that must be addressed beforehand. Whether healthy and mobile or frail and housebound, seniors and their caregivers (from family members to visiting aides) should consider the following:

  • Have they had a dog before? While it’s preferable that they be previous owners, provided they’re open to a new and rewarding experience and the commitment that comes with it, first time owners can still make superb owners.
  • What age of dog is best? Adults are more suitable than puppies with their rambunctious energy, their tendency to chew and nip, and above all, their need for training. Mature dogs (Goldens have an average life span of 10-12 years) have already been housetrained, well socialized with people, and know their basic commands. They also tend to be calmer, with more predictable patterns of behaviour.
  • Are finances a concern? Since owning a dog involves a significant, long- term financial commitment, a senior’s budget must be able to cover not only the dog’s every day expenses but any unforeseen emergencies as well.
  • Is there a backup plan in place for the dog? Should the senior have to go to the hospital, spend time in a short-term rehabilitation facility, move to a long-term care community or pass away, there must be written (not simply verbal) instructions for and arrangements made to ensure the Golden’s ongoing care and well-being.

As beneficial as mature dogs are for senior citizens, senior citizens are just as beneficial for mature dogs. Less desirable than their younger counterparts but equally deserving of permanent homes, mature dogs are all too often overlooked at shelters, humane societies, and rescue groups ~ and for all the wrong reasons.

Mature dogs seem to sense when they receive a second chance at the rest of their lives. And any senior savvy enough to adopt one will not only reap the rewards but will be the lucky recipient of a love as endearing as it is enduring.

Introducing your Golden to your other Pets

Imagine handing out treats and name tags at the front door of your home for your new Golden and your resident pets. Imagine happy and friendly woofs as they blend and bond instantly and forever.

Then blink twice and remember that you are living in the world of reality and not in an ideal parallel universe. But armed with a set of realistic expectations, your reality may ultimately be just as ideal.

Introducing your new Golden to the pets already in your home is a process. To succeed, you must start with a plan and a promise, to yourself, to be patient. The process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks (and in extreme cases, a few months).

To improve your chances of a happy blending of old and new, choose a dog as close as possible in temperament and activity level to the pets you already have. Dogs and cats are creatures of habit and usually dislike any disruptions in their daily lives and routines.

Allow your new dog to adjust to you and to their new surroundings by keeping them in a separate room with their bed, food, and water for several days. Eliminate all toys and treats, such as chew bones, to avoid any guarding squabbles. Spend as much quality, comforting time with your new arrival as possible.

Maintain your other pets’ regular routines, from feeding and pottying to exercising, playing, and together-time, to reassure them that nothing has changed and that they haven’t been replaced.

Ensure the dogs first greet each other in a controlled situation. Meet off site with new and existing dog(s) in a neutral location.

A first and important step is how you approach your existing dog with the new. All dogs should be on leash and have one person with your existing dog behind them and one person with the new dog behind them. The two humans walk towards each other with dogs behind them and greet each other, shake hands then crouch down and loosen off the leash behind you and greet each other’s dogs with an outstretched hand palm up. Then let the dogs sniff each other’s hind quarters. Dogs tails should be wagging but not excessively. What you’re doing is orchestrating a neutral meeting between the dogs with head-to-hind instead of head-to-head, which is less of a challenging posture. Body language is very important. This is how friendly dogs great each other in the wild and show each other that they’re
non-threatening. If there are any clashes in their personalities, you will know at that time.

Once the greeting is complete and successful, take a short, controlled walk together, on leash of course, and return to your home entering all together, the new dog following the existing dog. Make sure prior to this moment that you have set up individual areas for all dogs including the new one. And be sure that the new dog does not take a place that was previously one of the existing dogs. Keeping all dogs on leash, walk them all through the house from room to room introducing the new dog to the home. If you have any need to separate the dogs during the walk-through, the leashes will ensure you can quickly do so.

Next, drop the leashes and allow the dogs to roam freely together with your supervision. Avoid singling the new dog out with too much extra attention. Let the dogs get to know each other in this new space with you remaining calm and quiet so as to not create negative, excited energy that could translate to the dogs. When you’re confident, remove the leashes. At any sign of dominance, restrict that dog’s freedom by keeping it on the leash with you. Often dog aggression is manifested around toys and food so avoid too many treats and toys until you are confident they won’t argue about them. Also, avoid feeding the dogs together until you are confident everyone will behave. Always put the dog dishes down in the order that the dog’s entered your family. It’s important that your existing dogs feel that they are still just as important now as before the new dog arrived.

Once again, patience is key. This too is a process, which may take time until the blending is successful and your family is calmly and contentedly in harmony.

If, however, certain problems persist, speak to your vet or consult a recommended behaviourist.

Holiday Hoopla & Health Hazards

With the holidays fast approaching, it’s time to think not only about how to celebrate them but how to keep your Golden safe during them.

To ensure that the season stays merry and bright, plan ahead and start early. Change the appearance of your home from ‘everyday’ to ‘holiday’ over a week or two. This will allow your Golden ample time to grow comfortable with everything from new or additional furniture and tabletop arrangements to wall and window decorations. To encourage your Golden to view this as something positive, reinforce the sentiment by keeping him or her occupied with Kongs filled with pet-friendly peanut butter or puzzle toys, while you slowly transform the space around them. Maintain their normal feeding and walking schedules. Ensure that their ‘go to’ place for security remains the same, unless you know from past
experience that their doggy bed, crate or favourite blanket should be moved to a quiet room far from the festivities.

Whether you’re hosting a single event or several, follow the same routine to minimize your Golden’s potential uneasiness. Ask any unfamiliar guests and all of the children to calmly ignore them when they arrive. Monitor your Golden for any signs of anxiety or stress and lead them to their ‘go to’ place if necessary. On the other hand, if they appear relaxed and are eagerly going from guest to guest, let
them join in.

Be conscious of and careful about the greenery you bring into your home. The sap of the poinsettia plant is considered mildly toxic and can cause nausea or vomiting in your Golden. Holly is considered moderately toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, whereas mistletoe is severely toxic and can cause everything from gastrointestinal disorders to cardiovascular problems. Christmas
trees are considered mildly toxic. Their oils can irritate your Golden’s mouth and stomach, causing excessive drooling and/or vomiting, while their prickly needles are hazardous to their entire gastrointestinal tract. Wherever possible, keep all plants beyond your Golden’s reach and watch them carefully for signs of curiosity about, interest in or the impulse to either lick or chew. To err on the side of caution, buy artificial plants instead.

Consider next the breakable ornaments and dangling tinsel, shiny ribbons, ropes of small lights, and flickering candles. All eye-catching eye candy to curious canines ~ from noses and teeth to paws and tails.

Hang delicate ornaments higher on the tree and resist placing any in decorative bowls on low surfaces. Not only can your Golden choke on them but the sharp edges of any broken pieces can lacerate the mouth, throat, and intestines. Drape tinsel higher on the tree as well and keep ribbons on gifts underneath the tree to a minimum. If tinsel or ribbon are swallowed, they can twist and bunch inside the
intestines, causing serious, sometimes fatal damage if not caught quickly enough.

Artificial snow is toxic and should be avoided at all costs. Lights, large and small, solid and flickering are another danger, not only because they are hot and breakable, but because of the electrical cords holding them together. If bitten, they can cause electrical shock if not properly grounded, and if frayed, they can cause severe lacerations to your Golden’s tongue.

Place all lighted candles out of reach of your Golden to reduce the risk of singed fur, pads, paws, and tails. Candles can easily being tipped over with a tail, leaving burning wax everywhere or worse, starting a fire.

As appetizing as holiday fare is for people, it can prove agonizing, even lethal for pets. The most notorious offenders are:

  • Grapes: the precise substance which causes the toxicity in grapes is unknown (some dogs can eat grapes without incident, while others can eat one and become seriously ill)
  • Onions and Garlic: the sulfoxides and disulfides in both destroy red blood cells and can cause serious blood problems, including anemia
  • Ham: high in salt and fat, it can lead to stomach upsets and, over time, pancreatitis
  •  Macademia Nuts: within 12 hours of ingesting them, dogs can experience weakness, depression, tremors, vomiting, and hyperthermia (increased body temperature) lasting between 12 and 48 hours. If your Golden exhibits any of these symptoms, contact your vet immediately.
  • Bones: whether rib roasts or lamb chops, turkey, chicken or duck, they all have bones ~ thick ones and thin ones, brittle, fragmented, and splintered ones. Whatever the size, shape or texture, they all spell the same thing:

DANGER ~ from throat scratches to stomach perforations to bowel obstructions. To safeguard against these painful possibilities, all leftovers, particularly bones, should be carefully wrapped and promptly disposed of.

  • Fat trimmings: they cause upset stomachs, vomiting, and diarrhea
  • Alcohol: it’s common that holidays are celebrated with more alcohol than usual ~ in cooking and in drinks such as eggnog and fruit punch. For safety’s sake, keep these temptations (including partially eaten plates of food and half-empty glasses) out of reach of your Golden to avoid intoxication and alcohol poisoning
  • Chocolates: although chocolate has long been taboo for dogs, many chocolates are wrapped in foil for the holidays. Now, not only can your Golden get sick from eating the chocolate, the wrappers themselves can get stuck in their throat or cause problems as they work their way through their
    digestive tract.
  • Christmas pudding, cake, and mince pie: filled with potentially toxic raisins, currants, and sultanas, they are also made with fat and suet and laced with alcohol ~ from scotch and brandy to sugary liqueurs

And so, with some strategic planning beforehand, you and your precious Golden can be assured of spending the happiest and safest of holidays together.