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How To Raise Golden Retriever Puppies: The Art of Home Raised Puppies

Updated: Jan 22

Golden Retriever Puppies at Our Home in Arkansas

Table of Contents

Our AKC Golden Retriever Girls The Sleepy Grove: Where Golden Dreams Are Born The Best Golden Retriever Food and Exercise How to Give Golden Retriever Puppies a Head Start on Life ENS - Early Neurological Stimulation Also Known As BioSensor Training ESI - Early Scent Introduction Also Known As The Avidog Method Preparing Golden Retriever Puppies For A Lifetime Of Experiences Socializing Golden Retriever Puppies To All Kinds of Sights Socializing Golden Retriever Puppies To All Kinds of Sounds Socializing Golden Retriever Puppies To All Kinds of Textures Crate Training Golden Retriever Puppies Leash Training Golden Retriever Puppies Preparing Golden Retriever Puppies For Their New Homes Hovan Slow Grow Plan The Best Veterinary Care Preparing Home for a New Golden Retriever Puppy What Do Puppies Usually Go Home With? Good Breeders Stand Behind All of Their Dogs

Home Raised Golden Retriever Puppies

What better place to raise a golden retriever puppy than in our home where the two people who care more about them than anyone in the world can be here for them 24/7? Of course we could never do it without their mommas and we will never forget that! They are spoiled and pampered every step of the way! They spend the vast majority of their days in our living room floor or on the furniture while we both work full time from home. They have 1-4 litters at the very most, and every litter we have is with the purpose of bettering the breed. If we don’t think we can improve the breed with another litter from a girl, we won’t breed her anymore. Most of our puppies end up going to great pet homes, but many go on to help people through service dog work, therapy dog work, AKC performance sports homes, and AKC show dog homes.

Golden Retriever Puppy laying on fallen leaves.
The Golden Retrievers blend in so well with the fall leaves.

Golden Retriever Lineage and Health Research

We truly believe golden retrievers are the perfect companions for most people, and we go well out of our way to make sure ours are the best of the best when it comes to human companionship. There’s a few things we do differently at Sleepy Grove when it comes to producing top quality golden retrievers. We pride ourselves on going the extra mile for just about every step. Before the puppies are even conceived, we have already spent many an hour making sure we are setting our litter up for success. This entails countless hours doing pedigree and health research to pick the absolute best genetics to introduce into our breeding program.

Our AKC Golden Retriever Girls

We have several girls we keep here in our home. They spend their days in a life of luxury as our pets most of the time. Sometimes they go with well respected AKC handlers or we take them ourselves to compete in AKC sports and AKC conformation shows. All of our girls have health insurance and we spare no expense, medically or otherwise.

2 Golden Retrievers standing attentatively in a beautiful grove in the evening sunlight
Our Golden Retriever Breeding Girls Journey on the left and Winnie on the right.

The Sleepy Grove: Where Golden Dreams Are Born

We are located on 7 acres in beautiful Northwest Arkansas. It’s a cool shady oasis under all the trees on the hot Arkansas summer days. In the Fall the trees shed all their yellow, red, and brown leaves allowing for the perfect view of the cool night sky full of stars. No matter the time of year you will see a small parade of golden retrievers roving around having the time of their lives seemingly every day.

The Sleepy Grove view from our back porch.

The Best Golden Retriever Food and Exercise

We feed our dogs Purina Pro Plan Sport most of the time. When one of our girls is going to have puppies we feed her specialized formulas made for different stages of the pregnancy. We believe schedules are important for the dogs as well as ourselves.

We take all the dogs out every morning for a walk first thing. The distances we walk vary based on the age and ability of all the dogs. An 8 week puppy shouldn’t walk farther than half a mile, while an 18 week old puppy is capable of up to 3 miles according to experts.

Fetching is a national sport as far as these dogs are concerned and it is great exercise. It’s important to know their limits though since oftentimes they don’t even know their own limits.

We have an electric bike so we can join in on the zoomies with them. If it’s cold out my preferred method of exercising them is using a fast remote control car around our yard from the warmth behind our big living room window. All with moderation, a few minutes at a time is better than overworking their joints. This also keeps it new and exciting all the time, always leave them wanting more!

Their favorite exercise by far is going to the pool / creek / river / lake which we make sure to do at least twice a month every summer. We rent a dock or a pool just about every week through the summer so our dogs can practice their AKC dock diving and get some swimming exercise in.

How to Give Golden Retriever Puppies a Head Start on Life

Once the puppies are born we give them a few days to rest, recuperate, and begin to thrive. For the first 9-10 days puppies are blind and don’t develop hearing until around 2 weeks old. We can still provide positive human interaction through touch and smell during this time.

Starting at 3 days old we handle them 2-4 times every day individually to lovingly stroke and caress them carefully. We weigh them every day and log it to make sure they are all getting plenty of milk from their mother. We keep track of who is who by assigning each a color and keeping them marked with non-toxic, permanent marker pens of different colors.

We also introduce ENS and ESI during this time. At first it may appear this early period of limited vision and hearing is down time but we take a more proactive approach during this critical stage of development while allowing for plenty of rest and time to eat and snuggle with their momma.

We feed them every few hours even through the night, so we’ve found it easier to adjust our schedules during this time so someone is up with them at all hours. Luckily our flexible schedules allow for this.

ENS - Early Neurological Stimulation Also Known As BioSensor Training

From 3-16 days we do ENS. Early Neurological Stimulation has been used for decades because it has all sorts of benefits throughout the entire lifetime of the dog. It works by activating the neurological system earlier than would normally happen. We do this by holding each puppy once a day in several positions and introducing new types of tactile stimulation. The entire process takes less than a minute for each puppy, but can have a lifetime of benefits. This simple daily task for only a couple of weeks early on has been shown to give dogs a stronger heart, more tolerance to stress, and even greater resistance to disease for the lifetime of the dog. AKC has a whole post about it if you're interested in more details.

ESI - Early Scent Introduction Also Known As The Avidog Method

From 3-16 days we also do ESI. Early Scent Introduction is also thought to be neurologically stimulating for very young puppies. We introduce an interesting new smell every day. We use essential oils, sheep wool, tree bark, pine cones, fruits, herbs, our cat, bird wings, tennis balls, etc. We hold it a half inch from their nose and allow them to move away or closer and note which scents they move toward or away from.

Preparing Golden Retriever Puppies For A Lifetime Of Experiences

Ideally we would have every puppy have some experience with everything they may encounter in their entire lifetimes, all in the first 12 weeks of their lives. This is known as the critical socialization period of development where they will learn more during that short space of time than at any other time in their life. We take full advantage of this as it can be a very powerful tool for developing well adjusted adult dogs. We use all of the same methods from the instructional series Puppy Culture by Jane Messineo Lindquist on plus many more.

Teaching Golden Retriever Puppies not Chew on Cables

Golden Retrievers are a very mouthy breed. This comes in handy for their retrieving jobs, but sometimes inside the home it can be a downside. One particularly dangerous habit is chewing on cables. If the appliance is powered then the cable is live and could actually hurt your dog quite badly or even cause death. We do what we can while they are young puppies in our care to steer them away from this behavior in a few different ways:

- Boring Old Bait Cable

We have a couple of old power cables we have recycled to use as training tools. We will put them in the puppy area almost every time we get in with them when they start to chew on things a lot. We do it almost every time so that they are more likely to be bored by it and it's not some new thing when they're older that they'd be interested in.

- Supervision and Redirection

While we are in the play area interacting with the puppies, we watch the way they interact with the cable closely. Sniffing and pawing is fine, but as soon as they open their mouth toward it we will immediately redirect their attention with a quick "Hey! Leave it.", and then redirect them to something that was intended for them to be chewing on.

- Bitter Apple Spray

We use a bitter apple spray all over it so even if they do get their teeth on it, it won't be a habit they are likely to keep trying.

Socializing Golden Retriever Puppies To All Kinds of Sights

At around two weeks when the puppies' eyes open we move their whelping box from being tucked out of the way to being right out safely in the open so they can see and hear us and all the hustle and bustle going on day to day. We put an HD screen down on their level and play videos for them so they can see all sorts of things. Birds and scurrying critters seem to hold their attention the best. Once everyone is ready we have an enclosed soft wagon we take them out in for controlled mobile adventures. They have a great view and get to experience brand new things every time we take them. They get valuable experience with cars early and we start with very short trips to build up to longer rides. We’re lucky to have XNA airport close by to socialize them to that unique environment, since some of them will take a plane ride to their new homes. We went so far as to buy a wheelchair just so they could get experience around them since some of our our puppies go on to become service dogs.

Socializing Golden Retriever Puppies To All Kinds of Sounds

Once the puppies are capable of hearing at around three weeks old, we set them up with a bluetooth speaker kept at a low volume and gradually increasing safely. At first we play calm environmental sounds like waves on a beach or a birds chirping. Once they become used to a wider variety of sounds at a louder volume we will introduce them to sounds that they may have in their everyday lives that will make adjusting easier for them. We love the Spook Less set of CD’s. They’re made for police horses, but it works great for dogs too! They have a different CD for a variety of environments. Our favorite is the Mounted Police Horse Patrol Edition meant to socialize them for urban environments by playing sounds like heavy construction, parades, city buses, children playing, and even riots! We love to use high quality audio for fireworks, thunderstorms, babies crying, horns honking, dogs barking, etc. and play it multiple times per week. We’ve noticed and been told by people who buy golden retriever puppies from us that they are very tolerant of all sorts of things that really weird their other dogs out. None of the puppies we have produced have been reported to be fearful of firework sounds outside, storms, or really anything else for that matter. We attribute it to taking advantage of this powerful early period of development.

Socializing Golden Retriever Puppies To All Kinds of Textures

Throughout the puppies' time here at Sleepy Grove, they’re introduced to all sorts of textures and surfaces. Once they’re older, we introduce more complex things like a swing, wobble bowl, ball pit, pools (when weather allows), tunnels, baby slide, and wobble boards when they’re big enough to get on them and they love to wrestle on the unstable surfaces they provide.

We make sure to introduce a veterinarian style table early and often; grooming tables, hard crate liners, soft liners, beds, gravel, grass, turf, rubber mats, metal grates are all introduced and reinforced positively. I love taking them at an early age to a little creek on private property nearby. There’s so many textures and obstacles that are only found in natural environments like this.

How to Train Your Dog on Cones, Harnesses, Costumes and More

We start the puppies out pretty early on with wearing things. This is actually important for their health in the long run. Our first boy Miles will do everything in his power to take off a cone, and of course he will do exactly whatever the cone was meant to prevent directly after.

We learned from him and we introduce the cone as early as we can for all of our dogs, and pet puppies. Harnesses are also important tools for us when we transport them, it's easy to buckle them in by their harnesses, which they're also introduced to early on.

If you get a puppy from us, make sure you continue to introduce these things regularly! Since they've seen it before it's easier to reinforce these things, but if you don't they can forget their training and lose their patience with these inconvenient things on them.

Crate Training Golden Retriever Puppies

Crate training puppies is probably the single greatest tool that ensures success in a new pet home. That's why we are working with each and every puppy to positively introduce it as early as we can without ever overwhelming the pups. As soon as their eyes are opened we put a couple small crates in their area nicely padded and comfortable for them. When they aren’t snuggling with their mom they can often be found in these crates cuddling together or strewn about.

When we wean them from their mother onto soft food, they get very excited when it’s feeding time. We use this excitement to further instill how great the crates are.

We start them with their food in open crates, eventually we will shut them for short periods, but never without adequate distraction. As we very gradually increase time in the crates, we provide chew toys, meaty bones, licky mats, enrichment puzzle feeders, or stuffed Kongs. If they aren’t interested, we immediately take them out before they can even begin complaining.

We learn to predict when they’re ready to sleep, after a walk or play session for example, then we try them in the crate. If they’re able to settle we let them sleep in there and keep them in view until we see them wake up again and we take them out.

Most puppies have no problems sleeping in the crate at night by the time they go home at around 10 weeks! The last thing we want is an accident in the crate though, so for these dogs staying in a crate at night to prepare for their new home, we take them out 2-3 times in the middle of the night and recommend all of our puppy homes start with doing the same until their bladders can grow and hold it through the night.

Leash Training Golden Retriever Puppies

We introduce the puppies to leashes early on just by having them around for them to smell and experience regularly, but by week 7 we start actual leash training. As with everything we do, we start with very short sessions. Keeping something new and fun when you’re introducing it is so important. Their attention spans are very short at this age, so we are not afraid to have them on the leash for even only 15 seconds at a time in the beginning. By 8 weeks they’re able to walk under half a mile three or four days a week according to Rhonda Hovan.

Preparing Golden Retriever Puppies For Their New Homes

By the time puppies go home at around 10 weeks old, they’ve been living a very full life in an attempt to prepare them for all the things they may encounter in the home as well as outside of it. They’ve all been sat down and learned the patience to deal with all sorts of things through lots of positive experiences. We do this by clipping nails basically weekly, grinding on nails later on, weekly brushing, and blow drying gently with a loud groomer style blower. We simulate vet and groomer visits weekly, trust us, your groomer will thank you later! We vacuum around their area while they are there, by the time they leave they’re more likely to jump on the vacuum cleaner trying to play than run from it!

Hovan Slow Grow Plan

Rhonda Hovan is an award winning health and genetics writer, Research Facilitator for the Golden Retriever Club of America, and is an Emeritus Director of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals. We believe strongly in her Slow Grow Plan. It’s basically a way to slow their early growth rate. Fast growth and dogs being overweight has been shown to increase rates and severity of soft tissue injury, orthopedic disease such as hip and elbow dysplasia, and panosteitis. Overweight dogs also don’t seem to live as long overall. All of these things make a lot of sense from the studies we have read on it, and most of it seems to also be the case in humans as well. We encourage everyone to read and follow Ms. Hovan’s Slow Grow Plan to allow for the healthiest and happiest dogs possible.

The Best Veterinary Care

We’ve been to a dozen veterinary clinics and animal hospitals in our and surrounding areas. We’re very lucky to have found some of the best general care we’ve ever seen right here in our backyard. We’re of course on a first name basis with them at this point. The whole clinic staff love to see our dogs come in because our dogs are so well behaved and just soak up any love and attention the staff have time to give. It probably helps that we bring cookies and donuts occasionally too! We truly believe veterinary work is among the most difficult career paths out there so we really value our vets. For reproduction we go to a reproductive specialist. By the time they go home, they’ve already had their first round of vaccinations and heartworm prevention. They also go home with recent veterinary certification and vaccination records.

Preparing Home for a New Golden Retriever Puppy

All this work preparing the puppies for their new home is only half the battle. You and your home should be just as prepared for the new puppy! Puppies are a huge undertaking, especially for people not used to them. They will get into any little thing they can, chew it up, make messes, etc. all while your back was turned just for a minute! We include a guide to help continue the puppies' learning once they are in their new home, including a very straightforward guide to potty training puppies, crate training, bite inhibition, and more. We are working on a calendar to set puppy buyers up with a place to check daily for tips and suggestions on things like training, diet, vet visits, and it will be updated as we learn and evolve.

What Do Puppies Usually Go Home With?

We include some of the food they’ve been on (Purina Pro Plan Sport Large Breed Puppy 30/18). They come already microchipped and we pay for the lifetime of AKC Reunite subscription as well as AKC registration fees already paid for. They come with not only veterinary records, but our own personal records we keep of their own little accomplishments and things we’ve noticed about each of their big personalities. We include a leash and collar with each puppy, and a blanket that has their brothers, sisters, mother, and our scents on it. Each puppy comes with a lifetime of personal support from us. If you ever have questions or need advice, we are always happy to help. We keep track of each puppy and how they’re doing.

We love each dog as if they were our own and it’s difficult for us to rehome so many of them. We are much more likely to sell to a family that we think we will be able to keep in touch with and get at least 1 update per year bare minimum. We will always take one of our own back rather than letting them go to a bad home or a shelter. We stand behind all of our dogs, so a Sleepy Grove Golden Retriever puppy is one of us for life!

Good Breeders Stand Behind All of Their Dogs

If you got this far, you might be as obsessed with golden retrievers as we are! We are honestly learning something just about every day when it comes to these dogs. We’ve only had a small handful of litters at this point, but Noah and I love to find the best ways to do just about everything so we are constantly exploring and improving. As we improve in our knowledge and skills, we will be updating this guide. If you have any thoughts or polite criticisms, please feel free to email us at: We do not claim to have perfected these complex processes; we never stop learning because these beautiful furballs never stop teaching, but we promise we will continue to improve and do our best for these dogs!

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Brenda McCall
Brenda McCall

What is your price for these puppies

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