Home Catalogue Contact Us
Darwin Books SLAEI Series




The Care and Training of a Golden Retriever Puppy from Seven Weeks through Twelve Months


by R. Ann Johnson




Download Chapter 1 here: PuppyHandbook_Chap01.pdf


About the Book:

What Ann Johnson brings to the discussion in this book are very personal ways of caring for Golden Retriever puppies based on her experience, knowledge, and background in Biology. Her natural ability to listen to all points of view and her extensive background in science as an educator and researcher have proven invaluable in helping to create the best and most harmonious life for each of her Golden puppies and for each puppy’s family.

        Explaining the growth phases of a Golden puppy during his first year of life, Ann separates these periods into stages of development, describing the major changes that take place:

Seven Weeks through Four Months

Five Months through Eight Months

Nine Months through Twelve Months


        In the comprehensive middle section of the book, she deals with health concerns:


Feeding and Nutrition

Common Health Problems


Neutering and Spaying


        Finally, she addresses specific topics for new owners (and breeders) including a chapter about a puppy’s first visit to the vet (written by Jean H. Cunningham-Smith, VMD).

        This book is basically a compilation of responses to questions owners of new puppies have asked her over the course of three decades working with owners and their families. In addition, she discusses matters she finds interesting or fascinating and does not avoid discussing areas controversial in the breed: “Not everything is known about so-called genetic defects,” she says. “For breeders and owners to focus exclusively on the genetic component and not take into consideration environmental influences ignores a major component of what goes into producing a healthy Golden.” Most amazing of all is Ann’s devotion to her own canines and to the welfare of the breed. She is not only clearly fascinated with the lives of these wonderful creatures, but she is as closely connected to their world as she is to ours.


About the Author:

Ann acquired her first Golden in the 1960s as a companion for her aging German Shepherd. She has been intimately involved with Goldens ever since. Her Goldens (owned, bred, or sired) have produced more than 300 American champions and numerous Canadian champions. Most notable of all was her national record holder, Am. Can. Bda. Ch. Cummings’ Gold-Rush Charlie, OS, SDHF. Ann holds an A.B. in Biology from Douglass College and an M.S. in Zoology from Rutgers University, where she received a National Science Foundation trainee-ship grant and taught courses in Comparative Anatomy, Embryology, and Genetics. She has also taught courses at the college level in Developmental Biology and Principles of Biology, and at the high-school level in Advanced Placement Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Science. She is listed in Who’s Who in Dogs (Howell 1998) as one of “a small number of people [in the sport of purebred dogs] who has made a lasting and significant contribution.”

        There is no substitute for the day-to-day knowledge gained over time on a topic as varied and demanding as that of breeding and raising Golden Retrievers. A book that builds on such knowledge should be, ideally, a compendium of one person’s lifetime of experience. Ann Johnson is unusually qualified to write such a book about Golden Retriever puppies. She has been breeding them for the past 30 years with great success, and her Gold-Rush Goldens are known world-wide. Her knowledge of the breed has been transformed into dogs that have entered the pedigrees of many lines in the highly competitive world of the show ring.

        As a biologist with professional training, Ann has an insider’s understanding of the scientific aspects of animal husbandry, which is especially useful when writing about the early development of the canine. While intended for the neophyte just getting started in Goldens, this book should also interest breeders and veterinarians alike.


About the Illustrator:

Karin Walter has been breeding and showing Goldens for twenty-six years and has been one of Ann’s closest friends during that time. Her first Golden and first champion was Ch. Gold-Rush Sweet Adeline. Her love for Goldens and her artistic talents have been combined to produce a line of Golden Retriever artwork under the name “American Gold,” which she displays at specialty Golden Retriever shows.


About Jean H. Cunningham, VMD:

Jean was born in New York City in 1944. From 1951 to 1959 she lived in Saudi Arabia. During that time she was influenced by the talent and caring attitude of a young U.S. Air Force veterinarian who cared for the pets of the American ARAMCO community in his off duty hours. At age 13 she knew veterinary medicine was her future. She graduated from Muhlenberg College in 1966 with a B.S. in Pre-Med and in 1970 from the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine with her VMD. She practiced in Harrisburg, Pa. and in Lancaster, Pa. for a year each specializing in Small Animal Medicine. In 1971 she married Dr. Lawrence F. Smith, a classmate from Penn, and in 1972 they bought a one-half interest in Bloomsburg Veterinary Hospital, Inc. in Bloomsburg, Pa. The business has grown from the original three-doctor practice to a busy nine-doctor practice today. Dr. Smith and Dr. Cunningham retired from active practice in 2003 and 2004 respectively, but have remained involved with the practice in a relief capacity. Larry and Jean acquired their first Golden on their honeymoon in Vermont in 1971. When looking for a male to breed with their Katie, they attended a show on a day when Gold-Rush Charlie went Best-In-Show. Thus began a long friendship with Ann and Gold-Rush that continues to this day. The Smiths live on a farm near Bloomsburg and raise sheep, daylilies, vegetables, and of course, many Golden litters.


Author's Comments:

For more than thirty years I have been raising my Gold-Rush Golden Retrievers and have enjoyed seeing these puppies go off to become happy members of many families. The relationship between the Golden and his family is very special because nothing pleases the Golden more than to be with his family.

    I hope this book will be of value both to new puppy owners as well as responsible breeders of Golden Retrievers who address questions posed by owners of their new puppies. These observations and ideas of course are based on my own experience, reading, personal research, and interactions with responsible breeders past and present, and I trust they may be of some benefit to those who believe, as I do, that a thorough knowledge of the breed will enable us to enjoy better the unique qualities of our beloved Goldens.

    I do not regard this book as a definitive work on puppy management and training, or a reference book on canine pediatrics. It is basically a compilation of responses to questions people have asked me during the course of more than three decades of working with new puppy owners and their families. In addition I refer to matters that I have found interesting as a biologist and to situations and “laws of nature” that have helped me understand those Goldens that have been such a great part of my life.


Publisher's Comments:

Golden Retriever puppies. How can we better understand these little creatures who live in a world of perceptions more acute and quite dissimilar from ours? What distinguishes their world of sense impressions when compared to oursa world of different colors, of sounds unknown to us because existing in octaves above and below our hearing ability, a universe of olfactory qualities and substances so completely unfamiliar to us? Why are our perceptions so different from theirs? Where do these two “worlds” come from? One answer of course resides in understanding that we and they were able to survive, and have evolved, in response to environments that were important to each of us. We adapted. In this sense, we are also both very similar.

    Ann Johnson stands in the middle of these two worldsour world and the world of the puppy, where there are so many differences and similarities, where answers may be true for one but not for the other. What Ann brings to this discussion are very personal and practical ways of looking at the subject of raising Golden Retrievers, which has inspired her during more than thirty years of studying the breed, along with devising solutions that have helped her and those who work with her. One way of understanding her approach to raising a splendid Golden Retriever is to read about her experiences and ideas relevant to a Golden puppy’s life in the context of stages of development.

    Ann’s days are filled with innumerable discussions with people who come to her requesting explanations or information. Learning is a two-way opportunity, involving as much listening and understanding another’s concerns as suggesting solutions. Her natural ability to listen to all points of view and her extensive background in science, as a researcher and educator, are invaluable and can be applied to the subject that she loves most of all: to create the best and most harmonious life she can for each Golden puppy and the Golden’s family.

    The wellspring of science rests on a curiosity about the natural world and the desire to make improvements, a desire to understand the puzzling mysteries of life on earth. Thus, the aim of science, it can be said, is to “to advance our understanding of nature.” From the beginnings of the Scientific Revolutionfrom the time of Copernicus, Kepler, Galileo, and Newtonbasic principles resided in observations and descriptions. Even today these methods orchestrate the way research is still carried on. Not that much has changed in methodology during the past 400 years, except in the rigor with which it is now practiced and the practical need for universally understood definitions and terminologies.

    What inspires science, however, is its openness to challenge and the willingness to acknowledge new and better explanations based on recent information and confirmation. Every perceived confirmation lends support to the evidence that the new explanation is indeed more nearly the correct one for a certain time or place.

    There are still so many questions and problems for which science does not yet have complete answers or indeed any suggestions for answers. For instance, why do two primate species almost phenotypically identical, the Chimpanzee and the Bonobo, have two totally different social structures: one entirely male dominated, the other completely female dominated, and both completely successful? Or why are the phenotypes of certain speciesfor example, the coelecanth and horseshoe crabunchanged after millions of years? In the area of the micro-world, what are the effects of “protein folding” and what are the evolutionary origins of exons and introns?

    The world of nature changes; the world of nature also remains the same. It is time to understand the natural world in biologically scientific terms, to trust the observations of practicing scientists, to sift the facts, and to adjust our thinking according to new realities based on the evidence. New facts and the interpretation of facts are increasing exponentially, in bursts over short time periods, and undergoing intense scrutiny. Scientific knowledge is accumulating at a rapid pace.

    Applying the scientific method, scientists propose interpretations, weigh complexities, formulate tentative suggestions, and test hypothesesreplacing old hypotheses with new ones when the former ones don’t work. Indeed, that is the calling of scientists, and their bliss. They glide slowly along complex mental pathways toward “truth,” which is the testing of fact or an explanation for its possible refutation, choosing the path that will lead most quickly to results.

    Ann Johnson does not shy away from addressing areas that are of major concern to breeders and owners. Focusing on the nature and history of cancer and canine hip dysplasia, she offers an overview of different perspectives presently in vogue. Her own explanations are based on decades of observation, on discussions with other breeders and owners, on the considerable literature on these subjects, and on results. Her conclusions may challenge previously “accepted wisdom,” but her observations must be, at the very least, addressed. One thing that sustains her hypotheses, controversial though they may be to some, is the scientific perspective.

    It is the legitimate and necessary goal of breeders to improve the breed. But this goal will not be realized if “improving the breed” is based on fundamental misunderstandings relevant to life or lives that can be well lived. It is also the duty of breeders to share their experiences and to provide hypotheses and offer better explanations about ways to reach their goalsexplanations based on observations and on the search for exceptionsand to discuss them and have them challenged.

    In this book, the author has handled complex and controversial areas in a straightforward way that I hope will open doors to more fruitful discussions of these topics in future, in an arena of intellectually honest debate.



"I find [the book] to be amazing. It is so complete, well-written, and concise, yet there is information available on just about everything. I am thrilled to have this resource....We have gotten so much great feedback on this book....We just wanted you to know that it truly is an amazing book and we couldn’t be happier sending a copy home with our puppy owners.”

—Francis Brentson


"Your Puppy Handbook is an invaluable guide to us."

—Lana & Paul Goldberg


“[The writing] clearly shows your style, intellect, and genuine love of Goldens and what you do.”

—Judy Kramer


“Congratulations on the publication of your book! What a massive undertaking it turned out to be, but what a scholarly and important reference for those puppy buyers who want more than an overview from the vet or breeder.”

—Nancy Talbott


"Such good information for anyone starting off with a puppy of any breed! Nice for Golden owners to have the specifics of the breed. On page 176, the table of parasitic drugs is concise and educational."

—Sherry Brothers, DVM


"It is beautiful, extremely well written, and thoroughly informative -- and makes us want to get more Golden puppies. After 23 unbroken years of Goldens, I cannot imagine life without them! ... If you wish to benefit from Ann's uncommon wisdom about Goldens, I highly recommend the "Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook." If you do not own a Golden, this book will make you want to! If you own or are planning on acquiring a Golden puppy, this book is essential reading. It is an engaging, highly readable, eminently practicable, trustworthy, breed-specific guide that focuses on raising a Golden during his or her first twelve months. However, much in the book also is applicable to understanding and caring for your Golden for the rest of your dog's life.

—John Hughes


"Just a little note of thanks for writing a wonderful new book on the care and up-bringing of Golden puppies. Your good, sound advice and plain common sense about protecting a growing pup's joints is so welcomed. It is a book I'm thrilled to recommend to anyone who has or is about to buy a Golden."

—Sharon Farnum


"[I] have really learned a lot. It is amazing to me how our interactions with a dog can actually create a "bad dog" because of their pack instincts. I particularly like the section on how to play with the puppy. I would have played chase and tug-of-war with our puppy without giving a second thought to the effect it has on obedience and dominance. I will also instruct my children on the proper way to play. Thank you for helping me to learn and to avoid long lasting mistakes."

—Tara Perretta


"Golden retriever puppies are special: anyone seeking to understand and raise a superior breed dog will appreciate THE GOLDEN RETRIEVER PUPPY HANDBOOK: THE CARE AND TRAINING OF A GOLDEN RETRIEVER PUPPY FROM SEVEN WEEKS THROUGH TWELVE MONTHS. From acquisition to the puppy's first vet visit and the basics of feeding, the handbook packs in everything needed to handle the special requirements of the breed. An in-depth, highly recommended pick."

California Bookwatch


"The information is not only valuable for people with a Golden, anyone with a puppy should have it as well. Your experience with dogs backed by your expertise in biology, provides the reader with many tools. This information makes us more alert if problems occur....I read a few pages each night and am amazed at the information. So well documented and yet so personal. There is no doubt the author of this book is a devoted lover of all dogs."

—Marthann Masterson-Weaber


"R. Ann Johnson, the noted founder of Gold-Rush Goldens, has published the definitive book on Golden Retrievers....Her book is an essential resource for anyone contemplating bringing a Golden into their home, as well as anyone who already shares their life with one....Both well written and informative, this book will be pulled off the shelf almost daily after you bring home your precious puppy....So easy to read and understand, Ms. Johnson leads us through the life of a Golden, from the selection of a breeder and a puppy, through the very early days when the pup comes to your home, to the middle stages and finally to the needs and care of the older puppy....Like so many homes that cannot images a life without a Golden, I can't imagine a Golden home without The Golden Retriever Puppy Handbook, available through The Darwin Press."

Hampton Pet: A Magazine for Pets and their People


"Far from a simple pet owner's guide to the breed, this handbook should be on the shelves of all serious dog people."

—Dogs In Review



Gold-Rush Goldens main site:



Gold-Rush Holiday Letter 2005



Gold-Rush Webpage, About Ann



Gold-Rush Website, About Charlie



Puppy Book Photo Gallery:


Publication date: 2010

3rd printing

Size: 6 x 9-1/4 inches. Includes 31 color photographs, halftone photographs, and drawings.

Endnotes; Glossary; Index; 335 pages

CIP L.C. 2004103872

ISBN 978-0-87850-165-6  (hardbound)  $29.95  Buy it at Amazon.com!

ISBN 978-0-87850-164-9  (paperbound)  (Out of print)

ISBN 978-0-87850-163-2  (hardbound)  (Out of print)