By Lauren Billing
Farmer Staff Writer
From Old Yeller and Where the Red Fern Grows to Lassie, Benji, and Fido, movies about people and their dogs play on our heartstrings. They make us clap, laugh and even cry. Relationships with “man’s best friend” are full of companionship, responsibility, and care. Dogs show unconditional love, are ever-understanding soundboards and help make us into better versions of ourselves. Billy Currington’s new song, Like My Dog, says it all with the line, “I want you to love me like my dog does baby.”
Chad Almgren and his family have been breeding dogs for over 25 years. They work mostly with golden retrievers, but have also bred Louisiana Catahoulas. What started as a simple hobby formed by a passion and love of dogs has blossomed. It is a hobby for the Almgren family, but now it is a hobby that pays for itself.
Almgren and his wife, Cindy, and their daughter, Jessica, work with eight golden retrievers. They have two females that are currently bred and expect a litter to be born next weekend. They also have two sons, Jerry and Josh, who also grew up raising dogs with the family and have even begun their own breeding business.
Last May, Almgren moved from the family’s home in Kimball, Minn., to Watford City to work for Power Fuels. His son, Josh, has also been working for Power Fuels for the past two years. Almgren oversees the steaming and truck wash facility and will sandblast and coat tanks once the company has its paint shop up and running. But even though he is nine hours from home, Almgren has his son along with two dogs to keep him company.
“It’s tough to be away from my family and the other dogs,” says Almgren. “I’ve gone back for a few births, but it’s hard to drive there for nine hours Friday night and then turn around and come back on Sunday.
”While Almgren is away from home, all the work falls to his wife and daughter, who he will say actually run the show. Cindy and Jessica care for their eight dogs, help the females with their births and support and train the puppies for eight weeks before they go to their new homes.
With over 25 years of collective experience, the Almgrens have really been able to improve their breeding. First, Almgren's adult dogs are screened before they are considered for their breeding program to assure they are only breeding quality retrievers. The golden retrievers they breed are 12 generations of co-efficiency of relatedness. This means that the males and females that they bred together have their family trees researched back 12 generations to ensure they share no common relatives. This commitment to producing exceptional dogs allows the Almgrens to boast a zero to one percent relation rate. A fact that becomes even more impressive with the realization that out of over 300,000 golden retrievers in current databases, most golden retriever breeders can only claim about a nine percent relation rate.
“These are all around great dogs,” explains Almgren. “Our pups have become service dogs for disabled people, therapy dogs to help heal the sick and hunting dogs that hunt all day and still come home and play with the kids.”
“Golden retrievers are just great dogs to train,” says Cindy. “They can be trained to do whatever you need them for.”
The Almgrens also do a lot to ensure that their bred females are especially cared for. With up to 14 puppies in a litter, expecting females get extra special food, like oatmeal and eggs, and they also need to get as much sunlight as possible so their bodies can reap the vitamin D rewards. Generally, the Almgrens’ dogs are sold before they are born. Potential owners must fill out an application that assesses their preferences, pet experience, and home conditions. Approved applicants can expect to wait eight weeks after the puppies are born before picking up their new family addition.
“We really want people to think, ‘Is this something I really want?’” explains Almgren. “We work very hard to ensure that our pups go to good homes. We have gotten Christmas cards and letters all the time describing what great dogs they are.”
“Everyone always thinks they have the best pup,” adds Cindy. “But all our puppies are treated like babies from the day they are born to when they get to their new homes. The pictures they send really show how thankful the families are.”
In the eight weeks before puppies are taken home, all puppies are given their shots and are wormed on a strict schedule. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals checks for everything from hip and elbow dysplasia to patellar luxation and congenital heart disease. In addition, the dogs are also tested for eye diseases by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF). The Almgrens also have each puppy checked by a veterinarian before they go to their new homes to make sure they do not have any problems. Besides medical testing, the Almgrens also begin some basic training with the dogs. They start house and crate training and work on retrieving with tennis balls and pheasant feathers. The puppies are even sent to their homes with a training booklet put together by the Almgrens to help new owners as they begin to live and train with the puppies.
“It’s a lot of work,” says Almgren. “Generally, we whelp them in our bedroom and raise them in the house. So there’s always lots of cleaning.”
The family, especially Jessica, has a tough time seeing the puppies go once their eight weeks is up, but making sure they are going to great homes makes it easier to let them go. And they have sent puppies into some truly amazing houses.
They have sold golden retrievers to families all over the United States and even as far away as Argentina. Their dogs live with the managing editor of Vanity Fair, are in commercials for a RV company in Williston and Purina, have won numerous awards, and recently even became the new face of Bush’s Baked Beans as the famous Duke.
“It’s all very rewarding because we have a lot of people that come from very far away to get a dog they can have for a long time,” says Cindy. “It’s also very exciting and emotional because these dogs really become members of people’s families.” Almgren has a wealth of knowledge when it comes to dogs and how to best care for them. He has found that you get what you pay for when it comes to dog food. They spend around $75 on a 40-pound bag of food and recommend Life’s Abundance. It’s only sold online at vetmadepetfoods.com and delivered to your door. Almgren also believes that before getting a dog there are many things to consider - do you have the space, time, money, and drive to have a dog?“
Do your homework when looking to get a dog,” suggests Almgren. “Don’t get a dog you can’t house, they need their room. And find out as much as you can about any breeder you work with and the quality of their dogs.”A
nyone interested in receiving a golden retriever from the Almgrens can visit their web site, akcgoldenpuppies.com for applications, pictures and experiences of other proud owners, pedigree information and much more. They also deliver dogs for free to North Dakota!
The Almgrens help bring joy and companionship through golden retrievers to individuals and families near and far. They share their passion for dogs and allow others to see how enriching such relationships can be. Dogs can show us how to be unassuming, attentive and playful and, of course, as Billy Currington says, “He never looks at me like he might hate me.”
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