Previously we removed dewclaws on puppies as it was common practice to do that for most breeds in the US. It was done around three days of age before the front dewclaw (fifth digit) became attached to the puppies bone/ligament. It was commonly done to prevent injuries from potentially occurring in the future where the dog would require anesthesia and surgery to have them permanently removed.
However as veterinary science is always evolving, new research shows it is actually more beneficial to keep the dewclaws intact with the exception of the rear ones. The rear dewclaws (rarely seen in Golden Retrievers) are usually not attached so they tend to be floppy and prone to injury. The front dewclaws are almost always attached to tendons and play a role when the dog is in motion (help stabilize the carpus "ankle", prevent torque, and assist in grabbing/climbing).
By removing the front dewclaws it could potentially cause problems in the future because the muscles attached to them previously become atrophied and can result in arthritis or cause other injuries in the joints. Since the rear dewclaws are not attached to any bone, removing them has no impact on the dogs functional level.
Breeders that are still removing the front dewclaws in Golden Retrievers do it for show purposes because the thought is that dewclaws detract from the dogs overall appearance or believe that pet owners will fail to maintain them. We strongly believe in following practices that are in the best interest of our dogs' overall health.
We ask, why remove something anatomical when it serves a purpose in the dog's function? Especially when the key to preventing injuries caused by dewclaws is just maintenance. This simply includes trimming/monitoring them like you do with the other nails. Just need to keep in mind that the front dewclaws don't touch the ground as much as the other digits so they will not wear down as quickly.
An article our veterinarian provided to us about the function of dewclaws: