Finding the right breeder to provide you with the furry love of your life is an arduous process. There are a lot of breeders out there. How do you know who is worth your time and money?
While references are very important, they really need to be references that give you information about important things. Any breeder can have positive references. There are many people, members of our site even, who got their doodles from backyard breeders and puppy mills (unbeknown to them at the time) who ended up with wonderful doodles. So based simply on testimonials one could jump to the conclusion that "Pie In the Sky Kennels" (don't think that is any real kennel) is a wonderful place to get a doodle...because how could they NOT be when Bob, Sue, and Jane all have wonderful doodles from that kennel, right?
Simply knowing someone that has a dog from "Pie in the Sky Kennels" and knowing that particular dog to be fabulous doesn't prove the breeder is an ethical, reputable breeder. Puppy mills have fooled many an ignorant buyer!
I know others who have pet store pups (99% of pet store pups DO come from puppy mills) who turned out GREAT! But for every great labradoodle or goldendoodle that comes out of an unethical or sub-standard breeding program are many others with lots of problems, many others who suffer, many others who end up in shelters or rescue because the breeders they came from sold a bunch of lies and would never take back a dog they sold.
So I caution everyone seeking a doodle to look past the glowing testimonials and get down to the FACTS about the breeder. Dig deep and confirm that they are following the highest standards...because if they are not, why are they bringing more puppies into this world? There isn't a real shortage. Several of our members involved in doodle rescue can attest to this. Check out the bottom of our front page to see doodles in need of homes---those are only a small percent of the doodles in need in North America.
Thus it's not enough that 10 or 100 people can praise the breeder...it's also whether the breeder is committed to doing things as well as they should be done.
Keep in mind that adding a dog to your family means a potential 15 year investment of love, money, time, and dedication. Don't skimp on the puppy purchase because it could cost you more money or time with your dog--or both!
So What Should You Look for In a Breeder?
1) A responsible doodle breeder does not sugar-coat the truth and sell false promises about doodles.
Doodles are awesome dogs. But they are not a consistent breed. One doodle does not equal another doodle. And blanket statements about them cannot be made. There are also a lot of myths floating around that good breeders do not promote.
For example, promising "non-shedding" or "hypoallergenic" is misleading because MANY doodles (even multi-gens) CAN and DO shed. NO dog is hypo-allergenic. I know two people who have had allergic responses to poodles (and poodles are non-shedding). So it's not as simple as it sounds. Other misleading claims about doodles would include: Perfect dog! Easy to train! Super obedient! They might be these things...but many of our DK members struggle with training issues like counter surfing, pulling on leash, and jumping up on people on a regular basis. It takes commitment and effort to train a doodle as it does with any other typical family dog.
A responsible breeder doesn't claim that doodles are the perfect dog. As much as I LOVE doodles and I can't imagine anyone not loving them...they are not for everyone. Responsible doodle breeders know the pros and cons of owning this mix and that not all dogs are the right fit for all people. I mean it's hard to fault someone in love with the dog they breed...they will be enthusiastic and that's not a bad thing. They should be able to glow about doodles. But just be sure they are also being realistic and not just 'selling.'
And a good breeder certainly doesn't claim that 'hybrid vigor' makes them immune to common breed diseases. Because all doodles can inherit the diseases common in labs, goldens and poodles if improperly bred.
2) A responsible breeder only breeds dogs that have passed rigorous health testing.
This means MORE than yearly vet check-ups. What health testing has been done on the parent dogs? Two dogs may seem perfectly healthy on the outside and may even pass their yearly checkups at the vet with flying colors--but a lot of diseases are not visible to the naked eye. Without rigorous health testing, a number of conditions can be passed down to puppies.
For starters, ask to see PROOF that they have passing OFA or PennHIP hip scores on both parents. Then ask for proof of eye clearance either through CERF or PRA. CERF must be done annually and PRA is a genetic test that need only be done once for clearance. Von Willebrands disease is a bleeding disorder similar to hemophilia...poodles have it more often than retrievers, but it can be found in Goldens too...so ask for genetic clearance for this disease too. Beyond that many do basic genetic testing for all sorts of things and of course annual vet clearances...but just vet clearances aren't enough. Breeders bring new dogs in to the world...if they don't care to do all they can to ensure optimum health...go to someone else who does.
Read this article for more information on the potential health problems in doodles and why choosing a breeder carefully is critical: Health Problems in Doodles
3) A responsible breeder does not breed/sell many different breeds.
How many different breeds does the breeder breed? Responsible breeders typically stick to one or two breeds and do those well. However, if you see several different breeds on a breeder's website...that is almost always a red flag. Similarly, how many dogs are on the property? Are they essentially a HUGE commercial kennel? It's possible to put out good dogs while you have 30+ dogs on your property...but I highly doubt the parent dogs get the love, attention and training they would if they were family pets. And realistically, it's not an easy feat to find healthy dogs worthy of breeding (with excellent temperaments from known lineages and responsible breeding programs)...let alone a huge number of them.
4) A responsible breeder does not breed a dam or stud before the age of two.
Although some health tests can be done during puppyhood, others only give preliminary results. Consider also that there is not a test for every disease and some conditions don't really show up until a dog is a mature adult. These are good reasons to avoid buying a puppy from a breeder who bred either of its parents before the age of two.
5) A responsible breeder offers a decent health warranty.
Most warranties are called "Health Guarantees" but for the sake of clarity I want to make sure everyone understands a breeder can't truly 'guarantee' everything. But they can give you a warranty. Every breeder should offer the short term health warranty (3 to 5 days) on basic puppy health. But a truly responsible breeder who stands behind what he/she produces will also offer a minimum two year health warranty on the puppy you purchase. Anything less than that isn't very helpful because many hereditary conditions take time to develop. Read the health warranty as if your puppy has now developed hip dysplasia at one year of age. What compensation would you want? Ideally, you would get monetary reimbursement for at least half the money you spent on the dog to help with vet bills. Would you really want to return the dog you now love? Probably not! Would reimbursement with a new puppy really help you when you have major vet bills? Not one bit! So look carefully at what the health warranty offers you and think about how well that will sit with you if you should need it.
6) A responsible breeder only sells puppies that are old enough.
Old enough = at least 8 weeks. There are many states that actually have "puppy lemon laws" and prohibit the sale of puppies under 8 weeks--and for good reason! Don't fall for the line "but they've been weaned and Mom barely wants to be with them." That may be true about weaning and their Mom's interest, but there is crucial social development and bite inhibition learning happening. If you bring home a 6 week old pup, you risk that puppy having some social delays, being more nippy, and simply not knowing how to interact with other dogs in a healthy ways.
Here's a nice graphic: https://doodlekisses.com/page/choosing-a-responsible-breeder
Some more issues to consider
What are the parents like?
Your puppy will inherit a lot of its personality traits from the parents. If you can meet the parents that is ideal. This is where recommendations from others come in handy...when you can't physically visit the property. But I recommend making a day's drive over there even if it is far...you'll be soon committing to 15 years of dog ownership...a weekend trip is totally worth it!
What is the breeder's home like?
Is it clean? Does it appear to be a safe place for dogs? If you can visit the premises that is ideal. Make a weekend trip of it as after all you're about to commit to a new family member, a weekend trip is worth it! Otherwise please get recommendations from those who have seen the premises and met the breeder in person.
How are puppies raised?
What does the breeder do for early socialization and enrichment as the puppies develop? Are puppies raised in a barn with very little human interaction? Occasionally there are kennel raised pups who are given a tremendous amount of socialization and care...but those situations are a bit more rare. Are puppies raised in the home where they can learn the sights and sounds of home living? This is typically recommended when wanting to buy a pet who will live with you in the home.
What is the breeder's spay/neuter policy?
There are many breeders that have early spay neuter (ESN) policies, getting their pups spayed before 8 weeks. They have legitimate reasons for choosing ESN, however, it remains controversial. It is worth looking into the pros/cons of this procedure. One possible reason for concern is detailed here: http://news.ucdavis.edu/search/news_detail.lasso?id=10498
Is the breeder asking as many questions as you ask the breeder?
While you should have many questions for the breeder--the breeder should also be interviewing you in return. You want a breeder that is picky about who the puppies go to--this means they're doing their best to ensure that any puppies they sell will go to a forever home. Breeders that sell to anyone who can write a check aren't worth supporting with your money.
What is the breeders return policy?
While a puppy is certainly not the same as a toaster oven or other item that one would return to a store--if for any reason if you are unable to keep your puppy a good breeder will ALWAYS take it back. This shows that the breeder has taken responsibility for the puppy he/she has brought into this world and wants to prevent any puppies from ending up in a shelter. So check the contract to ensure that the breeder is always willing to take a puppy back if necessary. I have known a number of doodle owners who due to life circumstances could no longer keep their labradoodle or goldendoodle. Their breeders refused to help either because they were 'just a family breeder' or didn't want to take responsibility at all. Now don't get me wrong...don't expect a breeder to pay you for your doodle if you can't/won't keep it a year later. But a good breeder will help you out and take the puppy to rehome it if life changes course for you. THAT'S RESPONSIBILITY, CARE, and COMMITMENT and a breeder that is worth supporting!
Choose a Breeder who Has High Standards
It comes down to principle; supporting those who have only the best intentions for the dogs they create. It means putting value on things done responsibly more than the personality of the breeder or the number of references. Please...support only those breeders striving to keep the bar set high for their practices.
Where can you FIND a good breeder?
While Doodle Kisses does not endorse or screen breeders, we do allow breeder members to post their litters/puppies/dogs for sale in a couple of groups. It is up to you to weed out the good breeders and the saying "Buyer Beware" still applies. Nevertheless, you can get ideas of places to look to start you in your search at some of the links below:
And finally some other non-DK related breeder lists to give you more ideas of places to check:
-- Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association
-- Premium Breeder List
-- Goldendoodles.com Breeder List
-- Goldendoodle Association of North America Breeder List
-- Australian Labradoodle Association of America Breeder Members