How to Choose a Reputable Doodle Breeder
Adding a Goldendoodle, Labradoodle, or Double Doodle puppy to your pack is a big decision. Deciding who to work with to do that is just as big, however, because it can impact the cost, the amount of help you have while preparing for your new arrival, the health and quality of the puppy you bring home, and the support you may receive after your puppy is home. A slick website is not always an indication of a quality breeder. In fact, a few years ago I helped shut down a well-known breeder who had a very professional website but who was actually keeping dogs chained in an unheated garage. It’s not always possible to physically meet a breeder or visit their program before making a commitment, so how do you know if ‘what you see is what you (will) get’? By knowing what questions to ask! And by listening to your intuition.
Most reputable Doodle breeders will have some kind of screening process for buyers. A good breeder cares more about their puppies than they do about making a sale, so they will attempt to insure a puppy will have adequate time and attention in their new home. This process at Westwood consists of a puppy application, but some breeders will accomplish it with a phone call where they ask the same kinds of questions found in my puppy application. In any case, what you want to see is a breeder who asks about your family configuration (Any children? Any other pets? Any allergies in family members? How many hours a day will the dog be left alone?, etc), as well as how much experience you have in raising a dog (in order to decide how much support to provide). If you contact a Doodle breeder that does not ask any questions, check them off your list. Their lack of interest in making sure a placement is successful will likely be followed by a lack of interest in helping you if it turns out you need it!
I encourage people to speak with prospective breeders by phone before making a commitment to work together. It doesn’t have to be a long conversation, but their responses to even a few questions can be very valuable. Do they encourage questions, and respond with detailed information? Do they get defensive about any questions? For example, I have no problem talking with people about why my dogs are priced the way they are, or what health tests I choose to do on my dogs. Your intuition will play a big part here…your gut will tell you if someone is really being upfront with you.
Some ‘experts’ will insist that visiting a breeder before committing to working together is absolutely necessary. I disagree on this point for a couple reasons. One reason is that the more people I have coming through my property, the more opportunities there are for deadly viruses like parvo to be carried on to my property. This is especially true if folks have been visiting multiple breeders. Once parvo is in an environment it is nearly possible to eradicate and I have seen whole programs collapse due to a single outbreak. Also, visits with folks that are still shopping for a breeder take a big time commitment on my part, and it takes away from the amount of time I have to available to support the people who have made a commitment to work with me. I would rather devote my time to preparing and supporting families I am committed to working with than nailing down new sales. I prefer to get to know potential buyers by email and phone, and people seem to be able to get to know me that way too! But this is a personal decision. Some people don’t feel right working with someone they haven’t met personally, and if that is true for you, again, follow your gut.
I have similar thoughts about the necessity of meeting a pup’s parents. My program utilizes ‘guardian homes’, and I do not have kennels at all. Three dogs live with me, in my home, and all my other breeding dogs are placed with families throughout Ohio. They come to my home when needed for breeding, then go back to their families. So, for example, the sire of a litter may actually live 120 miles away and it’s not possible to meet them at my home! People are able to meet the dogs who live with me, however, and they are related in one way or another to most litters. So folks are able to see the energy levels and personalities that have become very consistent in my lines. I don't mean to imply that breeders that use kennels are 'bad'. On the contrary, I know a couple excellent breeders (admittedly it's only a couple!) who utilize kennels. But they also work diligently to rotate their dogs through their home so everyone gets quality 'people time'. So again, ask, ask, ask questions, and then follow your instincts.
Part of a buyer’s due diligence consists of determining what happens if the unthinkable happens and there is a problem with a puppy. The nature of Mother Nature is that we cannot always control or predict what happens with a living being, and even the best breeder can’t control all the variables. So carefully inspect a breeder’s warranty. How long is it in effect and what does it cover? What happens if a puppy has a serious problem? (The least reputable breeders will ‘replace’ a puppy only if you return the dog that has a problem. They count on the fact that many people will not want to relinquish a pup they raised and love.) What happens if you find yourself unable to keep a pup…will they take it back? Under what circumstances? You basically want to come away with the impression that the well-being of the puppy comes first, and your well-being comes next. The contract should be fair to the breeder, but the breeder’s well-being should be down the line!
What kind of reputation does your prospective breeder have? Google is your friend! Some good breeders are involved in the Doodle breeder community, some are not. But you should be able to find some evidence (reviews, informational articles, posts on blogs or questions answered on social media etc) that your breeder knows what they are doing and has done a good job in the past. The only caveat is that there is a fair amount of politics in almost every community, and no one will be popular with everyone. So look at the balance of opinions. One of the best compliments I ever received was from someone interviewing me for an article in a veterinary medicine magazine, who told me that anything on the Internet worth reading about Doodles was written by me. I work hard to be a source of reliable information, and I think most good breeders would say the same thing.
In summary, take your time, ask lots of questions, and, in the end, follow your instincts. You will know when you have found someone you trust to be responsible for caring your new addition for those all important first 8 weeks, as well as helping you if you need it.