Time to Talk "Doodles", Ethical Breeders, and Good Breeding Practices
This post was written by Alana Holst at Big Rock Labradoodles located in Alberta, Canada and is shared by permission.
A Doodle here, a Doodle there, Doodles Doodles everywhere....but which is which and why are there so many out there?
The Labradoodle first came onto the scene back in 1989 when Wally Conron attempted to create a non-shedding service dog for a blind woman who's husband was allergic to dogs. Despite Conron's later concern that he had "opened a Pandora's Box and released a Frankenstein's Monster", a quote very often taken out of context, the popularity and demand for Labradoodles was instant. To Conron's dismay, and still to this day, the dismay of every ethical breeder of well-bred Australian and American Labradoodles, the Labradoodle's rise to popularity brought out the worst in people who were looking to cash in and make a quick buck. Unlike Conron, these 'pop-up' breeders were not in it to breed dogs with only the very best in temperament, structure and lack of disease in their lines, they were in it for the fast money. THAT is why Conron made the statements he did in regard to a Frankenstein's Monster. No good breeder wants to see dogs, of any breed, being created left and right by people not in for the right reasons!
Why so Many Doodle types?
That's a good question. I scratch my own head over this on a regular basis. The answer, I'm afraid, is not a good one...greed. As I said, the Labradoodle was first on scene...which later became the Australian Labradoodle. This is a long-standing breed which is bred as allergy-friendly, non-shedding therapy and service dogs, but they also happen make the most excellent family dogs. But what we have going on now is just a ridiculous gong show of everything Doodles and its heart breaking to those of us long time breeders passionate about our Australian Labradoodles. I've seen Goldendoodles, Doubledoodles, Irishdoodles, Englishdoodles, Bernedoodles, Sheepadoodles, Bordoodles, Aussiedoodles, Pyredoodles....it goes on and on. I've even seen a Rottiedoodle, not to mention all the 'Poos'. Let me tell you, all these DOODLES are not created equal, and should never have been created at all! I can admit, about the cutest darn thing I've ever seen is a Bernedoodle, but WHY are these dogs being bred?
For example, Bernese Mountain Dogs are plagued by health issues and early death. They are not even fully grown until they are 5 and they are dying at 6. The Bernese Mountain Dog is a large dog breed, one of the four breeds of Sennenhund-type dogs from the Swiss Alps. These dogs have roots in the Roman mastiffs. The name Sennenhund is derived from the German Senne and Hund, as they accompanied the alpine herders and dairymen called Senn. Berners are meant to work, and they are meant to live in the mountains. These are not dogs that are meant to live in people's homes and lay around on the couch all day. Just because you added a Poodle to it, that doesn't really change things.
All of these DOODLES are being bred because DOODLES are so popular, and people are jumping on the bandwagon...let's make everything into a DOODLE and cash in on the 'Doodlemania'. It doesn't matter what your breed of choice is, German Shepherd Dog, Irish Setter, Standard Poodle, English Mastiff, Pit Bull, Shih-tzu, you have got to consider why that breed was created in the first place. A Border Collie is a beautiful dog, but can you offer it the kind of exercise it requires so that it won't be bored and under-stimulated and end up eating your furniture? Do you have young children who can tolerate being herded all day and night? Because that is the realism of having a herding dog as a pet. Every dog breed has an original purpose and it's really important to understand that and what traits that dog will have and how it will behave in your home.
What Makes a Good Breeder?
A good breeder is breeding a breed that they are passionate about. You cannot be a good breeder without passion for your breed, because while breeding can be very rewarding, in so many ways, breeding can also be absolutely soul crushing! Good breeders have invested a great deal of time and money in researching canine breeding, canine health, best breeding practices, best puppy rearing strategies, and so much more. They have taken courses, gone to conferences, read everything they can get their hands on...and all of this before ever even purchasing their first potential breeding dog. A good breeding dog comes from other ethical breeders. A good breeding dog is expensive. A good breeding dog comes from proven lines. Extensively health tested lines, and I can tell you, health testing is very expensive, and good breeders are performing that health testing on every dog in their program, not just their original breeding dogs. Not only is health testing very expensive, but not all dogs that are future breeding prospects are even going to test out...so, all that health testing might have been done, only to pet home that dog. NOT ALL DOGS ARE MEANT TO BE BRED!!! That is why good breeders place serious restrictions on the breeding of their pet-homed dogs or perform early spay/neuter before their puppies even leave their programs. If it was a dog that was meant to be bred, it wouldn't have been pet-homed. Good breeders vet their clients. They want to make sure that the placement of the puppy in a family is a good fit for both the puppy and the people. Good breeders are there for their clients for the life of the dog and offer education and support to ensure the family's success with their new addition.
This brings us to Backyard 'Breeders'
A backyard breeder is an unethical, irresponsible, untrained, person who saw an opportunity to make some cash and jumped on it. A backyard breeder has somehow acquired an intact dog or dogs and/or found someone else with an intact dog and they've worked together to create litters of puppies. There is no health testing being done, the dogs may not even be particularly healthy, but hey...this is a popular breed, let's get in on this trend. This is why these people can sell their dogs so cheaply, they have no real skin in the game. They are not out all kinds of money for health testing before they even got started. They are not out all kinds of money having purchased a legitimate breeding dog. They are not out all kinds of time and energy in research and education and the money for proper equipment and facilities to raise puppies in and to properly care for them. They are doing it on the fly. They are not raising these puppies with only the very best in well proven puppy rearing and socialization strategies...they likely are not even home all day! These puppies are being raised in dirty environments, without enough space, on surfaces that cause hip dysplasia, which of course, won't show up for a few years. Backyard breeders do not stand behind the dogs they breed. They are not there to take the dog back, if the person who bought the dog can no longer care for it. They are not there when the dog develops serious heritable illness. They are not there.
You Get What You Pay For!
You definitely have a choice when you decide to purchase a puppy. You can rescue, you can get a cheap puppy from a backyard breeder, or you can work with a good breeder. For those that have a lifestyle that permits them to rescue, that's wonderful. Those that have the heart for rescue, that can take on a dog with an unknown background, unknown health status, heck, even unknown breed, that have the time, patience, and experience to work with and train a rescue dog, those people are such a blessing to those poor dogs that are in that situation. For those that want a puppy, but can't afford good breeder prices, look to backyard breeders for a puppy. Unfortunately, going this route may be cheaper in the beginning, but it's very likely going to be way more expensive down the road when that cute, cheap puppy with the bad breeding turns out to have hip dysplasia at 2 or 3 years of age, has back problems because it has horrible structure, has a genetic disease that was 100% preventable had health screening been done on the parent dogs, bites your child, or your grandma because it has horrible temperament issues (temperaments are also genetic, by the way)...this list goes on and on. Or, you save up and you get a well-bred, well-raised puppy from a quality, ethical breeder who can show you all the health testing that has been done on the parents, and the parent's parents, right up the line. That has registered pedigrees, that belongs to a breed club with a specific code of ethics, that has been breeding for years and has an excellent reputation, that stands by what they breed with a health warranty, that will take their puppies back for any reason, at any stage, should you no longer be able to care for that dog. That provides you with endless resources and assistance and is there to help you for the lifetime of that dog. Can a well-bred dog from an ethical breeder develop health issues down the line? Of course. But are that puppies’ chances far greater, far improved by being born into a good breeding program? You better believe it!
What Happens When a Dog Doesn't Work Out?
Whether you adopt, get a puppy from a backyard breeder, or get a puppy through a reputable and ethical breeder, there is a chance that something will happen, and you will no longer be able to care for that dog. This could be an untenable situation with the dog, a change in personal circumstance, or any number of reasons why someone may no longer be able to continue to care for a dog. So, what happens to the dog? In both the first two scenarios, the dog is most likely going to wind up either back at the shelter they came from, dropped off at a shelter to be rehomed, or when the shelters are full, just set free to roam at large and fend for themselves. This is so unfortunate for them. For the puppy being returned to the shelter, it's another strike and another rejection for him/her, which causes further issues for them. For the dog that came from a backyard breeder, he/she has no idea what is going on or where his/her family went. They are just dumped on the system, terrified and lonely and this is extra taxing on the shelter system. These dogs do not ask to be bred. They have most likely been poorly bred, have structural issues, temperament issues, health issues, and now they are the responsibility of the shelter. Dogs that come from bad breeding and come with an array of issues are not likely to be adopted out.
Deanna Thompson is the executive director with the Alberta Animal Rescue Crew Society (AARCS) and says right now (July 2022) the facility has no space for any more pets.
"It's kind of our worst nightmare come true," she said. "We have seen a huge increase in the number of people looking to surrender their pets, as well as the stray population increase and it's just been weeks and weeks and weeks and we haven't been able to catch up, we're desperate for people to adopt or foster an animal right now." -excerpt from CTV News Story by Keven Flemming
During Covid Lockdowns a great many irresponsible breeders popped up and cashed in. You saw it, surely, everyone wanted a dog and they wanted it now. People were at home, the kids were bored, it seemed like the perfect time to get a dog. Unfortunately, this created the perfect storm for backyard breeders to make their move. These unethical, temporary breeders do not vet their clients. They let anyone purchase a dog, no matter the situation. They are just in it to sell puppies. Now the shelters are full of these badly bred, poorly placed dogs that people no longer have the time for because they went back to work or cannot manage because of their health and temperament issues.
This is another place Professional, ethical, full-time breeders make a huge difference. Good breeders will always take their dogs back, no matter the reason. Good breeders know that the puppies they have produced are ultimately their responsibility. Good breeders carefully vet their clients through their adoption processes and ensure that the families adopting have the time, energy, and finances to care for a dog and that they are looking to grow their families for the right reasons and for the life of the dog. They are also making sure that the breed they produce is a good match to the applicants. I know for myself; my purchase contract prohibits the placement of any of our puppies into a shelter. They must be returned to us, or we must be involved in their rehoming and all the good breeders that I know, have the same clauses in their contracts as well.
Do Your Homework
You really need to do your research when choosing a breeder. Just because a breeder belongs to a registration body (CKC, AKC, etc.), does not mean that they are doing all the things they should be doing. I have seen countless registered CKC breeders who do not do any health testing. They say, "I know my lines", or "none of our puppies are sick". This is not acceptable, and it shouldn't be good enough for you. Genetic health screening, as well as physical health testing of breeding dogs is crucial in the creation of healthy puppies who have the best chance at long and healthy lives. A breeder who is doing all the health testing, will happily provide you with proof. Find out how that breeder is raising those puppies. What are they being raised on, blankets, towels, newspapers.....this causes hip dysplasia. Do they have a program geared toward puppy development that changes from week to week with the stage of the puppy's development? Are they going to regularly update you regarding the litter's progression and provide photos and videos so that you can see that the pups are healthy and see where they are being raised? Where is the breeder's breeding dogs? Does the breeder have 12 or 14 breeding dogs all living in their home? If so, those dogs are not having their needs met, which will affect what kind of mother they will be. Is the breeder just breeding one breed? If not, take that as a serious warning sign. Will your puppy come with a health guarantee? Does the breeder provide you with a lot of valuable information to help you to get started on the right foot with your new puppy? Are they there for you when something goes wrong?
Professional Breeders used to get a bad rap....making money on the backs of animals. This is such backward thinking. 'Breeders' who do it on the side, who don't belong to a breed club, who don't do any health testing, who don't warranty their puppies, who don't have a program in place to specifically develop the puppies they are breeding...these are the one's making money on the backs of animals. You should want to get your puppy from a Professional Breeder! Professional Breeders devote their lives to breeding great dogs. They work, literally, 24/7 when they have puppies, it's like farming. They don't go away on the weekends, they can barely take vacations, everything they have, everything they do is invested in their breeding programs. They are always there for their families and constantly work toward being better, doing it better. Their reputations are everything to them and you, the client families of professional breeders, reap those benefits. Professional breeders are responsible for the animals they have produced. Through careful placement, they do not create problems for the shelters. Through legal contracts, or surgeries, they do not contribute to the over population of unwanted pets. Through passion, education, and experience, they are breeding great family pets that better people's lives.
Please choose carefully the next time you are looking to grow your family with a pet, whatever the type of pet. A pet should be a member of the family. A pet is a big responsibility and one that can immeasurably enrich your life, or make your life very difficult. The choice of where you get your next pet is up to you, the consumer, but I hope that I have given you much to consider and helped you to understand the place that professional breeders have in the world of pets.