Buying a Doodle Puppy
Are you ready for the commitment that goes with a Doodle Puppy?
Ok, so you have decided that you want a cute fluffy Doodle puppy. The kids are excited, and you dream of long family walks through the countryside, culminating in sitting outside the local, supping a pint, in the sunshine. Then you wake up and see the reality of what you are considering.
Your brand new puppy will need toilet training. They do not automatically know that they are supposed to toilet outside, so there are going to be accidents. Vigilance is imperative at this stage, as is easy access to the garden, regardless of the weather.
Your brand new puppy will miss its litter mates and mum. It will cry at night and require round the clock love, care and attention. Will you still be as enthusiastic about the day to day care of your new addition when the sleep deprivation (that inevitably goes with the first few weeks of ownership) kicks in?
Your brand new puppy will rapidly grow out of its cuteness and turn into a large, unwieldy brute with absolutely no manners unless you are prepared to take it to training classes and apply the lessons learned consistently. That means that the whole family has to be involved in training, not just the principal carer. Is your hormonal teenager capable of keeping prized possessions out of the reach of the jaws of a teething pup, who likes nothing better than munching its way through a PSP?
Your newly evolved "Labradonkey" will require a lot of exercise. Who is going to be responsible for dog walking on cold winters nights for the next 15 years? Will you still be capable of 2 x one hour walks in years to come?
Is someone home most of the time to look after the dog? Exercising, training, grooming and feeding a dog all take up considerable amounts of time.
Have you considered the financial implications of having a dog? Costs to consider are food, good insurance, vet’s bills, worming, inoculations, toys, kennelling should you wish to go on holiday, training courses, general doggy equipment, not forgetting in-car security.
If the answer to all of the above is a resounding YES, then read on.
Finding a Reputable Breeder
One of the big issues for organisations such as dog rescues is the existence of 'puppy farms'. People breeding purely for money will go to extraordinary lengths to dupe the punter, and will think nothing of moving pups into a house, purely so that the buyer thinks that the pups are ‘home reared’. Puppies from puppy farms are more likely to suffer health and behavioural issues throughout their lives. They are often bred from unsuitable breeding stock, suffer poor nutrition, endure filthy conditions, have little or no socialisation and are taken from their mother and siblings too early. So how do you do your utmost to avoid unwittingly supporting this vile trade, and ending up with a pup that you dearly love, but has irreversible health and behavioural issues?
Firstly, the breeder should be asking you searching questions about your lifestyle, your family and how you intend to raise your pup. Equally, any good breeder will welcome thorough questioning from you, as this goes some way to assuring them that you are a suitable owner for one of their puppies. If your questions are not answered to a satisfactory level, then ask yourself why. Before you even go to see a pup, you should have the answers to the following, all of which should be confirmed if you do arrange to see the litter.
- Can you see the parents of the litter? You certainly should insist on seeing the puppy with its mother and litter mates, and the sire, if available.
- Has the bitch had other litters before? If so, has there been at least a gap of 12 months since the last one?
- How old is the bitch? Bitches should not have a litter before 2 yrs or after 7 years and should be limited to 4 litters.
- Have all tests relative to breed been carried out on the parent dogs? Are the original and genuine KC and vet certificates available for viewing by prospective purchasers? Potential purchasers should be aware of the hereditary problems that can crop up in the parent breeds of Doodles (see below).
- Will puppies be checked over routinely by a vet after birth and if so, how often?
- Will puppies be wormed with a veterinary preparation and will the breeder provide you with a copy of the worming schedule?
- Will the puppy come with puppy pack of information leaflet, pedigree, registration documents where possible, photos of parent dogs and the next 48 hours of food?
- Will the breeder supply a contract with the puppy stating that they will remain responsible for the future of the pup, in that they guarantee to assist with re-homing of the dog at any time in the future, should it become necessary?
- What support does the breeder offer once you have taken the puppy home?
- What conditions are all bitches and puppies kept in? They should be clean, warm and comfortable, ideally raised indoors in a busy household (to begin the socialisation process). Good breeders will also start the important puppy house-training and socialisation processes before the puppies leave them.
- In the case of miniatures, what care has been taken that too large a dog has not been mated to too small a bitch?
It is highly unlikely that people running puppy farms will be open and honest in their responses to your questioning. If you suspect that there is anything dubious about the breeder, walk away.
And finally, although it could be tempting, never buy a puppy from someone because the conditions are poor and you feel sorry for the animal. There is a good chance you will live to regret it, in terms of its future behaviour and overall health. You may also have supported the cruel trade, known as “puppy farming”.
Standard or Miniature, Dog or Bitch?
One of the first things to consider when adding a Doodle to your family is what size would be best suited to you and your home. A standard Labradoodle (bred from standard Poodle and Labrador) can reach the giddy heights of 29” to the shoulder, weighing in at up to 45Kg. A miniature Doodle can be anything from around 15” – 20” to the shoulder. How much space do you have, how big is your garden, are you able to train a large dog to have good manners, not to jump up, to walk nicely, and to be a pleasure to own? How much will it cost to feed this potential monster? This is not a commitment that should be entered into lightly. The size of your dog could have a considerable impact on your life.
Many feel that gender does not matter and that it is the overall health and temperament of the dog that are the main issues. If gender is unimportant to you then size, temperament and level of care become the primary considerations.
Bitches tend to be a little smaller than dogs; some trainers and breeders recommend a bitch to homes with small children, due to their inherent maternal instincts. Whilst in season, a bitch will need to be confined to remote walks, house or garden, and kept on a lead at all times, for around 3-4 weeks, until such time as the bitch can be spayed (usually no earlier than 12 months of age).
Some dogs will roam if there is a bitch in season nearby. Not only can this be dangerous for the dog, but also difficult for the owner. Having the dog castrated may alleviate some of these urges, but not always. Some dogs may also display territorial behaviour, such as marking territory, not usually a problem unless he takes to doing it inside the home. Dogs can be more active and have greater endurance than bitches, so may make better running partners or competitors at agility later. They may also be more loyal.
Which Generation (F) / Coat Type?
You may have seen Doodles referred to as F1, F2, or F3, or even F1B or F2B (just to make things more complicated). This is not some form of secret code or gobbledegook, it is just the accepted way in which we can distinguish between the different generations. Below is a basic guide:
Labrador x Poodle = F1 (i.e. 1st generation)
F1 x F1 = F2 (2nd generation)
F2 x F2 = F3 (3rd generation)
That bit is straight forward enough but, should two Doodles be bred that are not of the same generation (e.g. F1 sire, F3 dam), then one generation is added to the lowest generation, be it dam or sire, and the resultant pups would be F2. If a Doodle is crossed back to a Poodle (sometimes done to enhance the coat of the pups) then B is added to the generation of the Doodle (to indicate that there has been backcrossing). For example, an F2 Doodle dam put to a Poodle sire would produce F2B pups.
The generation of the pups could have a significant bearing upon the coat type that the pup will inherit, although this is not always the case. Generally, the higher the generation, the more predictable the coat type of the pups, but a good breeder should have some idea of how the puppies will end up. Do not believe anybody who tells you that ALL Doodles are non-shedding and suitable for allergy sufferers. That, unfortunately, is a myth. It is also worth adding that a puppy will not shed its coat and will rarely trigger a reaction to an allergy sufferer. It is not until the adult coat comes through that any reaction can be assessed, so allergy testing with a pup is a futile exercise. Read more about allergies here.
What is referred to as a ‘scruffy’ type coat, will (normally) be a shedding, hair coat, that will require brushing probably once a week. A trip to the groomers for a beard and fringe trim will be an occasional occurrence and may be easy enough for you to carry out yourself.
A wavy or curly fleece or wool coat, on the other hand, is a whole new ball game. These types of coat will require very regular combing, brushing, and cutting or clipping in order to keep mats at bay. This is extremely time-consuming. General grooming which will have to be carried out by yourself will take in excess of 30 minutes every other day, with trips to the groomers for a clip or scissor cut becoming necessary every 3 months or so (costs vary widely dependant on the area you live in). Once a coat has become matted, it can become both uncomfortable and stressful to the dog. It is imperative that this type of coat is well maintained, and it is a dedicated owner that will take on this onerous task.
Recommended Health Tests for Doodles
Labradoodles can inherit the best qualities of their parent breeds i.e. Poodle/Labrador, but can also inherit some of the inherent health issues.
BVA Hips/Elbows (for joint abnormalities) and eye tests (for general eye health) for the parents are the bare minimum that you should expect as a prospective owner of any generation Labradoodle. All of these tests can be verified by the BVA certificates that will be issued to the owner of the dam and sire. The original Hip certificate is coloured green, the Elbow certificate is gold and the Eye certificate is white.
Hip and Elbow Scores
The Breed Mean Score for Hips for Labradoodles is currently 14 (2008). This figure is an average of all Labradoodles that have been hip scored to date and is used as a guideline to enable breeders to reduce the probability of any pups having hip problems in the future. It is essential that you see the original green certificate issued by the BVA of any hip scored parents, and that you are given a copy in order to make checks.
When checking Hip score certificates for your prospective puppy’s parents, you need to make sure that:
- the overall score is on or below the current breed mean score
- no individual scores (which make up the total) are over 3
- scores are balanced across the two hips.
Elbow scores can range from 0 – 3 for each elbow. No score above 1 is acceptable, and again, the scores should be balanced. Again, it is essential that you see the original gold certificate issued by the BVA of any elbow scored parents, and that you are given a copy in order to make checks.
Of course, if the sire of the pups is owned by another party then a photocopy of his health tests results may be all that is available. If you are unclear on the results of health tests in any way, consult your vet in the first instance.
Of course, health problems can be very difficult to detect and some are not inherited; the existence of good test results for both parents should simply reduce the risks of health issues in your puppy.
Recommended Tests for Poodles
- SA Test (Sebaceous Adenitis) bi-annual
- Eye Test Annual
- Hip Score Once only, Breed Mean Score =14
Other Desirable Tests for Poodles
- Von Willebrands (vWD) Once Only
Recommended Tests for Labradors
- Hip Score Once only, Breed Mean Score =14
- Elbow Score Once only
- Eye Tests Annual
Other Desirable Tests for Labradors
- OptiGen DNA Eye Test for prcd-PRA. Once only
The testing for vWD, SA and prcd-PRA is highly desirable to rule out the risk of further disease, in the higher generation Labradoodles.