When it comes to bringing a new furry friend into your life, selecting the right breeder is just as crucial as choosing the perfect dog breed. A responsible breeder not only produces healthy, well-socialized puppies but also prioritizes the well-being of their parent dogs and adheres to ethical breeding practices.
Genetic and Health Testing
One of the hallmarks of a reputable breeder is their commitment to ensuring the health and well-being of their puppies. We’ve all heard a breeder say “from health-tested parents” or “health test by our vet.” So what does that mean? What is genetic testing and OFAs?
- Genetic Testing Genetic Testing can be done through companies such as Embark, PawPrint Genetics, Wisdom Panel, and Animal Genetics. This can test for 250+ genetic conditions, a single genetic condition, or just for coat color and type.
For Poodles, at minimum you want to look for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Von Willebrand Disease, Dwarfism, GM2, and NEWs. For Cavaliers we are looking at Dry Eye Curly Coat Syndrome, Episodic Falling Syndrome, Degenerative Mylopathy, Muscular Dystrophy, and IVDD. So that means for Cavapoos, we are looking for all of those tests to be done, at a bare minimum. When you hear genetic testing – know what you are asking for. You can find more information on other breeds through Embark Vet and our parent dogs have their Genetic Test results available at all times on our Mom Dogs Page. Since I use outside stud services they are not listed on my website, but that information is always available through email upon request.
- OFA Certification The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals Is a nonprofit that helps set a standard in breeding. They recommend tests based on breeds, and some are done by veterinary specialists, other by regular vets. Some tests are repeated every year, and others are done at a certain age. For Poodles and Cavaliers we are looking at Hips and Patellas which are done preliminary, and will be repeated and finalized at 2 years of age. Cardiac and Eyes are repeated yearly for both breeds by specialists. Once these are completed, breeders are issued certificates and the results are uploaded into their database. You can find links to our results, updated yearly, on our Mom Dogs Page.
- AKC Papers Are simply to track the lineage of the dog, and mean nothing in regards to health, temperament, or conformation. It does not indicate a better dog, a healthier dog, or that the breeder takes care of their dog. It’s simply a lineage tracking tool.
- Health Testing/Certificate This can mean anything or nothing. Some breeders say this and mean that the puppy went to the vet once. This may mean they vaccinated the dog themselves at home. Or they can mean they did Genetic Testing, OFAs, and went to the vet – or any combination of the above. So make sure you find out what the breeder means when they say that. Our vets DO issue a health certificate for each puppy, noting anything they noticed about each puppy, what vaccines they administered, and that the puppy was healthy at the time of their exam. Here at Sleeping Bear Kennels, we don’t play “vet.” If it’s more than basic first aid, our veterinarian is handling it. We don’t cut costs by deworming and vaccinating with livestock supplies from the local Feed store.
- Early Neurological Stimulation and Socialization Early Neurological Stimulation seems to be a maybe helps/maybe doesn’t thing. Here at Sleeping Bear Kennels, we utilize this in a conservative method. For us, we handle the puppies often to check on them, weigh them twice a day the first few weeks, check them over, trim their nails, and handle their paws and ears and such. For us, this is supplementing what mom is doing, and performs the function of health checks to make sure everyone is growing. As they get older, they get introduced more and more to people, different sounds, textures of flooring, our cats, other dogs, children, and more to help them become well rounded companions, and we give you information on how you can continue this at home.
Temperament of Parent Dogs: This is extremely important to me. It doesn’t matter how healthy or pretty or well structured a dog is if they have a bad temperament. While it is a huge blow when a potential breeding dog prospect doesn’t work out after investing thousands upon thousands of dollars in them, it’s so important to what is being passed on to the puppies. When looking for a stud dog, one of the first questions I ask is “what is their personality like?” and I ask follow up questions like “Have they ever guarded a resource?” “Does your vet like them?” “Do they get along with other dogs?” If I’m not hearing a natural story and a natural love for their dog, that’s not the dog I choose. I want the owner to be just as enthusiastic about the dogs temperament as about how many puppies they produce in a litter.
Visiting Parent Dogs/Litters This is one area where I feel the advice given on the internet is outdated. Gone are the days where you see an ad in the local paper and drive out to a farm the next day to pick out your new 6 week old puppy. When we know better, we can do better. Our parent dogs live in guardian homes, so that they live and grow with their forever families. With what we know about genetics, we use stud dogs from the other side of the country, different countries even. So the advice to “see the parents first” isn’t always possible. What you SHOULD be able to do is see at least the mom dog on pick up day, and the breeder should be able to show you exactly where the puppies are raised, and you should be able to see the mom and puppies playing and living their lives.
Here at Sleeping Bear Kennels, you will see for a video chat before placing a deposit. Once it’s your turn to get a puppy, we host families for a puppy visit day around 6 weeks of age, so you get to meet all of the puppies from your litter, and you get to meet and interact with mom. On pick up day, you get to come to our home once more, and interact with us and mom dog again. Our puppies are whelped in our bedroom, and as they grow they are spend more and more time in a bigger area in our living room. For safety reasons, for both our family and the puppies, we don’t allow others to visit. A big thing for us is just that we have children, but also puppy theft has been on the rise in the last few years, so we don’t give out our address freely. Another issue is minimizing outside biohazards while puppies are still young and unvaccinated. When only families for that litter visit, they are accepting jointly accepting the risk of introducing something to that litter, and are assured that a parade of unknown people aren’t coming through and exposing puppies to things that could make their puppies sick.
Importance of Waitlist Deposits and Responsible Breeding Practices Here at Sleeping Bear Kennels we do not have litters unless we have at least 4 deposits for our litters where we expect 5/6 puppies. Almost always, we have more than that. For bonding with their new families, puppies really do best going home at 8 weeks. For us, this is responsible and ethical breeding practice. We aren’t just producing puppies for profit and handing out puppies to anyone and everyone who inquires. Responsible breeders often maintain waitlists for prospective puppy buyers to ensure that their puppies are placed in suitable homes. Placing a deposit to reserve a spot on the waitlist demonstrates your commitment to the process and allows the breeder to plan litters responsibly. Avoid breeders who have litters without prior homes lined up, as this can contribute to overbreeding and lead to puppies being placed in unsuitable environments.
Choosing the right breeder is a crucial step in finding the perfect canine companion for your family. By considering factors such as genetic testing, socialization, temperament, cleanliness, and responsible breeding practices, you can ensure that you’re acquiring a puppy from a reputable source.