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How to Recognize a Responsible Doodle Breeder (and Avoid Puppy Mills!)

doodle breeder
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One of the trickiest, yet most critically important, parts of getting a new puppy is selecting a breeder.  Finding a responsible doodle breeder, in particular, is challenging as puppy mills and backyard breeders look to capitalize on the popularity of these “designer” breeds.

Not only do we as responsible dog owners want to avoid supporting these immoral operations, but we want—to the best degree possible—to ensure the health and happiness of our future pet.

Of course, the only way to be 100% certain you’re not supporting a puppy mills or a backyard doodle breeder is to consider rescuing a doodle.  However, for some families rescuing isn’t always practical or preferable.  That makes it imperative that you know how to recognize a reputable doodle breeder from wannabes and frauds.

At the end of the day, there are no black and white rules that determine whether a doodle breeder is “good” or not.  Nobody is perfect and there is often a lot of gray area, even for breeders with the best of intentions.  Additionally, bad doodle breeders can produce healthy dogs and good doodle breeders can produce unhealthy dogs.

That is why I recommend all dog owners invest in reliable pet insurance (I prefer Healthy Paws).  With that being said, using the guidelines below will give you the best shot to recognize and select a responsible and ethical doodle breeder.

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1. Meet the Parents

A puppy’s parents are the best indicator of what they’ll be like as adults.  It’s absolutely vital that you spend a little time with them to get to know their personalities and whether a dog like them would be a good fit in your family.  Responsible doodle breeders know this and will make the parents available to meet.

While meeting both parents is ideal, the father can sometimes not be available.  However, there is no good reason you shouldn’t be able to meet the mother.

Additionally responsible doodle breeders will have detailed genetic and health testing available about the parents as well as knowledge of their lineage.

2. Take a Tour

Responsible doodle breeders keep their dogs in their family home or at a minimum in clean, climate-controlled kennels.  While video tours are nice and becoming more commonplace, insist on taking an in-person tour of the entire facility to examine the conditions the dogs are kept in when the litter is not being shown.  There should be plenty of space, water, and toys available.

3. Choose a Local Doodle Breeder

A responsible doodle breeder will never sell to pet stores, wholesalers, brokers, etc.  Although it’s becoming a more common practice, it’s also a red flag if breeders offer to ship their puppies sight-unseen.

4. Choose a Small Doodle Breeder

Responsible doodle breeders should be running a lifestyle business, not a profit-maximizing enterprise.  There should only be one or two litters available at a time.  In addition, pay attention to how the mothers are treated.  Ideally they should be at least 2 years old before having their first litter, should be able to rest at least 10 months between letters, and not have more than 4 litters in their lifetime.

Read More: Goldendoodle Breeding & Pregnancy FAQs (Veterinarian Advice!)

Although contrary to what you’d typically want to hear, some positive signs of a responsible doodle breeder are waiting lists, high prices, and significant deposits.  Unlike low-cost breeders, responsible breeders charge higher prices so they can put their time and attention into producing a lower quantity of extremely high-quality puppies.  Responsible doodle breeders specialize in only one or two breeds of dogs.  The more breeds offered, the more likely you’re dealing with a puppy mill.

Related: How Much Does a Goldendoodle Cost? We Surveyed 300+ Owners to Find Out!

5. Happy & Healthy Puppies

Puppies should be in good health both physically and mentally.  Socialization of puppies is a huge differentiating factor between responsible and irresponsible breeders.  They need ample time to interact and bond with their mother, their siblings, and humans alike.

Never buy from a doodle breeder that allows you to take a puppy home before they are 8 weeks of age.  These are likely puppy mills simply trying to maximize profits and get rid of puppies as quickly as possible.  A responsible doodle breeder waits at least 8-12 weeks.

Puppies should be happy and social when you meet them.  If they are extremely fearful (beyond shy), this is a sign they have not been properly socialized.  In addition to proper puppy socialization, breeders absolutely should give puppies their first round of vaccinations before going home.  

6. Interviews & Contracts

Responsible doodle breeders don’t just sell to anyone.  They should be asking you just as many questions as you’re asking them to see if you are a good fit to be a doodle owner.  Your lifestyle, living arrangements, and previous pet experience are all fair game.  The best breeders will even require a written application.

In addition to vetting you, responsible doodle breeders will have a thorough, detailed contract.  This document should provide a health guarantee for your doodle as well as require you to return the puppy to them should you not be able to take care of them for any reason.  Furthermore, this contract should include a requirement to spay or neuter your puppy in addition to other provisions about keeping them healthy and happy.

7. Doodle Breeder Reputation

Do your due diligence even before visiting.  Look online for honest reviews and ask the breeder to provide you with references to contact.  Call local veterinarians, especially the one they patronize, to get their opinion.  Responsible doodle breeders should be confident and transparent during this process.

Don’t overlook the breeder’s personality during this process.  They should show a deep and sincere love and passion for their doodles.  They should also be experts on their breeds, not salesmen.  Any doodle breeder who guarantees hypoallergenic puppies or makes exaggerated claims that doodles are immune to certain diseases due to being a hybrid breed should immediately be disqualified.  No dogs are immune to costly diseases, which is why I always recommend Healthy Paws Pet Insurance.

At the end of the day, you should always trust your gut.  If a doodle breeder seems sketchy or avoids answering questions, it’s better to be patient than take a chance you’ll support an irresponsible breeder.  With these tips, you’ll eventually find the perfect doodle from a loving and trustworthy doodle breeder!