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How to Choose an Ethical Dog Breeder

Updated: Feb 10, 2022

A Comprehensive Guide

You’ve made the decision to add a furry new member to your family. Maybe you knew instantly which breed of dog you wanted, or maybe it took you hours, days, weeks, or even months of deliberation to decide what your new best friend will look like. How big will they be? What color will they be? What gender will they be? What are you going to call them? Whatever your decision process was, believe it or not, deciding these things was the easy part. This new life you are bringing into your home is going to mean the world to you, you’re going to love this little (or big) ball of fluff more than you can ever imagine! So how do you make sure your new family member lives their best, healthiest life, for the longest time possible? You buy from a reputable, ethical breeder. Unfortunately, backyard breeding in America (and all over the world), is BIG business. There are specific things to look for when choosing where to buy your new puppy. Below is our guide to choosing an ethical labradoodle breeder.

Does the breeder belong to a club or organization?

Each dog breed will usually have a club or organization that ethical breeders become part of. In order to become a member, breeders must pay dues, and adhere to strict guidelines that ensure each litter they produce maintains and improves the standard of the breed. The club Cream Puff Labradoodles belongs to is called the Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association, or WALA. For more information on how Cream Puff Labradoodles must conduct its business as a WALA member, you can view WALA’s membership application process.

What genetic testing and health certifications does the breeder offer?

You might think dog breeding is as simple as mating one healthy dog to another, waiting a couple of months for some cute puppies, and then selling them to make some easy money. If you do, you couldn’t be more wrong! Breeding dogs (ethically at least) is far more complex. Yes, a dog may be healthy, but what does their DNA show? Many completely healthy dogs are carriers for diseases and conditions which will never affect them, but when they are bred to another dog who is also a carrier, can have a catastrophic effect on their puppies. At Cream Puff Labradoodles we test our dogs' eyes, hips and elbows, along with running other genetic screening. An ethical dog breeder tests all of their breeding stock unless they are cleared by their parentage. They know what each of their dogs carries for and have invested hundreds of hours of research time into making sure their dogs have the healthiest puppies possible. Ethical dog breeders are also able to provide each puppy they send home with a health guarantee. You can read Cream Puff Labradoodles Health & Sales Guarantee here. Genetic testing is something we will expand on further in a future blog post, and once we do, we will update this post with the link so you can read more.

Is the breeder following the correct protocols?

Responsible dog breeders will follow protocols that ensure the wellbeing of their puppies. In many states, the law deems that puppies cannot be sold before the age of eight weeks. At Cream Puff Labradoodles we choose to follow this for various reasons. Firstly, and most obviously, puppies need to be weaned from their mother’s milk onto puppy food. At Cream Puff Labradoodles we begin to do this between weeks four and five. The weaning process usually takes around two weeks (depending on the mother). Before our puppies leave us we make sure they are eating well and have gained the appropriate amount of weight. Secondly, Mom is Mom, just like human parents Mom has so much to teach her babies, they need to learn how to be a dog and the best way for them to learn is by their mother’s example. Removing them too soon will cause puppy anxiety and bad behaviors that their mother does not have the chance to correct. Along with puppies needing to be taught how to be a dog by their mother, they also need to learn how to live in a pack. Keeping them with their littermates for a full eight weeks enables them to learn social hierarchy which will help them to settle into, and learn their place in their forever pack (your family) more easily. Responsible breeders will also stipulate that anyone purchasing a puppy from them must have a veterinarian appointment scheduled within 72 hours of the puppy going home; this is for the buyer’s protection to make sure they did in fact receive a healthy puppy.

Where do the breeding dogs live?

The answer you are looking for when you ask this question really depends on how big the breeder is. If the breeder is small and only has a few breeding dogs then it’s logical those dogs may live with them. However, once the breeder has more than just a few dogs, then these dogs living with them raises a red flag. At Cream Puff Labradoodles all of our breeding dogs are part of our Guardian Program and live with loving families in their forever homes, we firmly believe this is the best way to raise them.

What does the breeder's reputation say about them?

How long have they been in business? If they’ve been in business a while they should have established something of an online presence which should make it easier to see what clients are saying about them. Do they have reviews or testimonials? What about social media? In today’s world, it’s difficult for any business to hide a bad reputation because unhappy clients will make themselves known online. A shorter amount of time isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but what’s their backstory? And are they following acceptable protocols and testing guidance, etc. as we have discussed above? Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or reach out to other clients on social media. For us, social media is our community, our accounts are full of our Cream Puff Family members and we know most of them would love an opportunity to talk about their Cream Puff fur babies along with their experiences with us.

How does the facility operate, and how are the puppies raised?

The worst of unethical breeders are commonly referred to as puppy mills; dogs who live in puppy mills are often kept in cages their entire lives with no regard to the Mom’s health. These dire conditions cause not only physical harm, but mental anguish to the dogs that has a repercussive effect on their puppies. Not all unethical breeders are puppy mills, some unethical breeders are not, but still follow poor practices that are detrimental to the health of the dogs and puppies. We have already talked above about our Guardian Program and how we believe this is the best way to raise our breeding dogs. So other than where the breeding dogs live, what are the other key things you should watch out for? Firstly, how many litters does each dog have? If a female is being bred over and over again this is a huge red flag. Most ethical breeders will limit the number of litters a female has to four, at Cream Puff Labradoodles it’s our owner’s personal preference to limit this even further, to three. Secondly, can you visit your puppy before you take them home? An unethical breeder might refuse you meeting your puppy before you take them home, some will even ship a puppy to you without you meeting that puppy, and without the breeder meeting you. Thirdly, how has the puppy been raised? It is so important for puppies to be socialized from an early age. At Cream Puff Labradoodles all of our puppies are born in our owner’s home where their children, friends, family, and staff are all interacting with them each day. Our puppies are also allowed out to play with other litters (in a controlled environment where we can be certain they are not being exposed to parvo). This socialization prepares our puppies for life in their forever homes and ensures we are sending home puppies with the sweet natured temperaments we are known for.

How hospitable is the breeder?

Are they just trying to give you a dog and take your money, or are they taking the time to answer your questions and meet your wants and needs? A good breeder should be able to answer all of your questions, they should never rush your decision, should be understanding about your puppy preferences, and should respect what a big decision this is for you. At Cream Puff Labradoodles we pride ourselves on not only the extensive knowledge our team possesses, but the personal service we provide to our clients and Guardians. We’ve been doing what we do a long time which helps, but we also seek to learn new things every day. Our management team, including our CEO, are extremely hands-on and will always find the time to speak with clients when requested.

Has the breeder asked questions about your life?

This is not done to be invasive. A responsible dog breeder wants to make sure their puppies are going to a suitable home where they will be loved and cared for just as well as their parents have been. Therefore you can expect a good breeder to ask you questions such as what your living conditions are - do you have a fenced-in yard/garden? Do you have children? Does anyone in the family have allergies? What’s your schedule like? These questions not only help the breeder ascertain the suitability of your home for a puppy, but also help them to offer guidance to you when you are preparing your home for a puppy.

Will the breeder take the puppy back if things don’t go well?

Of course you bring a puppy into your home with the best of intentions, but sometimes, for whatever reason, things just don’t work out. An ethical dog breeder cares about their dogs and will always take a puppy back if things don’t go as planned. Be very wary of those who won’t.


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