A while back I posted some good questions to ask a breeder during the interview process. Today I thought I’d carve out the time to answer those questions myself, in one location, for easy reference for anyone who is interviewing me. 🙂
Also, this is Buttercup. Queen of the blonde Cockapoos and a very beautiful new addition to our program. Isn’t she gorgeous? For those that say blondes lack IQ one hour with Butters and you’ll know that hair color most certainly does not affect intelligence. She is bright as the sun (and just as yellow).
1) Are you a professional breeder or a private breeder?
I am a professional breeder.
2) Why do you breed dogs?
You can find the answer HERE.
3) What breeds do you currently breed and what others have you bred in the past?
4) What health problems are present in the breed? Which of these are genetic? What do you do to breed away from these problems?
There are many health problems present in all dogs, and the Cockapoo is no exception. Apart from normal and common dog diseases (like cancer, heart disease, obesity) Cockapoos can have:
- prcd-PRA, among other eye problems. I test my dogs’ DNA for prcd-PRA and have my dogs eyes cleared by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
- PFK and VonWillenbrands disease. I test my dogs’ DNA for these diseases.
- Knee and joint problems. These are only thought to be minimally genetic, and much more affected by diet and nutrition than anything else. However it certainly does not hurt anything to make sure breeding dogs have their hips and knees checked out by a veterinarian to avoid potentially passing along any painful joint problems. I am very careful with my mother dogs during their pregnancies and the babies as they are nursing and weaning to ensure the very best, most complete diet possible is being fed.
- Heart disease is extremely common in all dog breeds. It is only thought to be partially genetic, though there is most certainly a genetic component. All breeding Cockapoos should have their hearts’ auscultated by a veterinary cardiologist to help prevent heart disease in puppies. Since most heart disease doesn’t rear its ugly head until dogs are seniors it is important for breeders to know the health of their retired breeding dogs so they can make good decisions about the line and current and future pairing selections.
- Many eye, ear and skin conditions along with allergies can plague the crossbreed. I have my dogs’ eyes examined by veterinary ophthalmologists and I do not breed dogs that present with any of these conditions.
These tests are very accurate and important and any breeder that says otherwise is not being truthful. There is no way to prevent diseases and disorders in dogs. No matter how hard any breeder tries it will most certainly happen at some point or another. But there is no reason not to take every possible precaution to avoid passing devastating and heartbreaking conditions to puppies. (The only compelling reason to avoid testing is cost. It is expensive. But you’ll notice that breeders that perform health checks quite often have puppies that are no more expensive than those who do not screen their dogs’ health. Look for the breeder that is willing to “eat” a little profit to do the responsible thing for their babies)
5) What traits do you breed for specifically?
Apart from physical health and form I breed for intelligence (by this I mean trainability – how fast does the dog learn new things people try to teach him), bidability (how likely is the dog to be eager to obey, how much does the dog want to please people), calm mental soundness, confidence/friendliness, and I also look to breed dogs that are not in love with the sound of their own voices. A dog that barks incessantly doesn’t make the greatest therapy dog or pet.
6)What are your goals in breeding?
I am working toward establishing a fantastic line of American cockapoos. There are few genuine lines of these dogs in North America and I hope to perfect and produce a strain of my own which embodies the absolute best traits of this dog while capturing as much health and vigor as possible. It is important to me to produce dogs with reliable temperament and physical traits. You can read my mission statement HERE.
7) What kinds of activities do you do with your dogs?
We enjoy lots of training events and therapy. My breeding dogs are unable to participate in most events because they are crossbred and not sterilized (thanks for that rule, AKC) but we participate when and where we can!
8) How many dogs do you own (guardian dogs included) and how many of them are breeding dogs?
This number is always changing, so it really should be asked of me at the time you’re interviewing me. I don’t want to mislead anyone by placing an only temporarily accurate number here.
9) Are your dogs kenneled outside or do they live in your home or someone else’s home?
My dogs live in my home. They spend time in our backyard as well and they have a very nice (and large) house out there to stay in when our females have a litter in the house for the first few weeks (to give our girls a little privacy). Mostly our girls enjoy the other adult girls around. When we are training new puppies our adults spend larger quantities of time outside, but still come inside daily for lots of play, interaction, food and daily training.
We do have the occasional dog in a guardian home, but these are very special circumstances. I prefer to interact with my breeding dogs on a daily basis so that I may make good judgements in regards to them and accurately assess their characteristics and qualities before choosing to breed them.
Our dogs are a part of our family and do not spend more time outside than inside.
Some breeds are well-suited to a life outside in a kennel, however I feel quite strongly that the Cockapoo is far too people-oriented and social to tolerate a life full-time in a kennel. It is unkind to the dog and furthermore if a breeder does not spend a lot of time with her dogs then how can she know who is suitable for breeding purposes? Particularly if the main function of the dog is to be a companion… kenneled dogs that lack socialization cannot properly be evaluated for suitability for any breeding plan. There are good breeders that find the right balance by rotating their dogs inside and outside in kennels and keeping the dogs always in good company (both human and canine).
10) How many litters do you have per year?
This is also subject to change, so you’ll have to ask me. But “not very many” would probably cover it.
11) Where are your litters raised? If in the house where is the nursery located?
In our home, in the middle of all the action. We give our girls “privacy” from the other dogs initially but they do not get any privacy from people, environmental stimulus or normal day-to-day life.
12) What early training do you do with the puppies and how do you socialize them?
There is way too much to put here! We use early neurological stimulation, we socialize them to many animals and people and familiarize them with lots of household noises, smells and sounds. We take them on car rides and begin early house-training. We begin working on certain things like sitting when receiving food or human affection and we supply our puppies with tons of toys and activities that will help them be all-around excellent animals for various purposes.
13) When can I visit a litter and at what age do the puppies go home?
Litter visits are at 5 weeks of age. Puppies go home at 49 days of age (7 weeks) when they are at the best age for bonding with a new human family, and prior to their first “fear-imprint” period, which begins at 8 weeks of age.
14) How many puppies are usually in a litter?
15) Are your adult dogs house-trained? If so how long did they take to potty train?
Yes, all our dogs are house-trained. They each took anywhere between 3-12 weeks to train fully (completely accident free). Consistency and timing are everything. In general puppies start to really “get it” around 5 months of age. Before that you should have very few accidents if you’re doing your job properly and watching for potty cues and getting them outside on the right schedule. The crate and a schedule are definitely your friends here, along with a good hands-free leash (like “the buddy system”).
Cockapoos are not as easy to house-train as some (Australian shepherds only take a week!) but they are not difficult like toy breeds.
16 & 17) What are the good traits of your breeding dogs? What are the faults and/or limitations of your breeding dogs?
All of them have their strengths. All are bright and easy to train. All are fun to train. All want to please and desire to be around people (some more than others). All are beautiful and friendly and very sweet. Each dog has his/her own and we work to balance these traits in pairings. A short list:
- One dog is too large/tall and not as bright as the others (but has such an exceedingly friendly personality and strong build and healthy blood lines)
- One dog gets too excited when seeing people and takes more effort to calm down and focus on training tasks (but is a deeply devoted, faithful dog and very beautiful)
- This same dog is more energetic than I prefer but also much smarter than the others, combined with a strong desire to please people this dog is highly trainable (but does require more exercise than the others and has a tendency to chew if not provided with ample suitable chew toys and bones).
- One dog is deeply devoted to only me and is not as “warm” with strangers (though not shy and never fearful). This can be both a strength and a weakness. It would be a strength for a service dog but a weakness for a therapy dog. This dog is bonded very strongly and deeply and while a quiet dog is very protective of me.
- One dog can be reluctant to obey (but always still does) but is very confident and outgoing in new, loud, scary or bizarre experiences.
- This dog is very friendly with strangers and welcomes (and encourages) physical affection from any human nearby.
- This same dog has a tendency to bark when excited (not very pleasant, though still below “yap” status, it is not my favorite trait).
And since dogs change, so do these traits. In general you’ll hear me talk about “faults” and “strengths” in terms of temperament. Talk to a show-dog breeder and these will all be spoken of in terms of body, carriage, gait and so forth. These faults and strengths are completely relative to the person making the assessments, their standards and their likes/dislikes and so forth. Most professional breeders are apt to be far harder on their dogs than you would ever be, so that is also something to consider. If a breeder is said to be “kennel blind” it is when their emotions, attachments (whether time, emotion, or money) begins to cloud their ability to judge and correctly assess their dogs’ merit. It is something all breeders must be careful to avoid.)
Ask about a particular pairing if you’d like a more in-depth and dog-specific answer. I’m sure I could fill pages talking about my dogs specifically. In fact you’ll have a hard time getting a professional breeder to shut up about their dogs if you open the door to these questions… 😉
18) What do you feed your dogs?
This is subject to change as manufacturers are constantly changing their sources, ingredients, formulas and policies. I do like the Costco (Kirkland) brand puppy food or the canned food “cuts in gravy” as a good-priced and high-quality food.
I am partial to weaning puppies on more expensive food, though. I have used several different foods to include Orijen, Merrick, Wellness and so forth. All are good brands but Orijen takes a bizarre stance against Cockapoos so I don’t buy their food anymore… although they did send a bit of an apologetic email about it… I guess I’m still annoyed (told you I am crazy about my dogs).
I offer my adults canned and dry food as “free choice” but I give them a lot of homemade dog food. Fresh, real and whole foods. I don’t only feed muscle meats but look for skin, fat and organ meats as much as possible. I do NOT feed my dogs raw food and I do NOT feed my dogs bones. I’m not willing to take those risks with my dogs (or my human children, who hug and kiss the dogs every day).
19) Can I meet the parents?
Yup. (Actually I really encourage this.)
20) Do you ever have rescue dogs available for adoption?
Yes, sometimes I do. When I have a rescue available I post him/her but only after doing a lot of training and legwork ahead of time to ensure proper placement. Cockapoos are often not found in rescues because they tend to be such good dogs, but occasionally they are around. I rescue other medium sized non-shedding dogs too, though. Recently I house-trained a 9 year old Havanese who had his owner pass away 😦 I am still not sure how that woman had a house dog for 9 years (and he was definitely her house dog) that was never house-trained. And he never made any real effort to use “pee pads” either.
Ok. Puppy: This is Jacob’s Ladder (Jake). Another new addition. (Yes, I’m crazy enough to train multiple puppies at once). He looks like a teddy bear and I squeeze him nearly all day long because just look at.that.face. Also he likes being squeezed. See? Ok, well he tolerates it anyway. And he is happiest in a lap and he is always trying to climb up in one. So that’s what he gets for getting so close to me. Squeeze!