Finding the perfect puppy breeder

So not one to waste time, I immediately began my research exercise to find out as much as I could about this increasingly popular cocker spaniel/poodle cross.

There was a slight interruption in play when my neighbour Sarah, who had recently bred labradoodles from her lovely chocolate Labrador, let me know that one of her puppy buyers had decided not to go ahead. The buyer had discovered she was pregnant and been advised to wait and introduce a dog later as puppies and babies equal a super stressful life. My heart melted when I saw and held the puppy; he was so adorable, but definitely more Labrador than Poodle.

The more Poodle part was important. Both my eldest daughter and I had always been highly allergic to dogs and the no-shed aspect of the Poodle combo was essential. Sarah said she would hold him for me as there was no rush for a decision. You can imagine my poor husband Mark’s reaction when I emailed to say we were going to see a labradoodle pup that evening – until two weeks ago he had no idea I even wanted a dog!

Mark wasn’t keen. Unlike impulsive me, he preferred to mull things over for a while before committing to anything. He felt that even though I had just given up my consultancy work and had plenty of free time, a dog would impede our lifestyle; having had dogs himself, Mark well understood the responsibility involved. I’d never owned a dog because of my allergies, but had four children – including a set of twins – so thought this must equip me with some idea of what was involved (how naive was I).

We spent the evening discussing it over and eventually Mark saw the positives of having a four-legged addition to our family. Long walks, romantic weekends away together in cottages by the sea, lots of dog friendly hotel and pub stays. However, the next day – with Mark now enthusiastically on board – I’d done some more in-depth research and realised that a Labrador cross would be too large and boisterous for my five foot frame; it was a cockapoo I really wanted.

I’d already extensively researched my chosen breeder and so emailed to introduce myself and let them know exactly what I was looking for – a non-shedding, female, golden cockapoo. Should have researched this one a little better, I didn’t know at the time, but what I actually wanted was a sable cockapoo, the type that if you’re lucky, turn to the colour of Golden Syrup.

I was in luck as a little girl was available who was the ‘perfect fit’ and would be ready to leave Mum, a sable Cocker Spaniel, in a couple of weeks. Dad was a large white Poodle, who only just made the definition of miniature, but renowned for producing sweet natured puppies and so I paid my deposit. However, we were going on holiday at the time the puppy was due to leave her Mum, but the breeder said they would be happy to keep her for me until I returned and had enough time to prepare for her arrival.

Some would say I rushed into the decision and they would be right. The breeder had quizzed me previously about my circumstances, but they still wanted to be sure that I knew what I was taking on, advising me that there would be another litter available in a couple of months so not a problem to wait. Essentially I’d fallen in love with a puppy I’d never met, which I don’t think I would advocate anyone should do, but felt confident that with the breeder’s excellent recommendations on their Facebook page along with their health testing, the promise of their continued support once the puppy was home, and with Hilary and Ruth on board, the right time was right.

Tip from a Novice

Research your breeder with great care. Listen to recommendations from those who have experienced purchasing one of their puppies. Go and visit the breeder and look at the set up – ideally you need to meet both Mum and Dad and be confident they are the Mum and Dad. Gain an understanding of the temperament of the parents and ask whether is it a show cocker or a working cocker. Working cockers are almost tireless and will need more exercise than a show cocker and the appearance can also quite different. Ask the breeder about the medical history of the parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

Meet your puppy as soon as the breeder feels it is safe to do so and try to see it more than once; a good breeder should be happy for you to do this.

Ask to see the breeder’s Local Authority license if they are breeding and selling pets as a business, along with Kennel Club pedigree paperwork if appropriate. The breeder should provide you with genuine paperwork/certificates for puppy vaccinations, microchipping (legal requirement), worming and results for the health test (BVA/KC hip score is important for the Poodle parent. Scores range from 0 to 106, with the lower the score the better). I was also advised to buy from a breeder who uses the RSPCA/BVA AWF Puppy Contract and Puppy Information Pack (PIP).

Take a look at the RSPCA’s checklist for visiting a puppy at the breeders.