the puppy files: what to look for in a breeder

Hint: They drill you as much as you drill them!


After deciding that we were ready for a puppy and that we wanted to get a Labradoodle, we began reseplaceing dog breeders. I heard lots of cautionary tales — and horror stories — about puppy mills and unsafe breeding practices. I followed my gut on a lot of things. I was not about to order a puppy online. I wouldn’t get a dog from a breeder who wouldn’t let us visit. And, though I know lots of people do this, I couldn’t imagine picking a dog up from an airport. I want to be able to see the puppy’s birthplace, and hopefully mom and dad. But there were a few things I learned very quickly that I wasn’t expecting.

The best breeders are few and far between — and have waiting lists! Once we narrowed our sights on a breed, we quickly discovered that there weren’t that many breeders who specialized in Labradoodles in our area. There’s Hudson Doodles upstate which we have heard good things about. But we gravitated towards Eden Valley Labradoodles in Maryland. Always a sucker for packaging, we instantly fell in love with their site and gorgeous pix of happy pets romping with lovely girls. And best of all, they were expecting a couple of litters towards the end of the year, which seemed like perfect timing to us.

Breeders won’t sell their dogs to just anyone. I was amazed at how extensive the puppy application form was — questions about our lifestyle, home, and level of commitment were asked. It forced us to ask ourselves a lot of questions and do even more reseplace on the breed. We learned about grooming needs, crate training, and immediately decided we needed a fence around our backyard. We completed the form, sent in a deposit for a puppy that was just a pea in its mommy’s belly, and waited for news.

Be suspicious of any breeder who won’t supply references of previous clients or allow visits. Because a dog’s early development is crucial, you need to know how a puppy is being raised in its first few weeks of life. How often are the dams mated? When does early training and socialization begin? What are the puppies fed?

Ask for a health certificate for the pup’s sire and dam. Make sure they have been tested for any common problems the breed may be susceptible to. Here’s our future’s puppy’s dad, and its mom, Lady Godiva (shown above).

Be prepared to pay! The price was a bit of a shock to us. But it is so important to make sure that a puppy comes from a good breeder — with clean facilities, high quality food and expert medical care – that it is worth it.

Another shock is that we couldn’t pick out which puppy would be ours. The breeder is deciding which dog we will get. We don’t know if it will be a boy or a girl, but we are putting our faith in Pam at Eden Valley to match us with the puppy that best fits our family. She has years and years of experience doing this.

A good breeder will be your guide through the new puppy process.
I can’t believe how much I have already learned from Pam on how to prepare for a puppy (more on that next time).

There is more to know about picking a breeder — this is a great reference article at — but those were the big factors for us. Our puppy was born on October 26th and after eight weeks of waiting we’ll be picking him or her up next weekend! I will try to write a couple of more posts about how to prepare your home for a puppy in next week. Then — let the cuteness begin! — Angela M.

Previously on the Puppy Files
After Losing Our Dear Cat, We Ask: Is It Time For a Dog?

Chosing the Perfect Breed

From our partners

I was under the impression that responsible breeders don’t purposefully for holiday litters, that they rarely (if ever) had multiple litters at the same time, and finally- that they wouldn’t breed without having homes lined up for their pups to start.

6 litters in under a year? Goodness!

Rescues! Rescues also are very selective, and it is certainly possible to adopt a purebred dog through a rescue agency. They have puppies and adult dogs and purebreds and mutts. We adopted our amazing dog through Angels Among Us Animals Rescue in Atlanta, GA. She is the most wonderful Sheltie and just right for our family, and Angels Rescue was amazing during the adoption process. They have so many dogs up for adoption who need a good family.

Here is their website:

Egads! I had no idea these doodle dogs cost thousands of dollars! Holy cow. Is it just because of their newfound popularity?


I echo Holly’s sentiment– rescue organizations should be the first resource, not breeders! There are so many incredible pets (adults and puppies) that are in need of good homes, many purebred. I adopted my french bulldog from a rescue and couldn’t ask for a more loving, better behaved dog. (Additional bonus– I was allowed to personally spend time with her before adoption, ensuring that our personalities were a good fit for one another.)
Shelterrific readers, please forgo the high priced breeders in favor of contacting your local rescue organizations.

Angela M.

Hi all — thanks for your comments. You’re right, you should definitely consider a shelter first if that’s right for you and your family.

Please see more on this debate on the previous post:

I would also add that as a longtime dog owner who has bought from breeders, I would agree that it is common for them to pick the puppy for you, but they should allow you to specify gender. Male and female dogs are VERY different in their needs and personalities, and it is probably as big a factor as breed in making a good match. You should be allowed to pick your preference there.

Angela M.

Hi Debra.. thanks for that advice. We were able to ask for a preference in gender (girl) and the litter has two girls and three boys. Lets see what happens! Wish us luck.

Ashley M.

I have one dog from a highly recommended breeder and one from a rescue organization. The dogs are both fantastic! The breeder pup was slightly easier to train (probably her bread also Morkie (yorkshire terrier and maltese) but my puppy mill pup is just as marvelous and in the end I feel much better about rescuing her. I would definitely rescue if I ever got another dog.

Karen N

I think you are getting some good advise. There are so many dogs that need homes that are in shelters and rescues,it seems insane to continue to force domestic pets to breed to satisfy a business. My own dog was 9 months old when we saw her at our county shelter. She was among 250 dogs that were available for adoption. The majority were destined to be euthanized. Think about it.