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Hi everyone,

I'm embarking on a search currently for my first spoo puppy! Very exciting, but also lots to learn in terms of what to look for!

What are the must-ask questions about health and testing I should know when speaking to prospective breeders?
Is an OFA score of "fair" ever acceptable for one or both parents? I've seen a few sites with beautiful males and females that carry those scores.
What is the Embark test for, and what should I ask about it? I see some breeders just say "embark tested" but don't elaborate?
Any others that are must-haves??
Any that are nice-to-have but not deal-breakers??
Any watch-outs??

She's going to be a pet, and not shown, but I don't want to get a dog that's going to end up with a world of health problems.

Very, very grateful for your advice!
 

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Oh, and I'm in the NY area and looking to get a puppy in fall/winter 2021. Any breeder recommendations hugely welcome! Flexible on color, although I love black, and also silver and white. A reputation for breeding calm, confident temperaments is really important to us - we have three kids, and we're an active household!
 

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I'll start with the Breeder List first. There's some health resources there that will partially answer your questions.
I'd recommend going to the OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) site as well as the VIP (Versatility in Poodles) site for a lot of good info on health and some of your other questions.


If you look thru that list, review the Health information (great strides there in the science), then don't skip the multi state listings, and particularly don't skip the Poodle Club of America Breeder Referral for your region (or search "Poodle Club of ___").

Conscientious breeders have a waitlist at the best of times and with pandemic puppy seekers, that wait is stretched well into 2021. There have been more than a few serendipitous contacts between seeker and breeder, so don't be put off by the thought of a waitlist. Also, don't be put off if online sites aren't particularly updated.
Be prepared to spend in the range of $1500 to up to $3000 at the top end. Conscientious breeders are not padding pricing due to Covid.

Specifically, "Fair" is passable but obviously, "Good" or "Excellent" gives the most assurance. If you were breeding, you'd try to offset a Fair with a higher score but there may be other conditions which might supercede the hip scoring. A breeder would breed to correct the one condition then breed the next gen back up on the hip testing scale.

Embark, PawPrints and other genetic testing labs offer DNA panels that cover a larger range of heritable poodle issues. OFA is what I think of as a minimum standard. Long time quality, conscientious breeders will also know their lines and issues that might run thru them so they may not do as much testing. As you learn more about the testing, start making contact with breeders and get feedback here, you'll have good information to select a breeder.

Any others that are must-haves??
Any that are nice-to-have but not deal-breakers??
Any watch-outs??
For this, I'll drop in my personal criteria for selecting a breeder.

Selecting a Breeder
My criteria need not be yours but I think it's important for a potential poodle owner to understand why these criteria are important in choosing a conscientious breeder and to get a well bred puppy to share life with for many years to come.
Every one of these is a talking point a conscientious breeder will welcome, just not all at the same time :)


My ideal breeder is someone who is doing this because they love the breed.
They want to see each new generation born at least as good as the previous, ideally better.
They provide for every dog in their care as if that dog is their own.
They will be there for the new family, and stand behind that pup for it's lifetime, rain or shine, with or without a contract.
They will know the standards and pedigrees of their chosen breed, health and genetic diversity of their lines, and breed to better them.
They will know of the latest studies in health standards for their chosen breed and variety and do the health testing of their breeding dogs.
They will have as many questions for me as I do for them.
They invest in their dogs. They don't expect the dogs to support them.

Breeding Program
! to maintain, improve, strengthen the breed
by breeding to standard, for health and genetic diversity,
and will prove their dogs meet these standards by showing or competing
or by breeding from titled parents. It's not the title, but what it shows
! focus is on quality, never quantity
! they do not cross breed
! they limit breeding to one to two breeds
! they limit breeding to only a few litters per year *

Breeding Parents
! registry information available
AKC Registry Lookup
Dog Search
! not too old or young for breeding
! not overbred
see Asking questions from a breeder
and Frequency of Breeding a Bitch
! genetic health testing done appropriate to breed and variety
! other health testing by exam such as annual eye, hips, patellas
! results of testing on own website, OFA site or testing lab
see Health Related Publications - Versatility In Poodles, Inc.
and OFA Lookup Look Up A Dog | Orthopedic Foundation for Animals | Columbia, MO

Living Conditions
! in home with family
! breeder allows, even encourages home visits

Puppies
! routine and urgent vet care, immunizations, dewormings
! socialization
! first groomings
! registry papers
! they will not require spay/neuter before physical maturity
! health "guarantee" generally favors the breeder, not the buyer.
health guarantee is no replacement for health testing of dam and sire.
does the contract/guarantee/warranty rule out covering conditions the parents should have been tested for
do you fully understand the terms of any contract/guarantee/warranty and can you live with them
beginning housetraining is a bonus
temperament testing is helpful

Advertising
! individual website to detail history of breeder, goals for their program
! information on dams, sires, puppies
! no trend pricing for color, gender or size,
! no marketing gimmick terms like "teacup" "royal"


! Anything not found on a public online site should be provided by breeder before buying.

* Many people prefer small scale breeders because they feel the puppies will have better socialization and it's very unlikely to be a puppy mill-like operation.
This doesn't mean that larger scale breeders can't do things right. The breeder of record may not be hands on with every pup or poodle on the place but they should make sure that all the quality of life and attention are paid to all their dogs.

If a breeder wants me to believe that they believe in their dogs, they won't stop the investment when it comes time to find the new families. If they want to cut costs by using free advertising sites like craigslist or listing on retail marketplaces like puppyspot or puppyfind, or other classified ad sites such as newspapers, I wonder what else they've cut costs on.

Contact a few breeders to introduce yourself. Even if they don't have or don't offer what you're looking for, it can be a close knit community. They may know where to refer you.

She's going to be a pet, and not shown, but I don't want to get a dog that's going to end up with a world of health problems.
Quality, conscientious breeders breed for the very best poodles they can, so every litter has the potential for show quality. We, the pet buyers, get puppies that were bred with the exact same attention, care, and love as any that might go on to show. The puppies that they feel might do well in the show ring won't be offered to the general public. Those pups would be sold only to someone with show experience, or would be sold on a co-ownership contract only with different requirements from a pet contract.

This is an essay that addresses "my dog is going to be a pet":

I don’t want a show dog; I just want a pet.
 
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