Should You Buy Your Poodle from a Breeder or Adopt from a Shelter?

The following is an excerpt from "The Complete Guide to Poodles" by Tarah Schwartz. For more information visit the books Amazon Page.

Author Credit: Tarah Schwartz

Poodles: Buying vs. Adopting

When deciding whether you should buy your new Poodle from a breeder or adopt one from the shelter, you need to consider what your plans and goals are for the future. If you’re looking for a future champion in the show ring, a shelter or breed rescue is probably not where you should be looking. However, if you have fallen in love with the personality and appearance of the breed and simply want a companion, a shelter is a great place to find your new dog.

Benefits of Rescues

One of the benefits of adopting from a rescue is the work that has already been put into the dog before you bring it home. Shelters or breed rescues generally put their dogs through rigorous testing to determine their suitability for potential adopters. They are usually tested for friendliness towards people and other animals, food aggression, and trainability. While it’s possible that a dog was given up by its previous owner due to behavioral problems, most of the time a dog ends up in a shelter because of the owner’s inability to properly care for it. Shelters also usually have dogs of all ages, so if you would prefer to skip the puppy stage, you may be able to find a house-trained adult.

If you’re interested in competing in dog sports other than conformation, many organizations allow mixed breeds and rescues to compete alongside purebreds. Adopting a dog from a shelter means saving a dog from potential euthanasia, so if you don’t need perfect conformation, contact your local shelter or Poodle rescue to see what they have available. Adoption fees typically range up to a few hundred dollars, but the dogs have usually already been spayed or neutered and given the necessary vaccines. If you’re on a tight budget, a rescued Poodle may be your best option.

Benefits of Breeders

Buying a Poodle from a breeder is probably the best choice if you’re looking for a partner in show or sport. Dogs that come from reputable breeders have been health tested, and you can be reasonably confident that outside of any accidents or injuries, you will be bringing home a healthy animal. Breeders will also typically offer much more support throughout your dog’s life than you will receive from a shelter or rescue. Breeders know their breed and their dogs better than most, so they are an excellent source of information and advice. You’ll also be able to be matched to your ideal dog, which will hopefully lead to a lifetime of happiness for you and your new Poodle.

Although most breeders will have only puppies available, some may also have adults that have retired from the show ring or breeding that need new homes. The downside to buying a dog from a reputable breeder is the cost. Although you have the support of the breeder and their contract, you may be spending up to several thousand dollars on your new puppy. Most puppies that come from breeders will only have one or two rounds of vaccines, so you’ll also need to plan for the additional cost of vaccines and spaying or neutering.

How to Find a Reputable Poodle Breeder

Picking a poodle from a breeder

The best place to find a reputable breeder is to attend local dog shows and sport competitions, especially if you intend to compete with your new Poodle. By going to the show and seeing the dogs in person, you’ll be able to see the dogs in action and speak with their handlers. Most competitors will be happy to discuss their dogs with you. You may find that some Poodles appeal to you more than others, so talk to their handlers and find out where their dogs came from. The individuals handling these dogs may also be breeders, but if they aren’t, they will likely be able to recommend the breeder from whom they adopted their dogs.

Checking with Local and National Breeder Clubs

If your area has a local Poodle breed club, it may also be able to recommend breeders. Many clubs have a list available of the breeders that actively participate in club activities. If your area does not have a local breed club or you do not know how to find one, get in touch with the Poodle Club of America (PCA). Their website has a list of local Poodle clubs, as well as a list of reputable breeders. The PCA website contains contact information for breeders and club officers, as well as information about the individual breed clubs.

Be Prepared to Wait

Be aware that many reputable breeders may have a waiting list for their puppies. Breeders who consistently produce high-quality dogs and have the appropriate health testing done on their dogs are in high demand and typically only produce one or two litters a year, so you may need to wait some time before bringing your new puppy home. However, the wait will be worth it. Reputable breeders will not only make sure that you’re bringing home a healthy puppy, but they’ll make sure you’re bringing home the right puppy for you and your family. Quality breeders care about their dogs and want to make sure they are placed in the right homes, so be prepared to be questioned or even interviewed before being approved for adoption.

Avoiding “Bad Breeders” and Puppy Mills

Whatever you do, do not buy your dog from an advertisement in the local newspaper or an online classifieds website. You should also avoid puppies from pet stores. These breeders do not have the breed’s best interest in mind and are typically only in it for the money. Their breeding stock will not have had any health testing done and the health of the puppy you’ll be buying may be at risk. In addition to the possibility of bringing home an unwell puppy, these breeders will not offer any guarantees, or have you sign any contracts. This can put you at risk financially, should anything happen to your new puppy.

Poodle Health Tests and Certifications

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) is the leading organization in genetic health testing for dogs. For each breed, they recommend a certain series of tests, usually to be performed after the dog has reached maturity at around two years of age. Test results can then be submitted to the OFA to be evaluated by their team of expert veterinarians. Once a dog has been evaluated for all the conditions recommended for its breed, the dog is given a number by the OFA’s Canine Health Information Center, or CHIC, and results are entered into their online database. These results are publicly available on the OFA’s website and can be found by searching the dog’s registered name or individual CHIC number.

Recommended Tests for Miniature Poodles

For Miniature Poodles, the OFA recommends that dogs undergo a DNA test for Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA. PRA is a degenerative disorder of the retina which eventually leads to blindness. There is no cure, but treatment can slow the degeneration of the retina. Miniature Poodles must also receive an eye test, performed by a veterinarian certified by the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO). They must also be tested for patellar luxation, which is a condition where the knee cap, or patella, does not stay in its normal place within the groove of the femur. The condition can be quite painful and will worsen as the dog ages. The OFA also requires Miniature Poodles to be tested for hip dysplasia, which is a degenerative disorder of the hip socket that can lead to painful arthritis and joint deterioration.

Recommended Tests for Toy Poodles

The OFA recommends that Toy Poodles also undergo DNA testing for Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Like Miniature Poodles, they must also be tested by an ACVO-certified veterinary ophthalmologist. Patellar luxation is also a common condition, so Toy Poodles must also be tested for that disorder after one year of age, but unlike Miniature Poodles, they do not need to be tested for hip dysplasia. Once owners submit results from all three tests, Toy Poodles can then receive their CHIC number.

Recommended Tests for Standard Poodles

Standard Poodles must also undergo testing by an ACVO-certified veterinary ophthalmologist but do not need to be tested for PRA. As hip dysplasia is common in this variety, owners must submit x-rays to be evaluated by the OFA. The third test can be one of three, chosen by the owner or breeder. One of the options is a thyroid evaluation, performed by an OFA-approved laboratory. Dogs may also be tested for Sebaceous Adenitis, which is a disease in which the sebaceous glands of the skin become inflamed, leading to severe hair loss. This test must be performed by an OFA-approved dermatopathologist. The third option is a congenital or advanced cardiac exam. Results of this exam must then be sent to the OFA for approval.

Breeder Contracts and Guarantees

Contracts and guarantees are an important part of the purchase of a purebred dog. This legally binding contract ensures that both you and the breeder are protected financially if things don’t go as planned. Typically, the contract guarantees that the dog you’re buying is healthy and has received proper veterinary care up until the moment it leaves the breeder’s possession.

Pets vs. Show Dogs

If you’re buying a pet, rather than a show dog, there may also be a clause which requires you to spay or neuter the dog at the appropriate age. If you’re buying a show or performance dog, there may be a clause preventing you from spaying or neutering the dog unless approved by the breeder. The contract may also include a “happiness clause,” which simply means that if the puppy does not meet your expectations or if things do not work out, the puppy may be returned to the breeder. In this case, you may or may not receive a refund.

Read the Contract (no really, Read it!)

Be sure to read your contract carefully and thoroughly and ask questions if there is anything you don’t understand. Reputable breeders are only interested in the well-being of their dogs, so be sure that you understand what the breeder expects from you and vice versa.

Choosing the Right Poodle for You

How to find a good family poodle
Photo Courtesy of Jasper Roam

When faced with a litter of adorable Poodle puppies, making a choice can be a difficult task. Before you make a final decision, there is a lot to consider. A puppy’s appearance will be the first thing you notice about it, but it should receive the least amount of consideration. A dog’s color or coat pattern will not have any effect on the dog as a companion and will only need to be considered if you are showing the dog in conformation, where certain colors and patterns will be faulted.

Choosing the Right Gender

You’ll first need to decide whether you would prefer a male or female puppy. If you have other dogs, you may need to consider what gender your current pets get along with best. Some female dogs may prefer the company of males, while others display aggressive behavior toward male dogs. Male dogs may or may not get along with other males, especially if they are unneutered, so it’s important to know your current dogs’ preferences before choosing a puppy. If you have no other pets and no preference, you can let your breeder help you choose your new Poodle based on other traits, rather than just gender.

Picking the Right Personality for Your Needs

The most important aspect in choosing a puppy is determining what your long-term goals are for your new dog. If you plan on showing the dog or competing in sports, you’ll need a dog that is suited for competition, rather than one who lacks drive or perfect conformation. If you aren’t sure what sport you’d like to compete in, but you know you’d like to show the dog, discuss this with the breeder and they may be able to find a dog that you can explore your options with. If you simply want a companion, let your breeder know. Puppies intended to be just pets often cost less than show dogs, and breeders generally have a clause in their contracts requiring pets to be spayed or neutered, whereas show dogs are usually kept intact.

Listen to the Breeders Advice

Breeders spend more time with their dogs than anyone, so they are the best resource to consult when deciding on a puppy. They’ll have the best idea of each puppy’s personality and how its conformation and physical ability are developing. Many breeders may be unwilling to let future show-ring stars go to pet homes, so be honest and thorough in discussing your needs with your breeder. If you have certain goals in mind for your new dog, tell your breeder so they can help you choose the ideal puppy. As the puppies age, the breeder will be able to determine which puppies are best suited for show homes and which will end up in pet homes, so it may be several weeks after the puppies are born before any future adopters are allowed to choose.

Tips for Adopting a Poodle From a Shelter or Rescue

poodle adopted from a shelter
Photo Courtesy of Matthew Fisher

All-breed rescue organizations are a great place to find a Poodle, but you may also be able to find a breed-specific rescue in your area. A breed rescue, such as a Poodle rescue, will focus on one breed, so they will only work with Poodles or Poodle mixes. The volunteers involved in breed rescues are passionate about their breed and they will be a great resource in finding the perfect Poodle for you and your family.

The Application Process

When applying for adoption, you’ll likely have to fill out a questionnaire and undergo a brief interview. Some rescues also have a volunteer come to your home to make sure it’s a safe environment for a dog. Don’t worry, if they find any problems, they’ll likely give you a chance to fix the issue rather than deny your adoption application. The intention is not to invade your privacy, but to make sure they’re placing the dog in the appropriate home. Rescue staff and volunteers want to see their dogs find their forever homes and they can only do that when they know enough about potential adopters to match them to their ideal dog. These interviews are also a great opportunity for you to ask any questions you may have about the breed or the specific dog you’re interested in. If you don’t have a specific dog in mind, you can discuss what you’re looking for in a dog to see if they have a Poodle that might suit your needs.

Fostering – A Great Option to Test the Breed

If you have any hesitations about adopting a Poodle, consider fostering a rescue Poodle before committing to adoption. Many rescues would rather have their dogs experience life in a home rather than in a kennel, so they often have fostering opportunities available. You’ll have to undergo the same questioning and perhaps a home check before being approved to foster, but it will give you a chance to get to know the breed before making the decision to adopt. It’s not unusual for foster dogs to become “foster fails” when their foster family falls in love with them, so if you meet your perfect match, don’t be afraid to sign the adoption papers.

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