A few Mondays ago, the day started with no plans to get a puppy and somehow it ended with us spontaneously driving four hours to pick up our new best friend. It’s not that we never had plans to get a puppy – we did. Well, my kids did. I was still getting my head around it. My kids had a puppy name list of about 50 names. I had it tucked away for when we needed it, but I wasn’t too sure when that would be.
In the last month I realized that adding a puppy to our family was something that should happen sooner, rather than later. My kids deserved the experience of growing up with a dog. Their Dad and I split this past year and the kids and I were now living full-time in what used to be our ski chalet. Now that we weren’t commuting back and forth all year long, with the ideal property and lifestyle for a pet, there seemed to be no better time – even though I wasn’t sure I could afford a pet and, did I really need to be adding more to my plate? (Answer: No.) But, then I remembered always wanting to tell couples who were holding off on having a baby until they were “financially ready” to just have one – there are always costs and reasons to not feel financially secure. And regarding my plate, well, this wasn’t about me, this was about my kids. This would bring them so much joy, and a different kind of love. Happy kids = happy Mom. So, I stopped thinking about it and just did it. And? It felt amazing.
Even though I had only grown up with larger dogs (a big-boned [fat] cocker spaniel and yellow Labs), my kids and I were leaning towards a small dog. We didn’t have a lot of extra car space and we were also attracted to the numerous non-shedding, hypoallergenic – which have hair, not fur – small breeds, having been living away from the mess of dog hair (and smell) for decades.
After doing some research, I soon learned of many standard breeds like Labs, retrievers, and even Bernese that were now being bred with poodles to be non-shedding and hypoallergenic (not to mention for their intelligence). I was also told cross-breeding makes for a stronger breed. Yes, just about every dog out there is being bred with poodles – doodle this and poo that. We looked at Labradoodles and we looked at goldendoodles. We were quite set on the latter. They breed them in standard size (50 lbs and up), mini (29-49 lbs) and tiny (10-24 lbs). I’m not crazy about the poodle look, but I was told each litter produces some that look more Poodle and vice versa; and, that we’d be able to choose once the litter was born.
A family friend of ours has a cute – what I thought was Havanese – but when I called the breeder I discovered it was actually a Havapoo. Again, Havanese, meet poodle – enter Havapoo. (And yes, the ‘have a poo’ jokes were flying rampant around our house that day). My kids and I researched and found more options – cockapoos and Maltese (the standard, white purse dog). I didn’t love the dark smudges these white haired dogs are prone to getting around their eyes. Hmmm, what to do? Someone also emailed us about Morkies – Maltese with Yorkshire terrier. I was quickly starting to realize how overwhelming this process can be. But then my daughter found the Maltipoo breed online – Maltese with toy poodle – and we all instantly fell in love with these living, breathing stuffed animals.
At this point, we had narrowed down our wish list to tiny goldendoodles and Maltipoos. But, because the wait lists for goldendoodles were getting longer and longer (6-24 months!), I decided to search up a few Maltipoo breeders. Not having much luck, I then found a few people selling Maltipoos locally on Kijiji (be careful about buying a dog this way – you must do your research!). I sent a text to a few and to my surprise, heard a response back a few days later – “that” fateful Monday morning. I had no idea who was even texting me or for what type of dog, but they told me they had 5 pups that were being listed online later that afternoon, so I had to move fast. I immediately called to speak with them. I was told we could have first pick of the litter and they would send me photos right away.
Choosing wasn’t an issue because my kids had all, separately and unanimously, chosen the same adorable puppy from the photos. They loved how tiny she was (she was the smallest of the small ones – the runt). I also liked knowing she played well with her siblings and alone, with a leaf (independence, yay!), and that she loved the breeders’ big, yellow Lab (my parents have a Lab). Of all 5 puppies in the litter, she came up to us the most when we went to visit. It felt right.
While mine and my kids’ journey to choosing a little pup might seem all over the place, I picked up some helpful tips to make it a bit easier. If you find yourself looking for a new (furry) member of your family, read on!
Choosing Your Kennel or Breeder
First off, be aware (and happy!) that some kennels are quite particular about what dog goes home with what owner. I had to fill out some applications and even send family photos to one kennel. I was told they would choose the dog based on its and our personality. So be sure to do your research and call your breeders to see if the fit is right. For some people, that process is too much.
The Maltipoo breeder that we went with bred not only for looks, but personality, which I liked. The breeder was born into a family of breeders and knew exactly what he was talking about. This was even more evident when I spoke with a second Maltipoo breeder that day who, when asked about the dog’s disposition, said in a dull voice, “ummm, well this is my first litter, ever”. It also became apparent that she would not be there to answer questions that might arise after we took the puppy home, as many breeders will guarantee for a couple of years. For a first time dog-owner, this was a non-negotiable for us.
And, you may not want to go the breeder route at all. I had many people encourage me to get a rescue dog, which I really did consider – all dogs need love! I went onto our local humane society website first, but unfortunately there were no puppies available. I would definitely imagine that this has an added feel-good element as well, giving a dog in need a happy home. It’s all about what works for you and your family.
Think About What’s Important To You and Make a List of Questions
Different things are important to different potential dog owners. For us it was size, disposition, hypoallergenic/non-shedding and adult appearance.
Disposition One thing I did not love about small dogs is their reputation to be yappy. So that was always my first question when calling potential breeders. Going to see the puppies is also very important as you get a great sense of their personalities in person. I was attracted to a second dog in the litter we saw, from the photos, but once I met him I knew he was not for us. He was feisty and the only one of the litter that was yapping. Our puppy rarely barks and adores everyone she meets.
Size Since we were keen on a small dog, I always asked the approximate adult weight of breeders’ puppies and specifically the ones we liked. I always made sure to check if the parent was a toy poodle or miniature poodle. Toy poodles breed the smallest dogs.
Non-shedding/Hypoallergenic Some dogs claim to be non-shedding, but this is not always the case! We actually met a Havapoo recently and the owner said, “she was supposed to be non-shedding but she sheds a lot!”. I noticed throughout our search that some breeders cannot guarantee non-shedding for some breeds (Labradoodles and goldendoodles), but we were guaranteed with the Maltipoo breed. Be sure they have hair and not fur – we’ve had her for 5 weeks now and not one hair in the house!
Adult appearance All puppies are cute, so be sure to ask what your breed looks like as an adult. We did not want the Poodle look. I wanted more of a wavy hair pup. Also be aware that a puppy’s colour can change drastically. Ours was black with a touch of apricot and it’s looking like she will soon be apricot, white/grey with some black mix. I know another pup that was chestnut brown and is now white. Every dog is different.
So, back to that Monday afternoon. Once the decision was unanimous, within seconds of a conversation with friends and instructors in the sailing club, we had her name – Daisy (which would have been my son’s name had he been a girl). I told the kids I would drive down to get her in the following day or two, while they were in sailing school. But, as we got into our car, the kids insisted we drive to Burlington and get her right then and there. So we did. End of story. Beginning of a new love in the house. Worth every penny and loss of sleep and time in my day. I know I’m giving my kids childhood memories for life, and a love they will never feel with anything else. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, do it.