Frequently asked questions -
This section is to answer most questions we get asked about our puppies so we are not answering the same questions over and over again.
First and foremost - we are NOT a puppy farm. We do not have kennels or cages. Our dogs live and sleep in our house, and the puppies have lots of human contact so are used to being handed by adults and children. We have one or two litters a year so produce less than 10 puppies a year. Judith is a registered breeder with Dogs NSW (prefix CHIPPINDALL) and we abide by the Dogs NSW code of ethics. The health and welfare of our dogs is paramount, breeding is very much a secondary activity for us. Our dogs are very much part of the family, they are our "children".
Q. Do the puppies come vet checked?
Q. Are the puppies vaccinated?
A. Yes. They are supplied with the vaccination paperwork from our vet.
Q. Are the puppies micro chipped?
A. Yes. This is a legal requirement in NSW.
Q. Have the puppies been wormed?
Q. Are the puppies groomed?
Q. Do the puppies come with papers?
A. Yes. Pedigree papers are supplied with every pup. This is a requirement of Dogs NSW for all registered breeders. Normally they are limited register papers (pet only), but can be registered on the main register on request and at an additional cost. Note that not all puppies can be put on the main register, and we will only sell puppies on the main register if you have a breeders prefix or are a member of Dogs NSW (or the equivalent) and want a show dog.
Q. Can you sell a puppy without papers for less cost?
Q. Do you test for PRA?
A. Yes. None of our puppies will go blind due to prcd PRA. We DNA test both parents, and at least one of the parents will be PRA clear (type A). So long as one parent is clear, none of the puppies will develop the disease in it's lifetime. Any puppies on the main register will either be PRA clear by parentage or will come with a DNA prcd PRA test certificate. Note that currently PRA is the only genetic test for inherited diseases available for toy poodes.
Q. Why are your puppies so expensive?
A. They are not expensive when compared to what other registered breeders charge for pedigree poodles. We do not make any money from our dogs. By the time we pay servicing fees, vet fees, registration fees, DNA testing fees, membership fees, and puppy food, there is nothing left over. DNA testing in particular has been very expensive but is necessary. Servicing fees can also be very expensive, and there is no guarantee of success. What you get in return is a puppy that has a high probability of being healthy, well adjusted, and with good temperament (puppies have lots of human contact) and is fully documented with pedigree papers, copies of the pedigree papers of the parents, vaccination certificate, microchip paperwork, parent PRA test certificates, and some notes on care of your puppy.
Over the life of your puppy, the initial cost is a small part of the total lifetime cost of your dog. There are vet fees for annual vaccinations, vet fees for teeth and/or ear cleaning, food costs, toys, training, leads or harness, grooming etc etc. For an estimate of what your puppy is likely to cost see http://www.thesimpledollar.com/pet-cost-calculator/ This site has an on line estimator in US dollars, but Australian costs are similar.
Q. When will our puppy be available?
A. Any time after 8 weeks of age. For some of the smaller puppies we won't send them by air transport until they are older. We can also hold a puppy for a short time if you can't pick up when they are ready, but you may need to pay the vet fees for vaccinations. The first week after 8 weeks of age is free. Any longer we charge a fee of $20 per day.
Q. Can our puppy be sent to us
A. Yes. We use Dogtainers to transport our puppies all over Australia. They go by air from Merimbula airport. You can arrange transport yourself through Dogtainers if you wish.
Q. Will our puppy be toilet trained?
A. No. It is somewhat over optimistic to expect an 8 week old puppy to be toilet trained. They will have been encouraged to go on puppy pads or outside, but won't always do the right thing because they are too young and don't yet have complete control of their bladder or bowels.
Q. How big will our puppy grow?
It is impossible to predict accurately how big a puppy will grow. A rough idea can be gained from the size of the parents, but just like humans, there is a lot of variability. Some puppies will grow bigger or smaller than their parents. Most will be around the same size of the parents, but a small number will grow much smaller or much bigger. 11 inches is the maximum size according to the Australian Toy Poodle standard, but some puppies will grow bigger than that as an adult dog. The size of a young puppy is more a function of how aggressive it is at getting to mum's teat and thus to the milk, than how big it will be as an adult.
Q. Should I get a male or female?
A. On average 50% of the puppies born will be female and 50% will be male. Unfortunately, female puppies are far more popular than males. If 75% of the people want females then there is a problem - there are not enough females to go around! People waiting the longest on our waiting list are usually the ones who insist on a female, and sometimes they want a particular coat colour as well which makes it even more difficult. Why so many people want a female is something we do not understand. Male poodles, if they are desexed early (before 6 months of age) make wonderful pets. Male puppies often grow into big sookey boys who love sitting on a lap and love pickups and cuddles. Marley is a good example of that, he is also the perfect obedience dog when on the lead on his own because he is eager to please. Our experience (and also other breeders we have discussed this with) is that the female dogs in a pack often are the aggressors and will bully the males, so the boys end up at the bottom of the pecking order. Marley and Charley are at the bottom of the pecking order in our dog pack, and the girls like to make sure they know their place - i.e. under the girls paws. So, any pre-conceived notion that a male is likely to be more aggressive is just plain wrong. As for causing trouble barking and misbehaving, our girls are far more troublesome than the boys. Males are cheaper to get desexed and they recover much quicker than the females because it is a much bigger operation for a female. We also charge more for a female puppy because they are so popular, and even then can sell the female puppies several times over. So, we ask all potential customers - please think about taking a male puppy, you won't regret it.
Q. Do your dogs have any hereditary problems?
A. The honest answer to this question is that as far as we know none of our puppies should develop a hereditary disease, but there is no 100% guarantee. There are many different health problems that are inherited, and it is impossible to eliminate them all because most are caused by recessive genes, so are not seen if the dog is a carrier of the gene. We do not inbreed. The mother and father of our puppies come from completely unrelated pedigree lines so there is less likelihood of recessive genes being expressed.. We aim to breed healthy dogs, but there is no guarantee of 100% success. Any breeder who claims they do not have any hereditary health problems in the genes of their dogs is being dishonest. Because nearly all mutations are recessive it is impossible to know if a dog is a carrier without a DNA test, and there are only a very limited number of DNA tests available. From the DNA test we do know that Ebony is a carrier for the prcd PRA mutation, so we were careful to mate her with a male who is clear. That way none of her puppies will have the disease and go blind, although half of her puppies are likely to be carriers. Lucy is prcd PRA clear, so any of her puppies will be clear by parentage. PRA is very common in toy poodles (and also in many other breeds of dogs so crossbreeding does not eliminate the problem) and current best practice is to ensure via DNA tests that none of the puppies will develop the disease. Heavy culling of carriers will tend to reduce the genetic diversity in the breed, and thus cause other problems, so is not recommended. Unfortunately it is often the best dog that is the PRA carrier and you don't want to loose all those good genes by culling your best dog.
More information on inherited diseases in poodles is at the bottom of this page.
Q. Are there any other health issues I need to worry about?
Health problems can arise due to environmental factors and no breeder has any control over that. Toy poodles in general are quite active dogs who will jump up on to lounge chairs and then leap off instead of climbing down. They can take short cuts right over the top of the lounge to get to where they want to go, and can also belt around the back yard and leap off retaining walls, or leap into the fish pond or swimming pool. This sort of activity occasionally can cause injuries such as strains or dislocations, but this belongs in the realm of accidents, not anything that is inherited. Injuries from accidents are much less likely if the dog is not overweight, so it is very important not to let your poodle get fat. Obesity, quite apart from the increased risk of injuries increases the risk of heart problems, stroke and diabetes. If your dog gets diabetes you can look foreword to daily injections, a shortened life, endless vet bills and eventual blindness. There is an obesity epidemic amongst Australian children at the moment, and that has extended to our pets. Don't let your dog become part of the problem. Poodles are susceptible to ear infections., so you will need to be careful about keeping their ears clean (see next question) or there will be an unhappy dog and a trip to the vet. Also in older poodles, skin problems are very common. Things such as warts or skin cancers are common and may need to be removed,
One of the most important things to remember is the annual trip to the vet for vaccination and examination. This can highlight problems that you might not know about and if nipped in the bud quickly can save on big vet fees later if the problem gets out of control. Just by following a few basic rules you can save on vet fees, but always bear in mind that emergencies can happen such as a paralysis tick or snake bite that will cost. A good guide to saving on vet fees can be found here.
Q. How do I care for my puppy?
A. All puppies come with a brief outline of how to care for it. Poodles need to be regularly bathed and clipped. You will need to clip your poodle around once every 3-4 weeks. Clipping might just involve shaving the face and toes, especially during the winter months. In winter your poodle may need to wear a warm coat after it has been body clipped since they can get cold if their hair is cut short. One thing that requires careful monitoring is the ears. Poodles are quite susceptible to ear infections so you will need to pluck their ears of hair, and make sure their ears are always clean in order to avoid infections. Ear plucking is best started straight away so the dog will get used to it. Advice on ear cleaning can be got from your vet. When bathing, it is very important not to get water in your poodle's ear, and it is always advisable to clean and dry the ears out after a bath. If your poodle is shaking it's head and scratching it's ear, that is a sure sign of a dirty ear canal. Clean immediately.
As with all dogs, it is important to make sure your dog's teeth are kept clean. Bad teeth can lead to bad breath and nasty infections that spread to the bone and nasal cavity, and as in humans can also cause heart problems. You can train your puppy to allow you to brush his teeth, but good luck on that one. The best method is to feed your dog raw bones. This does come with a risk of a broken tooth, but you need to balance that with the need to pay vet fees to get your dog's teeth cleaned. In a pack situation, bones can cause disputes and dog fights so we gave up on bones, there were just too many fights over a bone, and we now use dried kangaroo tendons instead.
Q. Will my puppy be a quiet or very active adult dog? Will it be a yappy dog?
A. That is difficult to predict from the parents or from a young puppy. However, we can give some indication of what the adult dog will be like from our observations of the behaviour of the puppy. Just as in humans, there is a lot of variation in behaviour between siblings. Some puppies will be very active and aggressive in play with their siblings, others from the same litter might be quiet and submissive. The quiet ones are more likely to grow into quiet dogs, and the rowdy puppies are more likely to become more active and rowdy dogs, but there is no 100% guarantee either way. Ebony's puppies are more likely to be quiet than Ruby's puppies because she is a quiet dog, but then Ruby produced a beautiful quiet male puppy (as well as a very rough and rowdy female) in her first litter, so it is impossible to make accurate predictions from the parents. Puppies that are quiet and submissive when young can even end up as the dominant dog of the pack in later life. Poppy is a good example of that. We can certainly advise on which puppy has the temperament we believe would best fit into your family.
Q. What sort of dog can I expect my puppy to become?
A. It varies a lot between individuals, but in general expect a loving, affectionate and very intelligent dog. Some will be lap dogs, and will jump up onto your lap at any opportunity, while others won't. They really are house dogs, so don't expect a poodle to be happy if you confine them outside or to the laundry. Some will enjoy being outside, but will come inside at night and will enjoy being with you at night while others are strong house dogs and will spend most of their time inside. Some will love chasing a tennis ball and will fetch a ball until exhausted, while others will show no interest in ball games at all. Some are strong swimmers and don't mind getting wet while others hate to get wet. Some will love to eat and you will need to be careful not to allow them to get fat while others can be fussy eaters. Toy poodles like to enjoy themselves when young, so your puppy will probably make you laugh a lot, and you will wonder how you got along without him/her. Just remember that a young dog gets bored quickly, so they will need plenty of toys to play with and a daily walk is most important. Each has it's own little individual character.
Q. Should I hug my poodle?
A. This question has been added because there has been some publicity about some recent research that indicates about 80% of dogs "stress" when being hugged, and therefore you should not hug your dog. Hugging is natural human behaviour, but not natural dog behavior. The short answer to the question is - it depends. The study tended to over simplify a complex situation. It depends on the individual dog, it depends on the individual human, and it can also depend on the individual circumstances. Some poodles love being picked up and cuddled, others do not but will tolerate it, others hate it and won't tolerate it, and there is every thing in between. None of our dogs are of the latter, but problems can easily arise with any dog interacting with young children who usually can't read dog body language. Dogs communicate via body language so if your dog avoids eye contact and tries to escape when you pick him up, then he is trying to tell you he doesn't like being picked up and hugged and you should not do it. If he has eye contact, wags his tail, and licks your face then he is enjoying a good pickup and cuddle. Some poodles love pickups and cuddles from only one person, others don't care. Sometimes it will depend on the circumstances, e.g. time of day, watching TV etc. Some poodles love to climb onto laps and will sit comfortably on your lap for hours at a time any time of day if you let them. Put them down and they want even more attention. Other poodles just don't like laps and will jump down if you do put them on your lap. Read the dog body language, and don't try to hug your poodle if he is trying to tell you he doesn't like it. Among our dogs, Lily and Ruby love laps and cuddles, Charley usually does not but will tolerate it. Poppy loves pickups and cuddles, but only when she is in the mood. Ebony loves Peter's lap only, while Marley loves Judith's lap. With the grandchildren, Poppy and Marley won't tolerate being picked up whereas Ebony, Lily, Ruby and Charley will tolerate just about anything from the children. The children needed to be taught to be careful around Marley or Poppy - i.e. don't try to pick them up or jump on top of them without warning or else they will snap, and the reason they snap is because they really don't like what you are doing to them. They feel threatened, it is not because they don't like you. Children need to be taught how to read dog body language as soon as they are old enough to understand. Most dog bites of children are caused by children doing inappropriate things to the dog because the child cannot read the dog body language that is saying loud and clear - I am warning you, I don't like it, don't do it or I will bite!! It is not the dogs' fault that the child does not understand, it is the parent's fault for not teaching the child how the behave around dogs and how to read the body language. Unfortunately the dog often ends up copping the blame.
Q. Do you breed "teacup" size poodles?
No. We breed toy poodles. The Australian Poodle Standard has 3 size standards - standard, miniature and toy. There is no "teacup" standard. If you want a very small toy poodle we can't help you. Very small dogs come with an increased risk of health problems and that is incompatible with our aim of breeding healthy dogs.
Q. Who is the father? How big is he?
A. We have been using stud dogs from other breeders until now. Future litters will be sired by our new stud dog Charley. He is about 10 & 1/2 inches at the shoulder.
Q. Should I buy another dog as company for my puppy?
That is a difficult question, and it will depend on individual circumstances. First of all you need to be prepared to look after two dogs. That means double the food costs, double the vet fees, more difficult walkies, and you need to be able to cope with any behavioural problems that might arise between the two dogs. No dog likes to be left alone, so if you are likely to be absent for long periods of time and your dog is likely to be left alone for extended periods of time, then yes it is probably a good idea to find a companion. A companion can certainly help a young dog from getting bored and tearing up the garden and furniture, and it can ease separation anxiety problems.. However, it is important you find a companion dog that will get along with your dog. In order to increase the probably of success you need to understand dog pack behaviour.
Dogs are pack animals, they have over 99% of european wolf DNA, so there is no doubt that all domestic dogs, including poodles, have the Wolf as a common ancestor. Dogs still exhibit pack behaviour. A happy dog is one that lives in a pack where there is a well defined structure, with a leader and a well defined pecking order. A pack can be just 2 dogs and note that the pack includes the human owner, who needs to establish themselves as the leader. If you already have a dog, when you introduce a new puppy into your home, your existing dog will want to establish the pecking order. So don't be surprised if your darling little poodle pooch wimp suddenly turns into a big nasty bully. It is very important that you do not interfere, the pecking order needs to be firmly established. Once the pecking order has been established and consolidated, the bullying will stop, and your dog will get along just fine with the new puppy. They may even turn into very best friends. Problems will occur when the pecking order is not so easily established, for instance if the two dogs are siblings, same age and size. Also if you have two males that have not been desexed, often both will want to be the leader, and there will be constant fighting. This situation does not occur in nature. Young males are driven out of the pack by the leader, and they wander around on their own until they are old enough and strong enough to form their own pack. So the best approach is to try to have a situation where one dog is the obvious leader - e.g. an older dog and a young puppy. The puppy will then learn what is acceptable behaviour from the older dog. Puppies with older dogs are usually much better behaved and far less trouble. It is very important you do not interfere with the pecking order. Human's natural tendency is to side with the under dog and scold the aggressor, but that will only make the situation worse. The aggressor will then become even more aggressive towards the under dog because you are giving the under dog something they are not entitled to. You should always re-enforce the pecking order (e.g. always feed the leader first).
Using our own 7 dogs as an example. They are a pack with Poppy as the leader (she is the oldest and the biggest), Ruby is second, Ebony is third, Lily is 4th, Lucy is 5th and Marley and Charley are last in the pecking order. Marley and Charley growl at each other. The pecking order was established quickly, with the exception of Ebony and Marley who are siblings from the same litter. The other relationships originally were adult dog and puppy so there was a natural hierarchy. Poppy will nip the other dogs on the back of the neck if she is not happy with what they are doing, and they will immediately stop and go into a submissive position. Ruby does the same to Ebony, but never ever tries it on Poppy because she knows she would get bitten if she did. Ebony and Marley took probably around 6 months to establish their relationship. There were some big fights that ended with one dog (usually Marley) running away tail between legs yelping. Eventually Marley seems to have decided that although he is bigger then Ebony, he cannot win the fights and has accepted his position below her in the pecking order and things are now mostly calm. When a new dog or puppy is introduced to the pack, it is Marley and Charley who are aggressive to ensure the new entrant is at the bottom. The other dogs ignore the new member because Marley and Charley are sorting out the pecking order for them. They don't need to do anything. When pecking orders cannot be established reasonably quickly, one or other dog can get injured, so it is desirable to avoid these situations. We were lucky. Note that under no circumstances should you physically intervene in dog fights or you might be the one who gets injured. The leader of the pack plays an important role. He or she basically tells the other dogs what to do, and when he/she is absent for some reason there is chaos because the other dogs are unsure what they should be doing. If Poppy is not at home, Ruby will constantly run outside barking at nothing and that drives us insane. So we are hoping our Poppy lives a very long and healthy life! So far so good.
Well that was a bit of a long winded answer! Usually there are no major problems with Toy Poodles, they are not aggressive dogs. Charley was accepted into the pack with no problems, just so long as he knows he is at the bottom of the pecking order together with Marley!
Q. What coat colour are your puppies?
A. This has been left as one of the last questions for a reason. Many people are obsessed with coat colour, and it is often the first question we get, but in the doggy world colour is unimportant, smell is overwhelmingly much more important. In any case, dogs are colour blind so they can't see some of the coat colour differences that are so obvious to us humans. Coat colour is also unrelated to health or temperament. It is no good if you desperately want a white male poodle, but the dog you end up purchasing is aggressive, regularly beats up your other dog, barks, and costs a fortune in vet fees (but is white!). Far better if you had bought the quiet black female puppy. We place far less emphasis on coat colour than some other breeders, we do not try to specialize in a particular coat colour. We can offer puppies that are black, white, silver, apricot, red, light apricot/cream, or brown.. Brown is unlikely unless the stud dog has brown in his pedigree and red is unlikely unless the female has the red gene (assuming Charley is the dad). Any one litter will have a subset of these colours. Confining your choice of puppy to a particular colour, sex and temperament somewhat limits the choice! However, the reality is that humans are driven by vision so most people do choose a coat colour first, but please note that all colours (except black) are likely to fade as your puppy gets older. Black can turn to silver or blue, and most blacks will develop some grey around the ears and face as they get older. Silver usually happens before the puppy is 3 months old, but blue can take 4 years to develop. You can see this fading process happening from the pictures of Ruby. Hopefully we can provide the coat colour you are looking for, but what we have available depends on nature.
Q. What are some of the inherited diseases in poodles and how can they be avoided?
A. This is the last question because it can get technical and complicated. All dog breeds have inherited diseases, and many are common between breeds and some of the inherited diseases also occur in humans because the same gene is involved. There are approximately 400 known inherited diseases in dogs. Poodles are no exception. Some diseases are very common in poodles such as PRA or luxating patella. Others are rarer, but can be life threatening (e.g. Addisons). When breeding dogs it is important to keep the overall picture in mind. Heavy culling of all affected animals and their relatives in order to get rid of a disease will reduce the genetic diversity of the breed, and reduced genetic diversity leads to inbreeding depression. This is because in a population that has reduced genetic diversity, more genes become homozygous and undesirable recessive alleles are then expressed. Inbreeding depression results in reduced litter sizes, reduced survival rates, and reduced life spans - i.e. reduced vigor of the breed, which is not what we want. There are some examples in dogs where attempts to eliminate an inherited disease by heavy culling has lead to undesirable effects and reduced vigor in the breed. Thus relatively minor problems may need to be tolerated and managed, while life threatening problems, or problems that cause pain and suffering to the dog need to be avoided or eliminated if possible. Some inherited diseases only involve one gene and simple Mendelian genetics, others are polygenic and more complicated and much more difficult to eliminate from the breed population. The ideal situation is where a disease involves a single mutation of a specific gene and there is a DNA test available to test for that mutation (e.g. PRA). In this case it is possible to predict what matings will produce affected puppies, what will produce carriers, and what will produce dogs that are clear of the mutation. Eventually over time the disease can be eliminated from the breed population if all breeders do the DNA test. Unfortunately puppy farms and most backyard breeders don't do the DNA test. On the other hand, if the disease is polygenic (more than one gene involved), then the likelihood of being able to eliminate it is low. Even reducing the incidence is likely to take a long period of time. Worst case scenario is if the disease is polygenic, severity of the disease is influenced by the environment, and the precise genetic mechanism of the disease is unknown so there is no genetic test available. Unfortunately this does apply to many genetic diseases in dogs (and humans).
Here is some information on a few of the inherited diseases of toy poodles.
PRA (progressive retinal degeneration). There are a number of different forms of PRA in dogs, with different genes involved. In the poodle by far the most common form of PRA is prcd (progressive rod-cone degeneration). In affected individuals, the dog will have normal sight as a puppy, but will loose night vision and then later go completely blind. The dog will usually be completely blind at about 4 years of age. The reason the dog goes blind is the rod and cone cells in the retina degenerate (i.e. die). There is no cure. Fortunately this disease is caused by a single mutation and there is a DNA test available to test for it. Nowadays there is no excuse if a breeder breeds a puppy that goes blind due to prcd PRA. Even if a dog is a carrier for the disease (heterozygous, type B) using the DNA test, matings can be arranged that will never produce an affected puppy (homozygous, type C). Carriers can often be outstanding beautiful healthy dogs that will never go blind, and may even win prizes in the show ring. However, it is important that every stud dog tests PRA clear (type A) because a male stud dog can have many more puppies than a female. Reputable breeders do test for this disease, and over time it is likely to be eliminated from the pedigree poodle population. Unfortunately there are unregistered breeders who breed unregistered dogs and don't do the DNA test so it is unlikely to be ever completely eliminated since it is a very common problem in toy poodles.
Although prcd PRA is the most common form of PRA in poodles, it is not the only form of PRA in poodles and PRA is not the only cause of blindness.
Luxating patella. The patella is the kneecap, and a luxating patella is a kneecap that moves out of place (dislocates). It usually is noticed in dogs that are less than 2 years old. When the kneecap dislocates the dog will sometimes yelp (it is painful) and start to hop with one back leg held off the ground. The patella will usually snap back into place on it's own, or the owner can push it back into place, and the dog will then walk normally. There are various degrees of severity. Some dogs with the condition will only have an episode every now and again, while others can dislocate several times a day or permanently. One or both back legs can be affected. Since it is a painful condition and can lead to arthritis later in life, if it occurs often, it needs to be treated. Treatment is an operation that fortunately has a success rate of over 90%. Unfortunately a luxating patella is the most common inherited disease in small dogs, and toy poodles are one of the worst. A vet will check the knee cap in small toy poodle puppies, but some puppies that pass the vet check as a puppy will go on to develop the disease later, and some puppies that fail the vet test can end up with no problem later in life or have only a mild case. Unfortunately, from a breeder's point of view, this disease is a worst case scenario. The exact genetic mechanism is not known, but it is believed to be polygenic and the precise genes involved are unknown so there is no DNA test. It is believed to operate via a threshold mechanism. If a dog has over the threshold number of "bad" genes then it is likely to develop the disease, but if it is below the threshold then it is not likely to develop the disease. The severity can be influenced by the environment - e.g. lots of exercise helps to reduce the severity. It is impossible to know which dogs have more "bad" genes and which ones have the "good" genes. "Good" and "bad" genes are contributed to the puppy by both the mother and the father, and it is a matter of chance how many "good" and "bad" genes the puppy ends up with. It is impossible to tell which parent is contributing most of the "bad" genes, it could be either or both. Since this disease is so common in toy poodles it is likely that just about every toy poodle has some "bad" gene(s), genes that are unknown, so it becomes an impossible task to eliminate the disease even in a smallish number of individuals. Even if there was a genetic test available, just about every toy poodle would need to be culled in order to eliminate it entirely. What can a breeder do? Best practice is to never breed from a dog that has the disease, and to not use the same mating that has produced a puppy with the disease in the past. This practice will slowly reduce the frequency of the disease over a long period of time without reducing genetic diversity , but is unlikely to ever eliminate it from the breed. Culling whole families of dogs is not recommended unless there is a high incidence and/or severity of the disease because it reduces genetic diversity. When compared to many other inherited diseases such as heart, adrenal or liver problems which can be utterly devastating, this disease is relatively minor and can be fixed by an operation. This is a case of we certainly don't want it, but we can't avoid it and just have to live with it and try to reduce the frequency in puppies. Our Marley has a mild case of the disease and is one reason why he was desexed. The problem was picked up by the vet when he was a young puppy, but luckily as an adult it causes him only the occasional difficulty. His patella was dislocating about once every 4-8 weeks which is no where near bad enough to need the operation. If he has lots of exercise then it occurs less often, and recently he has not had a dislocation for more than 10 months. Lily, however was dislocating several times a day and has had a successful operation on her right back leg.
One common misconception that many dog owners have is that if the dog they buy has a good pedigree from some of the top show dog breeders then they are not likely to have any problems with inherited diseases. That is mostly true for other inherited diseases, but unfortunately that is not the case with luxating patella. No matter how hard breeders try to eliminate it in their puppies, there is no guarantee you won't get unlucky. Our vet has said that it is so common that all small dogs have it to some degree. That is probably true in terms of the genotype, but it is not always expressed in the phenotype, so dogs that show no sign of the disease can still produce puppies that are affected.
What to do if your dog has a luxating patella? Vets are trained to fix problems, so most vets will recommend the operation which does has a 90% success rate. However, often a puppy that is dislocating frequently will stop dislocating or dislocate very occasionally as they get older. The muscles and tendons tighten up, and/or the dog is clever enough to learn how to walk and run so as not to cause dislocations. The advice from our vet is that it is not a good idea to have the operation before the puppy is 12 months old because the bones have not fully matured and the success of the operation is reduced if the operation is done too early. Sometimes the dislocations will stop by the time the puppy is 12 months old, but it is unpredictable and can get worse with age. Whether or not to do the operation is really a matter of how much the problem is causing pain and distress to the dog. A dislocation is painful so if it is happening several times a day, then you need to seriously consider having the operation done. If it dislocates infrequently, say once a month or every 3 months etc, then maybe not. Any operation is not risk free, we know of a friend's dog who had a cardiac arrest during a desexing operation, so don't put your dog through unnecessary operations. The operation itself is painful and stressful to the dog, has a recovery time of about 3 months, and is expensive, so should be avoided if not really necessary. You also need to bear in mind that dogs that are dislocating have a high risk of developing arthritis later in life. There is no easy answer, it depends on the individual circumstances, so discuss it with your vet, and make your own decision. One thing we have found that can help reduce dislocations is exercise. The best exercise is straight walking, so regular walkies is a must. Most dislocations tend to occur when the joint is put under stress such as a slip, or a sudden change in direction, so straight walking can really help, and might even make an operation unnecessary, but don't count on it.
Epilepsy. Epilepsy is a problem we never want to see again since our dog (now deceased) Henry suffered from it. Although seizures in dogs can be caused by a number of factors, a common cause is idiopathic epilepsy which is an inherited disease and it can result in mild or severe seizures. No dogs who suffer from Epilepsy should be used for breeding. None of our dogs nor any of their relatives suffer from seizures. More information about epilepsy in dogs can be found from this web site.
Diabetes. Diabetes is another problem we never want to see because Henry suffered from it. It can be caused by a genetic defect, although there are other risk factors. It is very important that you never let your dog get overweight since this is one of the main risk factors. A dog that is genetically predisposed to diabetes may live a long and healthy life if never allowed to grow overweight. Some poodles are terrible guts (e.g. our Ruby), so it can be difficult to control their weight, but it is the owner's responsibility to make sure they never grow fat. It is not the dog's fault.
Umbilical hernias are a fairly common problem in toy poodle puppies. Most hernias are small and can be fixed by the vet for a small fee when the puppy is desexed so it is a relatively small problem. We discount our puppies to pay for the vet fee if a puppy has an umbilical hernia (so far only 2). There is some disagreement as to how or even if umbilical hernias are inherited. Some experienced breeders will say there is no evidence to suggest that the condition is inherited. Vets will tell you that it is inherited, and there is no doubt that the larger hernias are an inherited condition. The truth is probably somewhere in between. A bitch may cause a hernia if she is rough when chewing off the umbilical chord, and some bitches have a genetic predisposition of being rough and some puppies have a genetic predisposition of being more susceptible to hernias. Put the two together and a puppy is very likely to have a hernia. Our experience is that some matings are more likely to produce a puppy with a hernia while other matings do not, so that does tend to indicate it is inherited. In any case, puppies who do develop an umbilical hernia should not be used for breeding.
Addisons. Addisons is a disease of the adrenal gland. The adrenal gland produces insufficient adrenal hormones. These hormones are essential for life so this is a very serious disease that is potentially lethal if not treated. Addisons also occurs in humans, but is much more common in dogs. More information here. This is a serious disease, so no affected dog or close relative should be used for breeding - i.e. both parents should be immediately retired from breeding and no sister or brother of an affected dog should be used for breeding.
Cushings. Another endocrine disease that is more common in poodles than other breeds and is thought to have a genetic component. It occurs in middle aged dogs and is caused by over production of cortisol caused by a tumor on the pituitary gland or adrenal gland. More information here.
Hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism is an inadequate production of the thyroid hormone. It occurs in all breeds of dogs, but is less common in small breeds.
Legg Perthes. Legg Perthes is an inherited disease of the hip that causes pain and lameness. It is common in most small breeds of dogs. None of our dogs or their relatives have a history of this disease. Legg Perthes is caused by a recessive gene so any affected animals should not be used for breeding. For more information here.