Doodles Part 3 – Kim Palermo: Boots on the Ground with Doodles
Jessica Hekman: Welcome to the Functional Breeding Podcast. I’m Jessica Hekman, and I’m here interviewing folks about how to breed dogs for function and for health: behavioral and physical. This podcast is brought to you by the Functional Dog Collaborative, an organization founded to support the ethical breeding of healthy, behaviorally sound dogs. FDC’s goals include providing educational, social, and technical resources to breeders of both purebred and mixed breed dogs. You can find out more at www.functionalbreeding.org, or at the Functional Breeding Facebook Group, which is a friendly and inclusive community. I hope you have fun and learn something.
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Jessica Hekman: Hi, friends. This is the final episode in my three-part series on doodles. I’m talking with Kim Palermo, owner of Blue Dog, a dog training and walking company. Kim runs manners and puppy classes for pet dog owners and has her hands on quite a few doodles. I figured she was the perfect person to round out this series by talking about what it’s like working with doodles and doodle owners in the real world.
Thanks so much Kim for agreeing to be on the podcast. I’m really happy to have you here.
Kim Palermo: Thank you so much for having me.
JH: So just to get started, I like to ask people about their current dogs. What they’re doing with them? And, you know, if it’s relevant where you got them from, because it’s a podcast about breeding.
KP: Alright, sounds good. I’m always happy to talk about my dogs. So right now I have four dogs. I say right now because I think five is my magic number. But as you know, we had a tragic loss in April. So we’re at four right now. So we have, Reese is a 12 year old rough collie. She did rally obedience in her earlier years. Now she’s… I’d like to say she’s retired, but I use her as a puppy mentor in my puppy classes all the time, which I don’t think is, in her opinion, retirement. But I think it works out well for both of us.
And then I have my seven year old miniature poodle, Walt. And Walt has done a variety of sports. He’s done some agility, rally, obedience, tracking, barn hunt, nosework, all sorts of stuff that we’ve dabbled in. Haven’t gotten a title on him yet, but so he’s my little sports dog. And I got Walt from a breeder. I also got Reese from a breeder, of course.
And then our next dog is Lincoln. He’s a five year old collie. I didn’t get him directly from a breeder. He was actually a, I guess, a hand me down from my sister. He wasn’t working out well in her family. So we took him. And he’s like my pet dog. He’s just a nice family dog. And we kind of let him live that life. And it makes him very happy. He did come from a breeder, just I didn’t get him directly from one.
And then I have my one year old, another rough collie named Jane. And Jane was actually from a litter that I raised with my mom, which was a wonderful, amazing… One of the best experiences. Truly created such a great relationship that I have with her. And so right now Jane and I are just working on foundation stuff in preparation for sports, and, you know, our many years ahead with each other. And she’s also been a great puppy mentor as well. And it’s been helping me out a lot with my business.
And then I think it’s necessary to mention Lady, our golden retriever, who we lost in April. She was three, almost four years old, and she passed away from Lyme nephritis. But she was a wonderful dog. And she was a great demo dog. I do a lot of talks and demonstrations and she helps me out with that. And you know, I think it’s important to note her because I got her from a breeder as well. And we always joked that we had two parts of a doodle. We had a golden retriever and a miniature poodle. But we didn’t actually have the doodle itself.
JH: No, you could have if you’d ever not paid attention.
KP: I know! Exactly!
JH: It could have easily happened.
KP: Yes. I’m glad it didn’t though.
JH: Yes. Yes. It’s nice for those things to be well planned out.
JH: And so you are a dog trainer.
KP: Mm hmm. Yeah.
JH: So why don’t you tell us how you got into dog training?
KP: Sure. Well, how I got into it. I mean, gosh, that I think goes back from the very beginning. I mean, I was born just into dogs. I always really enjoyed them. And I was fortunate enough where my parents supported that and we always had like four or five dogs at any given time. We had mostly rough collies, but we always had purebreds even if it wasn’t a collie. So we had a lab, we had a pug, we had a samoyed. My mom bred a couple of litters when I was younger. So I kind of grew up in the dog world.
So from there I ended up… I guess I’ve been in this industry for 20 years now. So I started… I don’t think it was the most admirable start. But when I was 17 years old I was at the mall looking for a job. And I walked past the pet store. And I was like, “Well, gosh. That’s the perfect job for me.” So I applied and I got a job there. And they sold puppies, which is I mean, looking back, I was so naive back then I didn’t really understand what I was getting into. I did learn pretty quickly, but I stuck to it because I thought it was important for me to be there for the puppies just because I thought I could help them. But I learned actually a real lot working at that pet store, because we had like this big AKC dog breed book where, you know, it described all the different breeds. And as different puppies came in… I mean, we got so many different breeds, and I would read about them so I could learn about them and make sure I was placing them in the right homes. And it was a very good learning experience for me.
So from there… I mean eventually I got out of that, of course. I went to UNH, the University of New Hampshire. I got a degree in Zoology with a minor in Animal Behavior and Psychology. And while I was there, I, you know, continued to educate myself on dogs. So I worked at different dog daycares. I apprenticed under different trainers. I went to a lot of seminars. I learned as much as I possibly could about dogs. And my college graduation gift was a female rough collie named Elsa. And so she got me involved in sports. So I started competing in rally obedience. And I took a lot of classes with her. But when I got out of college, I did end up just getting, from the pressure of just other people and family members and what everyone else was doing, I got I guess you could call it a “real job.” But I worked at Pet Edge. I was a salesperson there. So I did stay in the industry, but it was certainly not doing what I loved. So after two years of that, I left and I had no job. So I worked for my parents. They owned a landscape company.
And the thing with landscaping is in the winter in New England, you really can’t do it. So my first winter, I ended up deciding to print some business cards and put an ad in the newspaper and start walking dogs. And that’s what started my business now, and I just kind of built it from there. So after a few months of that I had a small client base. I built my own website on Yahoo web hosting, which was something you could do back then. And that kind of just made things blow up. And I had to hire my sister shortly after that. And by the end of that year, I was turning away clients because I was so busy. And since then hired a lot of people. And as the dog walking grew, I saw a great need for dog training. I had already at that point known a decent amount, but I went to Gail Fisher’s All Dogs Academy for two rounds of their program there. And then we started a training program. So in 2011, we purchased or leased our first training facility. Started doing group classes. And I don’t know. I guess the rest is history. We’re now up to about 20 employees, at least before COVID. I mean, they’ll be back eventually. So we walk dogs, and then we also do a membership and level style dog training program. And then we do private training as well. So that’s kind of that’s where I am now.
JH: Yeah, and at two locations now. You just opened your second location recently.
KP: Yeah, we opened it last fall. So yeah.
JH: Very exciting.
JH: And that is, you never said the name, but that is Blue Dog.
KP: It is Blue Dog. Yes. That is the name of my company.
JH: Named after Elsa, I believe is that right?
KP: Actually my first collie Maggie who my parents got me when I was six years old. She was a blue merle Collie. So I named it Blue Dog after her.
JH: Nice. Um, yeah. So I guess I wanted to talk to you about… You’re sort of on the front lines of walking dogs and training dogs for pet owners, and for a lot of people who aren’t necessarily deep into the dog world. Like I expect most of the listeners of this podcast to be pretty deep into the dog world, but you are definitely working with people who are not that. And so this is the third part of our three part series on doodles. And I’m guessing you encounter quite a few of those as part of your business.
KP: Yes. You could say that. (laughter) We have lots and lots of doodles. Yeah.
JH: Yeah. So part of what I want to talk about is your changing feelings about doodles. So where were you coming from, say like two or three years ago? What were your feelings about doodles?
KP: Sure. Yeah. So I would say because I grew up kind of in the purebred world, right? So I grew up… I always had purebreds. And I, you know, even what I learned from the pet store, and when I was younger, I mean, competing in rally, you never saw any sort of mixed breeds back then. And, you know, I guess I was a purebred snob, you would say. So when I first got to see, like, get to know doodles and saw their popularity increase, I really didn’t understand, I guess, what the interest was all about. Because in my opinion, you could get basically anything you want from a purebred dog. So I would say I was a little judgmental, and perhaps, you know, didn’t care for them also much initially. I also found that I didn’t always love the behaviors I was seeing from them. They weren’t really my type of dog in that sense. I even thought they were a little silly looking. (laughter) But, yeah, so they just kind of, they weren’t really my thing to begin with.
JH: Yeah. But you and I have talked about how your perspective on them has been changing over the last few years.
KP: It has. Yes, I think for sure my appreciation for them has grown. I think I struggled with understanding, you know, what was their function in the sense of, you know, all purebred dogs are bred for a certain reason. And I didn’t really understand the reason for doodles until I realized that it was as pet dogs. And then that kind of changed my opinion of them a little bit when I could be a little bit more understanding of that. I’ve also met some lovely, lovely doodles. I mean, that’s not to say I haven’t met some doodles I don’t like, but I’ve met a lot of really nice dogs. And I’ve seen more and more of that. I think, either that or I’m just more open minded to it. But I’ve definitely seen a lot of lovely doodles. And that has made me appreciate them much more.
JH: Yeah. And so you say that they’re bred to be pets, which I think is exactly right. And something that a lot of people haven’t sort of thought about that, that need in the world until fairly recently. What is it? What do you think makes a doodle a good pet? A well bred doodle, a good pet?
KP: Yeah. I think. So. In general, they seem to be, I mean, they’re very friendly dogs in general. I mean, it’s hard to say because I’ve seen some doodles who really aren’t that friendly. So we’re generalizing here for sure.
JH: Of course.
KP: But yeah, their friendly demeanor. They’re generally I mean… I see a lot of hyper-greeters, which, you know, annoys the pet owners. But it is a nice dog. You know, it’s a dog that really wants to greet other people and is friendly. I would say that the coat is… There’s like pros and cons there. And I definitely think that no one goes in expecting the coat that a doodle has. But if it’s well maintained, it’s, you know, they don’t have little black lab hairs all over their furniture. So I think there’s that as well.
JH: Yeah, the doodle coat is definitely the thing, right? Like, it’s the thing that people want, because they don’t shed. And then it’s one of the hardest things for people to predict when they realize about all of that grooming. And in the previous episode, which you haven’t had the opportunity to hear, I talked a lot with a doodle breeder about how she tries really hard to prepare people for that. And they just, I think you just don’t get it until you experience it for the first time.
KP: Yeah, I agree. And I think people also think that hypoallergenic means, “I don’t have to do a lot of work.” (laughter) I don’t think it just means that I’m not going to be sneezing all the time. Yeah.
JH: And it’s easy!
JH: It’s a pseudonym for easy, right?
KP: Exactly. (laughter) Yeah. But I’ve found that a lot of my clients have mentioned that the coat was not what they expected. Even if they do bring their dog to the groomer frequently, the cost! Because it’s expensive to bring your dog to the groomer. So they didn’t really expect that either. And I actually, you know, I network with other businesses in town, and I network with this groomer. And she was giving us like these little coupons for like 15% off if you bring a new puppy into her place. And she actually requested that I did not give it to any doodle owners. (laughter) Because she said they would all come in with matts because the owners weren’t keeping up with them in between the grooming sessions. And yeah, she was done dealing with it. And then in addition to that, she has a dog come in with a ton of matts and she has to shave it down, right? Because she has no other option and then the owners will get upset because their dog doesn’t look like the fluffy, little teddy bear that they expect. So, again, the coat is definitely a surprise. I think for most people.
JH: I was actually thinking the other day that hair or fur is going to go somewhere, right? So it’s either gonna be shed out into your house and gotta vacuum it up, or it’s gonna stay on the dog. And then you have to deal with brushing it off or paying a groomer to cut it off. Like it’s one or the other, right?
KP: Yeah, no. You’re absolutely right. You’re getting a dog. You got to deal with hair some way or another.
JH: Yeah. There’s going to be hair. It’s just your choice of how you deal with it, of how you remove it from your house. So, yeah. Doodle coats. So what else about their personalities do you like?
KP: Yeah. I mean I’m finding that they’re very… They’re sociable to people, which I just love about them. And this is a generalization, okay, so there’s definitely going to be those individual dogs who are not sociable to people. But I find in general, they’re very friendly. They’re very sociable with people and also social to dogs. So we do puppy play, very structured, you know, well-managed puppy play in some of our classes. And when I see a doodle sign up for that I’m not all that concerned because, in general, I don’t have a problem. Whereas other breeds are… You know sometimes when we get rescue puppies, we see a lot more issues. So there’s that. I generally see a low threshold in aggression. I generally see a low threshold in resource guarding. Again, there’s always that dog who does have resource guarding or aggression, but…
JH: And low threshold meaning that you don’t see resource guarding very often and you don’t see aggression very often.
KP: Yes, exactly. Yep. And, you know, we teach a lot of… We act very proactively in classes as far as preventing those kinds of things. But usually, I can see those little red flags when we’re working on trade, or we’re working on “drop it,” and I can see that puppy who’s going to be a potential resource guarder. I don’t find that often in doodles. And I also love that there’s, in general, there’s not a lot of huge, like, health issues. You know, I don’t have our doodle clients dropping dead at six years old, like I have some of our golden retriever clients, you know. I find that there is more health in the breed, which I, you know, as someone who lost a four year old golden retriever, I certainly appreciate that. And I also find that they’re pretty resilient, and they’re pretty fixable. So, you know, there are a lot of first time owners who have doodles, so behavioral issues might come up just because they don’t know how to… They don’t see them coming, or they don’t know how to work through them. But I find that it doesn’t really tend to be a big problem for us. We can kind of work through that.
And I actually saw that just recently. We had a little goldendoodle puppy. The clients called me because, well, we have the pandemic going on right now. So everyone brought their puppies home. And we didn’t have any sort of socialization for these puppies. And as you know, the vets right now are not allowing us into the hospitals. So this little doodle puppy. He was in the crate in the car. They had to open the back door and a vet, you know, complete with the mask, or vet tech, you know, with the mask and everything came in, reached into the crate, and the puppy acted defensively. He growled and he snapped and you know, they brought him in. I’m not sure what exactly happened inside the veterinarian’s office. But the vet ended up telling the owners like, “Your puppy has some aggression issues. You should be really concerned. We shouldn’t see this from a puppy this age.” And she called me, the poor woman called me in a panic, you know. First time dog owner and she was just told that her little cute puppy is very aggressive.
So I ended up… I had them come in for just an evaluation and the puppy was hiding behind his owner. I brought in two of my more mellow, good puppy mentor dogs and the puppy was afraid of them. But by the end he was like sniffing the air a little bit if my dog walked by, and I saw that there was definitely some… We could help him out. So we had her sign up for our membership program. And our membership program is puppy manners, but we also do puppy play, which we call puppy recess. So what happens is because of COVID-19 right now we don’t have the owners come in. So it’s just myself, my husband and another trainer. We have six puppies plus adult dogs, and we help socialize them.
The first time he came I went to… We usually switch leashes, you know, for safety reasons. He wouldn’t even let me come close to him and he started acting defensively. So I just took her leash, walked him in. I put him in a pen that was separate from the other puppies. And I mean he was… Any puppy that came up to the pen he’d get very stiff, lower his head and growl like there was you know, definitely some behavior I don’t like to see. But by the end… He was also scared of me. By the end, he’s taking treats for me. I put my elderly dog in there and he’s sniffing her. So I saw progress.
She since came to three more. The last puppy recess he was at he’s running around like a normal puppy. Like he matched up perfectly with another puppy, was playing with them, plays with my adult dogs and he loves me. He just, he’s thrilled to see me. He likes my husband. He likes the other trainer there. It was just a complete turnaround. He seems like a normal dog. And now I’m not going to put him with like a five month old labrador retriever or something just yet. But the resiliency that I saw and his ability to kind of come from this, you know, no socialization, and the scary experience with the vet to what I see now is just, it’s lovely. And I do see that these doodles are really able to overcome some things and kind of work through some things. And that’s what I really appreciate about them.
JH: Yeah, that malleability is super important in a dog.
KP: Yes, absolutely. Yep. Yeah.
JH: Yeah. And the owner education, preparing owners. I mean, of the zillions of windmills I’m tilting at with the Functional Dog Collaborative, that is not one of them, educating owners. (laughter) But it’s a huge thing that I think we need to do. So do you feel like doodles tend to end up with inexperienced owners more often than other breeds might?
KP: I think? I don’t know. That’s kind of a hard question. I think, yes, there are definitely inexperienced owners who end up with doodles. A lot of what I hear is someone will meet, you know, their friend, neighbor or family member, whoever might be. with a doodle. Fall in love with it, and then they go out and get one. And I see them then… A lot of what I’m seeing is… So it’s generally families, like young families that are getting doodles. Not only them, but that’s what I’m seeing a lot of. And so they’re not just inexperienced, but I think they picture that a doodle is just this perfect family dog, because that’s what they’ve been told. And they don’t realize that they actually have to work at that, just like any other breed. So you know, that the dog has to be trained. It has to go through classes. It’s going to go through different stages that are going to be a challenge. And a lot of the people who get doodles just aren’t prepared for that.
And in addition, I think because they have families they don’t necessarily have as much time for that. So that’s where I’m seeing more of the issues coming up. Because I’ve seen a lot of the lovely doodles that I’ve thought about, they’re owned by students of ours who come to classes consistently for a long time. And of course, that’s going to make a nice dog because, you know, if you get the dog from a good breeder you do have the potential of having a wonderful dog, but you have to put the work into it. I mean, we know that right?
KP: And I think a lot of these people who are getting doodles just aren’t… They are inexperienced enough where they don’t realize that that is part of the deal here, you know, if they’re going to get a doodle. But I have also seen some more experienced dog owners get them. And again, these are pet dog owners. So these are, you know… I don’t see my sports friends, you know, getting doodles right now, but, you know, I know a few people who had breeds that were more challenging, whether it’s behaviorally or even just like maintenance, and they’re, you know, now retired and they want something easy. So they might get a mini doodle. So I see that as well. So these are people who have had dogs in the past. And again, I generally see that the dogs turn out a little bit better in that case because, you know, the owners know that they have to put the work into the dog.
JH: Yeah. So it may not be what the dog is so much as the type of owner who gets that type of dog.
JH: I mean, which is a story that we’ve heard so many times about so many different breeds just changing over the years what breed it is.
KP: Yep. Right!
JH: And now it’s a mix. Yeah, well, if you were to give someone advice if they were sort of a new… Wouldn’t it be lovely if someone actually came to a dog trainer and said, “I’ve never had a dog before, and I want to get a dog.” And they actually asked for advice about what to get. I don’t think we see that happening all that often.
KP: Not all that often. No. (laughter)
JH: But in our fantasy world, let’s imagine that someone came to you and said that. And let’s imagine that they didn’t have a lot of dog experience. And it was a somewhat chaotic home. Maybe there are even small children. So would you suggest that they go… And so maybe, maybe not allergies? Let’s say there are allergies, because that’s a lot of the time why people want to go the doodle route. Is a doodle something you would suggest to them maybe as the primary choice or not even the primary choice. Maybe there would be something else you’d prefer? There’d be a selection of breeds you’d offer?
KP: Yeah, I don’t know. I think at this point, I have a hard time with choosing the right purebred in that scenario. I mean, I do love some of the little lap dogs. I do like a little shih tzu or you know coton de tulear, or something like that. They are nice dogs, but if you’ve got like a bunch of children I don’t see that necessarily being the right fit. I used to, way back when, I’d recommend wheaten terriers, you know, but I don’t know. And I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings who has a wheaten terrier who’s listening to this. But, you know, generally I haven’t seen any wheaten terriers that I would recommend. You know, recently.
JH: I think it can be fair to say that there are some very nice ones out there.
KP: Oh, absolutely.
JH: But that you have to have experience to find them. Like, the average pet person is not going to know the lines to find those dogs.
KP: Exactly. Yes. And same with… If we’re thinking non-shedding you could go with like a poodle or Portuguese water dog. But again, those breeds are a lot of work. I would recommend a doodle to someone looking for those certain requirements. But I would probably research the breeder myself for them if I were to do that. I would feel more comfortable recommending the breed if I could make sure that they were getting it from a breeder that I felt was doing, you know, all the right things for the dog and good education for the owners as well.
JH: Yeah, for sure. I mean, I think no matter what, it’s important to look at the breeder. That’s really hard for people who don’t know what to look for. (laughter)
KP: Right. And that’s exactly it. Yes. And they don’t know what to look for. A lot of these pet people do not know what to look for.
JH: And there are, there are a lot of doodle breeders out there who are not responsible. And one of the things I’m trying to spread the word on is that there are plenty of doodle breeders who are responsible, and you can find them but you do have to look for them. And if you just stumble into the first one that you find, with cute pictures of puppies on the internet, you may very well end up with a bit of a disaster.
KP: Yes, yep. Absolutely.
JH: And then just to cover the other side of that question. So if someone comes to you and allergies are not an issue, would you still recommend a doodle to them?
KP: Probably not. Just because I think there’s so many options out there. And again, that’s going to depend so much on, you know, who these people are, what their lifestyles like, you know, there’s a lot at play there. But I think there’s a lot of great other options. But if they mentioned a doodle was one of their top breeds that they were interested in, I would support that. Absolutely. You know, there’s just a lot more options when you take allergies out of the situation there.
JH: Yeah, for sure. It broadens your horizons enormously.
KP: Yeah. Just a bit. (laughter)
JH: Yeah. So, well, what do you wish that the average owner knew before they started the hunt for the right dog breed?
KP: Sure. Well, I mean, I think first and foremost someone has to consider the dog breed to fit their lifestyle. So what their lifestyle is like, how much time they have for this dog, how much they’re going to be able to exercise it. A lot of times, a lot of my doodle people tell me that their dog is much more high energy than they expected. Which is, I mean, if you’re breeding a lab and a poodle or a golden and a poodle, like, you know…
JH: What do you expect, right?
KP: Yeah, exactly. But I don’t think they fully understand that until they bring it home. So I think that’s definitely very important for them to consider. For sure. And then I think also, you know, looking into having training set up and so on, to be able to help them would be very important as well.
JH: Yeah, knowing ahead of time that there’s a trainer that you can go to. And that’s also, that’s something that I’ve said to a lot of my friends, where they’re like, “Oh, what’s training class going to do for me?” And I’ve said, like, “It’s going to be a place that you can go. You can ask people. You can have someone that you’re paying to answer your question every week. And when you’re raising a puppy, you’re gonna have a different problem every week. You’re gonna want someone who’s going to be like, “Here’s how you deal with this.”
KP: Yes, absolutely.
JH: And I think that’s huge. Do you have a feeling from the pet owners that you work with? Where they’re getting that information from now? Do they get any information from the breeders that they work with? Do they like, go online and look at anything? Or are they just like, as you said, like, “I have a friend who has this breed, and I like this breed.” Is that basically how they’re…
KP: I think so. It sounds like there’s a lot of impulse decisions when it comes to, I think, getting a puppy in general from a lot of pet people. But with doodles as well. They’re not coming to me with a lot of knowledge. So I don’t think they’re getting educated or getting a lot of information from where they’re getting the dogs. I don’t think they’re doing maybe enough research online to learn about, you know, what the breed is that they’re bringing home. And like, I see that even more with… Because I mean, we don’t just get labradoodles and goldendoodles. We get like some aussiedoodles. We have a St. Bernard doodle right now. We have like just some…
JH: Wait, a doodle St. Bernard! That’s crazy! How big is that?
KP: Yes, she is quite big. And she’s still very young. So lots more growing to do
JH: Probably pretty fluffy. I would imagine.
KP: She is very fluffy as well. Yes. (laughter)
JH: So you’re getting a lot of pet owners who don’t have a whole lot of education ahead of time about what they’re getting. So I mean, in your ideal world, where would that education be coming from?
KP: I would love that to be coming from the breeders. I think breeders have this amazing opportunity to educate their puppy owners. When I got my golden retriever it was actually from some friends who are dog trainers, but I don’t think you necessarily have to be a dog trainer to do this. They did the Puppy Culture program. So they held puppy parties where the puppy owners would come and play with the puppies. And while we interacted and engaged with the puppies, the breeders would discuss just different things about raising your puppy. They would give advice, they would answer questions. And it was such a great opportunity for this, you know, impromptu discussion about how to prepare for your puppy. And even if there aren’t puppy parties, because I know that’s not always possible, maybe you know, the puppy owners are from different states, or you know, because of COVID-19, you’re not comfortable with it. But I’m sure there could be resources, either online that you can provide on your website, or even discussions over the phone.
All of my breeders before I got a dog from them, we had long, long discussions on the phone. And we continue to have discussions like well, the puppy was 8, you know, getting older and older. And, you know, I’ve raised enough dogs where I can say I didn’t really need like training advice, but it was nice to build that relationship and to have that rapport. So I think that’s a great thing. I also think if breeders could connect with local trainers, that way their puppy owners are going directly from “I’m bringing my puppy home,” to, “I now have this local resource where I can learn.”
And again, if that’s hard, even an online trainer, because you know, lots of people are doing that now. But I do have, we actually have a local breeder who breeds bernedoodles. And the puppy owners are actually required to commit to training before bringing the puppy home. We send them an invoice that they show to the breeder. Which I’m not necessarily saying you have to do that. But I think it’s a great way to ensure that the owners are going to be very well educated when they bring the puppy home, and perhaps breeders can get together and create some sort of online resource that they can all share. You know, if you don’t feel as though you have the time to discuss housebreaking to every single person who brings a puppy home, if they had some sort of resource online that they could direct owners to. I think that could be hugely beneficial, as well. And certainly something about grooming doodles. I think some sort of online resource about that would be wonderful. Tutorials… I don’t know, there’s so much you can do with that.
JH: Yeah, well having trusted places to send people I mean, because I know there’s lots of places that people end up going to get advice with their dogs on the internet, that is not always the best place to get advice.
KP: You’re absolutely right.
JH: Yeah. And so having a trusted place. And I also like what you’re talking about building up those relationships. So I know a lot of breeders do this, and I think more should. Having Facebook groups for their puppy buyers. It could be a group for one litter, or it could be just the group for all of the litters they’ve ever had. But to have that community. Not every puppy buyer will use it, but having that place for them to go to ask those questions would be really lovely.
KP: Absolutely. I think that’s a great suggestion. And I find also that that puppy owners or pet people in general, they love to know who their dog’s siblings are or how they’re doing and you know, things like that. And I think having some sort of online community is a great way to, you know, people will go just for that part. And then you can just slip in the education without them even knowing.
JH: Yeah, definitely trading stories about you know, “Well, he’s six months old, and now he’s becoming obnoxious.” (laughter) “Yours is too? Who knew that they would be obnoxious at six months old?” Yeah. And so just sort of speaking to the people who are listening to the podcast, I know that there are a bunch of breeders who do a fantastic job of this. And I want to point out that Kim’s not saying that you don’t. But there are a bunch who could do more if they knew what more was out there to do, right? Yes, as a breeder, it can be really overwhelming, all of the stuff that you’re dealing with. And so I will attempt to remember when this podcast comes out to start a conversation on the Facebook group about what do you do to educate your puppy owners? You know, what do you talk to them about? And maybe we can have some, some sharing of ideas and what has worked for some people and what has worked for other people because it’s hard to suck them in.
KP: It is! Yeah!
JH: They want to just go off and have their dog and don’t realize it’s going to be work.
KP: Exactly. Yep. Yeah.
JH: So this has been great. Do you have any last thoughts about doodles or anything else as we wrap up?
KP: Yeah, I think it would be great if more people in our industry were accepting of doodles. And now as far as pet owners go, they are very accepting of doodles. I think my doodle owners are very proud of the fact that they have a doodle. But I don’t see that so much in dog trainers, in the sport world. You know, and I know for me personally, it’s because I grew up with purebreds. That’s all we had. When I worked at the pet store, there were only purebreds. And I learned so much at that time and I gained such an appreciation for purebreds. And then after college, I got into the sports world and everyone had purebreds. There were no doodles, you know, competing and rally or agility. And I surrounded myself with friends who had purebreds. So I really, you know, purebreds to me were just, I had such a great appreciation for them. Maybe too much. I, in 2011, my husband surprised me for our anniversary with tickets to the Westminster Dog Show. And I cried when I opened the gift and saw those tickets. And he loves to remind me that when he proposed to me, I didn’t shed a tear. (laughter)
So I think that goes to show you know, like a lot of people probably listening to this podcast, I was deeply rooted in the purebred world. And I wasn’t very accepting of doodles at first. But over time getting to know these individual dogs, I’ve really gained a nice appreciation for them. I mean, we have a little goldendoodle puppy in class right now that I swear if her mom said that she didn’t want to keep her I’d take her home. She’s just such a love. Like there really are some nice doodles out there. And I think that’s thanks to the breeders who are doing this right. The breeders who are educating the owners, and you know, breeding well-tempered dogs with good health. I think if anything could change, it would be great if more breeders were doing that.
I also think if more breeders were focusing on matching the right dog to the right owner, and I think that’s where I’m seeing some sort of, you know, some things that concern me. More like mostly it’s with more like elderly couples and that’s where I’m seeing they’re getting this like very high energy doodle and because they, you know, thought that they were low shedding and nice family dogs and I’m seeing that they’re a little too much. So it would be wonderful if breeders worked a little bit harder. Some breeders, I know some breeders are already doing this but worked a little bit harder on matching the right dog to the right person. Also the right breed to the right person.
We have right now I mentioned that St. Bernard/poodle mix. And also we get occasionally Australian shepherd/poodle mixes. I think an Australian shepherd/poodle mix could maybe make a lovely little sports dog. A family dog with like a house of three children? I have a puppy in our classes right now that’s in that situation. And it’s just too much dog for these people. So matching the right puppy to the right owner, and then just simply more education. I think we can really progress with this breed and make it a great part of our community.
JH: Yes. I love it. So if someone wanted to know more about your business, Blue Dog, where would they go, Kim?
KP: Sure. So my business website is www.bluedogpetcare.com. And then we also have a Facebook page. And again, that’s Blue Dog Pet Care. And then I, you know, I like to do training on my own. And so I have an Instagram account. It’s called kimanddogs.
JH: How did I not know that?
KP: I don’t know! But I just started it like not too long ago, but I like to just post some like, you know, videos and my thoughts about training and just kind of the nonsense that entails living with a whole bunch of dogs plus other animals and so forth.
JH: Turkeys, chickens… you don’t have a cow yet, but you’re gonna…
KP: Soon someday. Yes, I will have clicker clicker training cow videos at some point for sure.
JH: That sounds very worth following. Well, thank you so much for coming in talking about this stuff with me.
KP: You’re welcome. Thank you for having me.
Thanks so much for listening. The Functional Breeding Podcast is a product of the Functional Dog Collaborative and was produced by Sarah Espinosa Socal. Come join us at the Functional Breeding Facebook group to talk about this episode or about responsible breeding practices in general. To learn more about the Functional Dog Collaborative, check out www.functionalbreeding.org. Enjoy your dogs.
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