Betty and Jim ran a wholesale nursery for 16 years where plants were grown in a laboratory before being shipped all over the US, Canada, and Europe. The nursery had several employees to assist at every stage of the production. The Anderson's then decided to retire (well partially retire) and the nursery was too much to run without employees. The decision was made to raise poodles, which the Andersons had kept for over 30 years. You can find more information on the Tissue Culture Laboratory and Jim and Betty Anderson on the linked page.
Now, raising poodles is not like raising plants. Each dog is a thinking individual that can experience both joy and pain. Although good business practices help with efficiency, raising dogs is more like raising children than plants. Every dog is an individual, not a commodity or livestock. Every aspect of the endeavor has been modeled with this in mind. Some kennels pack as many animals into the smallest amount of space they can to minimize costs and maximize profits (we tend to call these operations, puppy mills). Everything at Winterberry Kennels has been designed to optimize dog health and happiness.
We visited many kennels and other breeders before we decided to raise poodles. What we found was a real mixed bag. Some small breeders, had a few dogs in the house and had a couple of litters a year. Others were large operations where the intent was just to make money. The living conditions were sometimes good (such as in the home) and sometimes just adequate (small kennel runs and cages). It is obvious that you can not keep all the dogs in the house or you would not have a livable house, so we made a compromise. We have some dogs in the house, and the rest in a heated dog houses. We use fenced areas for the dogs or very large runs (5' x 35'). When we use cages, they are very large (8' x 4'), and then only for small mothers and their puppies. Kennels can be hard to keep clean, but our large living areas eliminate that problem so we never have a cleanliness problem.
Another aspect we found was that most kennel breeders bring the puppies out for you to see, so you never get to see the kennels and judge the living conditions of the parents. You may visit our kennel facilities and see all of our dogs. We do limit some access to the animals themselves for obvious health reasons, but there is nothing hidden here. We do groom the animals, but not as often a you would a house dog - so they can be a bit wooly. In the winter the extra hair helps keep them warm when they are outside.
We believe that happy parents make happy puppies.
We try to spend some time with all our dogs everyday. We have spent some time selecting the breeding
parents to make sure their personalities are good.
Dogs are social creatures that once lived as wolves in highly complex social structures. Dogs probably were the first domesticated animal and lived with man over 14,000 years. The animals have lived with man for so long that they have adapted to human social structures as well. A dog can easily read a human's emotional state. They can also communicate their emotions to us. Wolves do not bark or wag their tails - clearly signals designed for our consumption.
Like human children, dogs need to be trained at an early age how to interact with each other and humans. The mother dog and the siblings take care of the canine interactions, but we must do the human training. This training must start at a young age, preferably soon after birth. Puppies must be handled and talked to so that human interaction becomes a known part of their lives. As the puppies grow older, they need to be played with so that they learn that humans are fun and to learn what is appropriate. We play with our puppies at least twice a day (usually after feeding).
We have purchased poodles that were socialized and some who were not. Now we can gain some trust with all our dogs even those that had little or no human interaction as puppies, but the adult dogs are never the same. Dogs that were socialized as puppies are always happier and get along with humans better. We have two kennel dogs that were never socialized. Butter Cup (she is no longer with us) has learned to sit in a lap, but she remains clingy and unsure. Windy will come and get petted, but she remains unsure of herself and does not like strangers (she has finally come to trust us).
Never buy a puppy that has not been socialized. When you go to see the puppy, make sure that he/she enjoys contact with you. Our puppies run toward you, not away from you. We are proud of the way our dogs are socialized, but there are other breeders that socialize their puppies as well. The responsibility of getting a socialized puppy is yours.
Jim is a retired scientist with over 30 years experience in the biological sciences including genetics. He has made a study of dog genetics in order to produce the best dogs for your home. This includes producing the popular colors as well as preventing the transmission of genetic defects.
Most genetic faults are what are called recessive traits. They do not appear in the dog if there is a copy of the good gene along with the bad gene (we have two copies of every gene, both can be good, both bad, or one each). Since one copy comes from the father, and one from the mother, crossing dogs that are unrelated increases the chances that one or both of the genes will be good. This is why we have laws against incest in humans. We call this, wide outcrosses. We use wide outcrosses in our breeding program.
Now, some dog breeders are trying to produce show dogs. They select for specific traits in the animals and breed animals that have those traits. They also inbreed (usually grandparent to grandchild) to set these traits. There is a problem with this type of breeding. Genes are found on long stretches of DNA called chromosomes. This means that two genes may be linked to each other on the same chromosome, so that if you select for a narrow hip, you may also select for a genetic defect that is linked to the gene for narrow hip. Gene linkage can be breed out of a line, but it takes many, many generations. Another problem with show dog breeders, is the champion dog (or as you know it, champion bloodline). A champion stud dog, because of the modern practice of artificial insemination, can pass his genes, good and bad, to many, many puppies. This creates a smaller gene pool.
The gene pool, is just that, the collection of all the genes for a breed of dog. The larger the gene pool the better the chances that bad genes will be covered by good genes. (i.e. genetic health problems) The smaller the gene pool, the better the chances that bad genes will be seen in the animals. Breeding dogs for specific traits, as show dog breeders do, makes the gene pool smaller, and increases the risk of bad genetic traits being expressed in the animals. We only use wide crosses to maintain a large gene pool. The negative side of our practice is that our dogs will never get blue ribbons for their looks, but you have a better chance of getting a healthy dog. Obviously. we do select animals that are free of any known genetic defects.
There are many articles written about the horrors of getting dogs from "puppy mills," and "backyard breeders." The implication being that you should only get dogs from show breeders. Now, I would not suggest getting any dog from a breeder that does not take due care in his breeding program (that includes the puppy mills), but remember that show dog breeders are increasing your risk of dogs with genetic defects. They may do some genetic testing, but remember most genetic defects do not yet have a test to detect them.
From the discussion about genetics above, it is clear that the wider the gene pool, the lower the chance of genetic faults in the dogs. So, why not go outside the poodle gene pool entirely? There is merit to this approach, but staying in a breed increases the predictability of what kind of dog will result. We know what a poodle is versus a German Sheppard. However, we can use what are called F1 (first cross between breeds) crosses to produce fairly predictable results.
We chose the Bichon Frise because this breed is fairly free of genetic problems. So the blending of these two breeds has some merit. Bichons are great lap dogs, not too smart, but very loving. They do not require the personal attention of the highly intelligent poodle. If you just want a good pet, Bichons are ideal. Crossing Bichons to Poodles produces a blend of the two personalities with increased intelligence over Bichons, and more loving and quieter dogs than poodles. Our Bichon almost never barks or cries, while the poodles are always expressing themselves vocally. If you get a Bichon-Poo, make sure that the dog is a F1 cross, as further crosses are nothing but unpredictable mutts.
Bichon Maltese (yes Maltese are Bichons) cross Poodles have become quite popular in recent years. The Maltese hair is long and silky, but the cross produces short, poodle-like hair. In fact, I can not tell a Maltipoo from a Bichon Poo except that the Maltipoo is often smaller.
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