Once we had decided on Labrador Retrievers, the next step was finding a breeder from whom we would get our puppy. While we had considered adopting an older dog, we both really wanted the experience of training a puppy from the beginning. We thought that it would make us better at training. 3 months in, I truly believe it was the right choice. In the past I have been intimidated by adult dogs. With a puppy there is no intimidation factor, and as a result I have become a lot more confident with dogs in general, because I’ve learned to respond to our puppy. As she grows, I continue to learn more about dog behaviour which increases my confidence and comfortability around dogs of all ages.
We decided to narrow our search to breeders located within a one hour drive, as we intended to visit them at least twice before bringing home the puppy. The first visit to decide if we liked the breeder and parents, the second to choose our puppy from a litter. As we live in the GTA, this still left us with many options. Typical for any of our projects, we created a spreadsheet that listed breeder location, their next expected litter (and projected home date for the puppies), and cost of the puppy.
After reading Dr. Dunbar’s book, it was important to us that we find a breeder where the puppies would be kept in the home for the first 8 weeks (until they went to their permanent homes). This would expose them to typical household sounds, and hopefully to more people for early socialization.
One of the first breeders we met with had a large kennel outside of the house. They had 24 adult dogs, which they rotated between their house and the kennel. They also had several leftover puppies from recent litters. While they were very nice, knowledgeable people, the place felt a bit too much like a puppy factory. After that experience, we began ruling out any breeder with more than a dozen dogs.
In the end, focussing on timing and proximity helped us find a wonderful breeder. Fanny Edwards, who runs Markwell Labradors, had a black/yellow litter and an all-chocolate litter ready for homes in mid to late April. We met with Fanny and the two litter mothers, Serena and Mariah at the end of March. Both dogs had a wonderful temperament and were just beautiful labs. Serena won me over as all she wanted to do was to cuddle with me while we were there. Although I did see them, I forced myself to ignore the puppies during this visit, as it was most important to me to like the adult version!
Fanny was very helpful and understanding of all of our questions as first time dog owners. Meeting with her, we quickly gained confidence that she was someone we could comfortably rely on after the puppy came home in the event that we had questions or concerns (and we certainly did).
During our search for a breeder P and I had often debated which colour we liked the best. We had differing opinions on this matter. He was (and still is) a fan of the yellow lab. I’ve always been partial to black labs, although chocolate is a close second. Ultimately though, it was more important to us to find a litter with the best timing, and if there was a colour choice in the litter we would debate it then.
In the end, the all-chocolate litter had the best timing for us, as it gave us a few weeks to prepare for the puppy’s arrival. We also decided that we would prefer a female. This was mainly due to me. While I have always liked dogs, I have never been completely at ease around them and I was concerned with our first dog being the size that many male labs can reach. The females just seemed like a better, more manageable size for me. That being said, Serena, our puppy’s mother, is on the bigger end of the female size range. So we’ll see what we end up with!