Q. Where are you located? A. We live in Mapleton Township, about 40 minutes north of Waterloo, Ontario. We prefer not to give out our personal address for safety and privacy purposes. Reservation families will receive our address and visit our home to meet the puppies and pick up their puppy.
Q. Can we visit? A. Please visit our visit policy page here: https://www.cobberdogsontario.com/visit-policy.html. We do not welcome interested families to our home because of biosecurity concerns. We do our best to set up an open house for reservation families to visit with their litter. We post lots of pictures and videos on our Facebook and Instagram so that you can see what our home environment looks like and how we raise puppies.
Q. What are guardian homes? A. Most of our dogs live in guardian homes, these are homes where the dogs live full time with their very own family. Guardian dogs only come back to our home for health testing, breeding, raising puppies, and the occasional vacation. We have two Cobberdogs (Beatrix and Mizpah) that live full time with our family, although we often have more dogs from our breeding programme staying in our home.
Q. Do you have older puppies or adult dogs available for sale or rehoming? A. No. Our breeding dogs transition to their own guardian family at a young age where they have a permanent home unless they are required for breeding or raising puppies. We have not had an older pet puppy or dog returned to us in need of a new home.
Our puppies are placed with their families at 8-9 weeks of age. It is possible to have a puppy stay on with a trainer for basic training and socialization, but this is at significant extra cost and must be arranged in advance.
Q. Where are your puppies raised? A. All puppies are raised in our house, and we are home full-time to supervise their care. We have our puppy pen set up in one of our main living areas. Our puppies also spend time supervised individually and as a group in different areas of our house so that they can learn to be comfortable in new indoor environments. We do make sure that puppies are used to visiting the outdoors (every hour that the puppies are awake during the day once they are walking confidently) as it helps to fast track their potty training and it is important for their socialization to the wider world. A lot of our pictures are taken outdoors simply because the lighting is ideal.
Q. How many litters do your dogs have? A. We want to plan litters that will improve our breeding programme and move the breed forward. We would like to have mother dogs that have relaxed pregnancies, whelp easily, enjoy nurturing puppies, and bounce back physically from carrying and raising a litter. We make decisions about breeding on a case-by-case basis, and we keep our plans flexible knowing that when it comes to animal husbandry a lot is subject to change! Some dogs will have more litters, and others will have less. On average our girls may have 2 litters before they are retired.
We are intentionally a small programme so that we can focus on raising and training puppies to the best of our ability. We prefer to only have 1-2 litters at a time. We may have up to 4 litters a year which averages to about 20 puppies a year. We do schedule at least one break from raising puppies each year so that we can focus on education and recharge so that we are excited to welcome puppies again.
Q. Are your puppies potty trained? A. No. But they have a super head start~! Our puppies go outside about every hour during the day once they are walking confidently (weather and temperature permitting). We have someone always at home to make sure that the puppies' potty-training routine is maintained to the best of our ability. We see that the puppies are only pooping outside by about week 7. We see that puppies have no pee accidents in our house (they are going outside or on rare occasion are using their potty station) by week 8. IF families are consistent with following our puppy potty training advice that we provide in our puppy book, they will have a puppy whose potty-training will be easily and quickly managed. However, it is possible that it can take a puppy a few months after arriving home to physically develop their ability to reliably ‘hold it’.
Q. Are your puppies crate trained? A. Yes and no. We introduce our puppies to an open crate in their pen at week 3-4. We add great toys, chews, treats, and stuffed Kongs to the crate throughout the day to condition the puppies to think that crates are great. By week 7, puppies have naps in the morning and/or afternoon in a closed crate. At first, they have crating sessions with a buddy, and we gradually move to individual crating. By week 8 the puppies are sleeping in closed crates overnight from 10-5am (on rare occasion we may have to let them out overnight to pee/poop). IF families are consistent and positively following our crate training advice in our puppy book, they will have a puppy that is comfortable being crated in their new home quite quickly.
Q. Are your puppies trained before going home? A. No. Training is an ongoing process throughout a dog's life. We do introduce our puppies to the concept of training and spend time working with each puppy individually using Puppy Culture protocols and Lauren has her Puppy Start Right and Dog Trainer Comprehensive certifications from Karen Pryor Academy. Our goal is that puppies are confident being independent and away from their litter, are excited to learn, and look to people for positive guidance.
Q. Are your dogs a good fit for individuals with allergies? Can we visit to test our allergy reaction? A. Please have your allergies verified by an allergy test with a physician because it is important to identify if you have a true dog allergy and its severity before looking to add a puppy to your home. No dog or breed is allergy free- even a dog that does not shed will have dander, saliva, and secretion proteins that an individual with dog allergies could react to. We do test our parent dogs to ensure that they have coats that are as low to non shedding as possible. The genetic testing and results of our dogs’ coat tests would be the same as for other reliably non-shedding breeds like the Poodle, the Shih Tzu, the Havanese, etc.
Visits may not give you an accurate idea of how your allergies will respond to sharing your living environment full time with a dog. Some individuals have no reactions to our dogs on brief visits but have severe symptoms once a dog is sharing a living environment long-term. Other individuals may react to our dogs during a quick visit but may adapt once a dog is in their home. The best option is to stay with or to dog sit for friends and family that have reliably non-shedding dogs to see how your allergies respond over longer intervals.
Q. Can I be on your wait list? A. Please see https://www.cobberdogsontario.com/reservation-process.html for more details about reservations.
Q. How long is your wait time? A. It depends. Animal husbandry does not come with any guarantees. The wait could be longer or shorter for individual families mostly depending on how nature's realities line up with our plans. For example, the wait time could be longer if all our girls delay coming into heat, if the girls all come into heat at once (we prefer to only have one or two litters at a time), a female doesn't get pregnant, or we have a small litter of puppies. If we have a large litter of puppies the wait could be shorter. We only have 1 or 2 opportunities to breed a female dog each year. It is also important to remember that puppies are raised in our home as part of our family, so changes or plans in our personal life will affect our ability to raise litters. Warm weather litters always have more interested families. We also see more interested families waiting for miniature or small medium puppies.
Q. Can you email me about availability and reservations? A. We do our best to keep our website and social media pages up to date. Checking our website even once a month will keep you in the loop about upcoming litter plans and the timelines for accepting applications and open reservation lists. Unfortunately, we are not able to email families individually because we already spend a significant amount of time returning emails and do not want to add to our correspondence.
Q. Can we set up a phone call to talk about your puppies? A. We prefer email because we like having the time to think through responses and flexibility in drafting emails is important when we are caring for puppies, raising our daughter, and meeting our responsibilities on our dairy farm. It is important to us that families have a written record our responses to questions to look back upon. Please check your junk/spam folder if you have not received a response to your email, we are very diligent at returning messages. Please do not message us through Instagram and Facebook, we prefer email so that all our correspondence is in one place.
Q. What do you look for in an application? A. We would like to see that families have done their homework and have thought through the addition of a puppy before submitting an application. We do look to see that families have an understanding and plan for a puppy's early socialization, some updated reading/research on puppyhood, and a credible positive reinforcement trainer in mind to begin classes as soon as a puppy comes home. We do raise all puppies using Puppy Culture & Avidog principles and provide socialization experiences each day that the puppies are in our care which is why it is so important to us that our efforts are understood, valued, and continued when a puppy joins their family.
We are happy to make recommendations on books and other puppy rearing resources- our favourite puppy book is Puppy Start Right by Dr. Kenneth and Debbie Martin, and we love Kiko Pup's youtube channel. We also recommend Baxter & Bella which is an online programme that practically guides families through raising and training a puppy (they have a great free podcast that you can check out here: https://www.baxterandbella.com/podcast).
What happens in the first 3-4 months of a puppy's life has been proven in research to have significant consequences on a dog's adult behaviour which is why we want to know that families are prepared to begin training and socialization as soon as their puppy comes home- we just want you and your puppy to be successful long-term! To learn more about puppy socialization you can look here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPGd7ElMCJ8 and https://avsab.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/Puppy_Socialization_Position_Statement_Download_-_10-3-14.pdf. We recommend the book Social, Civil, & Savvy by Laura VanArendonk Baugh which is a great read covering the importance of socialization and detailing how to socialize a puppy practically and positively.
If you are looking to bring home your very first puppy, we encourage you to dog sit for family and friends to ensure that bringing home a canine companion is the right long-term decision for your family. Pet sitting is also a good way to test allergies.
Unfortunately, we can not say 'yes' to all applications that are submitted due to the volume of interest and applications that we receive. We just do not have enough puppies for every interested family. We hate declining applications from loving families that are hoping for a puppy, and we stress and lose sleep over this. However, we are available and happy to provide our advice and answer questions before you submit your application for our review, so please feel free to ask or run things by us!
We know that filling out our application does take time and effort- so does raising a puppy! Our expectations for our applications (continuing education, an understanding and plan for early socialization, and early positive reinforcement training) are the same standards that we require of ourselves as we work with puppies in their first 8-9 weeks of life. We do feel that a breeder and a family should have similar values for puppy rearing and be able to trust and encourage each other throughout the puppy's journey.
Q. Can I request a specific gender or colour? A. Every litter is a surprise. We can not control what genders and colours appear, although we can make educated colour predictions based on the parent dogs’ genetics. Reservations are specific to each litter, and we only open a reservation list once puppies have safely arrived, so you can opt to wait if the litter does not have the colours, coat types, or genders you are hoping for. We do have puppy preference forms that each reservation family receives that are specific to the litter so that you can tell us about your preferences for gender, colour, and coat type. However, the more selective you are about being matched with your ideal gender, colour, coat, and temperament the longer you may need to wait for the right litter and the right puppy.
Q. What colour are your Cobberdogs? A. The colours in each litter will depend on the colour genetics of the parent dogs. We often see brown, cafe, parchment, black, brown and white parti, gold, and cream. On occasion we could have gold, silver, or brown and tan phantoms. We do not have red at this time. Please remember that although we all have our 'ideals' for what our dogs should look like, it is the character and not the colour of the dog that you will bond with.
Q. What size are your Cobberdogs. A. We are focused on raising medium sized Cobberdogs. We could have miniature or standard sized puppies depending on the parent dogs of the litter. We are hoping to add more miniature lines to our programme in the future.
Q. What is puppy matching? A. We spend time each day with each puppy while they are with us so that we know their personalities and how they cope with challenges. For example, we will be able to see which puppies in the litter are more outgoing and which are more reserved. We want your family to have the best experience with a new puppy, so we match each puppy's temperament with your family and lifestyle. We do have a short questionnaire that each family will fill out about their lifestyle. Remember that temperament is subjective, and we compare puppies to their littermates and to the other puppies we have raised. Our opinion of a 'calm' or 'lower energy' puppy may not be what a first-time puppy parent may think a calm puppy should be! It is also important to remember that environmental factors such an exercise, mental stimulation, nutrition, health status, early socialization, training, stress, family dynamics, etc., will all have a significant influence on shaping your puppy's adult character.
We will do our best to arrange for socialization testing of the litter, but depending on our trainer's availability, it may not always be possible. Socialization testing provides us with a snapshot of each puppy's socialization and development, but it is not proven to be definitive predictor of a puppy's adult character and behaviour. We do find socialization testing helpful to provides us with an objective perspective of each puppy.
Matching puppies to their families is the fairest way to do puppy selection AND it results in the right puppy ending up with the right family. There is no 'first pick' or 'last pick' since every puppy and every family is given equal consideration. Puppy pick is only a fun concept when you have the first pick!!! We spend time with each puppy individually and we observe their character and behaviour, this means that we are the most informed to make the final choice about which puppy should go home with which family. Visits are not long enough to give you an accurate understanding of a puppy's character- the most outgoing puppy could be fast asleep while the most reserved puppy could be busy romping with the other dogs. We often have families from far distances who would be unable to participate in a 'puppy pick day' and we want to make sure they are treated fairly. We also have families with special circumstances (ie. children with special needs or a desire to participate in therapy training) who are looking for specific qualities in a puppy which requires our diligence as breeders to screen and evaluate puppies to meet the needs of their family. And on occasion we could be keeping a puppy for our breeding programme or selecting a puppy for another breeder which would necessitate careful selection for confirmation, health, coat type, colour, and temperament. Your puppy's personality will evolve as they grow up in your family and are influenced by environmental factors (nutrition, exercise, training, early socialization, etc.), but we think it is important to find the puppy of the litter that will be the best fit to grow into each family's dynamic.
Q. Do you ship puppies? A. We prefer not to ship our puppies although it is possible for international families. If a puppy needs to travel. we ask that families arrange to drive or fly out and accompany their puppy. Accompanying your puppy dramatically shortens their journey and we like that a puppy accompanied by a passenger stays safe, secure, hydrated, fed, clean, and provided with emotional support and reassurance. With our commitments to our dairy farm (milking and chores happen every day, twice a day!), caring for puppies, and raising our daughter, we are not often able to drop off puppies or accompany puppies on flights. All costs of shipping or travel are the responsibility of the puppy's family. We are not responsible for the potential for loss, injury, or illness because of travel. Please research airline pet policies in advance as many will require a puppy to be older than 8 weeks before allowing them to fly.
Q. We live outside Canada, can we bring a Hillmeadow puppy home? A. Yes, but we would prefer that you seek out reputable breeders that are closer in location to you. International families are responsible for contacting their government organizations concerning the details of pet importing- please do so BEFORE contacting us or applying for a puppy. Many countries may require a puppy to have its full vaccines and proof of vaccine efficacy before allowing the puppy to cross the border which means that the puppy would have to remain with us until it is a minimum of 16 weeks old. We are not responsible for researching and applying for import, nor are we responsible for the cost of any additional medical or travel requirements for import. Puppies that remain with us past the litter's take home date will begin one-on-one puppy training and early socialization at an additional cost per day for boarding and training which must be arranged in advance. We can recommend reputable trainers in our area who offer puppy board and train services.
Q. What should I look for in a breeding programme? A. We would recommend that you consider what the breeding programme offers and includes in puppy rearing. Are they providing health testing of parent dogs, good prenatal care, appropriate veterinary medicine, early socialization, client education, and photo updates? Are they caring for their puppy families and ensuring that support and education is available throughout the lifetime of the dog? Are they involved with their breed’s development and making wise breeding goals towards type, temperament, and health?
Health testing is important and should be documented. At a minimum, parent dogs should have a full DNA panel (or by clear by parentage with documents to prove this) for heritable conditions specific to the breed. Ideally, parent dogs should also have OFA or Pennhip hip and elbow clearances and eye evaluations by an ophthalmologist. Depending on the breed, there may be additional certifications for cardiac health, hearing, patellas, dentition, thyroid, etc. Not every health condition is testable or preventable through testing (many health issues are multi-factorial with environmental contributors), but health testing is a documented way that your breeder can show you that they are doing their best to raise healthy dogs. At Hillmeadow, all parent dogs have a full DNA panel and have passed veterinary screening for hips, elbows, patellas, eyes, cardiac, and dentition.
Genetics, prenatal care, and positive early socialization are important for breeders to consider when setting the foundation for adaptable, intelligent, and social puppies. Stressed mother dogs = stressed puppies who are more likely to grow up to be stressed dogs with behaviour challenges. If we were looking for a puppy, we would want to know that the mother dog lived in a stable home environment with lots of hands-on attention and affection, received regular exercise/enrichment, and was fed a balanced diet specific to gestation and raising puppies (ie. folic acid, calcium/phosphorus balance, etc.).
What health care is provided to parent dogs and puppies while in the breeder’s care? Parent dogs should be up to date on vaccinations and clear of communicable diseases. Environments where puppies are raised should be clean of feces and regularly, properly disinfected using science-based biosecurity protocols. Parasites, viruses, and bacteria that affect puppies are killed by specific disinfecting agents. For example, Parvovirus is killed with bleach or accelerated hydrogen peroxide. Puppies should be examined by a veterinarian at least once before going home and should be provided with initial vaccinations (or should provide and discuss the mother’s titres and nomengraph information) and deworming. Your puppy should come with an official veterinary booklet detailing any vaccines and care provided with the contact information for the veterinarian that has examined them.
Early socialization is critical. What is the breeder doing to ensure that puppies receive a positive introduction to the things a dog will need to be comfortable with in life (Ie. Surfaces, smells, handling, toys, grooming, introduction to other dogs, sounds, car trips, things that move, outdoor adventures, meeting people, etc. Bonus points to breeders who are starting potty training and positive crating!!!). If we were looking to welcome home a pet puppy that will be a beloved member of our family, we would want to partner with a breeder who raised our puppy inside their home as part of their family life so that the puppy has the best foundation to be a great family dog (https://www.companionanimalpsychology.com/2019/12/puppies-raised-in-home-are-better.html).
A lot of credible books and websites recommend visiting with the parent dogs and seeing the breeder’s facility. However, there are legitimate safety and biosecurity concerns when welcoming guests. Breeders should be making their facility and puppy rearing journey accessible, but we think it’s okay for them to be creative using social media posts, blogs, nanny cams, email updates, videos chatting with families, etc. Do remember to respect a breeder’s time because raising a litter well is more than a full-time job. However, they should be regularly communicating with you and able to answer your questions.
Is the breeder actively caring for your puppy? We always have someone at home supervising the puppies to ensure the puppies' safety, socialization, and imprinting early life skills like potty training (the cleaner we keep the puppy pen, the sooner we can establish good pottying habits). Being present also means that the puppies are bonding with people and the breeder can observe their character and behaviour before placing a puppy with a family.
Breeders should have some credible education and experience with dogs. And they should continue learning because there is always more research being done and information being published about breeding and raising quality dogs. We’d like to see that breeders are familiar, if not applying, either the Puppy Culture or Avidog programmes (now Good Dog). At Hillmeadow, Lauren has completed Karen Pryor Academy’s Puppy Start Right and the Dog Trainer Comprehensive courses. We have also completed Avidog's breeder courses, the Puppy Culture programme, and many other courses.
What are the breeder’s expectations of you as a puppy owner? If there are qualities that you are looking for in a breeding programme, your breeder will likely have qualities that they are looking for in the families that welcome home their puppies! No one is perfect, but there should be a partnership between the breeder and owner, and a commitment by both parties towards the lifetime health and happiness of the puppy.
Be willing to wait. Nature takes time. Animal husbandry is not predictable. Quality breeders will limit the litters they produce so that they can focus on raising puppies well and move their breed forward in quality. And new puppy owners need time to prepare and absorb some credible information on raising a puppy. Did you know that 18-39% of owners do no research before bringing home a dog according to Zazie Todd’s book ‘Wag: The Science of Making Your Dog Happy’? What happens in the puppy's first few months of life has a critical impact on their adult behaviour, so it is wise to be prepared before you welcome a puppy home to ensure their lifetime success.
Remember that no breeder is perfect. Breeders are human, and are going to make mistakes. We have made decisions in our breeding programme that we thought were the right choices at the time but would take different actions now having grown in experience and education. Breeding is an art as well as a science, and it takes time to cultivate our skills. And, while it is easy to have an opinion from the outside- it is much more difficult to live in the reality ;)!
Q. I have a dog and am thinking about adding a puppy to our home. Is this a good idea? A. If you would like to add a puppy to your home, try to think about the addition of a puppy from your current dog's perspective (Do they like interacting with young puppies and adolescent dogs? Are they willing to share their people, home environment, and toys? Will the addition of a puppy diminish their quality of life? Will you have time to meet the unique developmental needs of both dogs?). Please remember that an adult dog is not a puppy-sitter and that building a positive relationship between a resident dog and a new puppy will require you to actively supervise and manage their interactions.
Q. I would like to bring home two puppies, is this possible? A. We would recommend that your first puppy is at least a year of age and doing well with training and socialization before considering the addition of a second puppy. We will not place two puppies of the same litter with a family because we personally understand the challenges of bonding with and training two puppies at a time.
Q. My kids want a dog. A. Most kids do! Lauren’s childhood request for every birthday and Christmas was a puppy (it still is....)! Please only bring a puppy home if the responsible adults are willing and excited to welcome a puppy home. Do not count on your children being consistent in caring for your puppy- if they do, wonderful! But bring home a puppy because YOU want a puppy and are willing to commit your time, effort, and finances to their care and training. We would strongly recommend that you wait until your children are older and can understand/respect canine communication before welcoming a puppy home (a great book on dog behaviour for the family to read together is Lili Chin's Doggie Language: https://www.doggielanguagebook.com/). With the families that we meet, welcoming a puppy home when the children in the family are all over the age of 5 seems to work best. It is a wise idea to do some positive private trainer sessions before and after your puppy comes home to help the kids and puppy build a positive, trusting relationship. The best puppy personality for sharing a life with young children is one that is confident and outgoing- the puppy needs to be adaptable and able to 'bounce back' well from the unpredictable which is inevitable in being around kids. If you are a parent considering the addition of a puppy into your family, we would really recommend checking out Family Paw’s website (https://www.familypaws.com/).
Q. I have a cat in our home. Is it okay to introduce a puppy? A. In our opinion, it really depends on the cat! A puppy in its critical socialization window will learn from the cat what the boundaries in their interactions will be (although humans should be present and actively supervising to ensure that everyone is safe and gets along). Be sure to provide safe places for the cat to get away from the puppy and teach your puppy to respect the cat's space (using a waist leash, tether, or gates is helpful).