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I’m going a little nuts with the dog acquisition question. Our last dog was a rescue which we got after a long drive and a brief meeting. We ended up with a dog who had a lot of behavioral issues from the start. Now that he is gone, we want to do it right this time. We know what we want, but don’t know how to get it.

— comfortable meeting lots of humans in our busy household with lots of kids and people coming and going
— comfortable with other dogs. Tons of social interaction meeting dogs every day at the dog park a block away.
— 25-50lb adult size preferred
— low shedding and low maintenance preferred
— good genetics/health
— puppy for us to bond with
— medium activity level preferred
— low guard dog tendencies
— purity of breed does not matter

We’ve been zeroing in on a mini bernadoodle due to the above, but reputable breeders charge $3,000 or so for what we’re looking for. That’s an unacceptably high price for us. I’ve found web sites with more backyard type operations with prices as low as $1,000, which I suppose we’d pay, but reading about those operations causes me some concern. We’d be happy with a rescue if we could find one and proceed with confidence after our previous bad experience. Am I overthinking this? What advice do you have?

We are in Maryland, just outside of DC
 

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If you’re going to buy a puppy you need to be very careful with your choice of breeder and dog. You don’t want to support breeders that breeds for money and don’t care about the dogs health or temperament. All these “doodle” mixes are called designer-dogs and are bred due to their popularity. However, this breeding is almost always very irresponsible and bad. And you need to answer the question, why a mixed breed? Why do you prefer a bernese/poodle mix rather than a purebred poodle or bernese? Since you’re mixing two breeds you don’t know what you’ll end up with. It’s like flipping a coin on what you’re going to get. You will pay an extreme amount of money for a puppy who is bred for looks and not health or mentality. Please don’t support these irresponsible breeders that just experiment with dogs without caring.

Backyard breeders is also a big no no. These are breeders who don’t care. They want to make easy money and therefore skip all things costing them money like health tests on parents, vet, vacations etc. And same thing here, they breed on dogs they don’t know anything about. Not health tested, no family history on health or mentality etc. Neither of these options are good and you should never support these industries.

There are prons and cons to both rehome dogs and buying a puppy. With a puppy you can do careful research, make sure you’re buying from a good breeder and getting a healthy dog. The puppy won’t have been through trauma that can cause problems and you can foster the puppy from the start to be the dog you want. But with a rehoming dog you could see how they are when they’ve grown up. You can see their personality, activity level etc. This is very hard to know about dogs at shelters but not if you buy the dog from a private person. Then the previous owner would be able to know if the dog is people/dog friendly etc.

If you choose to buy a puppy, there’s a lot to think about and consider before choosing a breeder. First of all you need to choose a breed that fits your life. I would love to come with recommendations but you need to elaborate on what you can offer the dog. How much activity will the dog get? What would a normal week for the dog look like? Be as detailed as possible.

When you’ve chosen a breed you need to find a good breeder. Depending on the breed they should have made different health tests on the parents. They should also have documented health history and papers on health tests made on the siblings/grandparents/etc to the parents. The breeder should be passionate about breeding healthy dogs with good mentality. You need to go meet the breeder, and at least the mother of the dogs. This is how you do a responsible dog purchase. Don’t support bad irresponsible breeding.
 

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As I was reading your requirements, before I got to bernadoodle, I was actually thinking poodle.

As @SunFlower says, good breeders do tests on their breeding dogs (proper tests, not just checks to say the dog is capable of siring/carrying a litter) to breed out inheritable conditions. Unfortunately with the popularity of doodle and similar crosses there are many puppy farmers who are more interested in exploiting buyers than the long term health of the puppies they are selling; and pet owners who think it would be lovely to have mini versions of their own pets but lack the understanding of responsible breeding. It used to be believed that crossbreeds had the best of both breeds and health problems were 'bred out' but in fact you could well get a puppy who has inherited health defects from both parents. Marilyn Munro allegedly once suggested to Albert Einstein that if they had babies they would be amazing with her beauty and his brains. Einstein allegedly replied how awful it would be if it were the other way round. You get the picture! There are some responsible breeders of crossbreeds and that is a good thing. But they are very few and you may have to search extensively to find one.

You are more likely to find a responsible breeder of pedigrees (I'd just like to say I'm not a breed snob, my own dog is a cross between a terrier and a toilet brush). If it's a 'look' that appeals to you, poodles can be trimmed in a shaggy style.
 

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I can only echo what others have said. These designer dogs are a magnet for puppy mills and backyard breeders.
You have no guarantee of the size such a dog would be either, your pup could take after the poodle side or the Bernese, and I know a lot of these dogs they are a lot heavier than you want and very high shedding/ grooming.
Why not look at established breeds that suit your set up and enquire about decent breeders or breed rescues who might be able to help I must say reading your list I thought of a beagle... I know they are not trendy but they do match everything on your list.

You say you want to do it right this time so dont fall into the trap of being a fashion victim with the murky world of 'designer dogs' remember these are living beings not handbags..
 
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