This is the breeder that I have personally selected for my next dog. In no way am I saying that she is the only responsible breeder of standard poodles in Colorado, but she was the right fit for us. What made her the right fit for us? What were my criteria? That’s a whole other blog! For now, sit down with a cup of coffee and visit with a responsible breeder.
Please introduce yourself. Who are you? What is your kennel name?
I am Taryn Harrell, and my kennel name is Le Harrell’s Standard Poodles.
How long have you been a breeder?
I have been breeding dogs since 2006. I started in toy dogs.
What is you background? How did you become a breeder?
I have had a connection with all animals, and specifically dogs, since I was a very young child. Even before the age of ten I could read the body language of dogs and assist the adult owners in ways that they could better handle or work with their dogs to help fix behaviors. Once I became a young teenager, I started training dogs, mostly for friends, family, and neighbors. As I became a little older, I branched out to other people. It was incredibly fun and rewarding for me to do so, and my connection with dogs intensified. I soon started working with organizations as a puppy raiser for service dogs. It was a great learning opportunity, and I really enjoyed this time of my life. Around this time I had gotten married, and with it being only the two of us I decided on chihuahuas as my first breed. I very much enjoyed my little dogs, and the few litters I had with them. I was also able to change people’s preconceptions about these dogs as mine were trained and well mannered. Just because a dog is small it doesn’t mean it needs any less training or structure.
As it often goes, my husband and I welcomed our first child, a son, around a year into our marriage. He was a typical happy, healthy, rambunctious little boy. Little did we know our world was about to be turned upside down. When he was 3 years old, he became disabled almost overnight. He had a seizure out of the blue one afternoon. At the hospital we were told everything checked out as normal, and we must have missed a fever or something, and seizures are actually quite common and it probably wouldn’t happen again. Our relief at hearing this lasted only a very short time. Within a month he was having over 100 seizures a day, and could barely walk or talk. Half our time was spent in the hospital searching for answers, and the other half was at home with our son that was now required to wear a helmet full time, catching him as he continually hit the floor. It became very apparent that it was dangerous to have such small dogs around him, and he could very easily injure them or worse with any fall or seizure. Very reluctantly I rehomed my sweet little dogs into pet homes after spaying and neutering all of them, and carefully screening the people who took them.
As my son’s condition progressed, it became very obvious that he would benefit from a service dog. Since I have a history in training service dogs, I decided to take it on myself. I researched breeds for quite some time to decide what would be ideal for our situation. Never in a million years did I imagine I would end up with a poodle. Although I knew of their characteristics, the image of the show poodle is hard to get out of my mind.
We did eventually find a wonderful breeder with just the right puppy for us to start the journey with. As I plunged myself into the training of this dog, and not just as a puppy raiser for another company, I soon saw the massive fraud in the service dog industry. Yes, as shocking as it sounds many service dog companies are taking advantage of people with disabilities, and taking large sums of money in the process. Many times, the dogs being provided to these families are untrained, temperamentally unstable, and even unhealthy. I decided I would start my own breeding program to produce just the opposite. Parents would have the ideal temperaments, and would be health tested for whatever I could test for to help insure their offspring would have a long working life. I’m very proud of the many service dogs that have come out of our breeding program. As not every puppy will make it as a service dog, I have produced dogs that have gone into sport homes, conformations homes, as working hunting dogs, and of course as loved and cherished pets!
What do you love best about poodles?
I have worked with many different dogs and breeds through my life, none of them are like a poodle! I say there’s dogs and then there’s poodles. They are incredibly intelligent and I love their brains. They are so easily trained, and they seem to understand humans on a deeper level than most dogs. They seem almost human like at time. And of course the hair. I have eight dogs that have run of my house, and there is no shedding hair or doggy smell! I don’t think I could do what I do with a different breed, I couldn’t deal with the shedding of that many adult dogs.
What do you like least about poodles?
What I love about poodles is also what makes them challenging. That same brain makes them so easy to train and work with also makes them thinkers that have a mind of their own. They can and will outsmart you! You have to stay one step ahead of them. Also, personal space doesn’t exist when you live with poodles. They have to be touching you, or at least right next to you at all times. If you live with a poodle, you will never again be alone! And that includes things like going to the bathroom! They can be sensitive, and get upset if you don’t include them in whatever you’re doing. They are certainly not a dog that can just be tossed out in the backyard, they desperately need their people.
Would you ever consider owning a different breed?
At this time, I couldn’t imagine living with another breed. They are ideal for my family and I. Never say never though 😊
What is the most common misconception you hear about poodles?
With poodles it’s definitely that they’re a foo foo show dog; all beauty with no brain. In reality they are an incredibly versatile (I would argue the most versatile) working dog. There is quite literally nothing they can’t do. Seriously. And they can be kept in any haircut or style you choose. People who have never interacted with poodles are often shocked when they meet my dogs and realize they are, in fact, real dogs with phenomenal temperaments.
Have you ever considered breeding smaller poodles? Why or why not?
I do have smaller standards in my program. A standard poodle is any poodle over 15 inches at the shoulder. A 15 inch dog is actually quite small, in the 20 pound range. Many people don’t realize standard poodles have such a large size range. My smallest poodles are around 19” and 30 pounds. Given the fact that I have children, including my disabled son, this is about the smallest size dog I feel safe having around. In the far-off future I might entertain a well bred mini, or importing a moyen from out of the country. A lot of times temperament isn’t focused on as much when breeding smaller dogs, and I really need the proper disposition and temperament in my dogs.
What sets you apart from other poodle breeders? What do you do that others don’t?
I have an incredible passion for my animals. I never stop studying and learning, and I will change what I’m doing if new research is published that will give my puppies a better start in life. I work from home which enables me to be with my dogs nearly 24/7. They are all my personal pets that are with me at all times, they’re not out in a shed or kennel lonely just as “breeding stock”. I am with every single puppy as it enters this world, assisting the mothers in any way I can. My puppies are literally raised in my living room getting all the love and attention they could every need from the second they arrive. I implement programs to socialize and desensitize my puppies so they go home confident and with a solid foundation. Many breeders don’t allow people into their homes. Sometimes this is for safety reasons, but other times breeders have something to hide. I do take precautions, but I welcome people into my home to see how and where my puppies are raised, and how my adults live. I want to have transparency and to be trustworthy. Once my puppies leave I don’t wash my hands of them, they are partly my responsibility for the rest of their lives. My contract states that I will buy back a dog for life. I never want one of my puppies to end up in a shelter or unwanted. If a buyer were to break this contract, I will still get my puppy back. When they leave they are all microchipped, and I am listed as a secondary contact for life, and the info can’t be removed. If they end up in a shelter, I get called! This isn’t a business for me, my husband and I wouldn’t both need full time jobs if it was. It’s a passion and nothing brings me more joy than seeing the relationship between my puppies and their owners.
In life there are “good” and “bad” _____________. So, what makes a breeder a “good” or “responsible” breeder?
Responsible breeders are breeding with a purpose. They are not just throwing intact dogs together. They have a goal and are working toward it with every litter. They work, tirelessly, to produce healthy animals that are better than the parents. They are incredibly educated on every aspect of what they do, and have policies in place to ensure their puppies are going to the right homes, not just with the first person who shows up with cash in hand.
What are red flags that people should watch out for when interviewing a breeder that indicates they aren’t a responsible breeder?
All buyers should go to a breeder with lots of questions. If the breeder can’t or won’t answer your questions, run. Ask about where and how the adults are kept. Ask to see them. A breeder that tries to hide things is never good. Ask them why they’re breeding, what their goal is. Ask how they’re insuring the health and well-being of the adults in their care, and puppies they’re producing. You can never ask enough questions. A good breeder will spend hours talking to a potential buyer for one of their babies.
Health testing…what is the absolute minimum that breeders should be doing? What is the gold standard of health testing? What are the results we should be looking for?
Each breed has health problems specific to them. I health test my dogs with PennHip, OFA, or both to get a good idea about hip health. I also test for over 160 genetic disorders, color, coat type, and genetic diversity. Genetic diversity is a big deal, especially in poodles. Any purebred dog is going to have a smaller gene pool, and poodles suffered a genetic bottleneck back in the 50’s and 60’s that greatly affected the breed. Two dogs that are unrelated on paper through their pedigree can be very closely related. By doing genetic diversity testing we can make better choices in breeding selections. We also don’t eliminate a fantastic breeding candidate if they are a carrier for a genetic disorder that won’t affect them in any way. We will breed that dog to a dog that is clear ensuring that any produced puppies will not be affected. Eliminating carriers from a gene pool further reduces the genetic population which causes even less diversity in the breed. Just testing isn’t enough. We now know that hip dysplasia has both a genetic and environmental cause. I raise my puppies only on a product called Vetbed that I import from the UK. It is the best product for hip and joint health out there. Even then there are things that are out of my control as a breeder. I offer a health guarantee as well.
Are titles on dog’s enough to indicate a responsible breeder?
Absolutely not, and a titled dog doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good breeding candidate. You have to look at everything to get a full picture of the breeder. Looking at the pedigree of the dogs, and what kind of dogs the breeder has produced in the past is also important.
In the dog world there is a huge divide between “rescue” people and “breeder” people. Why do you think that is? What could we do to bridge the gap?
“Adopt don’t shop” has been peddled for so long without understanding why dogs end up homeless or in shelters. If all breeders were reputable, had contracts in place, microchipped puppies, etc, no dogs would even need adopted. It’s all about education. Adopt or shop responsibly should be the phrase that replaces it.
What do you wish rescues would do differently?
I wish they were more honest. Not every dog is in a rescue because it was abused and dumped. I also wish they wouldn’t put the wrong type of dog with certain families. Most dogs are not properly matched with owners when they’re coming out of a shelter. Genetics matter in a dog, not every type or breed of dog is a match for every family. There are MANY wonderful rescues as well that are absolutely doing rescue the right way. Sadly, though, they are not the majority.
What do you wish people knew about rescue?
Retail rescue is also a HUGE problem. Rescues are absolutely selling people dogs, and making a great profit. People are “shopping” whether they realize it or not. I despise the importation of dogs from other counties as well. There are not enough dogs in the US to fill shelters anymore. As such, rescues bring in dogs from other counties so they have something to sell. These imports are bringing in diseases not previously seen in this country that we don’t have vaccinations for, and they’re killing many dogs in the process. This is a major problem, and has to stop. Again, hear me when I say that there are some rescues that are doing it right, but many are not, many are in it for profit.
What do you wish other breeders would do differently?
I wish more breeders would breed with a purpose. Again, just because a dog is unaltered it doesn’t mean it should be bred. I wish they would vet potential buyers, and make sure the breed is the right fit and not just being sold because someone showed up with money.
What are the misconceptions about breeders that you encounter frequently?
People think we are all just in it for the money and don’t care about our animals. There is VERY little money to be made breeding dogs correctly. They think we’re killing shelter dogs while producing healthy puppies that are properly matched with their new owners. As I’ve shown, the opposite is true. A dog from a responsible breeder will not end up in a shelter. And if by chance they do, that breeder is taking that dog back. Good breeders are not the problem.
What motivates you to keep going? To keep breeding?
I have a deep passion for what I do. It can be hard sometimes. Breeding is a money pit, and so much time and energy goes into it. It can be utterly exhausting, as well as heartbreaking. Not all puppies will make it, you can lose adult dogs. Sometimes that can nearly break you. Seeing what the dogs I produce bring to people’s lives makes it all worth it. My dogs save people’s lives sometimes. They bring them great joy and purpose. It makes what I do worth it.
How many litters do you have a year?
The amount of litters I have varies. Sometimes its maybe one a year, sometimes it’s several. It depends on the dog’s physical condition, when they were last bred, age, and what my goals are for my breeding program at that time.
A puppy mill is somewhere that dogs are kept as livestock, and often in filthy conditions. They’re raised away from the family, and the goal is to produce as many puppies as fast as possible for the most amount of money. I often hear people say, “I’m not a breeder, I just had a litter”. That makes you a breeder. If you breed a litter, you’re a breeder. Doesn’t mean you’re a good breeder, or doing it right, but you’re a breeder, and there are responsibilities that come with bringing new life into this world whether you like it or not. A hobby breeder may or may not be breeding for the right reason, or doing things the right way. A good hobby breeder will be breeding from health tested parents toward a goal of betterment for the breed.
A backyard breeder is often the person who happens to have intact dogs and thinks it would be so fun to just breed a couple litters. They are uneducated, the dogs are not health tested, and again, the owner is looking for money. A responsible breeder is the opposite. Litters are often planned years in advance with a very specific goal in mind. Every box has been checked along the way to ensure the health and safety of the adult dogs and the puppies produced. New owners are carefully screened to ensure the puppies will be placed in the best possible home, and the breeder will be a part of that dog’s life in one way or another for the rest of its life. Your breeder is there to offer advice and solutions forever. It’s a partnership.
What is a puppy mill? How do you make sure you don’t support one?
Ask questions, ask to see the adult dogs and where/how puppies are raised. If you can’t do this, walk away!
Where should a person NOT get a dog? And why?
Do not buy a dog from a pet store. These dogs do come from puppy mills and large-scale producers. You don’t get to see how and where they were raised, you have no family history, they often have severe health problems, they’re not bred to standard, and they have temperament and behavior problems. Don’t buy from someone selling puppies out of the back of a vehicle for similar reasons. Don’t buy from someone you haven’t vetted. Be careful buying (yes, buying) a dog from a shelter or rescue, especially one with a sob story and high prices. I tell people when purchasing a puppy to make the decision with your brain, and not with your heart, which is sometimes easier said than done.
Would you ever sell someone two puppies at the same time?
There are VERY few instances where I would sell someone two at the same time. It would literally have to be a trainer or someone who works with dogs that would raise them separately. I’ve dealt with littermate syndrome and it’s not pretty.
If someone was interested in learning more about breeding and how to do it correctly where would you recommend that they start their education? Do you have books, groups etc that you would recommend?
Get in touch with breeders. We need more good breeders, and I, at least, am always happy to share whatever information I can with people. “Book of the Bitch” by J.M. Evans and Kay White is a FANTASTIC resource for anyone interested in breeding, as is “Canine Reproduction and Whelping” by Myra Savant Harris. She actually has several books that are a wealth of information. You have to be careful with online groups. Anyone can state their opinion as fact. Make sure to do your own independent research to back up what you’re heard.
How many dogs do you personally own?
I have eight dogs! Eevee, Ollie, Curly, Bijou, Frizzy, Bunny, Charlie, Freckles and my son’s service dog Jet.
Do they all get along?
Yes! I’m lucky that my dogs all do great together. Poodles are luckily not a breed that’s prone to dog aggression anyway, and they love to run and play together, and literally will sleep on top of one another when resting.
What is a normal day for your dogs?
First thing in the morning everyone goes out to potty and run around a bit. They come in after for quiet time and to eat while we are getting kids off to school. They then go out to potty and play again, and come inside and hang out while I’m doing whatever I need to do. I don’t really allow playing indoors, and the dogs are expected to be calm and quiet, usually sleeping on a bed or chewing on a toy. Poodles have an awesome off switch and are generally very chilled out when they’re indoors. We often go on walks/hikes in the afternoon, especially when the weather is nice. We are lucky to own acreage, and have a large city owned open space out behind our house. Pack walks help to solidify our bond and relationship as well. Depending on the dog, we might have different training goals that we’re working toward, and we will spend time with individual dogs doing that. Grooming is an essential part of owning poodles as well, and 1-3 dogs a week are groomed which entails a bath, blow dry, nail clipping, and potentially trimming of their hair. The dogs generally enjoy it. Again, they just want to spend time with you! In the evenings before bed I like to take the dogs out to play fetch. Poodles love to retrieve, and it expels some energy before bed. They then all come inside and hang out with the family until bed. Poodles are easy dogs to live with, and are happiest just being with their people.
Obviously, anything to do with dogs, and I love studying dog genetics, it’s a passion of mine. I love spending time with my children, and teaching them about nature and animals. I also knit and sew.
How is your son, the one who started this poodle journey for you?
Ethan will soon be 12 and can’t live without Jet. He is his constant companion and is always there for him. Jet knows when Ethan needs extra attention and will lay next to him and sneak his head into his lap. Ethan will pet him and his whole disposition will change. It calms him down and centers him. Jet makes it easier for him to interact with his peers and has opened up his world socially which wasn’t expected. Jet has been right there with us in the ambulances and in the hospitals, he provides Ethan with so much support. And giving other families exceptional service dogs is what drives my breeding program.
How can people contact you?
I am located just outside the north-east end of Colorado Springs, CO.
My phone number is 719-651-1358
Email is firstname.lastname@example.org,
Follow me on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/le.harrells.poodles/
My website is https://www.lhpoodles.com/