Oct. 23, 2006

Golden Doodles, best of both dog breeds

By Roz Kohls
Staff Writer

Golden retrievers are America’s favorite dog, said Jim Stellman of Cokato.

What are you going to do, though, if you live in an apartment or a large city, and can’t have an 80-pound dog bounding around in your living room, knocking over little kids and lamps on end tables?

The solution is to get a mini-Golden Doodle. A mini-Golden Doodle is a cross between a golden retriever and a mini-poodle, said his wife, Bev Stellman.

The Stellmans have been breeding golden retrievers for the past 19 years at their 10-acre hobby farm about five miles north of Cokato. Golden retrievers make great family pets because they’re mellow dogs and love children. However, they’re big dogs and sometimes people are allergic to their fur, Bev said.

“A lot of people wanted a smaller size,” said Bev, a native of Alabama.

Bev began researching Golden Doodles a couple of years ago. People started breeding them 16 years ago in Australia, and have been breeding golden retrievers with standard-sized poodles in the United States since 1997.

The Stellmans started with standard-sized poodles first and had two litters. Bev noticed that not only did the Golden Doodles shed very little, but that they had hybrid vigor, or better immune systems. Occasionally pure bred dogs have problems with their eyes or hips, she said.

Also, she learned that the second generation of Golden Doodles shed even less than the first generation.

However, the Stellmans wanted to go smaller than the standard poodle. With their friends from Howard Lake, Sharon and Wayne Birkholz, they began breeding dogs with mini-poodles. The Birkholzes bred Labrador retrievers with mini-poodles, producing mini-Labradoodles.

The Stellmans stayed with the mini-Golden Doodles, which are 30 to 40 pounds when adults, because Golden Retrievers were Jim’s favorite dogs when he was growing up in California.

The Stellmans’ current litter of mini-Golden Doodles started with eight. They’ve sold all but three of the 13-week old puppies.

“They’re just so cute,” Bev said. “They’re just so friendly. They’re just crazy about you.”

They are far more mellow than the average poodle. They try to climb up the fence separating the Stellmans’ living room from the kitchen. The puppies are so light, they can hang on the fence for a few seconds, trying to get eye-level with the Stellmans so they’ll get petted, said Jim, an electrical engineer for the federal government.

The puppies’ mother is Lacy, a golden retriever, and their father is Buster, an apricot-colored mini-poodle, Bev said.

Bev enjoys breeding dogs immensely.

“We love dogs,” Bev said.

She’s a Realtor with Lakes Area Realty in Howard Lake now. When her daughters were small, though, the dog breeding business gave her a chance to be a stay-at-home mom, she said.

All of the Stellmans’ daughters are in college now. Kelly Stellman of Cokato attends St. Cloud State University. Courtney Stellman and Lindsay House of Dassel attend Ridgewater College in Hutchinson.

The Stellmans also have a grand-daughter, Jenna House, 4.

The most challenging part of raising mini-Golden Doodles is that they must be bred with artificial insemination because they are such small dogs. The current litter was produced after the fourth attempt, Bev said.

They also need a little grooming.

“They get hair around their eyes that needs to be clipped,” Bev said.

Some mini-Golden Doodle breeders ship the puppies after selling them on the Internet, but Bev doesn’t trust this method. She believes the puppies are vulnerable to parvo, a diarrhea-type disease that kills dogs, if they are shipped commercially. The Stellmans vaccinate all their dogs at six weeks against parvo, but they’re not sure exactly when the puppies’ immunity they inherit from their mother wears off. They don’t want to take chances, she said.

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