Meet Claire Desrochers of Van Isle Doodles


What made Claire become an Australian Labradoodle Breeder?

Claire began breeding in 1981. She had always wanted to be a rancher, which wasn’t going to happen in Vancouver, where she lived. So she set off to Cranbrook to make the dream come true. That was Claire’s first taste of living in real winter with real snow. She wanted to do something with dogs, so she decided that she should do sled dog racing, and breed Siberian Husky dogs that could excel both in the Show Ring and at racing events.Yet, Claire quickly realized that the dog show world wasn’t where she wanted to be.

About that time, a cardboard box was left at the edge of the ranch. In it she found eight puppies, only one of which was alive. Claire had no idea what breed the puppy was at the time, but discovered many years later that it was most likely a Cockapoo. This one little tyke survived and thrived under Claire’s watchful eye, becoming her first real “Heart” dog. The puppy went on to live to the ripe old age of eighteen and a half. Claire had planned to get another Cockapoo, however she was living in Alberta then, working at a law firm and breeding Border Collies, delaying her plan Although she didn’t end up adopting another Cockapoo, while searching she stumbled across Puppy Love Labradoodles and Darice Conrad, who lived close by. Off she went for a visit.

Claire fell immediately in love with the puppies and purchased her first labradoodle breeding dog from Darice to start her labradoodle program. She used a stud from Puppy Love for her first litter. Claire still has dogs from those original lines, eighteen years later. Claire, Darice and their families have remained friends to this day.

What makes Claire’s program different?

Claire’s prime goal is education, to offer as much education to her families as possible. She starts from the day a puppy is reserved, and continues on a regular basis until the adult dog leaves the earth. Nutrition, training, socialization, behavior, emergency care, and general health are some of the topics covered. Claire has a reading list, videos, written material, plus offers zoom sessions and other programs. She wants to help the families to be as comfortable and prepared for their puppies’ arrival as possible.

Does Claire specialize in any particular color or size?

Large minis are Claire’s most common size and what her market prefers. Claire does offer mediums as well, but less often than the small and large mini’s. Claire loves the unique and different colors of labradoodles. She enjoys having a few sables in her program at all times, however parti, tri-color and phantom are fairly common as well. Her next goal is to try to produce more tuxedos, her other favorite “look.” Her personal favorite size is large mini, and color black tuxedo.

What has been Claire’s greatest Joy from being a Breeder?

Claire’s greatest joy as a breeder is to fulfill people’s dream of including a wonderful labradoodle companion in their family. Her most heart- warming placement was with a family with an adult, non-verbal young man. He could not tolerate noise, being touched, or direct eye contact. His mom wanted a dog who was full of kisses, affection and able to learn tricks, plus be very social. The puppy Claire chose understood the moment he walked into their home, however, what this young fellow needed. At only nine weeks of age, the puppy lay at the young fellow’s feet without touching him, without moving, making not a sound for thirty full minutes. Puppy then walked away, interacted with the parents,then returned to the young man’s feet. The puppy continued to repeat this routine for many weeks. Ten months later, the young man was able to take off his noise cancelling headphones, allow the puppy on his lap, and sleep with him. The man and puppy communicated with body language and direct eye contact. Two years later, the young man made his first audible sound. Although he still can’t form words, he now communicates via different sounds. The change this puppy has made in all the lives of this family is enormous.This miracle continues to bring tears to Claire’s eyes.

How has raising Labradoodles made a change in Claire’s personal life?

Claire feels her dogs have made her more humble, kinder, and gentler. She is more tolerant and grateful in her everyday life. She believes dogs bring out the best in all of us.

What aspirations does Claire have for her program?

Claire’s dream is to do a full mentor program with a few new breeders. Claire does not want to just sell them a breeding dog, but wants to complete from the ground up training program, spanning two years. She would like to find someone who, over a five- year span, would take over the majority of the puppy raising of her program. This would allow her to be available as a mentor, giving guidance to breeders going forward.

Where does Claire see herself in the next 5 years?

Claire is hoping that in five years her focus will be on education, both for breeders and companion owners alike. She can’t imagine not having puppies, but would love to be able to cut back to about six litters a year eventually.

Where would Claire like to see the Labradoodle in the coming years?

Claire’s biggest worry is that the focus of breeder’s will be too much on clear health panels and a straight coat for the breed. She finds that some breeders feel “safe” by breeding clear to clear, without understanding that it is never a guarantee that other issues may appear as a result. It concerns her that breeders “cull” breeding dogs from their program that are a carrier of a disease or trait, rather than simply taking the time and effort to breed away from the issue by simply breeding a carrier to a dog that does not carry for the same mutation. It takes two carrier genes in order for a dog to be affected, so that a carrier need not be an issue. Many breeders, she feels, fall into serious trouble because of that way of thinking. This is because being near sighted to the all-clear panel eliminates far too many dogs, and narrows the gene pool immensely. Claire feels we should be breeding away from issues, yet not culling out breeding dogs unnecessarily as every dog offers a myriad of other genes that are needed to keep from bottlenecking the breed. Minor cosmetic issues such as a tail that is curly, or ears that are a bit long, should not be reasons to cull. Minor imperfections should be overlooked if all else is wonderful in a breeding prospect.

Claire would love to see the breed continue to flourish and gain more legitimacy, however never become a recognized kennel club breed. To Claire, that would mean the demise of the Australian Labradoodle as we now know it, and a tragic mistake.


by Karen McKay of Canadoodle Labradoodles


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