What is SoftMaple?
Curly Coated Retriever


Welcome to SoftMaple Curly Coated Retrievers site.  SoftMaple is located in Northern NY, owned by  Mark and Cathy Lewandowski.

Cathy started her love for dogs with Irish Setters in 1979. Training and showing her first Irish Setter to the her Utility title with an all breed High In Trial along the way. We have been active in Curly Coated Retrievers since 1993.


How we got our name

SoftMaple is the name of a lake in Northern NY where my family had a camp while I was growing up. I used SoftMaple for my prefix when I bred my first litter of Irish Setters in 1980. 

The lake is just a few miles from our home. It is a tranquil place where the dogs spend a good deal of the spring, summer and fall in the water and running in the woods. Often times we use the kayak and swim the dogs across the lake to an uninhabited island. All my dogs are very strong swimmers! The house is surrounded by acres of wilderness, criss-crossed by sugaring trails. Sally has developed a sweet tooth, and its hard in the spring to keep her from drinking the sap from the buckets hanging from every maple tree. 

Our house sits on 4 acres of land. I have a full agility course set up all the time. Our house has a finished basement where I can set up an indoor obedience ring for the dogs. The drawback is we are so far out in the sticks that its a long way to most dog shows. Oh well, the dogs sure love the woods to romp in! And its all about the dogs. ;-) 
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How I started in dogs
I started in pure bred dogs in the late 70's. Through 4H, I trained our familis's Irish Setter to her American and Canadian CDX, American UD, with an all breed High in Trial along the way. I was hooked! I joined an all breed club, in which I held offices as Vice President, Recording Secretary, Public Education, chief ring steward and Obedience Chairperson for our All breed dog show. Not bad for a high school student. ;-) I remained active in 4H while in school. When I was off on College break I would help teach the obedience classes and later Judge matches. At that time I also belonged to the Irish Setter Club of America and two regional Irish Setter Clubs. 

While I loved Irish Setters, I knew they weren't the breed that fit my personality and lifestyle. I wanted a dog that was more versatile and required less grooming. I was looking for a dog that my husband could hunt with, I could do performance events and show on weekends, and still have a companion that was easy to live with day to day. When I met my first curly, I knew it was the breed for me. I set out to find out as much as I could about this unique breed. After years of collecting information, talking to breeders, studying pedigrees and pictures, I got my first Curly in 1993. Am And Can CH Karakul Blazing Autumn CDX, AX, CGC, ST, USDAA AD, Can CDX



SoftMaple Curlies
8282 Soft Maple Road
Croghan NY 13327
(315) 346-6608


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IMG_3604We at SoftMaple have been active in showing and breeding pure bred dogs since 1979. Active in Curly Coated Retrievers since 1993. We do not earn our income from the sale our puppies. For me raising a litter is a very rewarding, time consuming and expensive passion. We are breeding for healthy, sound, highly trainable, versatile dogs without compromising the correct structure and breed type set out in the standard.

SoftMaple bred and or owned Curlies hold over 200 titles to date in conformation, field, obedience, rally, agility, dock diving, barn hunt, and lure coursing, with over 20 group placements. Most SoftMaple dogs go to loving companion homes, or to personal hunting homes and are never shown. Titles do not make the dog, nor do they make a dog great. We are more interested in producing healthy, cherished companions, than having our primary goal to put letters before a dog's name.

Early puppy stimulation, as well as continued puppy socialization are key in our breeding program. We stress temperament and health. Our dogs are family companions, first and foremost. We are only interested in finding homes for our puppies in which potential owners are genuinely committed to loving a Curly for its life-time, be it a pet, show, or hunting companion. Often times I will lease a bitch for a breeding. This is a good way to expand or diversify bloodlines. Sometimes a breeder falls into the trap of only breeding what they have in their own backyard. The same bitch to the same stud over and over, creating puppies, but not expanding the gene pool. A breeder may become kennel blind, thinking the dog they have currently is the one to put in the whelping box, even if she is not the best choice for the breed as a whole.


What we do with our dogs
I enjoy doing agility with my dogs, obedience, have done tracking, barn hunt, luer coursing, rally, working tests, hunt tests and dock diving with our dogs.    I trained the first AKC Novice Agility, Open Agility and Agility Excellent titled CCR. I also trained the first USDD titled CCR Agility Dog. My husband does personal duck hunting with all of our dogs. I work in a local community hospital as an RN. I have taken my dogs through the Therapy Dog International course so I can take them on Nursing home and Rehabilitation unit visits. We also have given demonstrations for Schools and scouting troops.

lazy1 How we keep our dogs
Curlies do not do well as strictly Kennel dogs. They need to be part of the family, and around people. All our dogs are household companions. For the times the dogs need to be out without us, they need a safe secure environment. I do have kennel runs for times when my dogs need to be safe and I can't be with them. I do not keep a lot of dogs. I keep only as many as I can easily give personal attention to every day. Most times we have two or three dogs. All of our dogs live in the home. Yes, they are outside a lot, because we are outside a lot. I don't believe in keeping 20 or 30 dogs, then placing them when they are done winning ribbons for me. I have on occasion leased a bitch for a litter, who then went back to her own home, so you may see more pictures of dogs here than I own!

About our breeding
We as breeders are caretakers of the future of the Curly Coated Retriever. Breeding just to fill a demand for puppies can damage a breed for years to come. Not all dogs are worthy of being bred. Having a Championship title is not a good enough reason to breed a dog. There are many judgment calls that a breeder has to make according to their own conscience. There is no perfect dog, and unfortunately, no perfect breeders!

Breeding dogs is a labor of love. Their health and well-being is of primary importance. We check Hips (OFA, or foreign country of origin hip score equivalent), Eyes (CERF or OFA Eye certification)Cardiac auscultation or Echo, Glycogen Stroage Disease (GSDIIIa) and have been adding PRA, EIC and listen to the recomendations of the Curly Parent club for testing.   

Since a dog is a living creature, we can not guarantee that the dog will not have any problems. We do our best to check the health history of the parents, grandparents and siblings. We study pedigrees and dogs to help make informed breeding decisions. No one has yet bred the perfect dog. We will stand behind our dogs if there is a problem.

The pups are raised in the home. We use the Bio Sensor method of early puppy stimulation. We have a large playroom for the puppies and are always adding new toys to stimulate them.  We temperament test our puppies at 7 weeks of age. As we know the personalities of the puppies better than anyone having lived wiht them since birh, we try to match each puppy with the appropriate family for its needs. Every pup that leaves SoftMaple goes with the condition that if for any reason you cannot keep the dog I will always take it back, for whatever reason.

A curly is not for everyone. They are a strong willed, challenging, intelligent dog. We screen our prospective puppy buyers. Your not just buying a dog from SoftMaple, your joining a family. We ask you questions, and strongly encourage you to ask us questions. Anyone looking to add a Curly to their home shouldn't stop at just contacting one breeder. We encourage you to talk to as many breeders as you can.

pic6Here's the age old question: Is temperament the result of heredity or of environment?

pic5 You have already done your homework into the backgrounds of the sire and dam; you've checked on temperament, trainability and stability. The job does not stop here. Do you want to take a chance that the greatest factor is not environment?

In a litter, you are lucky to get one or two good show dogs. You may get a couple of good field prospects, maybe even a future top obedience or agility dog. Every pup should have a super temperament because 90 percent of the litter will end up in pet homes. Their owners will not care about how many titles the parents won, at what age they got their first major, or how many tries it took them to get their SH or CDX titles. These people care that their dogs will be wonderful additions to their family.

When I plan a breeding, I take time off from my full time job to start another full-time job-- the one of raising a litter. It does not matter how wonderful and independent a mom your brood bitch is, you still have a full-time commitment with each litter.

I start working with the pups when they are 3 days old. I take each one and put it through a series of five exercises known as the Bio-Sensor method. (see the May 1995 AKC Gazette for an article on this) In brief, this is a series of exercises that stimulates pups in a way they would not otherwise experience at this early age.

Once the pups have their eyes open and start to venture out of the whelping box, the fun begins! Over the years, I have developed a "puppy playground." This is designed to introduce the pups to sound, texture, movement, vibration and music. It includes "swings" made from carpeted milk crates that hangs from the ceiling. The pups quickly find these and they are not bothered by the swinging movement when they are in them. Often I will find the swing jam-packed with pups sleeping and gently rocking! I also have low, padded and carpeted seesaws. The pups first reaction to these is usually to be startled when they walk up the low ramp and it moves under their weight. however, the puppy urge for exploration gets the best of them and soon you see 6-week old pups trying out their "sea legs" and balancing on the middle of the sea saw like expert agility dogs.

The playground also includes a variety of tunnels made of tall kitchen trash containers with the bottoms cut out. The pups race through these, roll them around, and then all pile in for a nap. There are also ramps of various materials and textures, milk jugs, hanging fleece toys and short steps made by stacking large wooden blocks. One object that the pups love is a fleece octopus with four squeaky arms. It hangs about five inches from the ground, from a rope that has a long line of sleigh bells attached to the top. The noise it makes! There are also low mirrors on the walls and an assortment of balls, toys and chews in the puppy room.

At about 6 weeks, the pups are introduced to water, under supervision. I take an extra large Vari-Kennel bottom, line it with rubber bath mats, and fill it with three inches of warm water. I place this in the puppy room, with a couple of rubber balls floating in it. The boldest pups are soon in there! There is no pushing or forcing; I just let them go at their own pace. Each puppy also gets individual attention every day during which they experience a variety of activities. They may drag around a short leash, be introduced to wings and birds, go for a ride in the car, or have their toenails trimmed.

The playroom setup enables me to sit and watch the puppies for hours to see which are the most adventuresome which have the quickest recovery time, and which are more hesitant. This helps me decide on the homes that will be best for each one.


SoftMaple Curlies
8282 Soft Maple Road
Croghan New York 13327


Curly coated retriever puppies

The Puppy room

All SoftMaple puppies are born and raised in the home enviroment. I have set up a puppy play room over the years to stimulate the pups. Tunnels, swings, ramps, stairs, and different surfaces are all part of the puppy room. (yea, it sort of looks like a puppy junk-yard!)

We start them young for whatever they may grow up to be!

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danagroupI personally have shown several dogs to the CD level, a couple to the CDX level, and one to the UD level. I have won an all breed High in Trial. Multiple Match HITs. Match Group wins. I have shown many dogs to their CGC title before I became a CGC evaluator for the AKC. Now I don't do as many of my own dogs to the CGC, since I tend to always be doing the tests for others! I have shown several dogs to their AKC Championships. (and helped put points on many others) CKC CH, UKC CH's as well as a CKC CD and CDX. I put the first AKC agility title on a CCR. The First NA, the first OA, and the first AX. As well as the first curly to earn a USDAA agility title. I have put TDI's on a couple of my dogs, as well as ST (Stability Test title). Now I have been having fun with Dock Diving, Barn Hunts, Working tests, and some hunt tests.  It was great showing at Westminster Kennel Club Show with a multi titled dog this past year (UCH, CH Softmaple's Sexy and I Know It CA, RATI, RATN, BN, RN, WC, CGC, CGN, DJ, TDI)  I like to show that beauty and brains go together. 

I don't show as much as I did, due to job and time constraints. And usually when I go to a national specialty, I don't take any of my own dogs, since as a fancier of the breed, I like to be free to observe what other breeders have been producing over the last year. Bringing a string of dogs to show... you just don't have the time to do that all important research




SoftMaple Since 1979.... Kinky since 1993!