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Whats in a doodle?

Designer Dogs

In recent years there's been a huge rise in 'designer breeds'. What are they exactly? They are the same mixed breeds or 'mutts' we all grew up with. The only difference is that these 'designer breeds' have fancy names and come with huge price tags. Often a LOT more than the cost of a pure breed dog.

No longer is Fido a 'mutt', he's a labradoodle, a spoodle, a cavoodle, a giant schnoodle, a spanador, a pugalier etc. And some people will pay megabucks for him.

Labradoodle Breeder Regrets - Article from The Guardian UK, November 13, 2010

Are they really healthier?

The biggest claim made by the so called 'breeders' and promoters of designer dogs is that they are healthier and live longer than their pure bred parents cause of something called 'hybrid vigour'.

Sure, hybrid vigour exists and could very well be true in some cases. What I fail to see is how you could possibly produce long lived, healthy dogs without inherited problems if the breeds used to produce the pups are subject to problems?

For instance:
How can labradoodles avoid hip dysplasia when both Standard Poodles and Labradors (especially) and can suffer from the problem?

Or what about Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which causes dogs to go blind at a young age? There is a HUGE list of breeds that can suffer from the disease. Mixing any two of these breeds together without testing can result in blind pups!

To see the extensive list look at the Tests page on Optigen.

(NB Standard Poodles are not listed because they haven't yet isolated the gene that causes the disease and therefore cannot DNA test for it. How many other breeds are susceptible to PRA but aren't listed for the same reason?)

Health registries for purebreds

The only reason the general public believes these designer dogs are healthier is because there are no breed clubs to inform the public of the diseases they are prone to and no health registries for affected dogs to be registered on.

Think about it... its easier for your local vet to remember that dobermans as a breed can suffer from von Willebrands disease cause he may have had 3 or 4 affected dogs in his practice over the years. But how can he generalize the mixed breeds he sees? There are no statistics on how many maltipoos or pugaliers suffer from skin trouble, slipping patellas or whatever...

Add to that the fact that most so called 'breeders' who are selling these designer breeds don't do health testing and what have you got? Other than a recipe for disaster...

Most 'breeders' of designer breeds are either puppy farms who make a living out of churning out puppies for the pet shop market (and health testing cuts into profits) or are back yard breeders - the family down the road who are nice people but who think that putting Ralph the labrador over Missy the poodle is a good way to make some extra money for that holiday. In most cases Ralph and Missy aren't even fully registered or pure bred themselves. And health testing? What's that? The vet said they were both healthy... why would they have to test?

Don't fall victim to the hype.

Purebreds are bred to a blueprint

The main advantage of a pure bred dog is that you know what you are getting. You will have a very good idea of what to expect the pup to look like and act like when it gets older. None of the designer breeds can claim that because they don't breed true.

What does 'breed true' mean? It means that the puppies will always look like the parents and they will predictably have certain characteristics.

Poodles will always have a thick woolly non shedding coat for instance. They will be active, lively, smart and will have a sense of humour.

Poodle crosses will have curly coats, or wavy coats. They will shed, or they will not shed. They will need regular clipping. Or not. They will be curly AND shed AND need regular clipping. They will be active and lively. Or they will be slow and lazy and get fat. There is no way to tell because they do not breed true.

That cute puppy you see in someone's back yard or in the pet shop will most likely grow up to be nothing like its mother or its father or even its littermates.

The other advantage to buying a pure breed dog is that you can research the breed and educate yourself on any health issues it may have. Most breeders of purebreds are registered with the canine association and can provide proof of testing for at least a couple of generations for each litter.

Why take a chance?

If you want a mixed breed and don't particularly care about what it will look like as an adult, go to the RSPCA or other shelter and rescue a dog that needs a home. Don't go paying big money for one and encourage the breeding of mutts. Most dogs in shelters are mixed breeds...

If you would rather know what you're getting then do some research and get a purebreed dog that fits your idea of the perfect companion.

Don't get me wrong. No breeder is God and no one can guarantee that nothing will ever go wrong with the pup you buy. However, I know it makes me feel better knowing that I've done all I can to ensure my puppies are free from genetic problems because I spent the money on health testing. And there are a lot of other breeders out there like me.


Excerpt from The Australian,
April 2010

Labradoodle pioneer regrets fashioning 'designer dog'

It has been 22 years since Wally Conran coined the term “labradoodle” and 16 years since he retired from Guide Dogs. Now 81, he has a pure white, goatee beard, eyes like Santa Claus, and he lives in a two-room unit behind some horse stables near Geelong. Conran comes to the door with a cane. A sticky fly-strip, fully emblazoned with dead insects, dangles down from the ceiling near his head. There are three cans of fly spray on the bench. “I go through three a week,” he says. “It’s the horses.”

The place is comfortable enough, but as he says himself: “If I’d stayed in the game, I wouldn’t be living here. I’d be rich, wouldn’t I? But my principles wouldn’t allow me to do it.” Conran says breeding the first labradoodle was “the worst thing I ever did”. Despite claims at the time that it was a big success, just one of that first litter of pups went on to become a guide dog, and almost all of the litters that followed had dogs that shed hair, so they weren’t hypoallergenic at all.

“What I learnt was, you put two dogs together, you can get a hell of a lot of problems,” he says. “Most of them were crazy. The people breeding them now, they’ll tell you they’ve got the ‘hybrid vigour’, but to me that means they are basically uncontrollable. They certainly weren’t any good for what they were supposed to do. And it caused real problems for me. I had calls from people threatening to take me to court. People were going to bash me for mixing the breeds. The lady who gave the first poodle to my boss, who gave it to me, she said she was going to sue me in the courts for using her dog.”

It was an anxious time for Conran but, he says, it’s what he’s seen since that leaves him gloomy. “People now, they just do it for the money. They don’t give a damn. You’ve got somebody who’s got a labrador and somebody else who has got a poodle, and they say, ‘Let’s put them together - we’ll make a fortune!’ And what is it, at the end of the day? It’s a crossbreed with a fancy name and it’s got all kinds of problems and it’s half crazy and untrainable. So when people ask me, did you breed the first labradoodle, I say: ‘It’s true, I did, but it’s not exactly something I’m proud of doing.’”

As breeding manager for Guide Dogs, Conran had hundreds of dogs pass through his home over the years. These days, he has space enough for the one that’s roaming his unit, with its fat tail wagging, and a stuffed toy in its mouth. To the untrained eye, Rocky looks like a black labrador. “Sit still and he’ll rest his head on your knee,” says Conran, so I do, and he does indeed rest a heavy, glossy head on my knee. Is he a pedigree? Conran looks at me like I might be daft, shakes his head and says: “What a question!”

Read more here.

The hypoallergenic, non-shedding myth

So how true are the claims that these poodle crosses will not shed and will have hypoallergenic coats?

The fact is that about 75% of poodle crosses will shed. So much for that claim!

What you pay good money for will most likely grow up to shed like a golden retriever and have a wavy coat that needs constant brushing or even clipping.

The point being you won't know till the it grows up.

The purpose of a breed

All dog breeds were originally bred for a purpose - to do a job, whether it was retrieving birds, bringing down bulls or sitting on a lap.

Labradoodles were originally bred by the Australian Guide Dog Association with a purpose. They were to have the brains and hypoallergenic qualities of the standard poodle. They were to have the steadfastness and calmness of a labrador.

They failed.

After years of selectively breeding the best and healthiest labradors they had to the best and healthiest poodles they could find, then breeding the resulting puppies to each other under strict guidelines, they couldn't predict the temperament or the coat type the puppies would have.

The man who developed the breed, Wally Conren, said in one of his articles that after a program of scientifically controlled breeding they stopped breeding labradoodles. Most of the puppies they bred failed to reach their expectations of coat type, low allergy and temperament suitability to guide dog work. He coined the name 'labradoodle' as a sales gimmick to enable them to sell all the reject puppies.

So successful was this marketing ploy that labradoodles became the new 'in thing' and a pet shop owner decided to breed them and charge a lot of money for them cause they were now a trendy dog to have on the other end of your lead.

Since labradoodles failed to live up to the purpose they were being bred for, why continue to breed them? There are a lot of other breeds out there, who DO breed true, who's temperament and looks you can predict, and who will probably fit into your lifestyle because you will be able to choose the kind of temperament you want. The shelters are full of poodle crosses that didn't grow up to fit into their owners lifestyle...

Are you brave enough to own a poodle?

I often find that some people just aren't brave enough to own a poodle cause of the 'image' poodles have as being 'foo-foo' dogs. They need to 'legitimize' their ownership of a poodle by mixing in a more 'doggy' breed. Far be it from me to criticize people for not having the guts to own a poodle.

However, for those that aren't brave enough to walk a poodle there are other breeds out there with poodle-like characteristics that aren't mixed breeds. Perhaps instead of supporting the designer breed puppy farmers you can find another breed to suit your lifestyle.

For more information on where that cute puppy in the window comes from see this page.

'Legitimate' doodle alternatives

There are heaps of choices in the purebreed dog world, no matter what you're after. You don't need to pay tons money for a mixed breed when you can buy a purebred dog, usually for a lot less than some of the 'designer' breeders are charging. But if your heart is set on a 'doodle' then go to the local shelter. There are bound to be some mixed breeds there in need of your love.

Below are just a few alternatives for the poodle mixes out there. These breeds have wavy or curly coats, shed little or not at all and offer everything you might want in looks and size. With the added benefit that you know what you're getting!!!

There are many more breeds so do your research and find the right dog for you.

(Click on the photos for information on the breeds)

Smaller sized dogs
A better alternative to the maltese, shitzu, lhasa apso, pug or cavalier x poodles.

Bichon Frise

Coton de Tulear


Dandie Dinmont Terrier

Medium sized dogs
A better alternative to the cocker spaniel or schnauzer x poodles

Hungarian Puli

Bedlington Terrier

Hungarian Pumi

American Water Spaniel

Larger sized dogs
A better alternative to the labrador or golden retriever x poodles.

Portuguese Water Dog

Irish Water Spaniel

Curly Coated Retriever

Lagotto Romagnolo

A few good places to start looking for the right breed for you:

The Victorian Canine Association

The Australian National Canine Council

The American Kennel Club

Articles on designer dogs:

Doodles - Aircastle Standard Poodles

Article on Goldendoodles : Golden Retriever Club of America

On the topic of Labradoodles : by Annie Rogers Clarke, Poodle Club of America

The modern kennel conundrum - Designer Dog Fights : Jon Mooallam, New York Times

A Rose by Any Other Name : Doodles, Spoodles, Schnoodles, Groodles, and Pugaliers

Much Ado About Poo : Are Cock-a-poo's, Peke-a-poo's and the other poo dogs real breeds?

Is that a Labradoodle?

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