Designer Dogs - Are they for you?

Marketing is an amazing tool...

We are all familiar with names like, Labradoodle, Cockapoo, Peekapoo, Pugapoo, Basschund, Boxerdoodle, etc (for a complete listing of all designer dogs – and believe it or not, there are over 700 types -click here).  Designer dogs - also known as hybrid dogs are mixes of substandard purebred dogs.  No breeder of quality dogs who has spent years perfecting their bloodlines would ever consider outcrossing their breed in this manner.  

So how did this fad get started and how did it gain popularity?  Crosses have been around for a long time - but the designer dog craze appears to have started with the laboradoodle (Laborador Retreiver x Poodle) in Australia, when a breeder, Mr. Wally Conron pioneered this breed back in the 1980's while attempting to fill a request for a hypoallergenic seeing-eye dog.  He was aware of the Laborador's capability as a companion dog to the handicaped and also the Poodle's propensity to cause less allergic reaction to those sensitive to dog hair and dander.  

So, after many failed attempts, he was able to breed a Poodle to a Laborador.  His litter of mutt pups did not sell as he had hoped and he was stymied over how to successfully market them.  After some consideration, he came up with a market strategy gimmick incorporating what he felt were the best qualities of both breeds and naming them "labradoodle".  He succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.  They all sold immediately.  With this success, he continued on, breeding more of them.  Others saw his success and started their own crosses of every kind imaginable and began marketing them and the fad took off.  With the advent of the internet, their new concoctions went viral. 

As stated earlier, there are over 700 types of designer mutt crosses today, some more successful than others.  The kicker is, these designer mutts sell for BIG dollars - more than good purebred dogs.  For example, a good quality Beagle pup - like the one that won Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show this year will sell as a puppy for $1,000 to $1,500.00.  Too much money you say?  

When you see a price like this on a purebred pup from a good breeder who has studied for years and knows their bloodlines, who does health checks on their breeding stock, who knows the strengths and weaknesses in their lineage and those of bloodlines of other breeders who they may consider using - who is not afraid to say "NO!" to a beautiful stud dog if after checking lineage and doing health checks they find bloodlines in that pedigree with problems, who in other words does their level best to ensure healthy puppies result from their breeding and who realize the emotional consequences of a botched breeding both to themselves as breeders and to future dog owners, then you understand the difference between a good breeder of purebred dogs and those whose main goal is money, who will throw two substandard purebreds together without giving a second thought to genetic problems, bad bloodlines or temperament issues.  They are in it for the buck, pure and simple.  Oh – by the way – have you priced a fad dog recently?  They go for thousands of dollars!  The greater the demand, the higher the price, with no thought given to quality.

So, let's take this most popular hybrid breed the "labradoodle" and have a look at the parents.  In an article written in 2006 for the Poodle column of the AKC Gazette by Anne Rogers Clark, Ms Clark stated as follows:

“Billed as a non-shedding intelligent breed for all reasons, the Labradoodle allegedly has the hybrid vigor that would supposedly stamp out the heritable diseases of both Labrador Retrievers and Poodles. Jump-started in Australia as the perfect breed for the blind, a Labradoodle breeding program was instituted and the results followed for a proper length of time-and it has now been discontinued. The reasons: Not all of the non-shedding promises held true; the animals produced were a little too full of themselves to be trustworthy guide dogs; and the heritable disease of both breeds turned out to be very similar, and were inherited into each new generation of Labradoodles. These crossbreeds continue to be bred in both Australia and the United States, however, as they are very saleable and command huge prices. One or two thousand dollars per puppy is a very good price, particularly for a non-registerable mixed breed. Where will this trend lead our [poodle] breed? In order to protect our breed from further exploitation, we must sell pet puppies on spay-neuter contracts to stop them from falling into the wrong hands. Do not ever allow your stud dog to be bred to a bitch of another breed. If you are a member of a breed dub, this could put you in the position of having charges brought against you. Why? Because this is not responsible behavior if you are protecting the Poodle.”

The Labrador Retriever Club of America states in their website, “A Labradoodle is nothing more than an expensive crossbred.  Because the genetic makeup is diverse from the Poodle genes and the Labrador genes, the resultant first generation (F1) offspring is a complete genetic gamble. The dog may be any size, color, coat texture and temperament. Indeed Labradoodles do shed. Their coat may be wiry or silky and may mat. Body shape varies with parentage but tends to be lanky and narrow. Behavior varies with the dog and within a litter with some puppies poodle-like in attitude and others somewhat like the Labrador Retriever.

The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. is opposed to cross-breeding of dogs and is particularly opposed to the deliberate crossing of Labrador Retrievers with any other breed. These crossbreds are a deliberate attempt to mislead the public with the idea that there is an advantage to these designer dogs. The crossbred dogs are prone to all of the genetic disease of both breeds and offer none of the advantages that owning a purebred dog has to offer.”

From a genetic standpoint, Labrador Retrievers and Poodles are prone to the following genetic diseases:

            Elbow Dysplasia
            Hip Dysplasia
            Retinal Dysplasia

            Hip Dysplasia
            Gastric dilatation-volvulus
            sebaceous adenitis
            diabetes mellitus
            mitral valve dysplasia

The popularity of the labradoodle caught on in the United States because the Labrador Retriever was and still is the most popular dog in America and because opportunists “pitched” the labradoodle as the ultimate combination of the smart and hypoallergenic poodle with the laid back easy going temperament of the Labrador Retriever.  In reality, this cross breeding of substandard poodles and labs has resulted in the creation of high priced mutts with tendencies towards skin problems, hip dysplasia elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hereditary cataracts, Von Willebrand’s Disease, Sebaceous Adenitis, Addison’s Disease Canine Autoimmune Thyroiditis and epilepsy.

Do you want a healthy happy puppy, one that will be your devoted companion for years?  Then buy from a good reputable breeder.  How do you find a good breeder?  Go to the parent club for the breed that interests you.  They will assist you in finding the right breeder.  

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