Designer Dogs (Part 1) Val Cairney
Hello, and welcome to this episode of Val Talk’s Pets. Well I think it is time to address a topic that can be very controversial that I’m sure will have some people rather miffed or down right angry, some will be giving me the major high five and for me I will be able to deal with a super important topic that really, really needs to be explored and exposed and where education is desperately needed. Hopefully I have your attention now, because this episode is about cross breeding and designer dogs.
Let me first define what we are talking about when it comes to cross breeds, mutts or what is considered a designer breed. In my podcast on avoiding the pitfalls and scams when getting a new dog, I defined what is the difference between a purebred dog, a cross breed and a mutt or mixed breed dog. So to recap, a purebred dog is a dog that is from two members of the same breed and so was their parents and their parents, etc. etc. The purebred dog should have documented pedigree and be registered with the organization or breed club that oversees purebred dogs. The breeds physical description and temperament is what is being perpetuated. Generations of that particular pair will have been recorded, screened and selected so that only the healthiest and the best example of the breed will produce future puppies. The only way to guarantee that you have an actual purebred is to have what is called “papers” for the dog. “Papers” are a way of identifying that the dog has come from a registered breeder with the governing purebred dog association for your country. Now, a cross breed will be two purebreds but of different breeds. I bet at this point, the fact that I said, they are purebreds just raised eyebrows. That’s right. If you have an actual cross breed, than two breeds will be the only breeds in the dog. If there is suspicion that either both or one of the two breeds is not pure than you do not have a cross breed, you have a mixed breed. That’s right! If someone tells you they have a maltee/poo meaning a Maltese poodle cross but then tell you the mother was actually a yorkie poo, meaning a Yorkshire terrier poodle cross, you now have three breeds in the dog, a Maltese, a Yorkshire terrier and a poodle. Mutt! Mixed breed! That is what that dog is.
Okay, so what is a designer dog? Designer dogs are a rather ugly side of breeding and I hope I can define this and expose some of the misconceptions to bring light to this topic so pet enthusiasts will be aware of this underworld and its contribution to animal cruelty and exploitation. Some crossbreeds do fall into the designer dog breeds so I’ll also go over this as well. A designer dog is a dog created by breeding specific traits from different dogs to create the type of dog you want with specific characteristics. This can range from being so called “hypoallergenic” to certain cuteness, to certain eye colour, to size, to facial configuration etc. In order to create these specifics, the breeding becomes a patchwork of selected parentage to hit or miss trying to get the desired trait. Someone else went down in literary history for trying to make a specific person and that was Dr. Frankenstein. So, let’s go back to the beginning of the designer cross breeds especially since the Frankenstein name has now been mentioned. So the trend to design dogs to fit certain traits started in the 1980’s. Before that, people usually sought out purebred dogs or mutts. Mutts were considered any dog that wasn’t a purebred. The recognition of cross breeds started with the custom-designed dog. If you haven’t heard the name Wally Conron, make note because this is the guy who created the “labradoodle”. So to quickly go over how Wally created the labradoodle, he was an Australian who bred dogs for the Royal Guide Dog Association. A woman needed a guide dog but her husband was allergic to dogs. Wally thought that if he cross bred a common guide dog breed, the Labrador with a poodle that is usually less irritating allergy wise, maybe he could create the perfect dog for this couple. To make a long story short, Wally made several attempts to create a group of puppies that the husband did not react to. Once he did get the reaction or non-reaction he was looking for he found that the guide dog association would not train these dogs because they were not purebreds. So, to not have his efforts go for naught, Wally quickly improvised and came up with the gimmick as he calls it, to call the pups, Labradoodles. The larger story here is that Wally was only trying to get one pup, but he created several litters and the fact remains he was experimenting. There was a giant crap shoot going on as to whether the pups would have birth defects, have health issues etc.
So, was Wally proud of his creation? Well here is a quote from Psychology Today April 1st 2014 where Wally said, “I opened a Pandora’s Box, that’s what I did. I released a Frankenstein. So many people are just breeding for the money. So many of these dogs have physical problems, and a lot of them are just crazy… Today I am internationally credited as the first person to breed the labradoodle. People ask me, “Aren’t you proud of yourself?” I tell them, “No! Not in the slightest.” I’ve done so much harm to pure breeding and made so many charlatans quite rich. I wonder, in my retirement, whether we bred a designer dog-or a disaster.”
Well there you have it. Now, I’m sure there are a ton of Labradoodle owners out there that are shocked to hear this, because in the scheme of things, labradoodles make great pets. But, the larger issue here is what Wally said, many people are breeding just for the money. And as he said, charlatans are getting rich. And they are!! The money that people tell me they have paid for a labradoodle I find not only shocking but absolutely heinous. Since Wally’s original creation, the labradoodle has evolved. Labradoodle associations have sprung up and often they keep records on the parents, and some provide a form of registration from their organization to buyers so there is an accountability. This practice is wonderful, however, the elephant in the room is still the fact that we are dealing with a cross breed. The labradoodle craze has created the idea that the Labradoodle is an actual breed and that those that breed them are registered quote unquote breeders. The fact remains, that there is no such thing as a purebred labradoodle, it is a cross breed. The hype, the momentum of this hybrid, has created a perception amongst unsuspecting potential pet owners that the Labradoodle is a breed, that merits them being offered at ridiculous prices. Remember what I said at the beginning, you cannot be sure you have a purebred unless you have registration papers from the governing body for purebreds in your country. It’s great that someone took it upon themselves to create a Labradoodle association, but this does not make them purebreds. In this case, paying as much as $3000.00 dollars for a Labradoodle in my opinion, is highway robbery.
Now you may think that I have it out for Labradoodles, and nothing could be further from the truth. The evolution of the labradoodle is the launching off point for all the other crossbreeding that began as a result of the popularity of the labradoodle. With labradoodles alone, the next thing that sprung up was the golden doodle. So now we have taken one of the most popular and handsome breeds and bred it with a poodle. My question here is WHY??? What was wrong with the Golden Retriever? Golden Retrievers are one of the most popular dogs known for their temperament, intelligence, the makings of a great family dog, why on earth did it need to be bred with a poodle? Is it because of the idea of creating a less allergen dog? Well here is some news from poodlemixworld.com. “Sadly although poodles and their mixes have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, there is not a shred of scientific evidence to back this up. Indeed, studies looking at dog allergens in the home found no difference in levels between normal dogs and “hypoallergenic” dogs.” So when it comes to poodle mixes, not every one will have any reduction in allergens. Now apparently the bichon frise poodle cross has some good results but again nothing is guaranteed. The bichon poodle cross is known as a poochon which I think is absolutely ridiculous. So the bottom line on designing dogs to get a hypoallergenic dog is basically hit and miss. And what a decimation of the poodle breed. Poodles are highly intelligent and athletic dogs, now they are being reduced to the gene deposit to get their lesser allergen coats. Why don’t you just get a poodle? They are great dogs. They make amazing service dogs and family pets. I just don’t understand that if you want a dog that will be a great pet and you have a guaranteed chance that the dog will have a lower allergen as opposed to throwing the dice in a cross breed hoping for some of the lesser allergen gene to come through, why don’t you just don’t get a poodle? This is one of those things where I just shake my head.
So here are some of the crazy poodle crosses and I will start with the smaller dogs. How about a chipoo, Chihuahua poodle. Havapoo, Havanese poodle. The ever popular cockapoo, cocker spaniel poodle. Corgipoo, corgi poodle. Jackapoo, jack Russell poodle. Whoodle, wheaton terrier poodle. Pomapoo, Pomeranian poodle. Okay, so these cutesy names are created to catch buyers. Wouldn’t you rather tell everyone who admires you cute little dog that it’s a Pomapoo as opposed to a Pomerian poodle cross? Yeah well, let’s get into the more disturbing crosses. Because poodles come in many different sizes these next crosses I would hope be with Standard poodles, but when it comes to the cross breed designer dog world, it wouldn’t surprise me if something far more disturbing is happening here. Saint Berdoodle, Saint Bernard poodle. Newfypoo, Newfoundland poodle. Boxerdoodle, boxer poodle. Shepadoodle , German Shepherd poodle. Siberpoo, Siberian husky poodle. Great Danoodle, Great Dane poodle. This last one is very disturbing. Even a standard poodle with a Great Dane should make everyone shudder. So are every single one of these poodle mixes being created for the hypoallergenic nature? I can’t possibly think so. If you take a Shepherd for example that is notorious for shedding how could putting a bit of poodle in the makeup mean that you are getting a dog that won’t shed or cause allergies? It won’t! There is no way to guarantee any desired levels of poodle gene has transposed to create a lesser allergen dog. All that has happened here is to take two beautiful dogs in their own right and combined them for the sake of it. My cross breed dog was created by two dogs that found each other in the northern clime. One was a shepherd and one was a husky. There was no human intervention here to make this cross happen. I joke that if I walked into a pet store and said I had a shepsky, no one would know what I was talking about. And I really hope they never will. But, cross breeding for designer reasons has gotten out of hand.
One of the biggest issues with designer dogs is how the puppy mills jumped so vigorously onto this bandwagon. And this is where the underworld of the most disgusting breeding of dogs takes place. But, here is the thing, when we hear “puppy mill” we think of cages and cages of poor dogs in deplorable condition being bred and bred with no medical attention and poor food. And in many, many cases that is exactly what is happening. But, there is also the more sophisticated puppy mills springing up and these are very concerning. So I’m going to give you an example of a business and see if you think the same way as I do. This business breeds labradoodles and golden doodles and possibly other combinations of poodle crosses. They take the females that are pregnant and for lack of a better term, foster them out. The foster person is to care for the female while she is pregnant and deal with the birth of the puppies and then care for the female and the puppies until the puppies are ready for sale. The person who fosters is not paid for this but gets a percentage of the sale of the puppies. The main facility is quite gorgeous and opulent. It has quite a staff and there are many breeding females as well as the system of fosters. Is this a puppy mill? In my opinion, yes it is. Just because the dogs are not being treated poorly, doesn’t mean that the whole operation is not milling puppies. There is a production line of pups here and that to me signals a mill. With so many females in foster how do we know what control is being made with regards to the breeding pair and what about medical checks? Hmm?? This is very suspect. But say they are diligent about the health checks and are careful about which pair breeds. If they are breeding litters all over in a system that uses a sale percentage as the compensation and there are more in a large facility, there could easily be 80 to 100 pups rotationally being born every month or so. Wow! That to me is mass production of pups and that is a mill. This type of venture is successful for one reason. There is a market. People want a golden doodle and they want it now and they will pay ridiculous prices. So, the females keep breeding and this person is making a killing. So what is wrong with being a successful entrepreneur who has found a hot market? From a business standpoint, nothing. From an ethical standpoint, a lot!
Okay, so this next story just happened in the last few days. A person just related to someone that they were getting a puppy. It is a mini golden doodle. From the get go here, what the hell?? So, a golden retriever has been bred with what, a miniature poodle? Oh my god that is just not right. But, that’s probably the case or the golden is a smaller golden by breeding runts to runts. Again, not right. Okay, so the pup is only about 6 weeks old and a photo was sent from the quote unquote, breeder. The next piece of information comes that the pup is being flown from where it is to where these people live. The flight is about 1 and half hours, not counting loading time and deplaning. Okay, first of all I have serious concerns that this pup will survive the ordeal. He is very young and quite fragile so putting him on an airplane just seems barbaric to me. Also, this meant that the purchaser has not seen the pup in person, has not evaluated in person the conditions the pup is in, nor seen the parents. Remember in my podcast on avoiding the pitfalls, this is a red flag, a big one! As I said, you don’t order a dog. A dog should never be equated as an on line purchase. The other issue here is that the seller is in fact putting it on an airplane. If this was a reputable breeder, they would be concerned about the welfare of this pup and would insist that the purchaser wait a few more weeks to allow the pup to become stronger. Animals dehydrate on aircrafts just like humans, so can you imagine the condition of a tiny 6 week old puppy arriving into an airport? I feel so sorry for this little pup. Now, the worst thing is, the buyer was advised of all these concerns and sees absolutely no problem. To make matters worse this is a first time pet owner.
So, the reason I relate this story is because this is exactly the reason for this episode. We and I mean, responsible, knowledgeable, experienced pet owners have to make an effort to educate people about the way dogs in particular are being used and abused to make people rich. Wally Conron called them charlatans, and as long as there is a market charlatans will continue to get rich and more and more will jump into this lucrative business. It pains me when I see someone so proud and thrilled with their pomskey for example, a husky Pomeranian mix which if you really think about, is quite disturbing. Yes, they are cute, but what a price was paid not only literally but ethically. Somewhere the connection to the aberration of this crossbreed and the disturbing coupling of these two breeds has not made it into the conscious of the buyers. Why is that? When did it become okay to breed large animals to small animals and think it is okay? When did it become acceptable to use breeds as the base to a recipe of traits just to create something marketable? And just as Wally Conron created litter after litter to get the response he was looking for, so are designer breeders trying to get the desired feature they want to market. So, what has happened to all the experimental litters? Now, that’s a disturbing thought too, isn’t it?
So, in part 2 of this topic, I’m going to explore more of the designer breed business and try to expose the underground exploitations that the average pet enthusiasts is not aware of. If we educate ourselves and pass on this knowledge perhaps we can make inroads towards putting charlatans as Wally Conron says, out of business. Because as I say, knowing is caring.
Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.