Puggles. Maltipoos. Chorkies. Goberians. Labradoodles. These odd monikers are the names given to several varieties of mixed breed or so called “designer” dogs.
While the market for these hybrid dogs has exploded since the introduction of the first Labradoodle in 1989, the fact of the matter is that these are mixed breed dogs with clever names and that most of these mixes are being produced by people with dollar signs as their primary motivation.
The first Labradoodles were bred for a very specific purpose. A blind woman in Hawaii wanted a dog to guide her, but her husband was terribly allergic to dogs. She contacted the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia for help, and its puppy-breeding manager Wally Conron was determined to help her.
He initially tried to train a Standard Poodle, but after working for two years and disqualifying 33 dogs, he decided to try crossing a Standard with a Labrador. Of the first litter of three puppies, only one proved to be hypo-allergenic. (In the second litter of 10 pups, only three were hypo-allergenic.)
Conron coined the name “Labradoodle” when none of their waiting puppy foster homes wanted to raise a mixed breed dog. He is now sorry for beginning the craze. Last year, Conron told the Associated Press, “I’ve done a lot of damage. I’ve created a lot of problems.”
What are some of these problems? One of the issues is a lack of consistency in the puppies. I’ve seen dozens of Labradoodles over the years. At the extreme ends of what I’ve seen, one looked like a poorly bred Labrador with a half-inch wide strip of tightly curled hair down the center of its back, as if it had been striped with steel wool, while another had a profusion of long, wavy hair, almost like a curly Briard. Every one I’ve seen has shed to some degree or another, some profusely.
The long-haired dog was a nightmare to own as he would matt badly if unbrushed for more than one day, as the falling hair would tangle with the rest of the coat. Additionally, while these dogs are often billed as hypoallergenic, few if any of the breeders are conducting testing on the puppies to ensure they actually are, and when they are tested, most of them are not hypoallergenic.
When you purchase a purebred dog, you typically have expectations as to the appearance and behavior of the dog. Many people purchase a mixed breed with the same expectations, without realizing that the genetics can react differently each time and provide a variety of appearances.
Perhaps the biggest issue with “Designer” dogs are the health problems such breeding introduces. Producers of these puppies often claim that the dogs are healthier, but this simply isn’t true. In many instances, you increase the chances of genetic issues.
Most breeds have hereditary issues. Some disorders are autosomal recessive, which means that both parent dogs must have a “bad” gene to pass to the puppy in order for the puppy to be affected. Some disorders have a dominant inheritance pattern, which means that one bad gene passed on by either parent can cause health issues for the puppies.
Other disorders, such as Hip Dysplasia (HD) or Luxating Patellas can’t be identified by DNA testing but require screening tests to identify. When you mix two breeds, you increase the possible genetic diseases the puppies can inherit if the parent breeds share autosomal recessive issues or if the breeds have dominant inheritance pattern disorders, or if both breeds are impacted by things such as HD.
If you then breed offspring of these dogs, such as breeding two Labradoodles or a Labradoodle to a Goldendoodle to create the so-called Double Doodle, the odds of the recessive issues coming to the foreground are intensified.
Other problems are created by breeding dogs with very different physical characteristics or temperaments. For example, Shih Tzus are often combined with breeds such as Poodles, Maltese and Beagles. Shih Tzus have an undershot jaw, where the lower teeth extend beyond the upper teeth. Other breeds have a scissors bite, where the upper teeth are in front of the lower. When these very different jaws are combined, it can result in severe bite problems that can cause the dog to have difficulty chewing or force the teeth to actually cut into the roof of the dog’s mouth.
Developing a new breed of dog takes a plan and generations of effort. While hybrid dogs can and do make loving, wonderful pets, many problems can be associated with them as well.
If a purebred dog isn’t important to you, consider loving a good old garden variety mutt, available in quantity at your local humane society. You’ll save money and a life, and they make terrific pets, too!
Karlene Turkington, a Certified Professional Dog Trainer, is a lifelong animal lover who has been training dogs for over 20 years. Readers are welcome to send their questions to: info@TrainMyK-9.com. Information provided here is a basic overview of issues. Specific health or behavioral concerns should be discussed with your veterinarian or qualified animal trainer or behaviorist.