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Are Doodle Breeders Unethical?

 

Doodles have skyrocketed in popularity in the last decade, causing an almost equal backlash with negativity directed toward the crossbreeds.

 

But hear us out… Doodles are not the problem!

 

Unethical breeders are.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What the “doodle haters” say… 

 

Doodles are ill-bred, genetic disasters. No ethical breeder would breed a cross. Ethical breeders are concerned with preserving and producing stellar examples of their breed and title their dogs in conformation before breeding them. Doodles aren’t purebred or even eligible for shows so they can’t possibly be well-bred. 

They are unpredictable when it comes to temperament, size, coat type, and every other factor you can think of. They’re simply overpriced mutts and people who breed them do so only for profit. 

 

Whew! There’s a lot to unpack here! 

 

We both agree and disagree with several of the above statements. It all boils down to the individual breeder.

First, are doodles just mutts?

No, a “mutt” tends to refer to a mix of dog breeds with likely unknown heritage and  “usually the accidental combination of various breeds, resulting without much human interference.” (https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/what-is-a-mutt/)

Doodles are typically intentional crosses for a purpose (we’ll get to their purposes later). The intentionality here makes all the difference. ALL dog breeds were originally the result of a cross of other breeds to create a new breed. It takes time to develop a new breed that will be accepted by various registries. Admittedly, doodles have a long way to go due to a lack of a breed standard, but crossing two breeds is not inherently “Wrong.” Crossing them with a lack of purpose and health testing is.

 

Are doodles genetic disasters?

 

Many doodles are nothing short of genetic disasters! Unfortunately, with the rise in popularity of doodles, there has inevitably been a rise in ill-intentioned breeders. Breeding to turn a fast profit means overlooking temperament (And other) faults and not putting in the upfront cost to appropriately health test parent dogs before breeding.

But this is not unique to doodles. 

 

German shepherds, French bulldogs, Pit bulls, and Chihuahuas have all faced similar backyard breeding crises that have negatively impacted their genetics resulting in a decrease in quality of the breed in regards to physical appearance, temperament, and health. Any popular breed, especially one that is experiencing an increase in popularity will attract irresponsible breeders looking to make a quick buck.

Is the health of doodles unpredictable?

 

Any dog of any breed or cross can be well-bred or a genetic disaster depending on their breeder. Some factors to consider are the health testing that the breeder performs and how similar or different the parent dogs are in terms of physical structure and inherent temperament. 

 

We have heard it said that crossbreeds can’t meet the health testing requirements that purebreds can so you never know if you are getting a healthy doodle or not, but this is a statement we firmly disagree with. 

 

Every breed has genetic conditions that need to be tested as well as a set of recommended tests by the Orthopedic Foundation of Animals through their CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) program. Not every breed requires the same tests based on the health issues that are more prevalent in the breed. However, there is no reason that a doodle (or other cross breed) cannot be fully health tested. Many breeders do not meet these health testing standards, but it is possible! A doodle breeder must simply satisfy the genetic and OFA CHIC requirements for both breeds represented in their cross. You can check it out yourself by browsing your breeds in the OFA database to see what the requirements are and then ask your doodle breeder if their doodles meet these standards (LINK). 

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Are the physical characteristics of a doodle unpredictable? 


Another common doodle breeding “mishap” is crossing parent dogs that are vastly different in structure and size. An example is crossing a Bernese Mountain Dog with a toy poodle to get “mini bernedoodles.” The physical differences between these two breeds are so vast that the offspring can have structural abnormalities as well as inconsistent adult size. Ethical doodle breeders will size down more slowly over several generations. 

 

Coat type and overall breed percentage breakdown are other factors that affect physical appearance and level of shedding. And again, a responsible breeder will be aware of coat type genetics and will DNA test and pair their doodle parents accordingly so should be able to tell you what to expect in terms of curl, shedding, etc. Still, there is some variability here that can be of concern to a buyer who isn’t familiar with the different generations of doodles and doesn’t know what questions to ask!

 

This brings us to our next point…

 

Doodle breeding does have room for improvement.

 

One big weakness of doodles is that they are not recognized by the AKC and therefore are not required to have pedigrees. Furthermore, there is no definitive breed standard. One person may have a golden doodle that is 60% golden retriever, and another may have an F1bbb generation golden doodle (yes, we’ve seen this many times!) that is 94+% poodle and in our opinion, may as well be a purebred poodle at this point. Sizes, too, can vary among breeders. One breeder may consider a mini golden doodle to be 15 lbs while another considers it to be 45 lbs. 

 

All of the above can be sorted out by asking a lot of questions of your breeder. Still, for doodles to gain any credibility, we need a clearer breed standard. Pedigrees are also imperative for the future to track health and avoid genetic bottlenecks that have devastated other purebreds. 

 

 

So far we’ve been more on the “defensive” with answering doodle-hate questions. But we would be the first to admit: it doesn’t make sense to add a new breed or produce more puppies without a strong purpose.

Is a doodle’s temperament unpredictable? 

 

Another factor to consider in the overall stability of a cross breed is how similar the two parent breeds are in both temperament and physical structure.

 

Poodles are companion, sporting dogs. They tend to be highly intelligent, trainable, human-focused, and active! They were originally bred to water retrievers- similar to golden retrievers and labradors! Standard poodles are known for solid temperaments and often excel in service work.

 

We think inherent temperament issues can surface for two reasons:

1. The breeder is not doing their due diligence. An ethical breeder spends time with each parent dog, socializing and training them so that they are aware of any temperament faults and can also pair their dogs accordingly.

 

2. The poodle has been crossed with a breed very unlike them in terms of breed history/original purpose creating a “conflict of interest” for the offspring. 

For example, a Great Dane bred to guard and protect may not be a good cross with a poodle who tends to be a highly sensitive breed looking to their owners for direction and at times shy or reserved. The result *could* be a neurotic, reactive dog. The same can be said for dogs that are hardwired to have a job (border collies or Australian shepherds from working lines, etc.)

We don’t have a problem with any specific doodle cross, but think extra caution must be taken to know your lines when it comes to dog breeds that are not inherently similar to the poodle. 

So, are there any benefits to breeding doodles?

 

Good breeders breed with purpose. The goal isn’t just to produce cute puppies… there are plenty of cute puppies in shelters across the nation. The goal must be to improve health, temperament, and/or to produce dogs for a specific job/purpose. 

 

So is there a valid reason to breed doodles? Yes, we can name a few. 

The doodle breed was originally created for guide work and carefully bred labradoodles and goldendoodles are still frequently seen as service dogs today (more, HERE) The breeds making up these crosses are highly biddable dogs with good human focus and could be a good option for people who need less shedding for various reasons. We would need to write another article explaining the “hypoallergenic” nature (or sometimes lack thereof) of doodles. But we know of people personally that have benefitted from less shedding while still getting the temperament stability for a service dog.

 

Health is another important factor. Focus on conformation and physical breed standard has created some of the notably unhealthy breeds we see today both as a result of genetic complications from inbreeding as well as an unhealthy breed standard to begin with (i.e. English Bulldogs and other Brachycephalic breeds.)

 

A big focus for us at Red Paw Farm is the health of our chosen cross-breed (cavapoos). We grew up around cavaliers and LOVE the breed, but their health and inbreeding percentages are simply devastating. In fact, the breed has been outlawed in Norway because of their poor health (more, HERE).

 

Dobermans face a similar fate and we appreciate the suggestion of implementing cross-breeding as a way to ‘save’ the breed in this article

For us, crossing health tested cavaliers to health tested poodles was a way to preserve some of the characteristics of the beloved cavalier without continuing a line doomed to Mitral Valve Disease (among other health concerns). 

 

Even cancer rates have proven to be lower among doodles according to a recent Nationwide Insurance study.

 

 

So, in conclusion, no, you won’t see doodles in the show ring, but for most families, this is not why they want a dog in the first place.

 

For most families, health and temperament are paramount when choosing a family pet (or potential working dog). A *well-bred* doodle will have a good, family-friendly, highly trainable temperament. 

 

We have rescued and trained many doodles of various backgrounds. And while some have definitely been quirky, and most have been high energy, we can also say they are consistently easy-to-train as compared to other more independent breeds- Great Pyrenees, beagles, huskies… to name a few!)

 

Unfortunately, weeding out the irresponsible doodle breeders from the ethical ones seems like a full time job that falls on the shoulders of the buyer. We hope to one day see more legislation surrounding dog breeding and health testing, but for now carefully doing your research is the best way to find an ethical breeder of any breed including doodles. Check out our article on finding an ethical breeder if you want more specifics! 

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