Stand back. I feel a rant coming on. I'm on my soapbox again, disturbed by the recent trend of so-called "designer dogs."
Labradoodles. Golden-doodles. They're not recognized AKC or UKC dog breeds. They are mixed breed dogs, the cross-bred offspring of Labrador or Golden Retrievers and poodles, usually Standards but sometimes Miniatures. For some unknown reason, the 'doodle craze is sweeping the nation.
Now, I don't consider myself a dog bigot. Some of my best friends have been mixed breed dogs, so don't think that I am raging against the Great American Mutt. What I resent is the fact that responsible breeders of retrievers and poodles have spent years breeding the best to the best to perfect their lines, and now opportunists are throwing together any old Lab with a friend's Poodle, sticking a cute name on the puppies and selling them for $1000 to $1500 dollars. Why on earth would you spend that kind of money on a mixed breed dog when there are hundreds, if not thousands of mixed (and pure) bred dogs dying in shelters every day for want of a good home? All they need is a cute name.
I like Labs and Goldens and Standard Poodles. They are all great dogs with reliable looks and traits, but most 'doodles I have met seem to have taken the worst of both breeds and combined them in one body. You can't predict the outcome of the results of a mixed breeding.. It's not like every 'doodle looks or acts the same. I have seen some that look like Standard Poodles, some that look like curly-coated Labs, and some that look like mutts. Many of them are ill-mannered. I have one 'doodle patient who is nearly 100 lbs, looks like some sort of Irish Wolfhound mix and is completely out of control every time it comes into the building. (In the interest of fairness, I know plenty of out-of-control retrievers, too.)
A client came to me distressed because his Golden Retriever, who he was planning to breed, may have been accidentally bred by a Pit Bull. I assured him that even if she was pregnant this mixed litter would not spoil her for future breedings. (Somehow, long ago, a rumor was started that once a female dog was bred by a male of another breed, she was "ruined," and that all future litters would be contaminated, that she could never have "pure" puppies. Bunk!) "Oh, good," he said, "because I want to breed her to a poodle. You know, you can sell those Golden-doodle puppies for $1200 apiece." Sigh. Now, why couldn't we slap a cutsie name on the accidental litter, call them "Golden Bulls" or "Pitreivers" and market them as a designer breed? It is the exact same thing.
Of course, 'doodles aren't the first attempt at duping naive people into spending good money on a mutt. The 'poo dogs started it years ago. Cockapoos and Yorkie-poos, Malti-poos and Shihapoos, Peke-a-poos and Lhasapoos are all mixes of Cocker Spaniels and Yorkshire Terriers, Maltese and Shih Tzus, Pekingnese and Lhaso Apsos with Miniature Poodles. Oh, yes, and don't forget the Schnoodle (Schnauzer-Poodle.) The 'poo dogs were designer breeds long before that phrase was invented.
I saw an interview once on one of those news magazine shows with the founder of the designer dog movement, the guy who invented the Puggle (Pug-Beagle mix.) He stood in his huge metal pole barn, discoursing on his latest two or three way crosses ("This is a beagle-poodle-terrier mix. I'm calling it a Jack Poogle" - or some such nonsense.) As I looked at the rows and rows of metal cages, three or four high, each containing a small dog, I thought to myself "Puppy Mill!"
I was sorry that the interviewer didn't ask him pointed questions about his factory, for there is no other word for the production line he had going on in that building. How could he possibly know the personalities of the female dogs he was using? Puppies learn a lot from their moms in the first 6 to 8 weeks of life. How could he possibly handle each puppy in every litter, getting them accustomed to being held by people? How could he possibly get them all out of their cages every day to run on the grass and learn to walk on tile and carpet and hardwood floors and stairs, to expose them to cats and vacuum cleaners and small children and a thousand other things that dogs will have to cope with throughout their lives? The answer is, he can't. These are things that good breeders do every day when they have individual litters, and the public resents paying for it. Yet, the puppy mill guy or the backyard breeder out to make quick money gets big bucks because his puppies have a cute "breed" name. What matters more in the life of a dog - having a good foundation in behavior, socialization, and manners, or being created as a fad?
All this came to a head the other day with two different conversations I had with people about dog "breeds." The first was a puppy that was a mix between a cockapoo and a poodle, and they were calling it - wait for it - a "Cocka-poo-poo." Ridiculous! The second was a woman who was telling me about her mother's new litter of puppies. Seems she had adopted a purebred Yorkshire Terrier from an animal shelter and bred it. (For shame on the shelter, for letting an intact purebreed dog out of their building!) She was raving about this new breed: "Yorkie-wa-wa." I couldn't hold my tongue, and told her there was no such breed, what she had were Yorkshire Terrier-Chihuahua mixes. (Or is that "Yorkie-hua-hua?" No matter, it's still not a breed.) "Well, it's a designer breed," she insisted. Sigh (again.)
While I'm on the subject of cute names and breed misconceptions, there is no such thing as a "teacup" anything. "Teacup" is yet another cutsie name attached to the smallest of the small. There are so-called "teacup" poodles and yorkies and I even saw a "teacup chihuahua" recently. When you breed for the tiniest of dogs, you are asking for medical problems - hydrocephalus ("water on the brain") and portovascular shunts (abnormal blood vessels of the liver) and other life-threatening birth defects. But, everyone wants a teeny-tiny pet they can put in their purse as a live fashion accessory (Thank you, Paris and Brittany!) and no one questions where these micro-dogs come from. No one wonders about the lives the parent dogs lead, shut up in cages and cranking out litter after litter till they die from exhaustion or dystocia (difficult labor) or are killed (I can't even say "euthanized," since that implies a good death) when they are no longer useful to the breeder. By the way, owners of tiny dogs: Don't bring me a "teacup" something and then tell me it is "too small" for vaccines or heartworm preventatives or to be spayed. It might be small, but it is still a dog, and it needs the same health care as a Great Dane.
These are things I can't say in my daily practice, since people will be offended and take their pets away. Still, they are things which ought to be known, and things which I have long wanted to share with others, so you were elected. If you have hung on through my rant, I thank you, and I reward you with a cleansing photograph of a terrific mutt: My buddy, Hooper.
"I am NOT a mutt; I am a German Malusky, a designer mix of German Shepherd, Malamute, and Husky, thankyouverymuch."