Designer dog breeds refer to the intentional breeding of two purebred or AKC recognized dogs in order to achieve a cross that has characteristics of both breeds. The most common designer dog breeds today involve the poodle breed. Other examples include the Pomsky (Pomeranian X Husky), Puggle (Beagle X Pug) and many more!
What are the pros of designer breeds?
Ethical designer dog breeders are generally not as concerned about specific color standards or other breed specifics such as docking tails in order to maintain the “historical breed standard” as outlined by the American Kennel Club or other organization.
Rather than conforming to arbitrary appearance standards or being concerned about the show quality of a dog, designer dog breeders typically put their focus on health and temperament as their number one priorities. The result is parent dogs who have been carefully selected for their family friendly temperaments and puppies who really do represent the best of each breed in regard to personality!
Let’s take the Goldendoodle as an example. Many people are familiar with the golden retriever as an incredible family dog. Golden Retrievers were bred to work closely with their owners in order to retrieve game on a hunt. They were originally bred in the early nineteenth century to be a versatile bird dog that could retrieve on land or in water. This job requires a high level of self-control, trainability and a willingness to please even in a highly stimulating setting.
The dog must wait patiently and only act on the owner’s command — this original purpose set the Golden Retriever up for success in obedience training as well. In fact, the three champion dogs at the first obedience training contest held by the American Kennel Club in 1977 were all golden retrievers!
Fast forward to the 21st century, Golden Retrievers are the most common breed in the service dog industry. You may frequently spot them serving as seeing-eye-dogs, seizure-detection dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals.
However, Golden Retrievers are big shedders as any Golden owner can tell you! They also have high rates of hip dysplasia, cancer, and other health concerns. So what should you do if you love the personality and other characteristics of a Golden Retriever, but are concerned about shedding and/or potential health issues?
Enter the Goldendoodle!
Combining the lovable golden retriever to the standard poodle can create a lower shedding, more allergy-friendly, and healthier breed! If you’ve ever met a Poodle than you probably are familiar with their clever, witty personalities. Their intelligence coupled with their hypoallergenic, non-shedding coat makes it easy to understand why this breed has become such a popular pet both on their own as well as combined with various other breeds to create the many doodle crosses we are familiar with today.
When it comes to personality, poodles are often described as “politely reserved” when it comes to meeting strangers. They are generally non-aggressive, but many are cautious when it comes to approaching new people. They are sensitive which makes them wonderfully easy to train, but also some of the most sensitive individuals can startle easily to loud noises, unexpected touches, etc.
Often, selectively combining the two breeds brings out the best in both. The addition of the Golden Retriever often creates a friendlier and more relaxed dog as compared to the average standard poodle as well as being lower shedding and healthier on average than a purebred Golden Retriever.
Without an aesthetic breed standard to follow, ethical doodle breeders have the freedom to focus on health and temperament as their top priority. As a result, doodles (and some other designer breeds) have become hallmarked as some of the best family dogs around. This make designer breeds particularly attractive to families who are also most concerned with temperament and health in their pets.
Are there any drawbacks to doodles and other designer breeds?
Yes, there can be some disadvantages. First, designer breeds to tend to cost more on average than many purebred dogs. Simple economics can help us understand the higher cost of doodles. Supply and demand affects the dog breeding business, too! Doodles and most other designer breeds are a relatively recent breed.
The first doodles were not bred until the 1990’s in the United States. Most other dog breeds have a long history that goes back several centuries! The relatively recent development of the doodle breeds combined with their popularity means that demand is high. Many reputable breeders have long waiting lists. As long as the demand continues to exceed supply, the price of doodles will continue to be higher than some other less popular breeds.
Another downside, is that because designer breeds have become so popular so quickly, there are a lot of less-than-reputable breeders jumping on the bandwagon, so to speak. We have written several articles (link here) to help identify reputable breeders and avoid puppy mills or scammers. It is extra important to do your due diligence as a buyer of a designer breed.
On this note, an unethical doodle breeder may not be bringing out the best of both breeds. As mentioned previously, there is no historical breed standard to go by when breeding designer dogs. This can be a strong positive if the breeder uses his freedom to really focus and select parent dogs for health and temperament as opposed to coat color, eye color, etc. However, this lack of a breed standard can be a negative if the breeder is not careful in his selection process. The result can be unpredictability in how the puppies will turn out.
If your breeder does not appropriately temperament and health test their parent dogs or have a good understanding of coat genetics, they may be producing puppies that do not have the best characteristics representative of their purebred parents. As an example, a poor understanding of coat genetics can produce flat-coated goldendoodles that end up shedding just as much as their Golden Retriever parent.
Size is another physical characteristic that can be unpredictable in designer crosses if a breeder does not carefully breed their dogs down through multiple generations. Let’s take a mini goldendoodle as an example. We do not recommend first generation (or F1) mini goldendoodles as the size difference between the two parents is too great for structurally sound offspring. For example, some breeders may breed a Golden Retriever (around 70 lbs) with a Toy Poodle (around 4 lbs.) via artificial insemination. This pairing is clearly unnatural and the resulting offspring can have structural abnormalities — long backs, short legs and other disproportionalities.
Furthermore, the larger the disparity between the two parents’ sizes, the more unpredictable the weights of their offspring. While most puppies will likely fall somewhere in the middle of the two parents’ weights, it is certainly possible that they could take after one parent such that a first generation “mini” goldendoodle could end up being quite large like his Golden Retriever parent.
Talk to your dog breeder about the pros and cons of designer breeds
Be sure to ask your breeder about both parent dogs’ sizes to gauge your pups’ estimated adult weight/height. The closer the two parents are in weight, the more reliable prediction you can make about your pup!
In conclusion, there are a number of pros and cons related to doodles and other designer breeds. Most of the pros and cons are directly related to how reputable and ethical a breeder is. The cons virtually disappear when a breeder carefully and slowly selects his/her breeding stock appropriately.
If you choose a breeder wisely, you will likely end up with a doodle or other designer dog that represents both of his purebred parents well in regard to health and temperament.
Jenna and the JLDD Team