Jubilee Labradoodles/Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)
In recent years there has been a huge increase in the demand for so-called “designer dogs”. This term is used to refer to new breed crosses of purebred dogs. They are easy to recognize as they are given names that are often a combination of the two pure dog breeds that have been bred together.
Since many of these designer dogs involve the Poodle as part of the mix, we often find “doodle” or “poo” as part of the name. Thus, the Labradoodle is a cross between the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle, while the Cockapoo is a cross between a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle. The Goldendoodle is a cross between a Golden Retriever and a Poodle, the Cavapoo is a Poodle/Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix, the Schnoodle is a cross between a Miniature Schnauzer and a Poodle, while the Peke-a-poo is a mix of Poodle/Pekingese. .
The best data on the rise in popularity of these designer dogs comes from the UK. For example, a 2014 study estimated that designer crossbreeds made up less than 6 per cent of the UK canine population. By 2020, this had jumped to one in four puppies (26 percent) being designer crosses, making it the latest “craze” for puppy buyers. In fact, the Cockapoo and Cavapoo were among the top 20 best-selling breeds in 2020. A team of researchers from the Royal Veterinary College decided to investigate the factors that might be behind the growing demand for these crosses.
This was a very large study involving 6,293 dog owners, including 1,575 owners of designer crossbreed puppies. The data was collected using an online survey, of dog owners in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, who acquired a puppy between 2019 and 2020. The amount of information collected was too extensive to report in detail here, but here there are some interesting facts. Stand out.
no dog people
Designer mix puppy owners appeared to be somewhat less familiar with dogs in general, as they were significantly less likely to have owned or co-owned a dog before than their current puppy (46 percent) compared to puppy owners. purebred (68 percent). They were also less likely to have grown up with a dog. Supporting the idea that designer dog owners are less informed about dogs is the fact that people who work in jobs related to animal care and are therefore expected to have the most knowledge about dogs. Dogs (such as veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses, and dog trainers) were three times more likely to select a purebred dog than a designer cross.
Buyers of designer puppies were also much less likely to collect much information about the breeder, breeding conditions, or paternity of the pup. They were less likely to look for a breeder who provided relevant health evidence in favor of a breeder who lived a convenient distance away or had puppies available at the desired time. They were also less likely to see their pup in person before they bought it than to see it with littermates or his mother when they picked it up.
Perhaps the most dramatic finding from this study had to do with the fact that nearly half of designer dog buyers (47 percent) cited that one of their main motivators for selecting a designer dog was because they believed it was hypoallergenic. . This is six times more than purebred dog buyers (8 percent). This was despite the fact that there is little to no scientific evidence to suggest that all designer dogs involving Poodle crosses are, in fact, hypoallergenic.
How the fashion for designer dogs began
The perception that designer dogs are hypoallergenic has a historical source. The Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia is often cited as having “invented” the original designer cross, namely the Labradoodle, in the 1980s. This happened when they were tasked with creating a guide dog that was hypoallergenic. for Wally Conran. He originally believed that poodles could fulfill this function. However, for temperamental reasons, poodles did not function as guide dogs. In desperation, he decided to cross a Labrador retriever with a poodle in the hope that this would result in a hypoallergenic dog that could do the required guide dog job. I had the opportunity to interview Conran in 2011 and he explained to me what happened after he had his first litter of Poodle/Labrador Retrievers puppies.
Although the Royal Guide Dog Association had a waiting list of people wanting to breed guide dog puppies, everyone had a strong preference for caring for a purebred dog and no one wanted to accept these crosses. According to him, “I went to our PR team and said, ‘Go to the press and tell them we’ve invented a new dog, the Labradoodle.’ It was a gimmick, and it spread all over the world. It worked: for weeks In the following, our switchboard was inundated with calls from potential dog foster homes, other service dog centers, people with vision problems, and people allergic to dog hair who wanted to know more about this ‘wonderful dog.'”
Are they really hypoallergenic?
Unfortunately there was little consistency in these mixed-breed dogs. Even in the nature of their coat (the reason the Poodle was originally part of the mix) there is variability. Labradoodles’ coats can range from wiry to soft, and they can be curly, wavy, or smooth. Straight-haired Labradoodles are said to have “hair” coats, wavy-haired dogs are said to have “fleece” coats, and curly-haired dogs are said to have “wool” coats. Also, there was no guarantee that any individual pup would be hypoallergenic. Of the three pups in the original litter, only one turned out to be hypoallergenic, while in the next litter of 10 pups, only three had non-allergenic fur. He complained to me, “Now people are breeding these dogs and selling them as non-allergenic, and they’re not even testing them!”
Just to see if this is still true, before writing this post I went online and contacted four random breeders, two of whom were offering Goldendoodle puppies and two of whom were offering Labradoodle puppies. I asked each of them if their puppies had been tested to prove they were hypoallergenic. One did not respond, while another responded, “It is not necessary to test puppies individually because it is well established that all Goldendoodles are hypoallergenic.” The third breeder wrote me that “Any special breed involving a poodle has been scientifically proven to be non-allergenic.” While the latter replied “The mother is hypoallergenic, which means all the puppies are too.”
It seems Conran was onto something after all, and whether an individually designed “doodle” or “poop” dog is actually hypoallergenic remains more a matter of unproven belief than scientific fact.
Copyright SC Psychological Enterprises Ltd. May not be reprinted or republished without permission.