Labradoodle. Goldendoodle. Schnoodle. Maltipoo. Shihpoo. Aussiedoodle. Springerdoodle. Saint Berdoodle. Sheepadoodle. Cavadoodle.
And then there’s the “mini” version of all these doodles.
I just spent the last fifteen minutes googadoodling (googling doodles—I just made that up and I’m hashtagging it! #googadoodle) and, no exaggeration, I just clicked on a breeder’s website that sells THIRTEEN different poodle crosses! When did the world decide that poodles were such a perfect breed of a dog that they needed to be bred into every other type of dog known to mankind?
Well, I’ll tell you when (and where)….in the 1980’s. In Australia.
LET’S START WITH HISTORY
A man named Wally Conron, a top breeder with the Royal Guide Dog Association was commissioned by a blind woman in Hawaii to develop a dog that could help her but not flare-up her husband’s severe allergy to dogs. He was inspired to cross the proven Labradors in the association with the highly intelligent and non-shedding standard poodle. It took a few years, and MANY attempts (thirty three to be exact) before he was able to produce just one puppy (out of a litter of three) that was “hypoallergenic”. Mr. Conron actually had genetic and allergy testing done on the pups’ hair, skin and saliva to document that they were safe for his client. Interestingly, he bred the same parents again and got a litter of 10 puppies, however NONE of the second litter passed the allergy test!
So what happened to the 30+ cross-bred puppies that couldn’t be sent to Hawaii? It turns out that very few of the foster families responsible for the early training and socialization of the guide dog puppies were interested in taking them in, because they weren’t “purebred”. Mr. Conron then enlisted the help of the Association’s marketing team and they came up with catchy name of “Labradoodle”. And the rest they say, is history.
So, how does Mr. Conron feel about his “greatest” achievement? Well, an interview published by Psychology Today in 2014 quotes him as saying “Today I am internationally credited as the first person to breed the Labradoodle. People ask me ‘Aren’t you proud of yourself?’ I tell them ‘No! Not in the slightest.’ I’ve done so much harm to pure breeding and made so many charlatans quite rich. I wonder, in my retirement, whether we bred a designer dog—or a disaster!”
Let me say, outright, that I have nothing against doodle breeds. I like all the breeds that make up the doodle crosses individually, so their mash-ups are equally enjoyable. Where my soapbox platform lies is in the myth and misinformation that doodle breeders tend to perpetuate. Sorry doodle breeders. Guess I shoulda told you sooner that I might call you out on a few things.
TO SNEEZE OR NOT TO SNEEZE
First and foremost, let’s talk about the hypoallergenic claim. (please excuse the following ALL CAPS statement, but…) THERE’S NO SUCH THING AS A HYPOALLERGENIC DOG! Even the original breeder gave up on that idea because only one out of 46 puppies actually met the criteria, and that was just for one individual person. Here’s the thing, when a person is “allergic to dogs” it’s not the hair that they’re allergic to. It’s the dander. What’s dander? According to the American Lung Association, dander is comprised of microscopic flecks of skin and other proteins found in saliva, urine and feces. Did you notice that hair is not on that list? Specifically, the (dog) protein that most humans are allergic to is called “Can f 1”, and the not too long ago, the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology published a scientific paper concluding that the breeds often reported to be “hypoallergenic” had the HIGHEST levels of Can f 1 on their bodies.
So, I’ll repeat myself here, this means that hypoallergenic dogs DON’T EXIST. Unless breeders can develop a skinless dog (yuck), that doesn’t lick, pee or poop, it’s just not scientifically possible. So why on earth would people pay thousands of dollars for such a thing? Because they don’t subscribe to my blog and don’t know any better! HA!
OK, I should probably say that MOST breeders are not intentionally trying to fleece you (pun intended, get it?). I wholeheartedly believe that a majority of doodle breeders honestly think that they’re raising low-allergen dogs. And, if there’s a high percentage of poodle in the pedigree, then yes, the shedding will be minimized, BUT we’ve just determined that dropped hair fibers (i.e. shedding) are typically NOT the source of allergen for people. So for an individual with a dog allergy, a doodle is highly unlikely to be the answer to their canine prayers.
But you like curly haired dogs…
Well, some doodles will live certainly live up to that expectation. It’s all determined by the number of poodle “generations” are in a litter.
10TH GRADE BIOLOGY, ANYONE?
Ready for a little DNA science? Let’s review…
F1 puppies: the offspring of a purebred Labrador and purebred poodle. This cross produces the most variation because the pups are half lab and half poodle. There’s not a majority of either of the two breeds so they can come out looking pretty much like any combination. Tight curls, loose waves, or nearly straight hair.
F2 (and F3) puppies: offspring of two F1 (or F2) parents. Still 50/50 genetic make-up, so all the same variations of F1 pups.
F1b puppies (hang on, we’re going to get a little more science-y now): offspring of an F1 parent (50/50 DNA) and one of the original purebred breeds. In the doodle world, the F1 is bred-back to a poodle so that you more doodle for your dollar. This generation shouldhave a higher chance of having a curlier, less shedding (poodle-like) coat. These pups are 75% poodle.
F2b puppies (the most expensive): a cross between an F1b (75% poodle) and a poodle (you guessed it, 100% poodle). This produces pups that are about 84% poodle. Meaning that their coats will be the most predictably “poodle” in nature.
So doodle-loving parents, I ask, if you’re willing to pay a premium (probably more than $2000) for a dog that is MOSTLY poodle, why don’t you just get a poodle? Standard poodles are AWESOME dogs. Did you know that they were bred to be duck hunting dogs? They’re very stately. Very smart. And typically not idiots (I love my labs out there, but let’s face it, most of them are complete idiots for the first half of their lives).
*notice I said Standard Poodles. The tall kind. There’s a growing trend toward developing “mini” doodles that use miniature and toy poodles as the doggie-daddies. I’ll be straight-up with you, I can’t usually tell the difference between them and regular poodles.
**double notice I haven’t said much about GOLDEN-doodles. I don’t know what to say about these creatures. What’s funny is that I absolutely love golden retrievers. Veterinarians aren’t supposed to have a favorite breed—it’s like a parent admitting they have a favorite child (even though we all have those too)—but goldens have a special place in my heart. I just don’t understand what happens to them when you throw a poodle into the mix. Something changes. They become as unruly as their long, tangled, unruly hair coats. And they all have yeast farms growing in their ears. I haven’t made up my mind on the goldendoodle yet.
WHAT THE HAIR?
So we’ve established that the dollar value of a doodle seems to be directly related to the curliness of its coat. Please know that the high price won’t stop with the initial purchase. The farther down the poodle-cross line you go (i.e. F1 and 2b), the more you better establish a good relationship with a phenomenal groomer. We have a
GREAT groomer at our clinic and it takes her 2-3 times as long to groom a doodle than any other breed (more for the golden-doodles). Depending on where you live, this could be a significant monthly expense (yes, MONTHLY). Please don’t skip the grooming! I’ve seen more cases of dermatitis, ear infections, hot spots, fecal matting, eye infections (from matted facial hair) and even maggot infestations in doodles because pet parents have such a hard time keeping up with the maintenance required for their coats. So establish a healthy grooming budget or watch a lot of YouTube about DIY doodle grooming. (hmm, possible niche/side-hustle for the entrepreneurial type?)
(another) Soapbox alert! I see it time after time after time. A client spends a lot of money on a dog (doodles and bulldogs seem to be implicated most often) and then naturally thinks that they can get some sort of return on their “investment” by trying the breeding process themselves. The motivation to start breeding is proportionally related to the amount of dollars they laid down for their designer dog. Many know absolutely nothing about the canine reproductive cycle, gestation, whelping, and raising healthy puppies, let alone actually choosing quality genetics! If your inspiration for breeding ANY dog is solely to bring in more income, you’re doing it wrong.
I spent a respectable amount of money on my last vehicle. I only get new wheels every decade or so, which means I’m comfortable laying down a little cash to get what I really want and what suits our family the best. However, I know ZERO things about how to build my vehicle. I would never consider going into business making replicas of my new car in my garage and then selling them online to complete strangers. Even if I read a few blog posts about it and listened to some expert podcasts, I would not be even a tiny bit qualified to do that. Yet, so many people jump right in to doing that with living, breathing creatures. For a profit. (insert deep, cleansing breath here)
This seems like as good a place as any to start wrapping up.
I hope I haven’t come across as too “anti-doodle”. I’m not. All breeds are cherished and have a place in our practice. It’s not the dogs that get my hair up (Ha! Another good one! I’m on a roll). It’s the shady marketing and greedy motivation fueling the doodle industry that ticks me off. And false scientific claims that dupe families into thinking they’re paying for something that’s merely a myth.
So, if you’re considering jumping on the doodletrain, please do your homework first! Research each of the two foundation breeds. Know what to expect of each breed individually. Ask potential breeders what generation they’re offering so that you might have a better guess as to what your dog will actually come out looking like. Have your wallet ready. And then book a trip to Vegas because it sounds like you’re a person who likes to gamble!
Lissa Lynn, DVM