A Doodle A Day Keeps The Sanity Away

Someone called the salon last week and wanted her Goldendoodle groomed. She proudly told us her Doodle was an F1B Doodle. My partner asked her what that meant and the caller confided she had no idea but the breeder told her to say that when  referring to her Doodle. It seems F1B was some insider code between people in the dog industry. Surely we knew what it meant.

A genius concept, conceived in 1988 by commercial breeders as a way to ramp up sales of over-bred Labs and Poodles, Doodle history is finely crafted and  insists the “breed” was created in 1988 by, Wally Cochran, of The Royal Guide Dogs in Victoria Australia, who was searching for a breed suitable to the rigors of guide dog work and non-shedding, hypoallergenic. Voila! The
Labradoodle was born. I think it more likely that commercial breeders were struggling to sell Poodles and Labradors. The puppies of both breeds were cute, but there were so many of them driving the price down. Commercial breeders had enjoyed huge success with the Cockapoo so the melding of two other breeds might
work just as well. Besides, what wasn’t to like about Labs and Poodles. Everybody wants a friendly, exuberant dog, easily trainable and good with kids. And who wouldn’t like an intelligent breed that won’t drop hair all over
the furniture and carpet, comes in three sizes and multiple colors.

In America, land of ingenuity and excess, if something is good more of the same is  so much better. With the nearly immediate success of the Labradoodle came the
Goldendoodle for those who liked the Golden Retriever personality better but  still wanted a low-shedding dog. Soon, there was hardly a breed of dog that couldn’t be crossed with a Poodle and make money. Since most of the Doodles  were larger dogs, they had larger litters. At even a modest $800.00 per puppy, a thirteen puppy litter could keep a breeder in dog food for a while. Of  course, a key to selling all these oh-so-cute puppies was marketing. Something these breeders learned long ago.

Everybody loves quality.  Most people can’t tell for themselves if something is well made or the advertisements just say it is.  Either way, credibility comes in the form of organizations, newsletters and the comfort people derive from seeing their friends owning the same things. For over one hundred years there has been a real status in owning a dog with “papers” and an AKC registration.  Even commercial breeders know this.  Check the listings at dog auctions and if a dog has an AKC registration it is noted in bold letters, The animal commands a higher price when the gavel drops. So, it will come as no surprise to learn there are several registries where mix breed dogs are afforded the same registration privileges of purebred dogs. Not for the breeder’s benefit, but for the owner’s.  IDCR (International Designer Canine Registry), the National Hybrid Registry and the American Hybrid Kennel Club welcome Doodles of all persuasions.. A read through the listings of dogs these organizations except for registration seem to be taken from those old Internet jokes about the funny names given to the mixes of two recognized breeds.

There is no use denigrating or indulging in a philosophical debate on the
proliferation of Doodles in all their forms. They are here to stay. Filling a niche in the pet owning public’s hearts. It is curious, however, the extreme lengths Doodle breeders have gone to to foster a sense of legitimacy. Doodle genetics can be explained as follows: A first generation Doodle, F1, is the product of a Poodle and another purebred dog, such as a Golden. Many Doodle breeders tout the oft disputed theory of Hybrid Vigour stating their F1 Doodles are more healthy than either breed of origin.  An F1b, is referred to as a Backcross.  Doodles with this designator are the product of an F1 Doodle bred back to one of the breeds of origin. Usually the backcross is to an unrelated Poodle.  A Doodle to Doodle breeding is referred to at an F2. There are fewer of these actually bred as the second generation hybrid is genetically the most varied generation possible. In the F2 breedings coat type and temperament, the two reasons people buy Doodles in the first place, are the least predictable.

Although the sensibilities of many of us in the purebred dog world are offended by these examples of clever canine marketing, the rise in popularity of these mix breed dogs, can serve as a cautionary tale.  The Doodle really represents the efforts of the commercial breeder to create a new breed with a purpose. Previously, commercially produced Poodle mixes were small companion dogs where the cute, cuddly factor was the drawing card.  The Doodles of today, utilizing larger, more robust breeds like Labs and Goldens, were created in part to be the perfect family dog. Doodle breeders hit the jackpot when they were able, somewhat predictably, to produce a dog appealing to both men and women.  The size and energy level to satisfy men and the cleanliness of low-shedding for women.  Prior to these larger Doodles, commercial breeders knew or paid little attention to the genetics of dog breeding.  Fluffy can into season and ran with Barfy and puppies followed. Sometimes size was a desirable factor in toy breeds, but these breeders simply put smaller and smaller dogs together and hoped for the best.  With the advent of Labradoodles and Goldendoodles, these same breeders became fairly knowledgeable about the consequences of these generational mixes.  It is as if some master commercial breeder held a seminar and everybody came.  Nearly all the Doodle websites contain definitions of F1, F1b, etc.  The people who stand at our counter proclaiming their Doodle’s mix level have no idea what they are saying but they are certainly proud.  They may have a mutt, but he has a lineage!

Doodle producers have made it a status symbol to own one. There are Doodle message boards, Doodle meet-ups and Doodle forums.  Knowledge is shared in a low-key, fun way.  When is the last time most of us have seen this on our breed clubs’ sites.  Hobby breeders seem to spend most of their time vetting their buyers and making them feel less than adequate instead of extolling the virtues of owning their breed.  Doodle breeders seem like folks. Many purebred breeders make the argument to buyers, that an AKC recognized breed has a predictable temperament, coat and health issues and was developed for a purpose.  Can’t this be said of the Doodle, too?  Nobody ever tried to tell a pet store buyer his Cavashon could do a job, but Doodles, potential buyers are told, were developed for important work in the real world.  They were born to be like purbred dogs, guiding the blind, and performing other service oriented tasks.  Most of the Doodles have friendly, easy-going attitudes, and are not tough to work with.  Never mind they are ungodly large.  And many look very much alike.  So much in fact that people readily recognize them when they see us grooming them in the salon. Most of the Doodles come out of salons coast to coast looking very much the same, just as a Poodle does.  How can anybody say it’s not a real breed?

If hobby/show breeders did their jobs and viewed marketing themselves and their line as important as producing quality animals, there might be no appeal to the Doodles.  But until we wake up and realize we have a long way to go to rehabilitate our collective image, we will all be easy prey for the Doodle.

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