By Jennifer Broome
Before I begin, I must emphasize that I am grateful for ALL dogs that come to QK, and I am truly thankful for our clients and their amazing dogs! I just want to educate people who may be considering the purchase of a designer breed. While I am thankful that Doodles are so popular, and QK trains dozens of Doodles every month, I must explain why I and nearly every other professional trainer I speak to feel so opposed to this designer dog craze. I do want to note, for you diehard Doodle lovers, I have met and trained MANY exceptional, smart, and wonderful Doodles!
I have always been a poodle fan having grown up with Standard Poodles. Our first two were fabulous and they lived until 15 years of age. They were smart, athletic, healthy, easy to train and they were confident and very social. I helped my parents buy a 3rd poodle from a ‘reputable’ poodle breeder. She unethically ended up selling us an ‘oops’ (unplanned) litter where the dam was not even 2 years old herself. and she never disclosed this information when we visited the pups. I found out the truth after studying the pedigree only to learn the dam of the litter was not even 2 years old! Despite the $2000 price tag, my grieving Dad (he just lost his Standard Poodle) fell in love with a puppy; we were sucked in hook, line and sinker since the seller did not disclose the truth upfront. Little did we know that this pup would turn out skittish, have a meek personality and she harbored the terrible genetic Poodle disease called Sebaceous Adenitis and lost all of her hair by the time she was 4 years old. She suffered greatly from this horrible skin disease which could have easily been screened for by the breeder. At age 7 she developed Lymphoma and was given mere months to live.
Recently I reached out to a very reputable Poodle breeder who is a breed expert as well as someone who helps to rescue and re-home poodles. She emphatically explained to me the plethora of health issues plaguing poodles, in general, these days, and I learned a lot from our conversations.
So here is my issue with ‘Doodles’! Reputable Poodle breeders adore their breed, and they go above and beyond to test for genetic diseases. Here is the page from the PCA (Poodle Club of America) website: https://poodleclubofamerica.org/health-concerns/
HEALTH TESTING IN POODLES: To help ensure the future health of Poodles, good breeders screen prospective Poodle parents with tests available for primary health issues in our breed. The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC) work with parent clubs to establish important screening criteria, and the following are tests needed to receive a CHIC number for each Poodle variety. Where noted, the PCA Foundation also recommends other DNA tests, some just recently developed as researchers identify faulty genes that cause disease. Eye exams to detect hereditary problems should be done yearly until an age suggested by your veterinary eye specialist. For more on poodle health, go to www.poodleclubofamericafoundation.org.
These recommended tests are time-consuming and expensive. They are done once the dog is over 2 years of age and, after that, some of the tests should be done yearly. This adds up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars. In my experience, reputable and honest breeders willingly complete these tests since most often they are into breeding NOT for the money, but because of their love of their breed and the desire to breed for health, temperament and consistency. If pure-bred breeders work so hard to produce healthy puppies, why would they want to cross their pure-bred dogs to other breeds?
Now start researching online “Doodle Breeders”. You will find hundreds of so-called breeders who charge exorbitant fees, and rarely will you find health tests on the breeding dogs. The crazes we see are Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, Sheepadoodles, Bernadoodles, Schnoodles to name a few. Sadly, the terrible genetic diseases plaguing the purebred pool are things like cancer, hip and elbow issues, and allergies for the Golden Retrievers, hip and elbow dysplasia, eye diseases, vonWillebrand’s disease, heart conditions/subaortic stenosis, Degenerative Myelopathy (DM), and Shoulder Osteochondrosis (OCD) for Bernese Mountain Dogs, etc. Since most reputable breeders of healthy purebred dogs would not even consider mixing their breed with another dog, this leaves the over-bred, untested dog pool to the novice, uninformed back-yard breeder!
Why would people be so willing to buy expensive designer bred mixed dogs where the so-called breeders are not testing their breeding dogs? If you really want to learn about genetic health testing, simply go to the AKC website and look up the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) recommendations for each breed. Did your Doodle breeder test their pairings for these tests? Can they produce OFA certificates?
I’ll agree, Doodle puppies can be ADORABLE! But why gamble with buying a pup that can very quickly develop severe, life-threatening or chronic health issues that should have never happened had they been screened for these diseases.
I have been a kennel owner, breeder and trainer for 25 years. I am in this field because I LOVE DOGS! Whether the dog is a shelter dog, an abused rescue, or a purebred dog, I am eager to help train and educate owners. I cannot tolerate commercial or backyard breeders pumping out puppies and making a fortune at the expense of the dogs’ wellbeing and the owners’ heartstrings. Recently we helped a family with a Bernadoodle. We had to rehome her due to an unfortunate family health issue. Turns out this pup, at 8 weeks old, was sold for $9,000. Furthermore, the breeder duped the buyer into sending the pup off to training for 4 months for another $10,000, and at 6 months this pup was sold as ‘turnkey’. What 6-month-old pup is TURN KEY!!?? That is like saying your 8-year-old child is ready to move out, take care of himself and has the education of a college graduate. This $19,000 pup ended up having bi-lateral (both) elbow dysplasia AND hip dysplasia. The ‘breeder’ most likely had a litter of 8 to 10 pups which means she may have made upwards of $100,000 for the litter. Not only does this breeder farm most of her breeding dogs out to families who raise them, but she starts breeding them at 2 years old and gets 3 or 4 litters per dog. This is NOT uncommon! Many of the Doodles that we see come through QK cost their owners upwards of $2,500 to $5,000 per puppy. Advertisement and popularity of these new designer breeds drive the prices, and unethical people are pumping out these mutts.
This all makes me shake my head because I am an AKC Breeder of Merit for Labrador Retrievers and German Shorthaired Pointers. Not only do I strive to health-test my dogs, but my dogs have also gone on to produce titled puppies in obedience, fieldwork, show and other AKC venues. This shows trainability, consistency of temperament, and the ability to produce well-rounded pups that meet the breed standard. I work extremely hard to title my dogs for conformation and field to prove their stable genetics. I spend thousands of dollars health-testing them, and I am so proud that the litters that I breed are very typy and consistent. And, despite ALL of this work, the going rate for these pups is about $1,800.
Can you see why the Doodle craze is frustrating!? Why would a pup out of an untitled, unproven and most-likely untested (health) breeding dog cost upwards of $2,500, 3,500, 4,500!? On most days we have at least 6 to 10 Doodles at QK. They often have the athleticism and intelligence of a poodle, yet the biting, herding and working desire of the ‘other’ breed. Unfortunately, when mixed together, we often see pups that are snarky, insecure, wild, and much more of a handful then the buyers had anticipated. While I love a dog that desires a job and loves to work, most of the Doodle buyers just wanted a nice, calm, family pet. These dogs are often much more of a handful! We see some Doodles weigh only 25 pounds, yet others weigh over 100 pounds. You almost never know what you are getting and truthfully most of them are already great biters when they come to QK.
Once again, I want to stress how grateful I am for ALL dogs that come to QK, and I am truly thankful for our clients and their amazing dogs. I just want people to be educated about the designer breeds. Hopefully any dog you choose will be a 12-to-15-year commitment. Realize you need to be cautious when rescuing a dog from a shelter where you may be unsure exactly what breed mix you are getting. It may be a gamble, but you are helping a dog in need of a home, and most often you have quite a project ahead of you! When it comes to buying dogs from a breeder, you should EXPECT to be able to meet the parents, spend some time around them, and see if you can handle their energy levels, athleticism and temperament. Do NOT buy a dog online and have it shipped to you! This is not just a product from Amazon, this is a family member, and you should see where this pup came from, meet the parents and meet the breeders. Visit the home or kennel and make sure the pup is raised in a humane, safe and healthy environment. Make sure the puppies are well-socialized and they have had a wellness exam by a veterinarian prior to going home. The vet will check their bites (jaw line up), heart, lungs and give them an overall health check as well as the first round of shots and de-worming. This due diligence can be some of the very best advice I can offer. If you meet Doodles that you like and you find ones that have proven health tests, then by all means go for the dog that ‘blows your hair back and makes you smile’!