Originally bred as an experiment in service dog rearing, the creator of “doodles” himself has expressed that his experiment is now his life’s deepest regret. From French Bulldogs to Belgian Malinois, few popular breeds remain that have yet to be “doodled. Poodle mixes are wildly popular- so what’s the harm?
It turns out that canine genetics are much more complex than many doodle breeders make them out to be. Let’s delve into some things potential doodle owners should know about this popular mix.
There Are No Breed Standards
It’s not just purebred dog snobbiness that raises concerns about this trend. Veterinarians, groomers, trainers, dog rescuers, and ethical breeders have all been impacted by the craze. To the general public, adding Poodle to popular breeds simply means eliminating shedding, increasing intelligence, and adding adorable curls. But it turns out that canine genetics are far more complex.
As all Poodle mixes are unrecognized breeds, there are no breed standards to hold breeders accountable. Breed standards are not just about snobbiness or elitism. These carefully crafted rules determine how dogs can maximize their genetic potential, both in terms of physical structure and temperament. Breed standards are based on the jobs purebred dogs are bred to perform, and ensure that dogs are both physically healthy and mentally sound enough to carry out their breed’s purposes.
Breed Standards Work to Eliminate Health Problems
Standards are specific to each breed, helping ensure that poor breeding does not lead to health problems. Hip dysplasia in Golden Retrievers, back issues in Dachshunds, and skin problems in Boxers are just a few examples of genetic issues that are combatted and eliminated by adhering to breed standards.
Without breed standards, there is no consensus on what type of health testing should be carried out, what genetic problems should be focused on, or even what doodles should look or behave like.
Mixes without breed standards are genetic wildcards, and there is no guarantee that puppies will inherit the genetic traits that breeders consider desirable. Some genetic traits, such as shedding and hip dysplasia, will not be obvious until later in the dog’s life––leading many pet owners to rehome these dogs once they reach adulthood.
Because of the genetic wildcards, it’s nearly impossible to predict what “doodles” will look or behave like when they grow up. Nearly every trait, from height to hair or fur type, comes with no guarantees.
Some of the most popular Poodle mixes come from dogs with wildly conflicting temperaments; for example, Bernese Mountain Dogs and Standard Poodles are bred for completely different purposes, come from different breed groups, are physically unalike, and have little to no behavioral similarities.
There’s Zero Genetic Predictability
By combining breeds with drastically different temperaments, structures, and behavioral needs, intentionally bred mixes have the same genetic predictability as street dogs. The entire point of producing purebred dogs is creating genetically consistent traits. These consistent traits are valuable in helping families select dogs whose needs are compatible with their preferences, as well as dogs who are capable of performing breed-specific jobs.
Producing dogs without consistent or predictable traits goes against the very purpose of intentional, ethical dog breeding. When doodles fall short of meeting buyer’s expectations, they are often abandoned in shelters, as so many of their breeders fail to take accountability for bringing these animals into the world.
For example, there is no guarantee that Poodle mixes will not shed, and families with allergies are often surprised when their doodle puppy begins shedding with age, despite what was promised by the puppy’s breeder.
One of the leading arguments against intentionally producing mixed-breed dogs is that families willing to take on genetically unpredictable pets could instead save the life of a shelter dog in need. The purebred dog market can be a help to dog caregivers who know exactly what traits they are and are not capable of handling, increasing the likelihood that puppies find homes that suit them.
Breeding mixes without any standard accomplishes the exact opposite of this. For those interested in mixed-breed dogs, there are countless of these in shelters and rescue groups.
There Are Many Unethical Doodle Breeders
Poodle mixes are often bred with the assumption that puppies will inherit the “best of both worlds” from their parents and that undesirable traits will be eliminated. These assumptions about genetics are completely unsupported, and at their very root, do not make sense.
In fact, because the vast majority of ethical breeders are unwilling to participate in doodle breeding or sell their dogs to doodle breeders, backyard-bred dogs are used in doodle breeding programs. Doodles are a largely taboo topic in purebred dog circles. Reputable breeders who are active in their breeds’ communities would risk their reputation by selling a puppy to a doodle breeder. Breeders who are not active in breed communities are likely not running reputable genetic programs.
Because of this, the purebred dogs used to create doodle puppies typically already lack healthy structures. Often originating from puppy mills and unreputable breeders, these dogs are likely to possess the very traits that doodle breeders claim to combat through mixing and matching breeds at random. For instance, at least 60% of Golden Retrievers will develop cancer in their lifetime; a lack of meticulous breeding programs and extensive genetic testing only exaggerates this likelihood. Often, Golden Retrievers are the parents of doodle mixes, and they could pass along health problems to offspring.
Even the breeder of the first Labradoodles, Wally Conron, has stated that his decision to create these dogs is his life’s deepest regret.
“Why people are breeding them today, I haven’t got a clue,” Condon stated in an interview with the New York Times. He expressed sadness and guilt over the widespread breeding of Poodle mixes in puppy mills.
Poodle Mixes Are a Puppy Mill Favorite
As a rule of thumb, the more popular a breed or breed mix is, the more likely puppy mills are to jump on breeding trends. Poodle mixes are wildly popular, and sadly, have become the primary source of profit for many commercial puppy mills and puppy brokers.
In 2023, hundreds of Poodle mixes were confiscated from commercial puppy mills. Puppy mills are loosely defined and are not inherently illegal operations, but these particular cases were so horribly abusive that authorities had to step in.
One notable case was the confiscation of over 100 “doodles” from an Iowa commercial breeder in September of 2023, where dogs and puppies were living in their own feces, denied veterinary care, emaciated, sick, and some on the verge of death. Just one week later, nearly 100 similar dogs were rescued in Wisconsin.
The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 2.6 million dogs every year are produced in puppy mills. Sadly, most puppy mill dogs will never be confiscated by authorities. Puppy mill-sourced puppies are predisposed to congenital issues, anxiety, aggression, and a short lifespan.