Friday, March 25, 2011

Making a smart decision when getting your new pet...and my thoughts on the "doodle craze".

Hey Everyone, we had a situation come up recently with an employee looking to get a dog that made me realize that many people do not truly understand my thoughts on breeding. Some people think I am 100% against it, some people think I'm not as long as they are purebred. Because of this staff member as well as several other incidences lately I wanted to take a minute to explain my thoughts on breeding and give you recommendations if you are in search for another dog.

Who should be breeding? I do like how certain breeds were bred for certain jobs. It amazes me to watch a border collie herding sheep or a bloodhound doing scent work or a husky pulling a sled. When they do these activities you can tell how much they enjoy it, they are born with a certain set of skills that if honed can lead to amazing working dogs. Dog breeding is a huge genetic experiment really. You can see how in a short period of time breeds can morph into other breeds and other sizes. The fact that humans have bred many breeds specifically for the purpose of serving the human race, I'm fine with, because ultimately it solidifies this strong relationship that humans and dogs have.

There is a very specific standard for each breed. AKC is very strict about it. They are strict not only about the looks, but also the build (can they do what they were bred for), and the health of the dogs. They want to see only the healthiest and finest "specimens" of the breed continue their genetic line. You may know that I've had 3 Dalmatians and absolutely adore the breed. However even I am not even close to being knowledgeable enough to even think of breeding Dalmatians. It takes years and years of research, following different breed lines, confirmation showing, etc. It takes someone truly dedicated to the endeavor.

People aren't knowledgeable about the breeds and/or don't know whether their dogs meet the breed standards. So now you have someone with a purebred dog. The first problem that I see is that many people assume that because their dog is purebred it meets the requirements necessary to breed. Maybe they want a "daughter" because their dog is so great. Maybe they have friends who say they want a puppy. Whatever the reason, they want to breed their purebred dog. Mrs. Akin shared this Spay/Neuter Chart with me. I thought it was brilliant. It puts into a graph what I try to verbally explain to people. Take a look. It makes for a great reference. Susan Tinch brought up the added box to put at the end which would read, "Are you willing to take back every puppy produced no matter how old?"

One of the recent incidences that has brought about this document has to do with someone buying a Dalmatian puppy. It came from someone that meets the very description of a backyard breeder. Each of their Dalmatians has one blue eye. Blue eyes are a major fault in Dalmatians. There is a very strong link between blue eyes and deafness in Dalmatians. Also, they had "patches" that are also major faults. Not only did they not confirm appearance wise to breed standard but they were passing on genes that specifically lead to deafness. I feel very confident that there will be deaf puppies in their lines. It's not all about looks. Reputable breeders do lots of testing and screening to rule out any problems that are common in that particular breed. If a dog doesn't pass, they immediately get the dog altered.

If you go by this chart it is very easy to see who should be breeding their dogs and who shouldn't be. There is only a small percentage of the population that can say "yes" to all the questions. If you can show me that, then you'll have my support to breed. (I still may not throw you a party but I won't think you're being irresponsible.) People think that the reason there are so many unwanted dogs is because of stray dogs or large scale puppy mills. The truth is I feel the main reason we have this problem is from backyard breeders. A backyard breeder is someone that breeds simply because they have a purebred dog and not for the reasons the chart suggests.

Where do people get their dogs from and what could be wrong with it? Here are some examples of some of the ways people obtain their purebred dogs. I will put the issues with each along side.

1. A newspaper/online/flyer ad: You can go ahead and guess that these breeders are either large scale breeding operations or backyard breeders. Reputable breeders (that breed because of the chart) generally have a waiting list for their puppies. They have extensive applications and would never think of putting an ad in a paper. You look for them, they don't seek the buyer.

2. Pet Store: Here's a tough one. I know many people who have bought from a pet store. They go in and see these pitiful puppy faces in the tiniest of cages, perhaps the puppies been there months and now the store is marking the puppy down like a used car. The person can't take looking at it and buys the puppy so they can save them from that situation. I know exactly how this feels and is the very reason I cannot step foot into a store that sells dogs/cats. These puppies came from breeders who could care less where their puppies go. They don't care if a horrible person buys them and tortures them, they don't care if someone buys them and chains them in the backyard. They don't care if the person puts them in a small cage and breeds them over and over just to make money. If a breeder does not care what happens to their puppies that is the #1 sign that you should run the other way. If you purchase this puppy, yes you are changing this puppy's life, but you are telling the pet store and the breeder that, yes, they should keep doing it because "look people are buying them." You saved the puppy but you condemned it's mom to more years of breeding.

3. Friend, family member, acquaintance: Okay, so you know these people. They are loving people, their pets are spoiled rotten. Yes, they decided to breed their dog but it's just one litter and they have homes lined up already. No problem with that right? Unfortunately...yes. Who knows what will happen to the puppies. What if not all the puppy families get their dogs spayed or neutered. If not neutered then what if that dog goes and accidentally impregnates another neighborhood dog. She has puppies and her puppies have puppies, etc. What if the girl puppy doesn't get spayed and, oops, the neighbor dog got in. She has puppies and then those puppies have puppies. When you look at the fact that one unspayed female could be the cause of 343 more dogs within a year and a half it's easy to start seeing the negative effect every decision can make on the number of dogs killed every year in shelters.

You want a dog, what do you do? How do you do it right? Okay so you've decided to get a dog. First you need to decide if you want a purebred dog or a mixed breed. If you want a purebred ask yourself why. Is it because the dogs are cool looking? Perhaps your family has always had that breed? Maybe someone has allergies and you need a specific kind of coat? Maybe like me you like to do competitive obedience with AKC and know if your rescued purebred is spayed/neutered they will allow you to apply for a number and compete. However, now they allow mixed breeds which is great. They have a program called AKC Canine Partners that helps you register your wonderful lovable mutt. Take a look here:

Maybe after these questions you say, yes, I still want a purebred dog.

-You CAN rescue purebred dogs. My Dalmatian and last Dalmatian, Chihuahua and Standard Poodle are rescues. No, you cannot get immediate gratification of getting a pup when you want it. It takes patience, constant searching of rescue sites, getting your name out to purebred rescue groups, etc. But the reward is great. Not only are you helping a dog find a home but you can also use your dog to educate others about rescuing.

-You buy from a breeder. Let us help. Of the people who breed their dogs only about 5% (I'm guessing) are reputable breeders. You have to be armed with as much information as you can obtain, do your research, know what you're looking for, know what to ask, etc. If you don't know we can help. Ask them the questions listed on this chart about the parents. Buying from a breeder can be done responsibly.

Puggle, Doodle, Cockapoo, Matipoo, Yorkipoo, shihpoo.....all just a bunch of poo.

I can't begin to describe the sadness I have at the ever increasing popularity of doodles. I'll use doodles as an example but this is for any mutt that they are passing off as a "designer breed."


1. These breeders CANNOT say that their dogs match the criteria of the chart.

2. They are NOT breeding to meet AKC breed standards. They are purposefully breeding mixes. The only reason to do this isn't to "better an AKC breed" it is to make money, a profit. Period, no matter what they tell you.

3. These dogs are not more hypoallergenic. I don't care what a vet, breeder or doctor says (yes, I'm making that strong of a stance) NO dog is hypoallergenic. Yes, some dogs shed a considerably less amount of pet fur and dander. So someone with a mild pet allergy can tolerate certain fur types (like poodles, Maltese, Shih Tzu, etc.). However, if someone is highly allergic to dogs it doesn't matter the breed or coat type. And if allergies was your main reason for purchasing this type of mix that is a wrong theory. If you mix in a different breed like a golden or Labrador, then you've just mixed in a breed that has a higher amount of pet dander. If that is what you are going for then a purebred would be the best option.

4. "But I like the qualities of both breeds." Did you know that 85% of what dogs will turn out to be has to do with how owners raises them? That's why I have an amazing little Chihuahua that doesn't bark constantly or bite. You can ruin any breed just like you can make any breed or mix amazing. It has more to do with you. Yes, specific breeds come with specific traits, but it doesn't determine overall temperament as much as you think.

Take a look at this website: These people have over 80 dogs on their property (I'm basing off of someone's firsthand experience of going there.) They are mixing this poodle with this lab, this cocker spaniel with that poodle, etc, etc. No regards for AKC standards whatsoever. No screening of buyers. This person went to their place because they said they would give her a puppy for free. When she got there they gave her 4 dogs for free because they needed to "get rid of them" they were getting too old to sale and the new batch of puppies were on the way. Look at how they have sales as if they are products to be purchased. I do not know these people personally, not have I been to their facility. I am not picking on them. I am only using them as an example at what is happening out there. If someone didn't know any better they might think their website looks great, all the info seems great. What you don't know is that you are supporting someone that is adding to the number of dogs being put down every day.

Josh Loposer wrote an article after interviewing the originator of the labradoodle, Wally Conron. Mr. Conron says he has massive regrets about his role in the doodle craze. An excerpt from the article is at the bottom of this blog post.

I posted this message as my Facebook status one day: "One of the reasons there are so many unwanted dogs is that even educated people that loves dogs and would never do anything to hurt them still make bad decisions when getting their own pets. If I can't get through to them then I can't get through to anyone. It's a never ending battle that gets more depressing every day."

If any of my friends, family or clients own one of the "designer breeds" I am referring to, I am in no way trying to make anyone feel bad or defensive but since you know me I'm sure you already know that. I know many people may have strong feelings as to why a particular mixed breed is right for them and that is totally okay. My goal is simply to share my feelings, make it clear how I feel about it and hopefully educate people about buying dogs and how important the decision is about where to get your pet. Maybe someone out there is considering buying a new pet and had never thought of these things before. That's what I've seen happen in my life recently. That's when it dawned on me that I've never shared this before and that many people simply still do not know. I am here to help; we have a ton of resources we can share. If we can all spread this message to our friends and family then maybe we can make a difference. As I remind myself: A difference one pet at a time.

Thank you for listening, Amanda

Portion of Article by Josh Loposer, published May 6th 2010.

Is your mixed-breed a mistake of monumental proportions, or the crowning achievement of thousands of years of thoughtful selective breeding?

Despite millions of labradoodle owners across the planet who are convinced their pups are the greatest thing since sliced bread, the man credited with pioneering the breed has massive regrets about his involvement in the "oodle" craze. "I don't regret the dog, not for the purpose I bred it for," Wally Conron tells Paw Nation, "I regret all the people who got on the bandwagon willy-nilly. People who are breeding poodle crosses for the money, who have no concern for parentage."

How was Conron to know that by crossing one of his kennel's best Labs with a standard poodle, he would unwittingly spark an international trend that would spawn the schnoodle, the groodle, the roodle and countless other similar designer breeds? In 1988, service-dog trainer Conron received a letter from a woman in Hawaii who needed a seeing-eye dog that wouldn't shed, because her husband was highly allergic. At that time, no one had ever bred a Labrador retriever with an allergy-friendly standard poodle, at least not on purpose.

Now, only 22 years later, labradoodles have their own Facebook pages. Labradoodle enthusiasts, along with other groups of "oodle" owners, are even vying to have the breed recognized as an official breed by the Kennel Council. So why is Conron so ashamed of his own creation? Like many others, he feels that the labradoodle trend started a gold rush for unscrupulous backyard breeders with no knowledge of proper dog breeding. "One of our litters had 10 pups in it and only three were actually allergy-free," says Conron. "Let's face it: they're a crossbreed. You never know what you're going to get. It's a bit like buying a pig in a poke, yet people all over are charging more for labradoodles than purebreds."

Two years ago, it was even rumored that President Obama was considering bringing a labradoodle home to the White House. (Of course, he chose a Portuguese water dog instead). "I actually wrote him a letter that said to be careful and check the parents," Conron explains. "I never heard back."