By Bonnie Dalzell, MA
October 3, 2011. I corresponded for a brief time with one of the main Aussie Labradoodle breeders. As I recall from my correspondence, the F1 cross inherits the lab type coat so you have to back cross the poodle or breed to another F1 to get the non-shedding coat. In the first case you get a 3/4 poodle in the second you would need to have two different relatively unrelated labs and poodles to get decent genetic diversity in the F2's and of course only 1/4th of the F2's would have the desired non shedding coat.
Once you start breeding poodle coat to poodle coat you will keep it, of course, as it is recessive. Still, in order to have a viable breed, you should start with something like 20 lab - poodle pairs of relatively unrelated dogs or you are going to have an even more inbred "new breed" than the most inbred of the foundation breeds.
What prompted my correspondence with the lady in Australia was that the local rescue I help with was encountering some very aggressive male labradoodles. What is not appreciated by the general public is that some male standard poodles can be rather dominant and aggressive on maturity if not raised by a fairly strong minded, pack leader type owner.
Well, it seems that rather than getting the trainability of the poodle and the laid back (although full speed ahead energy) personality of the lab, many of the Labradoodle males were showing the strong, dominant personality of the poodle and the full speed ahead high energy personality of the Labrador. Just what you do not want in a dog that may be going to some owner who is attracted to the dog because it has a cute name.
As a dog trainer I have had two instances of personal experience with very strong-willed Labradoodles. In the right home they would have been fine but neither of them were suitable for the soft-tempered people who were their owners.
I have also met delightful Labradoodles. When I talked to the different owners of those dogs, all of them were Australian Labradoodles and had many generations of breeding for working seeing eye and assistance dogs behind them. These latter dogs represent "a breed in the making" - not first and second generation crosses made for the cute dog market without selection for suitable temperament and trainability.
My impression is part of the marketability of these inter breed crosses is that the name needs to have double vowels in it or have a diminutive form to make it sound appealing and cute.
Around 20 years ago a close friend of mine who bred bearded collies and afghan hounds died rather unexpectedly of ovarian cancer. One of her best Afghan bitches was pregnant at the time and I promised to help find homes for the pups when they were an appropriate age.
When the pups came it became obvious as they matured and turned out to have mustache faces that they were bearded collie - afghan crosses, so at an appropriate age we advertised to find pet homes. I called them "Culligans". The cute label helped and we did find good homes for all but one of them. More about that one later.
These dogs were actually part of a traditional "gypsy dog" cross which is called a "lurcher". Note this is not a cute name so people do not fall all over themselves to get or breed lurchers. Lurchers are the cross between a sight hound and a herding dog (specifically a drovers dog - one that moves the flock) or a sighthound and a hunting terrier.
The aim - which does show up in the first generation of the cross - is to get a dog which is a keen hunter but is highly biddable (that is pays attention to what the owner commands). If you breed a greyhound to a border collie and you have your prize lurcher you would breed it back to one of the parent breeds for the next generation and then after that to the other parent breed or to a small terrier. Back and forth between the parent breeds. And since they are bred for hunting (specifically poaching) you only breed from the ones that are good workers.
How did a gypsy or other person hunt with a lurcher? Until a few hundred years ago in England it was illegal for anyone lower in aristocratic rank to own a full-blooded hunting dog such as a greyhound. And anyway, all the game belonged to the aristocrats (remember Robin Hood).
So you strolled along the main road and sent your lurcher into the lord of the manor's fields to fetch you a fat hare (the poorer people were always protein deprived in their diets) and if the dog was returning with the hare and the gamekeeper came up to converse with you - the dog had been trained to hide with his prize in the bushes and not be seen.
A full-blooded greyhound would have caught the hare and perhaps eaten it or charged back to you with the hare no matter who was with you, and then things would have gone very badly for you - a mere peasant or a gypsy.
A number of or modern sight hound breeds have lurcher heritage - whippets are the most obvious, but the Borzoi goes back to crosses between Saluki (Tazi) from Turkey bred to native winter hardy Russian herding dogs with an infusion of the husky-like hunting Laika of Northern Russia. Even the aristocratic English Greyhound had a documented cross in 1770 to the ancestral bulldog. According to Lord Orford who was responsible, the intent was to improve the pluck and courage of the greyhound. As far as I can determine, all modern greyhounds have some ancestors that trace back to this cross because a 4th generation dog from the cross was a highly successful coursing hound.
This is basically a discussion of how a new breed can be formed by crossing breeds. It is important to know how things are inherited. Of course, breeding to select for specific functions not seen in breeds that are otherwise available is very important. In addition, having a number of healthy, vigorous and temperamentally fit dogs from the founding breeds present as parents of the founding population is necessary in order to avoid founding a breed on too small a population and producing dogs in which health is at risk due to inbreeding depression.
Simply doing F1 crosses to produce cute dogs with cute pseudo breed names to appeal to novelty owners in order to make money is against the long term well being of dog breeds as such.
Dogs deliberately bred for specific purposes need to be selected from parents talented for those purposes. This includes breeding dogs to be pets. One selects for a loving pet personality as well as general health and vigor in order to have puppies that will be successful as pets and companions. This is why the parents of dogs bred to be pets and companions need to be integrated into a home where their ability to function as pets and companions can be observed.
Especially with small-breed dogs, dogs that are kept crated as breeding stock all their lives have never been "tested" in the pet and companion venue. Could they be house trained? Will they be comfortable with visitors? Will they be trustworthy with children? Will they easily allow you to groom them and care for them? Who knows if all that was experienced by generations of their ancestors was sitting in a small cage.
Bonnie Dalzell, MA
Freelance anatomist, vertebrate paleontologist, writer, illustrator, dog
breeder, computer nerd & iconoclast…