Paige (at right) is a Goldendoodle. She is tall, the height of a standard Poodle. She is wavy-coated, with dropped ears, a bearded face, and a wiggling body. She is cute, charming, and quite appealing. But what is she, really? It depends on who you talk to. To purebred dog fanciers, Paige is a mixed- breed dog, a cross between a Poodle and a Golden Retriever. To the breeders of these dogs and their owners, Paige is a designer dog: a whole new world in dogdom!
Designer dogs are produced by a purposeful crossing of two unrelated breeds. Although mixed- breed dogs have been around as long as there have been dog breeds, and Cockapoos (the first designer breed) have been around for more than thirty years, the designer dog era probably began with the Labradoodle in Australia. In 1989, John Grosling, manager for the GDAV Guide Dog Services, bred a litter in response to a request from a vision-impaired woman whose husband was allergic to dogs. A Poodle and a Labrador Retriever were bred and produced three puppies, one of which became her guide dog, and luckily her husband was able to tolerate him.
Other breedings between Labrador Retrievers and Poodles have occurred since then in both Australia and the U.S., and the results have varied tremendously. Some of the resulting dogs shed (like the Lab), and others are non-shedding like Poodles. Some are allergy friendly, while others are not. Sizes vary, too, as the Poodle is sometimes a standard and sometimes a miniature.
The success of the Cockapoo, Labradoodle, and the more recent Goldendoodle has led to a number of different designer dogs. There are Puggles, which are a cross between Pugs and Beagles. Roodles are Standard Poodles crossed with Rottweilers. Maltepoos are Maltese and Toy Poodles;
Schnoodles are Miniature Schnauzers and Miniature Poodles; and Pugapoos are, obviously, Pugs and Poodles. The prices asked (and paid) for some of these dogs have been higher than many people pay for purebred dogs with registration papers, pedigrees, and guarantees.
The temperaments, personalities, behavior, and trainability of designer dogs vary tremendously. The offspring will have a tendency to have some of the traits of each parent, but as with all mixed breeds, that can be unpredictable. Paige, for example, has many of the friendly, extroverted characteristics of a Golden Retriever but is sensitive and intelligent—traits common to Poodles.
Breeders of designer dogs have been promoting their benefits, one of which is their hybrid vigor. Breeders say that designer dogs do not have the health problems of purebreds, but that isn’t necessarily so. The offspring of any breeding will be genetically healthy or not depending upon their parents’ (and grandparents’) genetic health. Labradoodle owners have found many of the same health concerns as those found in both Labs and Poodles, including a tendency toward ear infections, allergies, and hip dysplasia. Designer dogs have their enthusiasts, and that’s wonderful as long as their owners know exactly what they are getting and are not expecting something entirely different.