Sunday, September 28, 2008

Goldendoodles on Trial


These lovable-looking hairballs are rapidly picking up popularity as family dogs, which, I'll admit, is a much better fate than spending your life in a designer handbag with only a tube of lipstick and an iPhone for company. And I suppose there are worse breeds to mix than two of the most intelligent in the world... To give a brief history of the Goldendoodle-- Well, there's not a lot to tell, seeing as how the breed is a little over ten years old. What I can tell you is that they've been designer dogs from the get-go, and they were designed to be a bigger version of the cockapoo. This makes the original breeders' intentions less than pure, but, well - let's put the dogs on the stand, shall we?

THE PROS: For a mixed breed, these guys actually have a fairly predictable temperament, which is a major plus. It seems all owners are in agreement: their dogs are affectionate, friendly with all folks, and generally goofy, fun-loving clowns. It's not hard to see why they're a good choice for families.

Here at MoT, we love a dog with a use (even Yorkies once had jobs). And Goldendoodles have got 'em! Poodles were originally gun dogs that retrieved waterfowl. Just like Golden retrievers! This means that little Doodle has retained retrieving instincts from both Mom and Dad, so even this family dog can earn its keep moonlighting in the field. Another big plus is that they can be used as guide dogs, and if bred right to minimize shedding, they'd be perfect for those with an allergy in need of an assistant dog.

Happily, these hybrids are much longer-lived than their Golden retriever parents, and the average lifespan of a Goldendoodle seems to be 15 years. (How they've calculated this when Goldendoodles only hit the scene mid-1990s, I don't know.)

THE CONS: Yet again, we see people breeding two dogs with numerous health concerns in common. Goldies and poodles share hip dysplasia and a number of eye disorders. A good breeder will screen for these things. Unfortunately, most Goldendoodle breeders refuse to breed a 'purebred' (7th generation or more) Doodle, due to the fact that, of course, a first-generation hybrid puppy will have hybrid vigor, and therefore be much healthier than its parents.

Oh, you silly people! Why must you do this? Hybrid vigor can never ever be depended on to eradicate health problems! You'd be much better off finding two healthy Goldendoodles and breeding THEM together than two different dogs with the same health issues. Hybrid vigor is not a magic cure!

It must also be pointed out that Goldendoodles aren't all that 'hypoallergenic', thanks to their Golden retriever parentage. Whoops! Ladies and gentlemen, once again, the trouble of unpredictability in hybrids. Luckily, it looks like backcrossing a Goldendoodle with a poodle can produce a light- to non-shedding dog, but those with anything more than moderate allergies may have to sit this breed out.

COULD A PUREBREED SERVE THE SAME FUNCTION?

Depends. Do you believe in hypoallergenic dogs? Remember, it's not all about the fur - allergens lurk in things like saliva and dander as well, and Goldendoodles can't help you there. If it is the fur, though, may I recommend an Aghan Hound, an Irish Water Spaniel or a Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier? All these dogs are also promoted as being hypoallergenic, and they too are fluffy companions big enough to romp around with.

The fact that Goldendoodles can be used as guide dogs is an interesting point to consider, though. If I could get evidence that people who couldn't have guide dogs due to allergies/asthma before are now getting along fine with a Goldendoodle - great! Heck, let's breed more! But can we please quit it with the first-generation breeding? As I'm sure I'll rant about in a later post, hybrid vigor is next to communism on the plausibility scale. In an ideal world it would work out, sure, but this is the real world and neither will fly. Two breeds with genetic health problems in common may well be more likely to produce unhealthy offspring, whereas the pups of two healthy dogs of the same breed should turn out A-OK. Start breeding Goldendoodles for real, breed for specific qualities, and for goodness' sake give them a sensible name. Goldendoodle sounds like it came straight outta the reject pile when they were naming the Twinkie. 'Goldendoodle the Kid' just didn't have quite the same ring to it.

All in all, when it comes to Goldendoodles ... this jury is out, confused, and a little hungry for Twinkies.

EDIT: As Emele pointed out, it turns out poodles themselves are taking off as hypoallergenic assistance dogs! Apparently they're uncommon, and some people prefer poodle hybrids due to their temperaments, but Standard poodles are taking to it quite well. Bad news for Doodles, I'm afraid...!

2 comments:

water_bearer said...

Ya know, I have to admit that of all the designer mutts out there, Labradoodles and Goldendoodles are some of the cutest I've seen. There are several in this neighborhood. Even I however, would be hard pressed unless I got up close and personal with them to tell which is which.
Several problems with this cross however. Not the least of which is that there is a big difference between crossing a Golden with a Standard Poddle and crossing one with a Miniature Poodle. Shelties are not just Collies bred down. Standard Schnauzers and Miniature Schauzers are barely related. Standard Poodles and Miniature Poodles are not made up of the same breeds. Standard Poodles are happy, goofy, water-loving retrievers, and consistently listed in the top three on a list of the smartest breeds. Miniature Poodles are a helluva lot more like terriers - yappy, insecure, protective, and not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer.
At least Standard Poodles and Golden are on a similar branch of the dog tree as far as what they were bred to do and what kind of personality they have. Mini poods. and Goldens or Labs couldn't be farther from each other and lumping all Poodles together as something to make a "Doodle" can be confusing for designer mutt seekers.
Second, Standard Poodles as I just mentioned are already low-shedding, low-allergen producing, smart, goofy, fun, athletic family dogs. WHY is there a need to cross them with a Golden or Lab to get the same thing? It's a waste. It tells me that people who do this, despite getting some lovely dogs out of these crosses on occasion don't even know or are intentionally duping the buying public into thinking, that ALL sizes of Poodle are the same. Goldens and Labs especially shed like you wouldn't believe and come with their own set of potential genetic problems. WHY would you want to take the chance of introducing that to the Standard Poodle? Again, idiots that don't know the first thing about genetics always seem to have the most sure ideas about what they're breeding for. Ug.

retrieverman said...

The show bred goldens are the ones that don't live very long. My field type dogs get 13-15 years. I just lost one at 14. A decade ago, it was common for goldens to live that long. Part of the reason is that 1. They aren't as inbred. 2. their bodies are more "natural," not as much wear and tear on them. These dogs get cancer, almost all of them, but it's in the mid-teens, not at 10 or 11 or earlier.


It's hard to find the old type golden, though, in part because of goldendoodles. Everyone who has a "red dog" is breeding it a poodle, because pure goldens that are dark are hard to sell. So the profit breeders and backyarders are using what are really the better goldens (I've never had one with bad hips) and breeding them to poodles. Plus, people actually are deluded into thinking that you can combine working and show lines in goldens and have a dual purpose dog (there are less than ten dual purpose goldens and Labs in the whole country).

I'd actually like to try a goldendoodle out as a working dog. They actually resemble an extinct breed of water dog called the English Rough Water Dog. It was the ancestor the water spaniels and was probably related to the Barbet, the Iberian water dogs, the Lagotto, and the German water dogs that became the poodle.