Friday, February 13, 2009

First Dog-watch '09

It seems like half the dog world is waiting with bated breath to see which breed of dog President Obama will adopt into the White House: Portuguese Water Dog, or Labradoodle?

As something of an, ahem, critic of muttpuppies - or at least of the ideas that surround them - I feel obligated to share an opinion. Mine may surprise you.

First we have the PWD, also known as "those shaggy dogs with the shaved butts". Fantastic! They're purebred and low-shedding and holy crap they have shaved butts. What's not to like?

The Labradoodle, on the other hand, is equally shaggy and sadly lacks a snappy trim, but is also low-shedding and quite intelligent. Hmmm.

In one corner, a smart, hypoallergenic, hairy monster. In the other corner, much the same.

Doodle and PWD. Or is it PWD and doodle?

I would pick the Labradoodle.

I will not lie. I love a dog with a shaved hiney almost as much as I love a dog with a beard - and I love a dog with a beard. But there are several other, indeed more important factors to consider, some of which may be known to the president and his family, some maybe not. Health, for instance.

The PWD is not a healthy breed. They're terrifically inbred, for starters. Long story short, the Portuguese Water Dog Club was founded in 1972 when there were 12 known PWDs in America. Ten short years later and the number had hiked to 650. Around this time, PWDs were registered with the AKC, both officially submitting them to the closed registry system, and causing their numbers to soar. And ever since then, the gene pool has been strangled more and more. God forbid the AKC ever entertains the notion of admitting an outcrossed dog or open registries! So the breed gets sicker and sicker. Thanks a lot, Snidely.

This isn't my real concern since the Obamas probably aren't planning on breeding the First Dog. Probably. But we are talking about a nation who apparently caused a rise in breed popularity not only after 101 Dalmatians was released, but also following Beethoven. BEETHOVEN. The movie about the dog that slobbers and sheds and eats his owners' belongings (and probably fantasizes about eating them too, oh my God!). Some people just have no idea what breed they want when they get a dog, till the first one that looks remotely interesting drifts into their line of vision. Well, if it's good enough for the president ...!

And of course, with demand, comes supply. The last thing PWDs need now is a spike in popularity.

The AKC and Westminster, of course, wholeheartedly back the idea of a Porti First Dog. Health issues be damned, they'd love to see that resulting registration money, and I imagine they'll be crowing enthusiastically about how President Obama endorses purebreds after all the flack they're gonna be taking. Sort of like that time-old playground defence that that other kid can't be mean to you because you have an older brother in the sixth grade who'll beat him up. Did that ever work, by the way?

In comparison, there are a lot worse dogs to select than a Labradoodle.

I yammer about unpredictability a lot, and before you stone me, I'm not backing down from that conviction. But this is one of the many reasons why getting a designer dog from a shelter, as the Obamas plan to do, is so much better than going for a breeder. Labradoodles can be low-shedding ... they can also shed quite as much as their Lab parent does. When you adopt from a shelter, for one thing, you don't have to pay the exorbitant sum that (what amounts to) mutts are going for these days, and secondly, you're probably getting a mature dog. There will probably be people there who can tell you about his temperament and they may even know whether he qualifies as "hypoallergenic" or not. And there's no shame in taking a shelter dog home for a trial run.

And let's face it: Whether the mutt's got hybrid vigour in its favour or not, a Labradoodle is bound to be vastly healthier than a PWD.

So there we are. MoT is championing a muttpuppy over a purebred. Don't get used to it. ;)

Besides, it's all about public image. I feel a snooty purebreed will not be well-received by America. No worries... I hope.


water_bearer said...

I'm not surprised actually. After giving it some thought since FirstPuppyCountdown09 began, I've leaned more and more towards the Labradoodle for very much the same reasons as you... that is, when it's up against the PWD. BTW, I never quite understand the b.s. behind the let's make them bald so they freeze in the water, but we'll cover their joints thing cut. Poodles? I'm betting their asses are still cold, poofs on their hips or no. And if this is true, then why are the PWD's completely bare-assed? Lame-looking imo. But I digress.
My first choice (as if the Obama's gave a rat's you-know-what) would be for a mutt of unrecognizeable parentage. A true Heinz 57. If an older dog adopted from a shelter there's no reason why all the required prerequisites cannot be known about a mix without a cute name as well as any Doodle. Second to that, I say don't count out the Standard Poodle. Popular and around long enough already that I doubt any uptick in Standard Poodles will be much more than a blip. Labradoodles, as is the main problem with designer breeds as I see it have no base for comparison. Assuming the first family can't find one in a shelter and they do go through a breeder then they are just as vulnerable as anybody else who buys what rhetoric the breeder is selling about temperament, health, hypoallergenic, blah, blah, blah. That's the upside of (well-bred) pure breds. They come out pretty consistent. That said, I haven't heard of too many vicious maulings by 'doodles of any kind lately, so it's really the dander thing we have to worry about. But the down side as I predict, and truthfully it's just a hunch, is that the uptick in every Tom, Dick and Harry breeding 'doodles to cash in on their popularity will be more of a surge because who can tell what one is supposed to look like, or act like, or shed like, and so on? It's easier to sell the unsuspecting public on your spiel when all they have to base it on is your word and not centuries of breeding. So... six of one, half dozen of another. Just wish there was a way to get it through little girls' heads that it's possible to get a total mutt, and from a shelter, and for it to be a low-shedding, low-allergen producing dog. But little girls want what little girls want and I suspect there's a doodle in the future.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Sigh. :) I'm a scatterbrained blogger. I meant to gripe about the flip side of the coin and totally forgot. You're absolutely right. The Obamas wanted a hypoallergenic dog - the Obamas got a Labradoodle! Never has the nation paid closer attention to the hunt for a dog breed! Labradoodles are rapidly going to become America's #1 hypoallergenic pooch. Unscrupulous breeders all over will be thinking ka-ching.

On the other hand, Labradoodles might be #1 already or close enough to it. And it's a more difficult 'breed' to mess up genetically. But they do come with their problems (I actually think Labradoodles come with more health problems than most hybrids I can think of), and I worry that the shedders may end up in a shelter if they aren't what their allergenic owners expect.

If it weren't down to PWD vs Labradoodle, I'd totally be touting a purebreed - so many poodle hybrids are toy-sized, and Obama wants a larger dog. A Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier would serve the purpose fine ... and how great would a greyhound look in the Oval Office? A Standard Poodle would work well too. There is that 'feminine' connotation tied to them, but IMO a poodle in a pet clip looks no different from a PWD or Labradoodle!

water_bearer said...

I love Poodles in pet clips! Or sporting clips. I think it's asinine to disqualify a dog because it's not bare-assed.

Yeah, I mean truthfully it matters to me not what kind of dog the first family gets as long as it meets their criteria. Beyond that, my one concern is that it be a breed / mix / whathaveyou that is least likely to suffer from popular dog syndrome after they acquire it. I think Labradoodles are more susceptible to that and honestly, that's my only stern objection. I mean, Joe we've had German Shepherds all our life Biden went and got a 5-week old puppy from a puppy mill. Nice. Fortunately, because it was already a dog that people think they know, and there was enough of a backlash because of the "breeder" thing whether or not the decriers even knew it qualified to be a puppy mill, that you're not going to see anyone trying to capitalize on their popularity any time soon.

And you hit the nail on the head. Perfectly good dogs whose only crime is that they were not one of the so-called hypoallergenic ones will flood the shelters.

I suggested a Greyhound in another forum and someone laughed at me because of their "high energy." Idiot. Which, by the way, David Frei made a comment about during Westminster. Greyhounds being high energy, not him being an idiot. Although he is. There were a couple of other incorrect statements he made that escape me at the moment. But let's see... their fanciers call them "30 mph couch potatoes" because they're happy laying around all day as long as they can get out a few times a week or preferably at least once a day and just run balls out for a few minutes. Damn. Wish the Obamas had a big yard or something, then they'd be perfect.

And yeah, Poodles do kind have the "gurly-dog" thing going on, but then ya know what? Let their coat cord. Then... not so girly.

Of course I don't mind that the President is pretty ignorant about dogs (see: Portugese Water Hound), because I'd much rather the man focus on bigger issues, but it doesn't help when he doesn't know or have time to, his wife wants a smaller dog and the kids' research lead them to believe Doodles are hypoallergenic. They are an example and their are plenty of sheeple and there are plenty of unscrupulous people waiting to take advantage of an unsuspecting public and unfortunately a lot of unwanted dogs who may suffer as a result.

water_bearer said...

their = there.

Barb said...

With so many serious issues, I wish there wasn't so much attention being paid to the kind of dog they get. But that's an easier and less scary issue to focus on so I guess you can't blame people. Like everyone else here I believe that the only important issue is that they get a dog that meets their needs.

But you gotta watch the idea that a mixed breed is healthier... if you breed a Lab with hip dysplasia to a Standard Poodle with hip dysplasia guess what the pups will have? On the other hand, I do know there are healthy PWDs - we compete in agility against a few breeders who have wonderful dogs.

Whatever kind of dog they get, I'm hoping they just go to a breeder who has health tested the parents. I'm sure there have to be a FEW responsible doodle breeders out there... somewhere. But as we saw with the Bidens, it is obviously just as difficult for people even in positions of great influence to find truly responsible breeders as it is for John Q Public.

The ultimate solution will be to have open stud books and genetic tests for most of the diseases that affect our dogs - then we'll have a fighting chance to REALLY produce healthier dogs whether they are purebreds or hybrids. But that's still a few years down the road.

Min said...

I agree with your blog post - for the most part. I'm mom to 2 PWD's and I, too, have worried about all of the Porties who may end up homeless or worse after the surge in their popularity if they were to become the "1st Dog." These are NOT easy dogs to have! They are working dogs and require a job to be happy and balanced. I have them because I'm allergic to dogs, so I understand the Obama's dilemma in that regard. But it seems that 2 little girls would be better suited with a small poodle (or standard) or something that requires less "work" to be happy. I can imagine the Lincoln bedroom after a bored Portie takes to it! Yikes!
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