The Heartbreaking Truth About Those Cute Doodle Dogs
The family—a couple and their four children, ages 5 to 11—wanted a dog in the worst way. Not just any dog, but the type more popular today than any of the dazzling breeds at the Westminster Kennel Club dog show.
They wanted a labradoodle. 
With luck and money, they found one not far from where they live in Connecticut. The breeder claimed the dog came from several generations of labradoodles, who in turn were carefully bred from miniature poodles and Labrador retrievers in Australia, where labradoodles were popularized 25 years ago. A ball of chocolate fluff, the puppy cost $2,800. That's more than it would have cost the family to adopt every single dog at their local shelter. But it was not outlandishly priced for a labradoodle.
The family installed an electric fence inside the house to keep the pup contained, paid for obedience classes from a trainer, and were set.
Only they weren't. Theirs is a cautionary tale, an increasingly common one, of what can happen when a dog becomes too popular for its own good.
The puppy did not have the docile temperament of a lab, as advertised. He was high-strung, as poodles can be sometimes, especially miniature poodles. He was not good with children; he competed with them as if they were littermates—scolding, wrestling, biting them. He was not, as labradoodles are marketed, low-maintenance. Like both a poodle and a labrador, the puppy craved constant company. Being confined to two rooms by an absurd, zapping, invisible "fence" drove him crazy. So did the children and the nanny, who were inconsistent with their attention and discipline.  
Like more and more labradoodles—and their cousins, the golden doodles, a golden retriever-poodle mix—this pup was dumped. He ended up at the Doodle Rescue Collective, Inc., based in Dumont, New Jersey, which fields calls from doodle owners all over the country desperate to dump their dogs.
Since the Doodle Rescue Collective began rescuing doodles in 2006, it has helped over 1,200 dogs and counting. And it is not alone. There are dozens of other poodle-mix rescues, including rescues for cockapoos, or cocker spaniel-poodle mixes; schnoodles, for schnauzer-poodles; chi-poos, for chihuahua poodles; maltipoos, for maltese-poodle mixes; and so on. The rescues often spend thousands of dollars in healthcare and rehabilitation for these so-called designer dogs, mutts actually, whose owners spent months on breeder waiting lists to get them, and thousands of dollars to buy them, only to abandon them within a year or two.
These dogs have become victims of their hype, rescuers say. It's a phenomenon that happens to many breeds of dog. Every time a type of dog captures the public's imagination, the clamor surrounding it creates new backyard breeders, a new product for puppy mills, and new owners swept up by the hype. Dalmatians were all the rage after Disney's 101 Dalmations was released. Cocker spaniels had their day after Disney's Lady and the Tramp. Paris Hilton made teacup Chihuahuas dressed up in tutus a fleeting fad. 
Each time a breed becomes too popular, it gets inbred and overbred, causing severe health problems or behavioral issues they dogs' guardians don't want to pay for or live with. Labradoodles and other poodle mixes are marketed as hypo-allergenic, non-shedding and odor-free, attracting some people who have never lived with a dog before, but like the idea of one that sounds low-maintenance.
Labradoodles attract some people, in short, who probably shouldn't own dogs.
Meanwhile, dogs—or cats—that might be a better fit languish in shelters, or are euthanized for lack of space. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) estimates that out of the six to eight million dogs and cats animal shelters care for each year, three to four million healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized.
Puppy mill rescue teams are finding more and more designer dogs in farms where dogs are kept in misery— in cages, usually in filthy conditions, in every state in the country. Such dogs are often in poor health. Breeding females are treated like puppy factories, pregnant at every heat for years on end. A breeder may use the same miniature poodle—or cockapoo, which looks like a miniature poodle—to breed labradoodles, maltipoos, schnoodles, affenpoos (affenpinscher-poodles) or jackipoos (Jack Russell terrier-poodles). 
Last week, the HSUS announced it had investigated a large suspected puppy mill in Arkansas on Thursday, and posted a picture of one of the 121 dogs it rescued, a severely matted goldendoodle.
Kathleen Summers, director of outreach and research for the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills Campaign [3], said the HSUS is finding designer dogs in half of all the puppy mills it investigates. 
“The hybrid breeds are very attractive for the puppy mills to produce,” Summers said. “They really cash in on the whole ‘hypoallergenic’ sales pitch that there are some dogs that don’t shed and that won’t aggravate some people’s allergies. Puppy mill breeders try to sell the notion that anything mixed with poodle is going to be hypoallergenic.”
While people research their breeders on the Internet, what they don't know, Summers said, is the amount of false advertising presented in the marketing of the dogs.
"Most of the websites for puppy mills that we've shut down for horrific conditions," Summers said, "say things on their site like 'We don't support puppy mills.'"
No one has lamented the popularity of the doodles more urgently than Wally Conron, who created the first labradoodle. As the puppy-breeding manager at the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia, Conron was trying to fulfill the need for a guide dog from a woman in Hawaii whose husband was allergic to dogs. He bred a standard poodle with a Labrador retriever for this couple. But there was more than one puppy in the litter, and no one on his three- to six-month waiting list for guide dogs wanted a crossbreed. So, "We came up with the name labradoodle," Conron said in a recent interview with the Associated Press. "We told people we had a new dog and all of a sudden, people wanted this wonder dog."
With all the breeds and crossbreeds in the world, Conron says, he is horrified at the proliferation of labradoodles and the other poodle mixes. He blames himself for "creating a Frankenstein.” Instead of breeding out problems, he said, clueless and unscrupulous breeders are breeding them in. 
"For every perfect one," he says, "you're going to find a lot of crazy ones." 
At the Carolina Poodle Rescue, outside Spartanberg, S.C., Donna Ezell, who has been rescuing poodles for 15 years, said that labradoodles and other poodle mixes she sees are not only unpredictable in size, shape and looks, but also in temperament.
"If you have a purebred poodle or a purebred boxer from a reputable breeder," she said, "you know what you're going to get. You know what it's going to look like. You have a pretty good idea of its temperament. With the doodles and maltipoos and all these others, they don't breed true. You can't predict what they'll be. They all look different. They have different temperaments. And some are non-shedding, some are not."
Jacqueline Yorke of the Doodle Rescue Collective, said poodle-mix owners are often surprised to find that they are still allergic to their "hypoallergenic" dogs. "They may be allergic to the dog's saliva, or the skin it sheds or the fur it does shed," she said. "And they've also found out that non-shedding does not mean no work. If the fur doesn't shed, it grows and grows. They need to be mowed down and groomed every six to eight weeks."
Yorke said the rescue has taken in dogs with fur so matted the dogs were unable to relieve themselves; their feces were stuck in their fur.
Time and again, the rescue has fostered dogs with the same health conditions, including hip dysplasia, cataracts, torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, injuries which require expensive surgery, and megaesophagus, a potentially life-threatening disease which causes the dog to choke on its food.
But the primary reason doodles end up in the rescue, Yorke said, are issues with children."We just got three more," she said. "Every one listed 'aggressive with children.'"
The poor dog featured at the beginning of this article ended up being euthanized after he attacked and bit Yorke and was evaluated by veterinarians and trainers who deemed him dangerous. But that kind of extreme situation, Yorke said, is rare.
One bit of good news, Yorke said, is that doodles and other designer dogs are so popular rescues have long waiting lists of potential adopters.
 "We have hundreds on our list," Yorke said. Most will not make the cut when vetted by the group. The rescue will not adopt out doodles to families with small children, for example. The goal is to provide the dogs a permanent home, Yorke said, and not see them back at the rescue.
"We get hate mail all the time from people mad at us for not handing them a dog. They'll say, 'Well, I'm going to a breeder.'"
Her response? Buyer beware. 


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Thanks so much for posting this.  The lady in front of me in the puppy lottery on Saturday, had the good sense to realize that the puppy and her son were not a match.  However, I am sure that this hype is exactly what brought her in with her handicapped son.

Unfortunately, the people who need to read this are busy "researching" about doodles on breeder websites, where all they see is "non-shedding" "hypo-allergenic" "good with kids" "great family dog" "service dog" "healthier than purebreds" and where they are told the ridiculous and biologically impossible story that a doodle will automatically inherit its brains and coat from the poodle and its personality and temperament from the retriever. None of these things are a given, and most of them are simply untrue. Anyone who thinks that genetics work that way needs to take a basic biology course.

Doodles are dogs; plain and simple. Mixed breed dogs. They inherit qualities from all of the breeds involved in their genetics, in random fashion. They are not retrievers who don't shed. They are not living stuffed animals, they are not toys for your kids, they are not better than or different from any other kind of dog. They require a lot of time, a lot of training, a lot of patience, and a lot of maintenance. They also require a committed adult owner who knows something about dogs. Just like every other kind of dog. 

It is an absolute shame that many people give more thought to the type of wine they drink or the video they rent from the red box people in than they do the dogs they acquire.  They seem to consider dogs as disposable commodities rather than cherished family members.  "Oh well!" seems to be the thought processes of these people "If we don't like the dog, there is always the shelter.!"

Then there are people who are too old to seriously consider getting a dog, unless they have a family member or members ready and able to back them up if they are no longer able to care for the dog.  We had a person lie about her age and her daughter tell us a bare faced lie that she would be happy to take the dog if her mom could not care for it.  Mom couldn't and daughter wouldn't!  Luckily the dog came back to us.  Many other dogs are not lucky enough to have a rescue group to save them...

And, of course, there are families who are at their wits end caring for small kiddies who think that a dog (especially a puppy) will be a diversion for their kids. "A living, breathing toy!"

Finally, there are those who don't have the time, the inclination or the ability to train a dog.  I would venture to guess that many-many dogs end up in shelters just because their families have never given them a chance with the proper training.  Dogs, doodles included, can become royal pains in the "you know where" if they are left to their own reasoning as to what correct behavior is.

Our son-in-law and daughter have four rescue dogs (three Maltese and a Labrador) living with them.  One of the rescue dogs had been left in an apartment without food or water when the renters vacated.  He almost died and was skin and bones when he was rescued.  The little guy also had some severe behavioral problems.  It took almost a year of patient training before he reached the point in which he could be called, "a nice dog".  However, his new owners did not give up on him.  Every time we visited our daughter and her husband, we saw improvements in the little guy's behavior.

Today they have a well behaved dog who absolutely adores both of them...

Amen, Richard. 


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