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The labradoodle is a cross between a poodle and a labrador retriever.
The Labradoodle, a cross between a labrador retriever and a poodle was the first "breed" to be labeled a "designer dog." A "designer dog" is a deliberate hybrid cross between two purebred dogs, with the intention of creating a new "breed" with certain positive traits of both parent breeds. A designer dog breed isn't actually a breed in the conventional sense of the word — it's just a mix of two (or more) selected breeds. It is, in a sense, a mutt produced by two purebreds whose ancestry you can confirm. The Irish Doodle is an example of such a hybrid: A cross between an Irish Setter and a Poodle.
In the case of the Labradoodle, for example, the intent was to create a breed of dog that was non-allergenic (the poodle), combined with the gentleness and trainability of the labrador. The goal was admirable: To develop a guide dog for the blind that didn't shed and was suitable for people allergic to fur and dander.
Mother Nature and Designer Dogs
Unfortunately, nature doesn't always cooperate with man's good intentions. While many Labradoodles do indeed combine those particular characteristics of the two breeds, some Labradoodles inherit the labrador's coat rather than the poodle's: They do shed and cause allergy problems. Additionally, just as the dog's physical characteristics can't be predicted, neither can their behavioral characteristics.
With purebred dogs, their physical and behavioral characteristics are pretty reliable, and you can be reasonably sure, when getting a purebred puppy, what that pupply will be like as an adult dog. With a hybrid or designer dog, the puppy can inherit any combination of characteristics from the parents — the puppy may or may not have the particular characteristics you desire from one or the other parent breed.
Genetics, Health, and "Hybrid Vigor"
It's commonly believed that hybrid dogs (or mutts) are usually healthier than purebreds and suffer from fewer genetic problems, such as hip dysplasia. This is indeed often the case — breeding among purebreds can tend to prolong and exacerbate existing genetic tendencies in the purebred line, while mixed breeds are less likely to have two parents with the same genetic predispositions.
But that doesn't mean that all mutts are guaranteed to be healthier than purebreds. A mutt, hybrid, or designer dog that is bred from parents who are both genetically predisposed to hip dysplasia, for example, is just as likely to develop the problem as a purebred with parents that are genetically predisposed. If you're considering acquiring a hybrid or designer dog for health reasons, be sure to check into the health of the parents, as well as their parents, to be sure you're not acquiring a dog with the same predisposition to inherited health problems as a purebred would be.
First Generation and Multi-Generation Crossbreeding
Not all hybrid designer dogs are necessarily a half-and-half result of two purebreeds. Many hybrid breeders will breed second-generation, backcross, or multi-generation crosses: for example, a Labradoodle bred with a Goldendoodle, or a Goldendoodle bred with a Labrador. Such multi-mixing makes for even less predictability with respect to the physical and temperamental traits of the resulting puppies.
Hybrids vs. Mutts
Despite the unpredictability of hybrids in achieving the particular aims of the breeder, they can nevertheless make excellent pets. Just as mutts from the pound can make some of the best pets around, so can hybrid designer dogs. Designer dogs have an advantage over the mutt from the animal shelter: You know the ancestry of the designer dog and can make your own judgment of the health and temperament of the parents. There's no guarantee that the pups will inherit any particular trait from either parent, but so long as the parents, and their parents, are generally healthy and have a good temperament, it's a pretty sure bet that their pups will be, too.
On the other hand, if you want a designer dog purely for health reasons, you might want to check with your local pound or animal shelter. The dogs available for adoption at the pound are often indistinguishable from expensive designer dogs, and are likely to have just as much "hybrid vigor" as any designer dog. Adopting a dog from the shelter can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars, too.
Common Designer Crossbreeds
Some of the most common designer dogs include the following:
Poodles and Designer Dogs
If it seems that poodles come in for more than their fair share of hybrid breeding, that's because poodles don't shed. This makes them not only well suited for people with allergies, but it makes for less work in cleaning up the dog fur that tends to accumulate in households with dogs. Poodles are also extremely intelligent dogs, another highly desirable trait.
The AKC and the ACHC
The American Kennel Club (the well-known AKC), is generally considered as the final arbiter of dog breeds and breed standards. The AKC does not recognize designer dogs as breeds, for a variety of reasons. The ACHC, or American Canine Hybrid Club, specifically recognized crossbreed hybrid dogs produced from purebred ancestry.