Bernese-Xs are becoming more common as the breed increases in popularity.
These x-bred dogs are marketed by their producers as being more healthy
than purebred Bernese Mountain Dogs. They argue that a cross between
two different breeds of dog creates a hybrid that will live longer and
will not be susceptible to the genetic problems of their purebred parents.
In fact the opposite may be true, depending on the carrier status for
genetic diseases of the parents of the cross-bred puppy. The article
below was published in the July 2005 issue of Dogs in Canada.
Although the article talks about Poodle crosses, the information would
apply to any crossbred dog. The BMDCC would like to thank Leslie
Smith for allowing us to post her article on our website.
[The bold case emphasis in the article below was added by the BMDCC
The X-Factor: Designer Breed or Frankenline?
Leslie C. Smith (with
permission of the author)
They’re adorable dogs: cute, cuddly, with
just enough craziness in their personalities to make them interesting.
Their owners can't seem to praise them enough; their breeders boast of big
waiting lists and even bigger payouts on each new litter of pups.
So what's not to love about the goldendoodle,
a.k.a. "dood" in the vernacular, the Golden Retriever/Standard Poodle mix
that is the latest crossbred canine fad?
According to purebred breeders, lots.
"Any crossbred dog is a mutt," says Elaine
Whitney, a respected international all-breed judge and Miniature Poodle
breeder of some 40 years' experience. "New owners think they are
getting the best of both breeds and, hopefully, they are. But
unfortunately they could also get the worst of both breeds."
Whitney goes on to excoriate crossbreeders as
people who perform "no genetic testing" on their animals, because "their
reasoning is that since it is a 'new breed' it won't have any genetic
problems. Wrong. They have, in fact, doubled up on many genetic
Despite Whitney's assertion about the genetic
testing, there is evidence that some Gen-X breeders do try to avoid
pairing up parents with latent medical conditions. The problem is that
this testing process is unregulated and spotty at best.
She is correct, though, in denying doods "new
breed" status. The kennel club definition of a breed is "a domestic race
of dogs (selected and maintained by man) with a common gene pool and a
characterized appearance(phenotype) and function.
No Poodle cross, from the popular cockapoo
that first started the craze back in the early 1970s, through to
labradoodles (developed in 1988 for the Royal Guide Dogs in Australia) and
goldendoodles (created in the mid-1990s) is capable of "throwing true,"
breeding terminology for a group whose offspring exhibit the exact same
characteristics over successive generations.
Because these crosses do not share a common
gene pool, their offspring - whether mated with another cross or a
purebred - will all be different from each other. In a single litter of
pups, coat colour can vary wildly, hair texture can come out curly, wavy
or straight, propensity toward shedding can be normal, low or absent, and
hypoallergic status is always a crapshoot.
Veterinarian and Poodle breeder Joanne
Reichertz, D.V.M., delves even deeper into the issue of these designer
dogs in her article 'Oodles Of Poodle Crosses For Sale,' published in the
July/August 2004 issue of The Poodle Review: "Goldendoodles are considered
[by their breeders] a hybrid dog, a first generation cross between two
breeds, and as such they are supposed to exhibit a quality called 'hybrid
vigour'... more correctly called heterosis." In truth, Reichertz goes on
to say, "True hybrids are the product of breeding two different
species. Domestic dogs are the same species." While
heterosis is occasionally beneficial to a cattle farmer, who may end up
with a crossbred cow that grows faster and eats less, thus maximizing his
profit margin, "it is not necessarily useful in breeding dogs," Reichertz
None of this nay-saying, however, is
preventing people from purchasing doods in record numbers and at record
prices (some reportedly go for as much as $1,500) as evidenced by the
sheer amount of golden-haired moppets to be found chasing each other
around city parks.
If one did entertain doubts about the wisdom
of obtaining a Poodle cross, there are literally thousands of web sites
out there lauding the new "breed's" attributes and benefits. One
self-described "country vet" expounds at length on the miracles of
heterosis: "When unrelated breeds of any animal species are mated the
offspring in the first generation [his italics] will be more
healthy, fertile, and (in animals) mentally stable than either parent
Perhaps, if you are a mule (horse/donkey mix), a beefalo (cattle/buffalo
mix) or a liger (lion/tiger mix), although these mixes are usually
sterile. But Golden Retrievers - or Cocker Spaniels, Labradors and the
legion of other dog breeds that have been mated with Poodles - are not, as
Reichertz points out, unrelated. In fact, they are very closely
related. And any slight health or temperament bonus you might get from a
mixed breed would disappear completely in the second generation.
Other breeder web sites offer the same
distinction about first-generation mixes. Most are also wary enough to
hedge their, and prospective owners', bets about any particular pup
growing up to possess a non-shedding, hypoallergenic coat, which is the
hallmark of the Poodle and the main selling point of the goldendoodle.
They are quite aware that the chances of this happening are only 50-50.
Arguments over hybrid vigour aside, there's
another very good reason to be leery of crosses such as doods.
Since these mixes can inherit the uglier side of genetics as well, they
run the risk of being prone to more medical conditions than either
The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, a U.S.
institution dedicated to collating and disseminating information on
orthopaedic and genetic diseases of animals, lists dog breeds in order of
their at-risk status for a wide range of inherited problems. Golden
Retrievers, for instance, rank number 29 for hip dysplasia, 21 for elbow
dysplasia and 19 for congenital cardiac disease, while Poodles are ranked,
respectively, 68, 57 and 41 in the same categories. On the other hand,
Poodles rank higher than Golden Retrievers in patellar luxation (number
nine, compared to 15) and are more at risk for skin problems and eye
diseases, including corneal dystrophy.
With the cards thus stacked against the
success of the Gen-X dood, will their flame finally flicker out and die?
There is a good likelihood this will happen; and sooner rather than later,
given that most trends come to a quick end. Helping spur matters on
is the legion of get-rich-quick backyard breeders who are spewing out
doods to meet the demand. Poor-quality stock, haphazard kennel
conditions, lack of appropriate nurturing and socialization will all tell
In the fashion business, you know a trend is
over when it turns up at Wal-Mart. For dog breeding, the same holds true
when local humane societies start getting flooded with hoards of rejects.
Buyers may be shelling out big bucks now, but
ultimately it is always the unwanted pups that are forced to pay the
Leslie C. Smith is a
frequent contributor to a number of national magazines, and her byline has
appeared in virtually every major Canadian newspaper, including the
National Post and The Globe and Mail.