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Are Labradoodles and Cockapoos Simply Mutts?

It has been a while since there has been any controversy on this blog. However, an article from a recent issue of Veterinary Economics may...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Jul 22nd 2008


It has been a while since there has been any controversy on this blog. However, an article from a recent issue of Veterinary Economics may stir things up.

The terms of use of the hosting website prohibit me from both linking to the article and quoting directly from it. Please click on the link to see what the author (Melody Heath, DVM) has to say in her own words.

But, to paraphrase, here is her thesis. Shih Poos, Schnoodles, Labradoodles, Cockapoos and other dogs that are descended from two parents of different breeds are mutts. People who buy them are being ripped off. They are buying mixed-breed dogs (that always seem to be half Poodle) at purebred prices.

And she goes a step further. She claims that it is unethical to purchase a mixed-breed dog. Why pay $1500 for a mixed-breed dog when so many other mutts are languishing in shelters and facing euthanasia for lack of a home?

Do I agree? Partly. By definition, any dog that is not purebred is a mutt. So Dr. Heath is definitely right on that score. However, first generation mutts benefit from a phenomenon known as hybrid vigor. The principle of hybrid vigor states that the direct progeny of two inbred (read: purebred) parents will, on average, be heartier and more robust than either parent.

So, although Cocker Spaniels are prone to chronic ear infections and Poodles suffer disproportionately from heart disease, a first generation Cockapoo is less likely to develop either problem than his parents. And, his personality may be predictable–much like a purebred dog. Every Cockapoo I’ve met has been a really great dog.

Sadly, the benefits of hybrid vigor (and the predictable nature of personalities) dissipate in subsequent generations. Most geneticists would agree that if two Labradoodles mate their progeny will, definitively, be mutts.

What about the ethics of purchasing a “designer mutt” when shelter dogs are in need of homes? From the shelter dog’s point of view, the pedigree of the dog you purchase is irrelevant. If you want to save a shelter dog, don’t pay a breeder for any type of dog. Go to the pound.

Like any good argument, I can see a bit of logic to both sides of this one. I welcome your retorts and input in the comments section.