Facts About Hybrid Dogs Unethical Breeders Don't Want You to Know

A Popular Hybrid Dog: The Goldendoodle


What's a Hybrid Dog Really?

What are hybrid dogs exactly, why are they so costly, and is hybrid vigor in dogs true or is it a myth? I was wondering about this when I met a goldendoodle who suffered from major health issues, and not only had several temperament issues on top of all that. Sadly, the owner confessed that she had been told about how this breed was superior in many ways to the purebred counterparts because of hybrid vigor. In this case, it turned out hybrid vigor wasn't very much in force. As I discussed this with other trainers, they also reported a high number of doodle dogs with health and temperament problems. In this article, we will take a glimpse into the interesting world of canine genetics, see why some designer dogs are so costly and tackle studies on hybrid vigor.

They Aren't Purebred Dogs

Goldendoodle, labradoodle, maltipoo, shischon—these are just a few names portraying the hundreds of hybrid dogs who nowadays populate the world. Their cutesie designer "mutt" names may suggest dogs belonging to some prestigious breed, but turns out though that a hybrid dog, also known as "designer dog," is not a purebred dog at all.

A purebred dog by definition is a dog who has been selectively bred over many generations to "breed true." When a dog breeds true it means that every puppy produced will look alike and share the same characteristics. It's almost as if these dogs are crafted with a cookie cutter which roughly produces dogs with similar traits. Rottweilers come in black and tan colors, Dalmatians come with spots, dachshunds come with long backs, shar-pei come with wrinkles and great danes come with their impressively tall statures. So when you plan to get a purebred puppy of a certain breed, you can rest assured you know for a good extent what you will be getting. These traits are what makes dog breeds so valuable to us; they come with that special look we have enjoyed throughout the years.

Breed standards were crafted so that breeders (hopefully!) follow certain guidelines to ensure their purebred dogs follow the ideal description of the breed. In dog shows, judges evaluate dogs based on the standard (hopefully!) and the closest the dog gets to it, generally the better.

They are Wild Cards Genetically

When it comes to hybrid dogs, these dogs are the product of two purebred dogs being crossed. According to the New World Encyclopedia, "In biology, a hybrid is the offspring of individuals of different taxonomic groups or, in another sense, an offspring of crosses between populations, breeds, or cultivars within a single species." To be more specific, we are not talking about hybrids derived from crossing different species here, those are called interspecific hybrids, but about intraspecific hybrids just like Mendel's hybrid peas, known as F1 hybrids.

The term hybrid in this article is used to depict "the mix of two animals of different breeds " A hybrid dog is therefore not a breed and therefore, as we have seen, is not purebred. Unlike purebred dogs, these dogs do not breed true, this means that like a shot in the dark, or crap shoot if you will, when you cross two purebred dogs you'll likely be getting a puppy with mixed traits that cannot be reliably predicted. Therefore, you'll have to expect to see any combination of characteristics found in either of the parent breeds. Because hybrid dogs lack reliable traits and they're not a breed, there's no official breed standard for them. To put it bluntly, some people call hybrids a "glorified mutt" with a hefty price tag. Indeed, their costs often easily surpass the price of purebred dogs!

Instead of breeding out problems, clueless and unscrupulous breeders are breeding them in. For every perfect one, you're going to find a lot of crazy ones.

— Wally Conron-Creator of the Labradoodle

Did You Know?

"A new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis, indicates that mixed breeds don’t necessarily have an advantage when it comes to inherited canine disorders." UC Davis Press Release

They are Overbred

A problem with hybrid dogs is that they often become quite popular, and when a dog gets very popular, the wrong types of breeders get involved. So, what may start as a good thing ends up getting out of hand. Soon, dogs get overbred, causing careless breeding without paying attention to health or temperament while aiming just for the mighty dollar. Labradoodles and goldendoodles are often made popular because they're marketed as hypo-allergenic, non-shedding and odor-free—something that attracts many allergy sufferers. The truth is, no dog is totally hypoallergenic as the causes for allergies may vary from one person and another. There are many causes of dog allergies that go past the fur. This sales pitch brings in lots of interest because people think they are dealing with some sort of wonder dog.

Wally Conron, the person who created the first labradoodle by breeding a Lab with a poodle in his quest for finding the perfect guide dog for a woman in Hawaii whose husband was allergic to dogs, feels somewhat responsible for the spread of "Frankensteinen" designer dogs with horrible temperaments and a plethora of health issues. He claims: "Instead of breeding out problems, clueless and unscrupulous breeders are breeding them in. For every perfect one, you're going to find a lot of crazy ones."

Additionally, sadly, many hybrid dogs are mass produced on puppy farms and the puppies are poorly socialized and often removed too early from the litter which may result in serious behavior problems down the road!

They Aren't Necessarily Healthier

There's this common belief that hybrid dogs are much healthier than purebred dogs, a phenomenon known as "hybrid vigor" or in scientific terms "heterosis." This phenomenon has often been used by unethical breeders to advertise their hybrid dogs as superior so they could ask exorbitant prices, but how true is this? This conventional wisdom likely stems from the belief that shallow gene pools, as often seen in purebred dogs, predisposes them to inherit health problems and loss of vigor (inbreeding depression) which includes lower sperm count, lower conception rates, smaller litter sizes and shorter lifespans. It's a known fact that the introduction of another breed or even a different line of the same breed adds genetic variety which adds vitality. This is known as "hybrid vigor" and it's a strategy long-time dog breeders have been implementing in their breeding programs, explains Carol Beuchat, a vertebrate biologist with PhD in animal physiology.

So is variety really the spice of life when it comes to genetics and is hybrid vigor the secret recipe for a healthy dog? Perhaps, but not in the way that some unethical breeders portray it. A study on hybrid vigor speaks volumes when it comes to heritable health conditions and offers a different view of the story.

According to a large, five-year old study conducted by Thomas P. Bellumori et al. and published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, after analyzing more than 90,000 health records, it was found that no difference was seen among purebred and crossbred dogs when it came to the incidence of 13 heritable conditions. There were only a few exceptions where it was actually found that some hereditary conditions remain isolated to specific breeds, but other than that, the superior health benefits claimed by breeders seem to be a myth.

However, it must be said that this is often the result of poor breeding practices which focus more on conformation and certain traits, rather than health. For instance, if Labradors which are prone to hip problems are crossbred with poodles who are prone to eyesight problems you may end up with puppies prone to both conditions, explains Marc Abraham, a popular veterinarian making appearances on TV in the UK. Claims by unethical breeders stating that hybrids are healthier and get the best of both worlds from their parents are quite unfounded. “It's a nice story, but when you tell it, geneticists laugh" claims Stanley Coren, professor and author of the book 'Why do Dogs Have Wet Noses?"

For a list of health disorders common for each dog breed and suggested testing visit the Canine Health Information Center website

"A new study on the prevalence of inherited disorders among American mixed breed and purebred dogs has negated the common assumption that a mixed breed dog is always healthier than a purebred dog" .

— Quickfall 2013

Hybrid Dogs: Best of Both Worlds or Worst of Both Worlds?

A bad apple though doesn't have to spoil the batch. This article is not meant to give hybrid dogs a bad rap. I have met wonderful hybrids and not-so-wonderful purebreds. Also, it's always good practice to see both sides of the story to make a good argument. The take-home message I guess is to practice caution as hybrid dogs aren't necessarily the healthy, wonder dogs with terrific temperaments as they're often portrayed to be. Here is some food for thought.

A Starting Point

Hybrids aren't necessarily badly bred. There are wonderful hybrid breeders who health test and temperament test their purebred breeding stock before allowing them to mate. They breed for hybrids in the same way as they would breed for purebreds. If we think about it, in the old days, somewhere along the lines, dogs with desirable traits were matched and bred repeatedly over the years and that has led to the purebred dogs we see today. People who argue that creating hybrids is like designing dogs' bodies must understand that dogs were crafted this way for hundreds of years ever since selective breeding practices took place. Only difference is that selective breeding in the past was mostly done over the years to create the perfect herding dogs, hunting dogs, and in some cases, lap dogs. There are chances that some designer dogs we see today may get recognized one day as a true breed if in the right hands of knowledgeable breeders. By cross breeding, this is how several recent breeds have obtained recognition.

Pleasant Looking Dogs

Let's face it: many designer dogs look adorable, but are they worthy of costing hundreds if not thousands of dollars? Most likely not, especially if they are bred by backyard breeders which may lead to additional costs with the potential health issues popping up. Your best bet is to look for breeders who health test their breeding stock, but these dogs may cost as much as purebred dogs.

If you fell in love with hybrid dogs or are looking for an eye-catching dog that'll make heads turn without costing a fortune, consider that you can often find many hybrids at the shelter for a fraction of the cost. These dogs can be just as unique as the expensive designer dogs with cutesie names advertised on the newspaper. Best of all, when adopting, what you see is generally what you get as the chances for major "guess work" are practically eliminated. The only difference is that often instead of being purposely bred by mating purebred dogs, these mixed breeds are likely the result of an accidental breeding (think momma's mutt falling in love with your neighbor's mutt) or an intentional breeding where one or both parents were not purebred dogs. Just keep in mind that they are dogs, and as such, they have needs and aren't meant to be used as fashion accessories a-la-Paris Hilton style nor attention-grabbers because of their unusual looks!

A Vast Array of Choices

While it's saddening that there are so many unethical breeders and puppy mills pumping out designer dogs at astounding rates, on the bright side we can say that there's quite an assortment of hybrids available that can match every taste.To see an extensive list of hybrid dogs, visit the American Canine Hybrid Club.

So with that many choices, if you like a certain purebred dog but it's too large or active, some hybrids may offer the looks of that breed but with the advantage of coming in a smaller package or coming with a calmer disposition--even though this isn't always the rule as we have seen how traits can be quite unpredictable! So the good thing is that sometimes hybrid dogs can offer solutions to what would otherwise make life difficult it they were a purebred dog.

Possibly Healthier Specimens

Wait! Didn't you show studies making claims of how hybrids often inherit health problems and hybrid vigor is a myth? Well, let's face it: studies sometimes miss important aspects, and we need to admit that some purebred dog breeds are plagued with several health disorders that can be quite scary. For instance, the English bulldog has a long list of health problems that can be quite frightening and impressive to deal with. The same can be said of many brachycephalic dog breeds with smudged-in faces. So if say you like the pug but you don't like to deal with snorting and breathing difficulties, a puggle (the mix between a pug and beagle) may offer an alternative since they often turn out having a longer, healthier nose. So ultimately, some purebred dog breeds with bodies that make them prone to health issues can be somewhat "bettered" in the health department, but only if breeders know what they are doing, if they're conscientious in health testing and are also somewhat lucky to not end up with a dog displaying a host of health problems.

Knowledge is Power

Hybrids are cute, they have cool names and there are many types, but they don't always turn out to be the wonder dogs some breeders portray them to be. But isn't this ultimately true of all dogs? If you really want a hybrid, you can take a peak at your shelter for an older dog, or if you want a puppy, you can look for a good breeder, but it's important to conduct good research before purchasing a hybrid dog. Just as when searching for purebred dogs, perspective designer dog owners should look for ethical breeders who health test both parent breeds to lower the chances for heritable conditions from being passed on. Consider though that not many ethical breeders are interested in creating a hybrid dog, so be very careful.

For instance, the Labrador Retriever Club warns that Labradoodles are nothing more than an expensive crossbred and clearly states its opposition to deliberately crossing Labrador Retrievers with other breeds as it's an attempt to mislead the public about advantages that aren't true. Knowledge is power, so look for healthy specimens bred by responsible breeders willing to health test, breed for good temperaments, give health guarantees and take back puppies if there should ever be any problems. Yes, you can find code-of-ethics breeders even for hybrids!

The Bottom Line

Hybrids are unique, they have intriguing names, and they come in a vast array of shapes, colors and sizes, but hybrid dogs aren't purebred dogs, they are not a breed, they don't have breed standards to adhere to and they're very costly for being bred often with little interest in the health and temperament department. Hybrids are also often portrayed as hypoallergenic, but allergies can be caused by many other things than fur, and because hybrids are like wild cards genetically, their non-shedding coat qualities cannot be reliably predicted.

Hybrids are also not immune from health issues as often claimed. They may suffer from heritable health conditions passed down from the parent breeds. So the take-home message is to use caution and if you happen to hear a breeder asking a premium and making claims of no need for health testing because hybrid vigor will magically wipe all health problems off the face of the earth, don't walk away but run!


Institute of Canine Biology: The myth of hybrid vigor in a myth

Healthy Pets: The Surprising Truth About Mixed Breed Dogs

Hybrid Dogs: Designer Breeds or Mutts?

Would you purchase a hybrid dog?

  • Why not, they're cute as can be and I would be willing pay the high prices!
  • Only from a good breeder who health tests.
  • Only from a shelter
  • No, I prefer purebreds
See results without voting

© 2015 Adrienne Janet Farricelli

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Comments 20 comments

Bob Bamberg profile image

Bob Bamberg 15 months ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

Interesting and helpful hub, Adrienne. In my daily dealings with pet owners I talk with a lot of "designer dog" owners. It seems that most of them talk about their dogs with a certain degree of reverence, as if it was something special. When designer dogs first started cropping up here in my neck of the woods, I heard a vet tell one of her techs, "Yeah, the shelters are full of designer dogs," implying that they were just what most people call mutts.

Breeders, as a group, have lost a lot of credibility with vets, and this phenomenon is apparently one of the reasons. For breeders, there is no licensure, minimum competency standards, continuing education credits, or other checks and balances. Anyone with a pregnant dog can call themselves a breeder and be bound only by current state and local laws and ordinances. Caveat emptor. Voted up, useful and interesting.

Dressage Husband profile image

Dressage Husband 15 months ago from Pine Grove, Nova Scotia, Canada

I think everything said here is true. While some of the positive traits may get transmitted the Goldendoodles are often quite obnoxious in their behavior.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 15 months ago from USA Author

Thanks for stopping by Bob, your insights are always appreciated, thanks for the votes up.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 15 months ago from USA Author

Dressage husband, I feel for the breeder who now feels bad these dogs took a turn for the worst due to mass production and bad breeding practices.

Chantelle Porter profile image

Chantelle Porter 15 months ago from Chicago

I think most doodles are so cute. However it seems everyone is on the bandwagon to mix with poodles and make a fast buck. These aren't handbags they are animals and more care needs to be taken by breeders and consumers to ensure the health of pets. The dogs shouldn't have to suffer.

lawrence01 profile image

lawrence01 15 months ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

Our dog Barney us a purebred Cairn Terrier. We don't have the papers to prove it aa he was uplifted as a pup wheb really young from a breeder who was getting too old and the SPCA had to step in.

Before that we had whatever mutt was in need of a home. We love Barney and he's got real character but truth is there's no difference between the "Mutt" and the purebred healthwise!

Really enjoyed the hub and next time tge wife asks for a labradoodle I know where to come for an argument against it!



I find it interesting that both the Golden retriever and the Poodle are working dogs by nature. They just don't (shouldn't) be the silly things we want to make them. Its not fair on the dog or the owner!

t-inam 2 months ago

no such thing as "good" breeders, or "bad" breeders - except in the sense , are they producing a viable being, yes, no. This is breeder competition propaganda. Everyone who breeds dogs will be producing dogs which are below par : each litter will have its runts and problem dogs - some problems, physical ones, will be immediately apparent, some will be inherited health problems, some will be temperament problems. Very few breeders can (or wish) to offload problem dogs to remain in the breeding pool as competition, therefore they will have the surplus and problem dogs destroyed :Rubbishing the competition by claiming they are less "caring", or "ineffectual", or even "cruel" keeps competition down.

Breeders have a business to run and a profit to make (I personally wouldn't do it) but if you want a dog, and you specifically want a good chance of getting a dog that suits you, then breeders are a necessary evil and you have to accept that there will be a large proportionofdogsdestroyed

Katb 2 months ago

Please re-write this article using correct terms.

Hybrid= offspring of two different species, ie a liger, lion and tiger hybrid.

Mutt=offspring of two dogs of different breeds.

alexadry profile image

alexadry 2 months ago from USA Author

Katb, those are called interspecific hybrids. Here we are talking about a different type of hybrids, In biology, hybrid has two meanings. According to Science Direct, "The first meaning is the result of interbreeding between two animals or plants of different taxa ( interspecific hybrids or crosses) The second meaning of "hybrid" is crosses between populations, breeds or cultivars of a single species."(intraspecific)

Bonnie 2 months ago

The few mentions of cost of these deliberate mutts is way off.

I have bred and exhibited purebred dogs for 40+ years and I have had some really good ones that won a lot.

Nevertheless, I have never asked $2-3,000 for a puppy! In fact, I have GIVEN away more puppies than sold just because I knew that the home was excellent.

A mature dog, with a good pedigree and a winning record may be in the thousands of dollars, if one would even sell such a dog. But a puppy? You have little idea what that puppy will turn out to be as far as showing goes. And for someone wanting a pet? Thousands of dollars? No way. Good homes are far more important than gouging people who are great homes.

C Lynn Kiaer 2 months ago

Language defines the argument. By using a scientific word like hybrid, you create a subtext that the breeding of these dogs has some scientific validity. You go on to suggest that some of these breedings might turn into registered breeds, which further validates these breedings. Call them cross-breds: that is what they are. Call them mutts. Acknowledge that the breeders of these cross-bred dogs typically have less than stellar examples of the purebred parents, because the good ones, carefully bred by serious breeders, most of whom have devoted years of their lives to breeding healthy, temperamentally sound, correct dogs of their chosen breed, and are not likely to sell their best quality dogs (or any dog, really) to someone who wants to use that dog to produce mutts. Your article implies that these cross-bred dogs, while pricey, cost less than a well-bred purebred. Some breeds - often large breeds who require that the breeder have more resources (land to exercise the dogs, food, etc.) - may be more expensive than the so-called designer dogs, but many well-bred purebreds typically cost $1000 or less, while most something-doodles are at least $1500 in the northeast. Yes, there are responsible breeders of cross-bred dogs - some of whom are really trying to gain acceptance for a new breed. But this article implies that such breeders could be found just by asking a few questions. Responsible breeders of purebreds can be found at dog shows (look at the web sites of the organizations holding dog shows to find one near you - the AKC and UKC in the US, the CKC in Canada, the Kennel Club in the UK, the FCI in many other countries - to find one. They can also be found (or at least, you can ask to competitors with dogs you like who bred their dog) at agility trials, obedience and rally trials, dock diving events, ... Many of those events (pretty much all except dog shows) also allow cross-bred dogs to compete. The tone of this post is that you can get an adorable hybrid dog who is happy and healthy if you just ask the right questions. It takes a little more than that, and you will be looking for a long time before you get the right answers.

Kim 2 months ago

It's totally impossible to make everybody happy! If the author would have mentioned mutt or crossbred, then there would be oodles of people complaining about those terms. There's nothing wrong about hybrids, and those who ever studied plants or basic breeding know about F1 and F2 hybrids. Just as simple as that! This article is carrying an important message, and that's all that counts, buyer beware!

Steven 2 months ago

I think the term hybrid is totally correct and have no problem with that. I was foolish enough to get one and back then these were called "designer dogs."

Craigmers 2 months ago

An awesome read, sharing it around. People need to be more aware of this, thanks!

Kelly17 2 months ago

To all those complaining about the term hybrid, it is totally correct. To that person saying that it's not good to use the scientific term as it validates these unethical breeders, consider that it's needed so to debunk the "hybrid vigor" advantage that so many breeders claim of.

Farkle profile image

Farkle 2 months ago

OK, here is a clarification from my research conducted as this intrigued me. The term mutt is indicative of inferior dogs, I would never ever suggest use of that term as it would offend many owners of mutts, (bless their hearts, these dogs make great companions, why give them such as awful label?!)

The term mixed breed is also incorrect because it implies a dog that was the result of an accidental breeding, and is of unknown ancestry.

Hybrid is the needed term here as it implies intentional breeding of purebred dogs something that mutts and mixed breeds are NOT.

Crossbred may be OKish, but it is also inaccurate as my references says "Hybrids are also known as crossbreeds or crossbreds, although the term crossbreed is also used to refer to a mixed-breed dog where the breed of only one parent or grandparent is known." So again, nope, sorry to say, crossbred won't fit either, so ladies and gentlemen, hybrid is the winner word here, like it or not, it's the correct term.

Anyhow, regardless of terminology (who gives a dam about nit-picky semantics anyway!), the point of this article comes loud and clear: buyer beware! I fell into the trap once and never again after spending tons of $$$ on the costly dog.

Healthy Babe 2 months ago

Farkle, can I give you a hug? You did a marvelous job explaining that! I own a "mutt" and yes, I hate that label, so stereotypical of a non-valuable dog. My princess baby has no price tag, because she's the very best thing that happened to me in life. She is more worthy to me than the most expensive multi-title champion dog in world. What about the term mongrel? What does it mean exactly, I see it pop up every now and then in dog forums.

Alexadry, loved this article, very helpful and insightful!

Dobebcmom 2 months ago

Mixed breed dogs are not hybrids. A hybrid would be a dog crossed with a wolf or coyote, not a different breed of dog.

Shelly Wiggins 8 weeks ago

I think MIXED-BREEDS would have been the preferable TERM when writing this GREAT article. Hybrid is a somewhat confusing and basically incorrect term, and using it just reinforces that these mix-breeds are somehow unique and health-wise are healthier animals.

Wonderdog 8 weeks ago

I think the author astutely and purposely used the term hybrid for a noble purpose: telling the truth about what's truly going on with these dogs. Let's face it: unethical breeders use the term to imply hybrid vigor so the term is wide spread, what will people therefore look up to learn more about these dogs? It won't likely be mutts and it won't likely be mixed breed. So yes, you got it, it'll be hybrid dogs. So kudos for this choice of word.

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