Poodle Hybrids – Are They Superior Pets?

by Janice Biniok

It’s so adorable and fluffy you can’t tell if it’s real or stuffed. The breeder says it will be small, intelligent, shedless and have a temperament to please everyone in the family. It’s a poodle hybrid puppy and you think you’ve finally found the perfect pet.

Poodle hybrids are produced by crossbreeding a purebred poodle with another breed, and they come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. They even have cute names like Cockapoo, Yorkiepoo, Llasapoo or Maltipoo, which belies the fact they are of mixed descent and gives them the impression of being breeds of their own. Although condemned by some purebred dog breeders as a way to create more “mutts” in our society, the practice of producing hybrid dogs “on purpose” has found popularity in the pet market.

Breeders of hybrid dogs claim the right combination of purebreds can produce superior temperaments as well as other desirable traits without sacrificing intelligence and irresistibly cute looks. Poodles in particular have been used to create a great variety of hybrids for several decades. They have a number of desirable traits, which they pass on to their offspring, most importantly their intelligence, non-shed hair and medium to small size.

“The American Cockapoo (Cocker Spaniel-Poodle cross) is popular because they don’t shed or have doggy odor and they are great with children,” says Josie Montanari, president of the Cockapoo Club of America. “Because Cockapoos love people and are adorable, many people who meet them…want one.” The non-shed hair is definitely a big seller. Although there really is no such thing as a shedless dog, some breeds do tend to shed less or retain shedded hair and dander in their coats. This makes Poodle hybrids very appealing because there is less dog hair in the house to clean up and less source of allergens for those who are sensitive to dog dander.

To add more frosting to the cake, there is a distinct genetic advantage of crossbreeding purebred dogs. Combining two breeds from unrelated gene pools results in what breeders refer to as “hybrid vigor” and geneticists call “heterosis.””Not only is heterosis related to a decrease in the incidence of genetic defects, but also to an increase in traits like fertility, survival, and growth rate,” says Denny Crews, Jr., Ph.D., genetic research scientist.

Purebreds that have been subject to generations of inbreeding are susceptible to genetic flaws such as hip displasia, thyroid conditions, eye problems, deafness and high-strung or aggressive temperaments, among many others. “After several generations of inbreeding, recessive genes which normally occur at very low frequency begin to accumulate within a breed and the likelihood that a puppy (will receive a copy of the defect gene from both parents) increases and the genetic defect expresses itself in the puppy,” Crew says. “Out breeding (mating within the same breed to unrelated lines) or crossbreeding will reduce the incidence of genetic defects…”

If a poodle hybrid now sounds like an even better idea and you’re ready to let your heart get carried away with that teddy-faced little puppy, you need to consider the following:

Predictable offspring can only be obtained in 1st generation hybrids.

Second-generation hybrids can have an unpredictable variety of traits tending anywhere from one purebred ancestor to the other purebred ancestor, due to the greater number of gene combinations that are produced. Your 2nd generation hybrid may look more like a Cocker Spaniel than a Cockapoo. It is only through many generations of selective breeding that a stable, predictable offspring can be produced by combining hybrids.

That wonderful shedless coat? It doesn’t always mean hypoallergenic. All dogs produce dander and other secretions that are the main sources of human allergies to dogs. An allergy sufferer’s tolerance to any dog depends on the severity of the allergy, whether the allergy sufferer is willing to take steps to avoid allergic reactions, and what type of coat a hybrid has inherited from the parent breeds, which can tend anywhere from non-shed to moderate shed.

You also need to consider that curly coats may be more prone to tangles and require professional grooming and clipping to keep them looking good. This is an added responsibility and expense in maintaining these types of dogs.

Just like purebreds, hybrid dogs are no better than the parents from which they came, and there may be more incidence of poor breeding due to the lack of standards for hybrid dogs. Standards are the particular traits and features that breeders strive to obtain from their breeding efforts.

Although some breeders have developed their own standards for their crossbreeds, most do not have universalized standards set by a dog club or other organization. Without universalized standards, some breeders may like to perpetuate the sturdy body of the Cocker Spaniel while others aim for the leaner structure of the Poodle. You may expect curls and end up with frizz.

When purchasing a hybrid dog, it is just as important to evaluate the breeder, as it is the breeding. Puppy mills are involved in producing a great number of hybrid dogs to capitalize on the pet market’s demand, so be sure you know where your puppy is coming from and meet the sire and dam if possible. Investigate and interview a breeder before you venture out to look at a pup because, let’s face it, once you have a look at those jewel eyes and button nose, it’s easy to become captivated and forget to protect yourself from a future heartache.

Even though hybrid dogs cannot be registered with the AKC, you can still request a copy of the AKC papers for the parent dogs, or a pedigree which will show the lineage of the sire and dam. There are currently 146 different breeds of dogs recognized as purebreds by the AKC, offering more than enough diversity in size, color, temperament, coat type and activity level to satisfy just about any dog owner. However, there are always going to be pet owners who seek something a little different and poodle hybrids seem to fit the bill.

Whether or not they make superior pets depends on the same criteria that apply to any breed or species, that is, an animal’s physical characteristics, temperament and care requirements need to be acceptable to a particular pet owner. Any dog can become a superior pet if the dog and owner are a good match for each other.