Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: Getty Images
You can find one-year-old Ruby Schwartz strolling down a certain stretch of Seventh Avenue in Park Slope each morning, greeting every person, place, and thing with a big smile and a warm hug. Ruby is gentle, desperately friendly, and perpetually furry, but she’s not unique. Ruby is a dog, by the way. A tan, straight-haired cockapoo (a cocker spaniel/poodle mix) who closely resembles a Pickles, a Cooper, an Ozzie, a Loki, a Bronzely, a Roti, and a Snoopy. , Shelby, Winnie, and of course Ginger, all real dogs of a similar breed that belong to my neighbors, who brought them home apparently simultaneously sometime in the last few years. A completely lovable invasive species, if you will.
Look around the park, the farmer’s market, the outskirts of the suburban football field, anywhere, really; it is impossible not to notice that they are everywhere and there are so many of them. A stuffed animal with a button nose live! The modern farm look of dog breeds: approachable, calm, bougie. (For the record: I love them too and may or may not secretly want one, because I’m human.)
A “doodle” is a dog that is part purebred poodle, part something else. Popular combos include the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever and Poodle), Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever and Poodle), Bernedoodle (Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle), Sheepadoodle (Sheepdog and Poodle), Cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Poodle) , and the Australian Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever, Poodle, and Cocker Spaniel). “There’s pretty much any combination you can think of these days,” says Shelby Semel, a New York City-based dog behavior expert and trainer. “As we’ve seen dog ownership increase in general, we’ve also seen a big increase in doodle dogs specifically.”
The first doodles were bred in the 1980s in Australia by a man named Wally Conron, who hoped to create a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dogs. Conron wanted all of the highly desirable traits of the poodle, that they do not shed and are therefore less likely to cause allergy sufferers discomfort and that they are also considered intelligent and athletic, while adding some qualities from other breeds than the people have. come to worship: the calm and affable labrador; the sweet, faithful gold; the beautiful and gentle Bernese.
Even better, a Doodle doesn’t have the obvious “poodle” like froufrou “show dog” haircut or the perception that they are high-strung and high-maintenance.
The problem is some doodles. do to one degree or another, and any breeder who tells you the pup they’re selling with 100 percent safety won’t shed a hair isn’t telling the truth, says Karen, co-founder of the national doodle organization Doodle Rescue Collective. who requested that we not include her last name, and who over the past decade and a half has helped relocate hundreds of doodle dogs in the Chicago area, many of whom came to her after owners discovered their dogs shed more hair than they wanted.
“There isn’t really a specific gene for shedding, although there are a few other coat-related genes that breeders see as kind of surrogate markers,” she says. “So it’s always going to be a gamble. For me, saying that a dog is ‘low moult’ is like ‘a little pregnant’.”
There is no such thing as a completely “hypoallergenic” dog, says Jodi Novak, a veterinarian in Altamont, N.Y., because all dogs of all breeds have dander (also known as dandruff or skin flakes) and saliva, both of which contain the protein that can cause allergies. Poodles don’t shed (and they don’t drool too much), but their dander is much more likely to get trapped next to their skin rather than being spread in the hair around the house or on clothes, as it is with shedding dogs. While some people can adjust to a lifestyle that involves taking a Claritin every day, others have more serious allergies that can make it miserable. “Unfortunately, this misconception is often perpetuated by unscrupulous marketers benefiting from unassuming optimism.”
For his part, Conron has said he regrets opening a “Pandora’s box” that inadvertently started a miscegenation frenzy. He has claimed that most of today’s mofheads are “crazy” or have a “hereditary problem”. While that’s probably an exaggeration, some doodles can be tricky, says Semel, which is a big part of why so many people want one and why they reconsider that decision. “High-energy dogs tend to be athletic dogs that need a lot of exercise, and I think some people underestimate this. The poodle’s genes bring them brains and a desire to work and do fun tricks and stimulate themselves mentally. If they don’t have that, they can start showing anxiety and just acting crazy.” Kelly Ballantyne, a veterinary behaviorist at Insight Animal Behavior Services in Chicago, says she’s seen a lot of scribbling lately, “mainly due to separation anxiety, noise phobia and aggression issues.” Ballantyne points to a recent study that found that first-generation goldendoodles in particular exhibited more problematic behaviors than either parent breed.
While there are no statistics on exactly how many Doodles are adopted each year, pet ownership in general has skyrocketed, especially during the pandemic. According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, more than 23 million American households — nearly one in five nationwide — have adopted a pet during the pandemic. And the demand for doodles has definitely grown as evidenced by the prices of doodle puppies, which range from $2,000 to $5,000 in some areas and for certain types. “Before the pandemic, I was getting five to 10 puppy requests a day,” says Lisa Haney, who breeds Cavapoos in western New York. “But during the pandemic, there have been more than 75 to 100 emails a day. I literally had people call me at 3am asking about puppies.”
As a result, doodles have become what one bashful golden doodle owner called “the pumpkin spice of dogs” (very popular but oversaturated and some say overrated). Ruby’s owner, Lisa Schwartz, certainly didn’t think the doodles were “edgy and cool,” but she does think “there’s a reason everyone wants one: it doesn’t shed, it’s not antsy, it’s great in the car, she trains easily, she is sweet and friendly.” In short: “Ruby has really adapted to our lifestyle.”
“I’ll be honest: It feels embarrassing to walk a ‘designer’ dog,” says Anne, a teacher in Brooklyn whose name isn’t really Anne and who just brought home a $3,500 Australian Labradoodle two months ago. “And knowing that we went to a breeder instead of rescuing a dog in need of a home! I find myself explaining to each person that we would have been rescued if it wasn’t allergies and that there were other factors that made a doodle seem ‘suitable’ for our ‘lifestyle,’ which feels…off-putting.” (Also, his The vet recently informed him that the new pup will likely be twice the promised size, a jump of 30 pounds).
The sudden increase in the doodle population has created a loose nod from a community of those who have opted for a doodle or feel they are on a parallel canine journey. “Now we are connected to all these doodle buddies that we see on the street and in the park, and there are a lot of them,” Anne tells me. “But what do we really have in common? Like we’re in a whole subcommunity now, but are they really my people? I feel like I’m a rescue dog owner trapped in a doodle owner’s body.”
not to be a rescue-doodle owner is actually an option for most. “When you walk into the shelter, it’s crazy,” says Tiffany Lacey, executive director of Animal Haven in New York City. “We’ve had doodles that have had over 100 queries in just a few hours and 50 requests.”
And with the vast majority of breeders using search-and-sneeze-friendly terms like “the perfect family dog,” “hypoallergenic” and “shedding-free,” it’s hard not to get carried away with the fervor and want to bring one home. . Shari, a Toronto doodle owner, thought she had asked her breeder “all the right questions,” but her eight-year-old golden doodle sheds and has caused allergic reactions in her and several other people. (Fortunately, her allergies eventually subsided.) “I think my breeder believed what he told me, but I think breeders don’t always understand the dogs they’re breeding,” she says.
A lot of misinformation about doodles and overzealous marketing are fueling the doodle boom. “Doodles are no ‘different’ from other dogs,” says Adina Pearson, who runs the doodle information and appreciation website Doodle Kisses and hosts a podcast of the same name. “They bark, they poop, a lot of them shed hair, they have health problems like their breed parents and they need training.” The problem is in the perception, says Pearson, the perception that they are an exception to many of these problems. (Pearson currently has a Labradoodle and a Poodle.)
At the end of the day, “even if they spent $4,000 on a dog that’s twice the size and sheds, most people will brush the mistake off with a halo of love,” says Pearson. “That’s what we all expect people to do, whether they’re a mangy stray from a stinky shelter or the offspring of a standard poodle bred by champions.”