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How do breeds become breeds?

837 Views 8 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Crow
Take, for example, a goldendoodle. Previously a mutt, but now a recognized breed...at least I think it is, anyway. It's not officially recognized by the AKC, but I can see that changing in the next couple decades. Clearly the dog-people population seeks that cross out regularly. So....how does a breed become a breed?

All breeds were developed somehow...walk me through the process.
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There is only one organization that I know of that is trying to make the Goldendoodle and actual breed. https://www.goldendoodleassociation.com/ For now, though, I'd say that at least 90% of them are still first generation crosses, meaning that they have one Golden parent and one Poodle parent, which makes them a cross-breed dog. And unless they change the name, they won't be AKC recognized, because the AKC doesn't allow breed names that are based on already existing breeds (hence the Miniature American Shepherd, instead of the Miniature Australian Shepherd).

How a breed actually becomes a breed can be somewhat subjective, but basically, breeds become breeds when they start "breeding true". That can happen gradually by people casually breeding dogs that are similar in type, or it can be through deliberate decision making and ruthless culling (and sometimes a combination of methods). When you can cross a Whats-A-Who with another Whats-A-Who, and can pretty much be sure that the baby Whats-A-Whos will look and act like Whats-A-Whos, then you have pretty much established breed type, and can start calling the Whats-A-Who a breed instead of a type.

Also, record keeping. Whats-A-Who breeders need to be able to know who the sire and dam of a litter are, and their pedigrees. This is where a breed club comes in handy. People can register their Whats-A-Whos with the American Whats-A-Who Breeders & Fanciers Association, which will keep all the pedigree information. People breeding a registered Whats-A-Who to another registered Whats-A-Who will then register the resulting puppies, thus adding to the database.

Breed clubs also mean a breed standard. The Whats-A-Who standard will describe the ideal Whats-A-Who, including things like overall conformation, size, color, proportions, and temperament, as well as any faults that a Whats-A-Who should not have.

If Whats-A-Who fanciers decide that they want to work towards having the Whats-A-Who recognized by the AKC, then they might join the Foundation Stock Services program. https://www.akc.org/breeder-programs/foundation-stock-service-program/program-home/
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Well, traditionally a breed would be made to fill a need. The dogs that performed that need best (tracking, pulling, guarding sheep, coursing, etc) would be bred, and those that didn't or couldn't performed were culled (killed). This is why you see a lot of similar types of dogs appearing in wildly different parts of the world. The native Norwegian scenthound breeds (look up Halden hound or Dunker if you're interested) look very similar to hound breeds originating in the UK, in America, and in other parts of the world. You look at them and say "oh, yes, that is a hound" even though those breeding them weren't deliberately breeding for appearance. Selecting for certain performance abilities seems to, in many cases, also select for a certain look.

Sometimes appearance was taken into account (and size certainly was), but very often it was much, much less important than whether the dog could work as intended. In more modern times, it's become more common to breed with appearance in mind (eg the Leonberger being bred to look lion-like), but you don't see that very often with the very old breeds of dogs. Very modern breeds (Miniature American Shepherd, Silken Windhound, Alaskan Klee Kai, etc) are also bred with a goal in mind, but we have very different needs these days than we once did, and hard culling is no longer considered ethical in many circles, so development can be relatively slow and you see relatively more breeds being developed with emphasis on looks and being good companions for modern dog owners. We also have way more tools concerning genetic health, and so a lot of people serious about developing new breeds these days make full use of these tests and scans to ensure they're creating a healthy and sound dog.

But the concepts of recognized breeds, breed standards, and breed clubs is really quite recent, as is the emphasis on breed purity and closed stud books. For a dog to be recognized as a breed by organizations like the AKC, it at the very least needs to have a breed standard and be able to breed true - by which I mean that when two dogs of the breed mate, all their puppies also look and act like breed standard describes, give or take some minor deviations. There's more to it than that, but without a standard and breeding true, you're not going to get anything recognized.

Because of this, many cross-breeds like goldendoodles, cockapoos, etc. will never be considered a genuine breed by the AKC, FCI, and other reputable kennel clubs. For better or for worse. This is because most breeders of these mixes are constantly breeding back to the parent breeds, or breeding exclusively first generation crosses (golden x poodle instead of goldendoodle x goldendoodle). This can be because the litters of two mixes can have an extremely wide range in looks, size, and temperament of the pups. IE, they don't breed true.

Programs like the Australian Labradoodle are trying to breed for a single, consistent look and temperament, and trying to set that type in their lines (turn them into a recognized breed, essentially), but that is the extreme minority of cross-bred breeders. It takes a ton of work and a ton of dogs you have to find homes for because they just don't match the standard you're aiming for. It takes many, many generations and, like most breeding, isn't profitable if you're being ethical about it. And unfortunately many - not all! - breeders who breed cross-breeds are primarily focused on income, and tend to skip important steps like in-depth health tests, vetting puppy buyers carefully, or quality puppy raising/socialization programs, so they're simply not motivated to create a whole new breed.

For the record, I'm not down on crossbreeds. I care a lot more about whether someone is breeding ethically and responsibly than whether they're breeding a purebred or mixes, and I think a lot of the breed purity/closed stud books stuff is extremely short-sighted and harmful to all breeds in the long run. There's some really excellent breeders out there producing mixes for companionship or sports, but there's also so, so many people who cut corners that it's frustrating.

I am also NOT a breeder, just an enthusiast, so if I've flubbed anything please let me know.
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Breeds were created to do a job. Border Collies are bred to have prey drive but it is limited to chase and stare to control livestock so a limited prey drive that does not result in a kill. If a Border collie did not limit it's prey drive, it was killed since the livestock handling was more important than the dog which was a tool. Essentially the tool had to work or it was discarded.

Some breeds were created over the lifetime of one individual (the Doberman comes to mind). Unfortunately this breed has developed a heart issue that has become so widespread it could cause it's extinction.

The German Shepherd was started with Max Von Stephanitz from sheep dogs that did what he was looking for. The breed originated from several regions in Germany and lines from each region can influence traits to this day. The original dogs actually added wolf to get the upright ears. This also added some nerve since the big bad wolf actually is a shy creature that has prey drive to eat and fights out of defense drive. The breed has always been split between show lines and working lines but all had working traits. In more recent times this has changed as the show lines have been bred only for looks and over linebred and even inbred to the point where the temperament has become more and more unstable (this was certainly present at the last two conformation shows I have attended). It was discovered that the breed also had good guard and police patrol dog traits in WW1 and WW2.

A breed is usually created by close line breeding or inbreeding to solidify the traits sought. Of course, such breeding can also introduce undesirable traits.

Currently a lot of breeds no longer do the work they were designed to do (such as tend sheep, herd cattle into chutes for the butcher, protect estates or castles, run down prey on open plains, fight with Lions or bring down Stags or point and retrieve game birds). They are now bred for looks (phenotype) with the ability to work and temperament taking a back seat. The result of this has not been positive IMO. We have Irish setters that don't even look at birds and are so unsteady that they are nearly unstable. We have American Show line German Shepherds that are so over angulated behind they cannot stand comfortably and who are shy and timid. We have English Bull dogs that cannot breed naturally and cannot give birth normally. We have Golden Retrievers that are un-athletic and cannot hunt. We have Rhodeisan Ridgebacks that would run from a lion.

So that is it in a nutshell. Dogs were bred and bred true to do a job. When the job goes away and the breed remains and the only "test" for the breed is a show ring beauty contest and looks is what is bred for you end up with something else. It may look like a Golden Retriever. It may win ribbons in a show. It is still not a Golden Retriever....
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Take, for example, a goldendoodle. Previously a mutt, but now a recognized breed...
"Recognized" .. by WHO ?

Not just UNrecognized by AKC, but by pretty much everyone else in the dog fancy. The only people who might possibly consider it an actual "breed" are those who attempt to represent it as such -- the breeders. And also those who unwittingly buy one, under the false belief that it's an actual breed. Which, I'm guessing, is probably a significant number of unsuspecting consumers. Despite recent efforts at legitimizing it by having national clubs, self-serving registries, and other initiatives etc, it's nothing more than a trendy marketing ploy with careful use of buzzwords like "breed".

My general feeling is that none of the purveyors have any true interest in it, beyond monetary profit. Simply because there is no real need or purpose for this "breed". It doesn't fill any voids within the already established breeds. Ask your groomer if they consider it a breed. Ask your vet. Ask your trainer. At the end of the day I suspect they will all concur, that a g'doodle is merely a dog of MIXED genetic heritage. Or more importantly, no more "recognized as a breed" than a chiweenie, or puggle, or shitzapoo, or all-american is.

This misconception, leading the public to believe it is a singular stand-alone "breed", and typically implying or at times even stating that it is a "purebred" so-and-so, is a large part of the problem.

And to be fair and polite, as DaySleepers has pointed out, there is nothing wrong with mixed breeds. They are most often absolutely beautiful dogs. However, they should be represented accurately and honestly as mixed breeds. Or perhaps even "mutts". Call it semantics if you wish, but they are what they are.
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Well recently Dogo Argentino was a breed started in 1928 FCI recognized 1973 and AKC recognized 2018.

So with some work and true breeding maybe another 80 years, most likely the fad will die down about them long before that happens.
Interesting conversation.

My last two dogs, both GSD mix, found their way to me as strays. This time around, I've had to actively seek out a puppy. In my search, I was shocked to learn how difficult it is to acquire an affordable family pet. Thirty years ago, people sat in front of grocery stores and gave away "mutt" puppies. These pups usually came from mama dogs who had an "oops" pregnancy. Nowadays, people give the mutts cute breed names like "corgipoo" "puggle" and "chiweenie," call them designer dogs and charge hundreds of dollars in "rehoming fees." I just did a quick search and found a breeder that sells "Irish Doodle" pups for $2,600.

As someone who is old fashioned and has a limited income, I've found these mutt prices to be outrageous. On the other hand, with all the inbreeding health issues dogs have these days, I'm wondering if so-called designer dogs might be a better option for future generations of pet owners, especially since fewer and fewer dogs are true working dogs these days.
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The entire breed thing has always perplexed and frustrated me. If I were to win the lottery creating a new breed would be on my short list of what to do with myself. Create a new USEFUL and HEALTHY breed in todays world humanely and make enough profit from it to get by? I don't see how it's possible. Look for an Elon Musk type who's more interested in dogs than in space?

All the inbreeding and genetic issues floating about, not to mention the looks over utility in most breeding today... I'm actually afraid for the future between man and dog. I'm conflicted. I suspect at some point the mut will inherit the earth.
Goldendoodles aren't recognized; most people understand that it's a cross. It's just less of a mouthful than saying 'a golden retriever crossed with a poodle' every time someone asks. IMO insisting that you shouldn't use shorthand because they're 'just mutts' is pedantic. We know they're mutts.

Honestly I'm not particularly concerned with breed purity or only breeding working dogs or whatever what have you. Get the dog you want and as long as the dogs are being treated well it's no skin off my back.
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