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Labernese: It's legit apparently.

1425 Views 4 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  FurociousHotdog
I know that Guide Dogs for the Blind uses a small number of Golden/Lab crosses. It seems like it's working well for them. I then wondered if other places were using crosses, and I found out the Mira Foundation in Canada uses BMD/Lab crosses as well as pure Labs for guide and service dogs. It looks like they do both F1 and go beyond F1 as well. Interesting stuff.

Here's the full link:
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Interesting choice. I understand wanting to breed in more size for mobility service dog work, but I'd think in other situations the shorter lifespan (and therefore shorter working career) of most giant breeds would be less desirable. It seems to be working for them, though! I'd be curious to know if they have differences in wash-out rates or anything like that compared to the SD breeding programs focusing solely on labs - basically if there's a measurable, objective benefit to taking this approach and outcrossing. Not because I think it's objectively bad - I have no qualms with a well-run breeding program with a clear goal and purpose, like this one - just because I'm curious from a behavior and genetic temperament perspective.

I do always feel a little dread that things like this are going to 'legitimize' breeders who slap two breeds together, give it a goofy name, and start pumping out puppies with no care to health or temperament so they can get as much money as possible for minimal effort. After all, the person who pioneered purpose-bred SD labradoodles says he deeply regrets popularizing the idea. But on the other hand, normalizing the idea that all breeding programs - purebred, crossbred, working/sporting crosses, landrace, etc. - should have clear goals (even if that goal is 'good companion animal'), breeding stock that's screened for health and temperament, and high standards for puppy raising isn't a bad thing. We're never going to stop people from breeding or wanting mixed breed dogs, but all dogs and dog owners deserve the advantages that come from ethical and responsible breeding, so my personal opinion is that we really need to be encouraging good breeding practices universally more than condemning anything that's not perfectly to-standard purebred breeding.
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Oh I'm not disparaging at all. I was pleasantly surprised actually. I actually think that these endeavors are good; it gives people in need of a service dog or guide dog more options. Other program dogs are mostly Labs, Goldens, and mixes thereof (and I understand why, they excel at it). I know Fidelco Guide Dog Foundation uses GSDs, but that's about it. I talked about this with some of my friends with service dogs, and they basically said they would get a program dog if they had more options.

Initially, I was stumped on why they pickled BMDs to cross with Labs. Their temperament and size is a desirable quality, but even compared to other giant breeds, their lifespan is quite short. That's not to mention the other health concerns. I think that's why sometimes they didn't stop at F1. It didn't specify whether their "second generation Labernese" is a backcross of Labernese x Lab or Labernese x BMD or just Labernese x Labernese. From the looks of their dogs, my guess is that they do all three. MIRA foundation has a location in North Carolina, but their headquarters are in Quebec. It does get quite cold there and it snows, so I get wanting a dog more cold hardy than a Lab.

Looking over their website again and watching some videos, it looks like they do use purebred BMDs as well, just in a lesser capacity compared to the crosses and purebred Labs.
The videos:
(part 1)
(part 2)
(the kennel)
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRxIdkpPsZNHL86LCNAEIhw (MIRA foundation channel)
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I mean, Labradors have their origins in the fishermen's water dogs of Newfoundland, so they're no slouches when it comes to cold tolerance either, haha! Though admittedly it's not a trait most SD breeding programs likely focus on. But I do think it's a cool project! I would like to see some statistics because I'm a nerd like that, and wonder if this approach results in more of the puppy prospects becoming successful service dogs. That'd definitely be a huge boon to the service dog world at large - it's such a demanding job that it makes sense why even generations deep into SD breeding programs we still see high wash-out rates. It may never be feasible to improve on that in a significant way. But that's certainly doesn't mean it's not worth trying!
I exchanged emails with someone from the MIRA foundation, and they basically took an educated leap of faith and lucked out. Their first crosses gave them the best of both worlds, and they went from there. This person said there aren’t any definitive statistics on wash out rates, other than the obvious fact that the rate is high. There’s only estimates, as there are so many different types of service dogs from different places. From our conversation, it doesn’t look like MIRA foundation has this data either for their own dogs. The cross is new, created in the 90s, but so new that you can’t get meaningful data from it. There wasn’t any implication that the data in question was being withheld either. They either had massive success since the start, or they just don’t really keep track extensively.

Talking to some acquaintances who are SD users, some programs don’t really keep track extensively, accepting the high washout rate as just part of the job. The dogs that pass pass, and the dogs that don’t are adopted out through the proper mechanisms.
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