Jessica Hekman: Welcome to the Functional Breeding Podcast. I’m Jessica Hekman, and I’m here interviewing folks about how to breed dogs for function and for health: behavioral and physical. This podcast is brought to you by the Functional Dog Collaborative, an organization founded to support the ethical breeding of healthy, behaviorally sound dogs. FDC’s goals include providing educational, social, and technical resources to breeders of both purebred and mixed breed dogs. You can find out more at www.functionalbreeding.org, or at the Functional Breeding Facebook Group, which is a friendly and inclusive community. I hope you have fun and learn something.
LISTEN TO THIS EPISODE
Jessica Hekman: Hi, friends. This episode is the first in what I hope will be a short series of episodes on doodles, those dogs who lots of owners think makes such great family pets and lots of breeders find to be a really controversial cross. In this first episode of the series, I’m talking to Amy Lane. Amy is the founder of the Goldendoodle Association of North America (GANA) which acts as a breed club for goldendoodle breeders, providing a registry, health testing guidance and education. I learned a lot about responsible doodle breeding from Amy.
Thanks so much, Amy, for agreeing to be on the podcast. I’m really excited to get to talk about goldendoodles and the doodle breed club. But the way I generally start stuff off, rather than talking about the big picture stuff, is asking people about their own dogs. So I would love to know: who do you have at home? Who do you live with? Where did they come from?
AL: Okay. This is Logan.
JH: Oh my god!
AL: He is my shadow. He travels with me. He goes everywhere, typically off leash because his entire goal in life is to touch me and to please me. So this is Logan.
JH: He’s adorable. He’s got his summer cut.
AL: Yep, yep. He is the only dog that resides with me permanently now. I used to have about maybe half a dozen studs that lived in my house. And over the years, you know, through old age, we are down to our last stud that’s 10 that lives with me. All of my younger studs, since Logan, live in guardian homes.
JH: Oh, nice. For those who don’t know what a guardian home is, maybe you could fill us in on that.
AL: Guardian homes are families that raise our breeding dogs for us as their family pet. And the females come back to us to be bred, go back home while they’re pregnant, and then come back to us right before they’re due to deliver their puppies here. And our stud dogs, we go to them, utilize their services, you know, take the female with us, and then come back home. And this eliminates any of our breeding dogs living in a kennel. And that’s the entire goal: that they have fabulous, wonderful lives living with families being a normal dog that just happens to also reproduce. And it also eliminates the need for us to retire breeding dogs and find them a new home. This way they live with the same family from eight weeks on, and it’s a win-win situation for us and for the dogs.
JH: Yeah, that’s lovely. I feel like guardian homes are becoming more and more of a thing these days as people are starting to realize it’s really challenging to have enough breeding dogs on site to have the diversity that you want in your breeding program. And so then what do you do? Do you have 20 dogs? They can’t all sleep in your bed! That would be a really big bed!
AL: Yes. Well, the human would be on the floor and the dogs would be on the bed.
JH: Yes, yes. That is pretty much how it would work. Yeah, like I have actually a couple times come upstairs and caught my husband napping on the dog bed. And I’m like, really? (laughter) It happens in our house for sure. And we only have three here. So how did you get into goldendoodles initially?
AL: Well, I was breeding golden retrievers, AKC golden retrievers, and a woman that’s a close friend of mine who was previously my 4H leader as a child who got me involved in horses was who also got me involved in breeding dogs. And she was the first person in the United States to breed labradoodles and these were American labradoodles, so a true cross of a lab and a poodle. And she learned about them because she had a friend in Australia that was breeding labradoodles there. And so through that I got involved in helping her market labradoodles here, and then the story goes on to goldendoodles. But my beginning with breeding dogs was with AKC golden retrievers.
JH: And so then you made the jump into goldendoodles. So what did you get out of goldendoodles that you weren’t getting out of the goldens? Or maybe you could talk a little bit about why you like this particular cross?
AL: Well, I was breeding AKC golden retrievers and had a stray pony show up on my farm who kicked and killed our stud dog.
JH: Ah, no! Oh my god!
AL: And I had just one golden retriever stud dog at that point. So then I’m left with no stud dog and dogs that needed to be bred. And so I decided at that point to use a poodle to fill in the gap, because these labradoodles were very, very popular that I was helping place for my friend Judy Hahn. And when we had the first goldendoodle litter, of course, we didn’t have a name for them. I had this litter of labradoodles sold to all of their new homes. And when they came to pick up their labradoodle at eight weeks of age, I showed them this other litter and they said, “Well, what are they?” And I kind of stumbled around a little bit and then said, “goldendoodles.” And half of them took a goldendoodle puppy home and didn’t take their labradoodle puppy home.
JH: Oh, wow.
AL: They were so intrigued with the goldendoodle. And from there, I had… You know, the goldendoodles were getting such rave reviews, but I have people that would say, “Oh, I love the concept. I love the look. I love the temperament. I love the reduced shedding. But I don’t want a big dog.” And that led me to contract with a mini poodle stud owner to create the first litter of mini-goldendoodles. And that was the explosion of goldendoodles. I built a website, or had my niece help me build a website, to market that first litter. And the phone calls and the email increase have not stopped. And that was 20 years ago.
JH: Yeah. They are for sure really popular. And obviously there are some issues when any breed or mix becomes popular. So then, as we all know, right, going back… Like I guess the big story is the dalmatians after 101 Dalmatians came out when everyone wanted a dalmatian, and they didn’t really know what they were getting. So then you went on to found this club, GANA. So maybe you could tell us a little bit about that. Like, what it is? So let’s start with what it is. What is GANA?
AL: It is the Goldendoodle Association of North America. And I believe we opened our doors, our internet doors, January 1, 2008. I spent probably a year to a year and a half prior to that putting together the organization and had the help of some wonderful breeder friends, some that I had never met before. But we worked through communications through email and that bit and actually came up with the bones of GANA. My purpose was… There were several purposes. One was, most “designer dogs” are just first crosses: two purebred breeds. And I was interested in developing the goldendoodle into deeper generations with the goal of creating a guaranteed non-shedding goldendoodle, which you cannot get in a first cross. And if you’re going to breed deeper generations, you need to be able to document lineage so that you are not breeding related dogs, which is something that was important to me. And so having a database of pedigrees, and to be able to produce a registration, an extended registration for each breeding dog, was important.
And then the other important factor to me was that I wanted to create a different class of breeders who were doing the appropriate health testing to separate them from the backyard breeders and the puppy mills. And it was my goal that the general public would be able to say, “Oh, this dog is GANA registered. That means it comes from health-tested parents, and therefore should be a healthier dog.” And I had these grand illusions when I first created GANA, you know, that we would only allow breeders that would do the maximum amount of testing, and fairly quickly came to the realization that we would only have… Well we probably had a dozen member breeders for the first few years. And I came to the realization that we needed to mentor new breeders to be able to reach that type of health testing standard. And so we had to create different levels of membership and mentor them to reach the top tier, which is the Blue Ribbon Breeder.
JH: That’s lovely. So it’s not just that you provide basically the information for people who are looking for a puppy about how to find the really top tier breeders, but you also helped the breeders get there.
JH: Which is really nice. Well. So I want to hear about the tiers. What are your tiers?
AL: Well, we have the Blue Ribbon, the Red Ribbon and the Basic level. And the Blue Ribbon is breeders that test for all the recommended tests, which I could list them if you’d like. (laughter) Physical testing like hips, heart, eyes, elbows, patellas. But it’s also disease testing.
AL: The Red Ribbon level requires a few less tests than the Blue Ribbon level. And the Basic level is just like that. It’s basic. We require hips to be certified and heart to be certified, because in the golden retriever heart is a critical issue and hips in all your large breed dogs is a critical issue. So we thought we’d start with those basics and require that to be the minimum standard to join GANA. And then we put a limit on it. They have one year then to increase their testing up to at least the Red Ribbon standard. And then we reward our breeders at any time in their membership, whether they join as a Blue Ribbon or they join as a Basic or Red Ribbon, but then increase the testing to a Blue Ribbon. We waive their next year’s annual dues, just as a reward in the Blue Ribbon level. So give another incentive.
JH: Yeah, no. Incentives are the way to do it. And so I gather… Do you find that that works? That people can come in… It sounds like a pretty reasonable level to come in for just hips and heart. And then people are able to sort of ramp up from there?
AL: Yes. And actually, we actually do have another level that I didn’t mention. We call it the Apprentice level. We have people that contact us that want to become a breeder, but have never bred a litter before and perhaps don’t even own any breeding dogs. And they join. And we provide all of our new members with a mentor. And they join because they want to learn the appropriate way to start a breeding program. And they can become…. They can remain an Apprentice indefinitely. We don’t require that they become a breeder in a certain amount of time, because everybody has their own learning curve and may need some time before they purchase the first dog or two and they may purchase the first dog and it may never pan out. And therefore they’re still not a breeder. So the Apprentice level is another level that is typically a non-breeder level who’s (indistinct).
JH: I love it. Yeah. I feel like a lot of the AKC parent clubs… I mean I’m not involved with any of them so I don’t know what their practices are. I know that one of the valuable things that people find from working with those clubs is that it’s a good way to find a mentor and that having a mentor is a really, really valuable part of upping your game as a breeder. But I love that you also say like, “You just can’t be a member (laughter) unless you jump over these hurdles.” Which I think that may be the case for some of the AKC parent clubs. But I know it’s not the case for all of them at any rate. So that’s, that’s lovely that you really sort of lay down the law and you’re like this, “This is the minimum. This is what we’ve got to get done before we can be breeding dogs.”
Well so how did you? Sorry, I should warn people. I sent Amy some questions ahead of time, and this is not one that I prepared you for. But as you were talking about health tests… I don’t think you have to list all of them, but I actually would be curious if you remember how you decided which ones to pick and which ones not? Because that’s something that a lot of breeders really struggle with when they’re breeding mixed breed dogs. What are appropriate tests?
AL: Well, we follow a lot of the guidelines of the AKC. Each breed that the AKC registers or recognizes, they have a list of health issues that follow that breed and recommended testing. And so we combined what is recommended for poodles and for golden retrievers, because when you’re crossing them the offspring could have, you know, genes from either parent breed that could create an issue. So that’s where we came up with the physical testing: the hips, the elbows, the heart, the patellas, and the eyes.
And the disease testing. Every few years, we actually review that and see if something needs to be added, or something could be eliminated and become just a recommended test versus a required test. And what we did… Probably two or three years ago I surveyed every lab that does testing for us that had a minimum number of tests for golden retrievers, poodles and goldendoodles, and asked them how many dogs were tested for this disease? How many dogs were clear? How many dogs were carriers? And how many dogs were affected? And we utilize those numbers to determine what diseases were prevalent in our breed. And therefore, what tests that we should be requiring.
And over the years we’ve added new ones. And we have taken some that we required and made them recommended. And some that we thought were recommended that eventually became required. And the other thing is, we also… Our members have a voice in this. We do not increase the testing or change your role without first discussion of the entire membership, and then a vote. So if the membership feels that this test is not needed, they can vote it out. So that it’s not… We’re not being ruled by a board or one breeder. It’s the voice of the whole membership.
JH: It had never occurred to me to contact testing laboratories and ask for that kind of information. That’s lovely. That that’s a repository of that. As you started talking about this, I was thinking, “Well, how are they surveying it? Like, are they sending questionnaires out to people?” Do you have a feedback system for when… So when breeders register dogs with you, do you have any system for them to report like, “This dog ended up having this genetic issue?” Or is that not something that you do?
AL: Well, the database does include recording all of the health testing on every parent dog. GANA will not register a litter of puppies for a breeder unless the parent dog has all of the appropriate testing. And if one of our breeders breeds a litter from parents that do not meet their level, they get busted back to the level that their testing does meet. Or if it doesn’t meet even the Basic level, then they are suspended until they can increase their testing. Because it’s not just a few of their dogs. We require that every single dog in their goldendoodle breeding program needs the testing.
JH: So it’s not just required. So the way that you prove that you tested your dogs is you send the actual results in.
JH: Nice. You have the results.
AL: Our registrar has a hard copy of it. And then the information is entered in the database. So any breeder can look up… Like if they wanted to use a stud dog or they wanted to do a search for a stud dog and they wanted it to have… Say they’re a Blue Ribbon and they wanted to find a Blue Ribbon stud, because if they use a Red Ribbon stud to create a litter, they’re busted back to a Red Ribbon.
AL: (indistinct) search our database and see the scores that the dogs received.
JH: That’s interesting, because one of the issues that… One of the reasons I’m founding the Functional Dog Collaborative is that there’s this issue of transparency in breeding, right? That you may do all the health testing on your own dogs, but then you don’t want to publicize if one of your dogs has an issue. And I understand all the things that breeders are balancing. That it may be that you have a dog whose hips aren’t perfect, but you breed it to another dog whose hips are great, and you know, that’s fine. But then you sort of don’t want to tell people about the less than perfect test that you have. And one of the things I was struggling with was how to build a culture of transparency, where people are really encouraged to publish the results of their tests and not castigated for it. Like, you know, so you know, this dog, or this dog ended up developing epilepsy. Well, you need to tell people that. So it’s nice to hear that you’re requiring that the results be published in order to participate.
AL: That’s for breeding dogs. Now for the puppies that breeders sell, every breeder has their own way of tracking health and so forth on those puppies. And we don’t require that as a club, because we just don’t have the manpower to police.
AL: So I can only answer for what I do. And I do surveys on all of my puppies at six and 12 months of age. I don’t get all of the surveys back, which is…
AL: You answer every single question and email that comes in from the consumer. And, you know, and after they are a full-fledged customer and own a puppy from us. So we would love for each of them to answer or, you know, to reply to our surveys, but I unfortunately can’t tell you that they all reply. But we keep track of every single health issue or temperament issue that we receive. As well as the sizes because… Predicting size so you can appropriately match puppies with families is also important. And if we have, you know, a temperament issue or health issue that seems to raise its ugly head in a particular line, then we’ll pull the dog and won’t breed that dog again.
But we are working with the OFA. It’s been a long process, but we are trying to work with the OFA to be a part of their health database. But the problem with that is… See in the purebred world if your dog doesn’t pass his hips, you breed them and nobody knows. And in the goldendoodle, in the GANA breeding world, that’s not allowed. If your dog doesn’t pass his hips, he can’t be bred. And therefore, if he doesn’t pass his hips or, or let’s say he doesn’t pass his heart, or his eyes or his patellas. They don’t send in the form to the OFA saying the dog failed. They just don’t breed. And the OFA doesn’t have that information. So it’s difficult for us to have an accurate health survey with the OFA, because what we’ve gotten them to agree to, to date, is that they will include any dog with a GANA registration number. But as we know, there’s so many breeders out there that aren’t GANA breeders, and therefore there is no GANA registration number, so their dog’s health information doesn’t get included.
AL: So there isn’t really an accurate health survey function available to us at this point. So that is something I’m working on.
JH: It’s a problem for all of us, I think. And one of the things that I keep hearing from people is that if there were a way to stay in touch. I mean, we’ve just been talking about breeding stock. But you also mentioned the difficulty of staying in touch with the puppy owners. And if there were a way, I mean, I’d love to provide that for people. It’s way down the road and who knows if it’ll ever happen, but I hear you, and we want it to just to have a way to encourage the puppy owners to stay connected and to upload the veterinary records to a central database. Because it’s so important, right? When you have a dog who’s healthy and you breed it to a dog who’s healthy, and you can know that they’re healthy, but they can produce unhealthy puppies. And you want to know that before you breed those dogs again, and it’s so hard if the puppy owners don’t come back and tell you.
When I was in veterinary school, I remember I was on surgical rotation. And we were looking at a dog who was in for elbow surgery. And it was a congenital problem. And when I was left (I was such an obnoxious student) alone in the room with a dog owner when the surgeon was out. And we were chatting, and I was like, it was a purebred lab. And I said, “You should tell your dog’s…” I said, “Did you get this dog from a breeder?” And she said, “Yes.” I said, “You should tell the breeder about this.” And she was like, “Really?” And I said, “Yes, the breeder, if they’re a good breeder, will want to know.” And she was like, “That never would have occurred to me.” And I thought to myself, “Why are veterinary surgeons not all telling people to tell their dog’s breeders?” (laughter) Like we should learn this in veterinary school.
So one of the other things… When you were mentioning health testing and how you have both the golden retriever tests and the poodle tests. And I was thinking that’s particularly important because GANA doesn’t only have F1’s, right? So if you have an F1, which is for those who don’t know, is a golden crossed with a poodle, so the two purebred parents. And then we can know that issues that are only in the goldens, that puppy’s only going to get the one risk allele, maximum, because they’re not going to get it from the poodle. But when we start doing crosses back to poodle, or what I know GANA calls “multigen,” then it’s good to have that health testing on board.
So I was wondering if you could talk a little bit… When I started digging into this I thought doodles were only F1’s. I didn’t know that people were crossing at different levels. So maybe you could talk a little bit about what that means and why people do it? And I know that coat is really important in that, so…
AL: Okay, well when we talk about the DNA testing for diseases, dogs have 0, 1 or 2 genes to pass along of a disease. So if a parent carries for disease, as long as it’s a recessive disease you can cross it with another dog that doesn’t have that same recessive gene and the worst case is you’ll have puppies that are carriers, but nobody will be affected by the disease. So we don’t disallow a carrier to be bred. We just disallow two carriers to be bred together. And so we require if, say, a dog carries for ichthyosis that it has to be bred to another dog that does not carry for ichthyosis. In our F1’s, in our first crosses, the ichthyosis is a golden retriever disease. So even if the golden retriever is a carrier, we don’t require that the poodle be tested for ichthyosis because all poodles are negative for that, are not carriers. So we allow F1’s to be bred without a lot of the testing unless it is a disease that both breeds can carry, such as degenerative myelopathy.
When we get to the deeper generations… My purpose in creating deeper generations was to work towards a non-shedding, wavy-coated goldendoodle. Because your F1’s typically are wavy, and that’s the most desirable coat based on our customer request. But your F1’s typically will have some shedding, and the furnishing gene is very closely associated with shedding. And the furnishing gene is the gene that gives a dog a beard. So when you have a dog with two furnishing genes, you typically have a dog that has longer hair on the face, and no shedding. And they typically need to be clipped periodically. And that would cover your poodles, your shih tzus, your Lhasas, your Yorkies. Dogs that carry zero furnishing genes are your high-shedding dogs and those are always signified by the smooth face, the short hair on the face, your collies, your shepherds, your labs, your goldens. And so golden retrievers carry zero furnishing genes. Poodles carry two furnishing genes. So when you cross them you always get one furnishing gene offspring. That greatly diminishes shedding, but it doesn’t remove the shedding.
And furnishings are a dominant gene. So as long as a dog carries one furnishing gene, they’re going to have the long hair on the face. So that’s why your F1 doodles look like your typical doodle. They have long hair on the face, they have long hair on the body, they need haircuts, and they have minimal shedding. But to reduce the shedding, you’ve got to breed deeper generations to get two furnishing genes in the offspring. So the typical next generation is the F1B, which is typically done by crossing poodle with an F1 goldendoodle. Now, if you cross an F1 goldendoodle with a golden retriever, that is in essence, also an F1B, but you’ve added the shedding back in, and you’re going to have some of the puppies that have profuse shedding. And some of the puppies that have the coat of a Golden Retriever: the short hair on the face and just some feathering behind the legs. So when we cross an F1 with a poodle you’re going to end up with half of the puppies, on average, with two furnishing genes. But the other half of the puppies will have one furnishing gene. And you don’t know which they are since the furnishing gene is dominant, because they’re all going to look, you know, very similar. So the F1B generation doesn’t achieve what my goal was, which was an entire litter of non-shedding puppies.
Also, when you do the F1B… Well I’ll go back. Poodles carry two curl genes. Golden retrievers carry zero curl genes. So when you do an F1 you have all one curl gene goldendoodles, which is typically a wavy coat. When you take that F1 and you cross it with a poodle, you’re crossing a one curl gene with a two curl gene parent. And so half of those puppies are going to have a curly coat like a poodle. And they might not also, the same identical puppies, inherit two of the furnishing genes. So you could still have a curly-coated doodle that you would think, because it has a coat like a poodle, would be non-shedding. And that was a fallacy that we operated by way back before we had the DNA testing to help us along.
So to achieve that perfect goldendoodle in the consumer’s eye, which is typically a wavy-coated, non-shedding goldendoodle, you’ll get a few of them perhaps in the F1B generation, but you can’t really get a whole litter of them until you’re breeding multigens. And an F1 to an F1 gives us an F2. And we don’t consider that a multigen simply because with an F1 bred to an F1, you’re going to end up with some dogs with zero furnishing genes, which makes them smooth-faced like a golden, hair that doesn’t continue to grow and profuse shedders. And you’re going to end up with some that have two curl genes that are going to look like a poodle.
So it takes a deeper generation than the F2 to start getting some consistency. And to get consistency of wavy coats that are non-shedding, you have to breed two goldendoodles together that both have two furnishing genes. And you would like both goldendoodles to have zero curl genes or one goldendoodle can have one curl gene and the other have zero curl genes. And that way you’ll end up with an all-wavy litter, all that carry two furnishing genes, and that’s your first opportunity to produce a non-shedding, wavy-coated litter across the board.
JH: So definitely several generations to get there. So then once you have these multigens, do you keep breeding multigens to multigens, or do you cross purebred goldens and poodles back in, or F1’s back in at later points? Like how do people do it?
AL: Well, it can be done anyway. GANA will register litters regardless of how a breeder chooses to get to that end point. Because each breeder has a different purpose for crossing two specific dogs. I have not used a poodle in my breeding program for many, many years now simply because I don’t want to add in the two curl genes again. And I could do that if I was using a multigen goldendoodle that carried zero curl genes. If I bred it to a poodle, I’d end up with all the offspring having one curl gene and they’d all have wavy coats. But now I’m adding in more poodle attributes again. Typically a more narrow head, longer legs, and perhaps not that golden retriever “happy go lucky, I love everybody I meet, lousy watchdog” personality, which is what the goldendoodle is known for. But there are breeders that would need to add the poodle in. The poodle is also added in at that stage of development many times to add a different color. Because as we know, retrievers’ colors are very limited. And poodles’ colors are everywhere. So at that point you may use a poodle, say a parti-colored poodle, because then every offspring in that litter is a parti carrier. And then you can breed on from there to produce parti colors, or the same thing for brindles or merles or…
AL: You know, any color that you’re trying to achieve out there. Chocolate, which in poodle, brown, because you can’t get a brown from a golden retriever gene.
AL: So there’s many ways to do it and GANA knows that the breed is still in development. And we don’t know that there is definitely a right or wrong way to get to that end, or that there’s only one way to get to that end, perfect goldendoodle. So we allow breeders to experiment and find what’s the best way to get to the end result.
JH: So long as they’re health tested, which they are, that sounds great to me. So it’s interesting to me that you use the word “breed.” And I noticed that the GANA website also uses the word “breed.” And so I think a lot of people think of these dogs as crosses, but maybe you could talk a little bit about… I mean I think a lot of what you’ve been saying demonstrates that you’re moving towards it really being a breed, but maybe you could talk a little bit about what you mean by breed and what these end goals are for you guys.
AL: Well, a designer dog, in my mind, is where you’re taking two different breeds and crossing them together for a specific purpose. And that would be your F1. And in my mind the F1, in all essence, is a designer breed just like a cockapoo or yorkiepoo or schnoodles or any of those other cute little names you come up with crossing two purebreds. But when you start breeding deeper generations, and you’re breeding goldendoodle to goldendoodle, now you’re stamping in certain traits that you want, and you are in essence developing a breed. So even though there are a lot of people still breeding F1’s (and we commend them and want them to continue because we can continue bringing in new bloodlines as long as people are still doing F1’s) we now are calling a goldendoodle a breed and not saying, “Well F1’s are designer dogs and F2B’s are now a breed.” Because that’s all part of the development of the goldendoodle breed.
JH: Cool. Yeah, no. It’s just really interesting to see new breeds in development, and particularly a breed like this that really is designed for what we want today, right? Like I think a lot of the breeds that are out there have their histories, their origins in what most pet owners aren’t looking for today, right? I mean, labradors make fabulous pets. But their origins come from being a hunting dog. And they were not originally created with the idea of being exactly what people today want as pets. And so I love the idea that you’re thinking about, well, “What do people want?” They want this pet personality, this friendly, terrible watchdog, right? We don’t need watchdogs anymore. We have home security systems now.
And then the other really major one, of course, is the low-shedding. So maybe we can talk about that a little bit. I know that the very first doodle was bred for, I think, a guide dog group in Australia, right? Because they were trying to create a dog that was going to be a good candidate to become a service dog, but hypoallergenic because they had a particular person with allergies that they were breeding for. And so this foundation of doodle crosses, I think, has come with this idea of, “Oh, if ‘oodle’ is in the name, then no one is ever going to be allergic to it.” So maybe you could talk about that a little bit?
AL: Certainly, certainly. Well, nobody, regardless of the breed, whether they’re a shedding or non-shedding dog, can say that that breed is always hypoallergenic, because everybody has different levels of allergies. And there are people in this world, unfortunately for them, that can’t tolerate a dog of any breed. And therefore, no one can make that blanket statement. The most important thing when trying to create the most hypoallergenic dog is non-shedding, because most people have an allergy to the dander. And the dander is the little piece of skin that’s attached to the end of each hair that is shed off the body of the shedding dog. So the less dander, the less allergy producing, you know, issues.
So GANA requires, or does not allow, our breeders to state that their dogs are hypoallergenic. You can say hypoallergenic for most people, or for mild to moderate allergy sufferers. But there are always going to be people out there that can’t tolerate a dog any kind and it’s not a fault of the breed. It’s they’re just hypersensitive to dog dander or to saliva. You know, they can have allergies to different parts of the dog. But our goal is to create non-shedding goldendoodles to be compatible with those with mild to moderate dog allergies.
JH: Yeah, and I have to say I wouldn’t mind having dogs who shed less, because I certainly vacuum my house quite frequently. The downside to that though, I think, is that if the dog doesn’t shed you have to take it to the groomer fairly frequently.
AL: Absolutely. Well, and I would like to say I have never once had a customer say, “Can you please give me a shedding dog?”
AL: Whether they have allergies or not, people appreciate a non-shedding dog. And I will say, you know, I’m not allergic to dogs, but I will never have a shedding dog again because I have the ability to have non-shedding dogs.
AL: Just great for housekeeping, for clothes, the whole works. So, I’m sorry, what was your original question?
JH: What was my original question? Oh, that the flipside of that is if the hair doesn’t come off the body by being shed, then it has to come off the body by being groomed.
AL: Yes. And that is something that we do have to educate our customers. The general population looking for a goldendoodle loves that shaggy, unkempt look. And what they don’t understand, unless you educate them as a breeder, is that that means daily brushing. If you have long hair as a human, you have to brush your hair every day. If you have a crew cut, you don’t ever have to brush your hair. But if you have long hair and you do nothing to maintain it, eventually you’re gonna have to shave your head bald. And same thing with dogs. And many times I… You know, my customers will say, “I love that long look. That’s how I’m keeping my dog.” And if they don’t, that dog is matted.
It goes… I used to… Before I really spent time really educating my customers I would get an email from them and have a picture of a bald dog after their dog’s first grooming appointment. And they’d say, “Look what my groomer did. I’m never going back to this groomer. What a horrible job they did.” And what I have to explain to them is the groomer had no option because when the dog is matted, it’s painful to them to try to work a mat out. And many times you can’t, and the best thing you can do is shave them bald, start over and keep up with the brushing. And I have to go as far as showing them the brushes that they need to use because the slicker brush is a great brush to use, but it only does, you know, the outside half inch of the coat. And if the coat’s three inches long there can be mats and tangles underneath that will grow into something that has a sore underneath of it and that has to be clipped out. So many times people let their puppy grow way long and realize after the first grooming job that they didn’t do that dog any justice and then they keep much shorter hairdos. And with short hairdos the grooming requirement is much less.
JH: Yeah, for sure. The grooming thing is important and it’s, people don’t realize it. I did a Shelter Medicine internship after vet school and we would see, typically, little white dogs. I don’t know why it was always little white dogs coming in who had been neglected. And I, several times, would see these mats that were actually down into the skin and one of them was as far down as the bone. So we shaved that dog down, but then there was a really deep wound that had to be dealt with. So just a word to people who don’t know that mats can be painful and pull on the skin and you sort of think, “Well, it’s not that big a deal.” But if left untreated for a long time, yes, it absolutely is a really massive deal. And I think educating puppy buyers is obviously really important and also really challenging. Just getting that information out to people about what they’re going to need to do to manage their dog.
So speaking of puppy buyers, if puppy buyers want to find a GANA breeder, how would they go about doing that? And I was gonna ask you why is it important to go for a GANA breeder rather than someone who isn’t a GANA breeder? I feel like maybe we’ve covered that enough? (laughter) All the things that GANA breeders do that others don’t necessarily do. But if there’s anything else you want to fill in there, that’d be great. But then how would a puppy buyer find one?
AL: Well, GANA’s website has a menu tab that’s called Find a Puppy. And when you open that up there are two options. The first option takes you to a list of all of the GANA breeders. They are in alphabetical order by state, and they have clickable links to their websites and to their email. But what most of our… What most of the consumers do is the second option on that page, which is an email function. And I have that set up so that when they fill out their request and hit submit, it goes out to all of the GANA member breeders. Every single breeder gets that same request, and then the breeders that can accommodate the consumer will reach out to the consumer. And that makes it much easier than the consumer… You know we have I think maybe 80 members right now, so they don’t have to reach out to each member individually. However, COVID has changed everything. We have a dog shortage right now.
JH: We absolutely do. Yeah.
AL: I have people that will use that email function and send it out and will get no responses. And they’ll, you know, write back to the board and say, “You know. Something happened. Nobody responded to my request.” And it’s because every reputable breeder is sold out for the foreseeable future. And it’s unfortunate that these people, you know, they want immediate. They want a puppy now because they’re home and they have now emptied out puppy mills. They are emptying out backyard breeders because they’ll take any puppy they can possibly find right now instead of waiting for an appropriately-bred, health-tested, warrantied, genetically defect warrantied puppy from, you know, a GANA breeder. And so, you know, this COVID thing has really…
JH: Yeah, the shelters are empty as well. And I shudder to think what is happening with the truly not really responsible breeders who honestly are just in it for the money and whether they are ramping up production. I expect they are and it upsets me.
AL: Well, another thing that I would like to warn consumers about, because we get complaints often, that there are hackers out there that they take pictures off of breeders’ websites of cute little puppies and they’re collecting deposits on these puppies. And they typically don’t even reside in the United States. There is no puppy for sale and they’ve got your money and you’re just out of luck.
So what I try to explain to people is, if you buy from a GANA breeder, GANA’s done your homework. Every breeder listed there we know is not a puppy mill. We know that they do appropriate health testing. We know that they have proven that their dog is… That they are producing goldendoodles. No other breeds are mixed in there. Because to register a breeding dog with GANA, you have to either trace that goldendoodle however many generations back to AKC registered dogs, or you have to have a DNA breed profile that shows that the dog, that that goldendoodle is comprised only of golden retriever and poodle genes. And that’s for every single breeding dog for every single GANA breeder.
And therefore if you’re going to buy from a non-GANA member breeder, firstly ask why aren’t they a GANA breeder? Do they not qualify? Do they not like to conform? Many times a breeder is good about health testing, but then they end up with a dog that didn’t pass something and they don’t want to remove that dog from their breeding program. Well for GANA, that would be found out because they can’t register the litter without submitting the health testing. And so another breeder who’s not a GANA breeder, just says, “Oh, I didn’t test their elbows.” Instead of, “I tested them and they’re dysplastic.” “I didn’t test.” Or they just don’t mention it and the general consumer doesn’t know enough to ask to see the health testing.
So when somebody says, “Well, you know, why should I buy from a GANA breeder?” Well, you don’t have to, but if you don’t buy from a GANA breeder, you need to do your own homework. You need to find out, is that truly a goldendoodle? Does it have other breeds mixed in? Has it been fully health tested? Did it pass all the health testing? Is it a puppy mill? Are those puppies raised in cages? You know, are they devoid of human interaction until you pick up your puppy at eight weeks? GANA knows all of these things about their breeders, and so you don’t have to do that homework.
If you buy from a GANA breeder, you know that all of that information has been taken care of. We also require that every puppy is sold being examined by a vet, before it’s released. And given a clean bill of health or any issues are exposed, or the consumer knows. And also that they come with a minimum of a two-year genetic defect warranty. And we have rules about that. They cannot require that the puppy be returned to exercise the warranty. Because what good is a two-year genetic defect warranty if my puppy has a problem, but I got to give it back to you. Nobody wants to give back their 18 month old dog that they love that has a health issue.
And so that’s how breeders get… You know, it’s a loophole. The breeders don’t honor the warranties. Our breeders cannot require that a dog is given a certain supplement, or that a certain brand of food to maintain the warranty. The breeder can’t require that the owners touch base, will give reports every so often. Because that doesn’t affect the genetic health of the dog. So our warranties are that each breeder has to submit their warranty. It has to meet GANA’s criteria, and then that warranty has to be posted on their website for the general consumer to see at all times. And so GANA has done the homework. And therefore when somebody says, “Can you recommend a specific GANA breeder?” My recommendation is, you know, they all meet these standards. So reach out to them and find which one has the right puppy for you.
JH: Yeah, that’s fabulous. I love all the transparency and the way you build the incentives in to make sure that this stuff is actually going to happen. And the way you lay down the law sometimes (laughter) when it’s necessary. Yes. So the reason I wanted to do what I’m intending to turn into a short series of talking to different parts of the doodle world is that I just hear from a lot of purebred breeders that doodles get a bad rap, right? And so some of the things that you hear are, “Doodle owners never know what they’re doing.” “Doodle breeders are all irresponsible.” Or that, “I’ve met so many doodles with bad temperaments.” And I just wanted to sort of expose the side of that there are some very responsible, competent doodle breeders out there. And I was hoping you would have some words to say, to talk about this issue.
AL: Well, what you described can happen in any breed, not just doodles. You can have bad golden retriever breeders, bad poodle breeders. There are people that have never even heard of health testing, and they’re breeding dogs together. There are people that have no knowledge of appropriate structure, and therefore they’re breeding dogs that have structural issues that are going to cause health issues. And so I think probably the difference is that doodles are bringing higher prices than your purebred dogs. So probably more unscrupulous people, more uneducated people, are becoming doodle breeders, and that does hurt the reputation of the breed.
The bottom line is there are good and bad breeders everywhere and the consumer needs to become educated. I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve had somebody say, “Oh, well I always bought AKC because that means it’s healthy.” No, the AKC is a registry. They don’t require any health testing. They don’t require… I mean, they’re okay with a mother and a son crossing to produce a litter or a father and a daughter. And that’s many times when you have issues because family members carry the same recessive genes, and therefore, you know, they might be healthy individually. But together, they’re going to create puppies that are affected. And so being AKC registered gives you no guarantee, other than it’s the breed they say it is. And that’s why I wanted GANA to represent something different than that. Not only is it the breed that we say it is, but it comes from fully health tested lines. Now, the only thing that GANA can’t can’t police is temperament. But the bottom line is, that catches up with a reputation. If you continually breed dogs that have crazy temperaments and are, you know, very hyper, or aggressive. You’re not going to be a breeder very long. And that’s what (indistinct).
JH: Yeah. Well, thank you for that. So if people want to learn more about GANA, where would they go on the internet? What is the website?
AL: http://www.goldendoodleassociation.com. And they will find a wealth of information on the website. We have, other than paying our registrar, we have one paid employee, and that is the person that processes all the registration forms. She manages the database. She collects the health testing and logs that all in. Other than that expense, GANA spends its money only for educational purposes. So we had an onsite conference in Myrtle Beach in March, probably the very last few days we would have been able to ever pull it off due to COVID. If we had planned the conference a week later, we would not have been able to have it and several of our speakers pulled out because they were afraid to travel and they joined our conference and gave the lecture via Zoom.
But we have been doing pretty much weekly Zoom educational webinars for our members. And we don’t charge our members for this. This is something that GANA pays for. And we have hired speakers from all walks of life: Dr. Carmen Battaglia, Marty Greer, Dr. Hutchinson. Different well known speakers who will then address our membership, and allow our membership to ask questions and so forth and give them an education. And that, I think, is our new method of educating our breeders instead of requiring them all to fly to a certain location. And visually, you know, listen and see these speakers.
We created a breed standard. We finished that up, I guess, maybe a year ago. And we’ve been doing structural, educational videos, and we are in the process now of having the breed standard illustrated. We have an artist that’s going to work with us to illustrate the breed standard. So that people, they don’t just read what the ear length should be, or you know, so forth. They can actually visualize it with a diagram. And that is more helpful when people are learning about structure.
So the bottom line is our goal at this point is education, education, education. And we have a Facebook… Well, we have two Facebook groups for GANA. And they’re private. For members only. The one is where our breeders discuss things and ask questions. And it’s where we put out information that we want to be able to have a vote upon. But we also have a GANA educational library, where there is no discussion. It’s where we store all of these webinars, and all of the information that we share with our breeders. You know, every now and then we have such a fabulous webinar that we, as a gesture of goodwill, share it on several breeder forums, you know, for all breeds. Or for breeders that aren’t GANA breeders, because we feel the information is just too important not to share. And that’s what GANA is about, is educating. So we give them a little taste of what GANA offers. And then if you want more of the education, join GANA. It’s a whole hundred dollars a year.
JH: Wow, that’s fantastic. Yeah, I didn’t even think to ask you about education. Because I was, I didn’t know what you would say. And I didn’t want to ask you if you were gonna say something like, “Oh, we don’t educate anybody.” But that’s fantastic. I think that’s what a breed club should do. So.
AL: On the website there is a lot of educational information about grooming and different things. You know, helping a new breeder know what whelping supplies to have. If you go on the website, you’ll find every educational segment that we do. We list it on there. It’s not necessarily available to the general public. You have to be a member. But we want people, breeders that are thinking about joining GANA, to be able to access this list and see, “Wow, you know. All of that is there for a mere hundred dollars a year.”
JH: That’s fantastic. Well, I really appreciate your taking the time to come talk to me about this stuff and help spread information about what resources are available out there for folks who want to breed goldendoodles super responsibly.
AL: Well, we are happy to have you on our side as doodle breeders, so thank you for having me.
Thanks so much for listening. The Functional Breeding Podcast is a product of the Functional Dog Collaborative and was produced by Sarah Espinosa Socal. Come join us at the Functional Breeding Facebook group to talk about this episode or about responsible breeding practices in general. To learn more about the Functional Dog Collaborative, check out www.functionalbreeding.org. Enjoy your dogs.
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