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On Registering ‘Doodles in the U.K.

For some years now the U.K. Kennel Club has been running a series of “question times” for which senior members and officers of the KC tour the country meeting the grassroots exhibitors and breeders, answering their questions and addressing their concerns – or that’s the general idea.

Recently the idea that the KC could start to register crossbred dogs in the form of the so-called “doodle” in all its variants was floated as a topic for discussion at one of these question time events.

DOG WORLD columnist Sheila Atter was at that meeting and wrote about how the idea came up and then what happened next. Sheila says the surprising thing that happened after the question time discussion was that people on both sides of the argument reacted in a similar way, although for different reasons, and neither side was particularly keen on the KC starting to register the ‘doodle.

Sheila says a significant portion of the audience at the original question time was insistent that registration of ‘doodles was not something that the KC should be exploring. Others suggested there was no harm in at least discussing whether the KC should at least consider venturing into the world of designer breeds.

The KC chairman, Prof. Steve Dean, then asked for an interview with Barb Turnbull of the Labradoodle Trust to sound out views with regard to some sort of KC registration. Posts were made on both a pro-KC show-based Facebook page and on a Labradoodle forum asking for opinions that could be passed on to Prof. Dean.

The possibility of the UK Kennel Club registering so-called “designer breeds” in some fashion brought vociferous comments from both sides. Photo © Can Stock Photo.

From the pedigree side, it was felt strongly that the KC just saw the whole idea of ‘doodle registration as a money-making scheme, and that it would further dilute the KC’s concern for and promotion of pedigree dogs. Doodle owners were, if anything, even more vociferous.

Sheila wrote: “Surprising as it may seem to those who are fanatical about our breeds, breeding to adhere as closely as possible to the breed Standard, the appeal of the doodle is apparently its variety – the fact that when you buy a puppy you have absolutely no idea whether it will be large or small, have a non-shedding poodle-type coat or cast hair at every opportunity like a Labrador. To these folk, the very idea of a breed Standard is complete anathema.”

One of the first posts on the Labradoodle forum, in answer to what seemed to be a perfectly reasonable request for anyone with an opinion on the subject to get in touch with Ms. Turnbull, read: “With the greatest respect, who elected you to speak for doodles?” This particular poster went on to say, “Most of us have struggled against the practices promulgated by the KC and many buy doodles because they are free from the eugenics of the KC world. I certainly wouldn’t want anything to do with them, let alone want to meet them.”

The prospect of creating a breed Standard for a Labradoodle is a complete anathema to some breeders. Photo © Can Stock Photo.

Others, on both sides, gave a much more balanced response. There is no doubt that doodles have just as many, if not more, health problems than many pedigree breeds, and one owner who has a dog suffering from hip dysplasia had her own point to make: “My view is that anything that can help spread the word about the need for sensible breeding rather than just jumping on the bandwagon and crossing any dogs must be worth thinking about seriously, and if the KC are thinking about registering doodles, I would much rather they did it with their eyes open and with all the information the Labradoodle world can pass on to them, than barging on uninformed.”

Sheila writes in her DOG WORLD column: “So, if we put the idea that the KC is considering introducing a breed Standard to which all these various crossbreeds will be expected to conform firmly to one side, and accept that the concept is quite simply to offer a point of reference by which responsible breeders and would-be buyers can ensure that the highest standards of health testing and welfare are adhered to, then surely we have to accept that it is a service that the KC, with their remit to be there for the good of all dogs, should be offering.

“However, how this is done will need, as has already been demonstrated, a considerable amount of thought long before it is implemented. Too often we have seen good ideas flounder because they have been introduced far too soon and way before the concept has really been thought through – the Assured Breeder Scheme being a case in point. If it hasn’t already done so, maybe the KC will look around and see how others have tackled the problem of unregistered or developing breeds?

“Of course the AKC’s Foundation Stock Service (FSS) has been operating successfully for many years, and offers a valid registry for breeds that are not yet recognised by the AKC, some of which are perfectly happy with their status, but see the benefits of a nationally operated, independent validating body as opposed to a small breed club that can be adversely affected by the whims of individuals.

“However, perhaps more relevant to the question of some sort of registration of deliberate crossbreds, such as the various doodles and poos, would be the system operated here in the UK by the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF). Their Reference Registry is just that – a means by which those who have imported a new breed, or who are developing a new variety, can register their kittens. This means that there is a verifiable record of all breeding and cats can be traced back to the original foundation stock. Some will go on to be a fully recognised breed, others will remain where they are, unregistered in the accepted sense, but with a traceable pedigree and health record.

“A similar system could work well within the auspices of the KC, both to offer a reliable and respected registry for breeds that are either not yet eligible for or have no wish to be added to the imported register – the Silken Windhound and the Lucas Terrier spring to mind in that connection – and as a means of recording health-tested crossbreeds for those who choose to deliberately go down that route. That would, of course, include not only the so-called designer dogs, but also those that want a specific cross for working purposes, such as a Springer/Cocker cross favoured by some gundog owners. Whether the KC should impose restrictions on who can use KC services to record litters, dependent upon the health testing that is carried out, is another question entirely and one that has been debated at length. Indeed, if strict health-testing requirements are imposed on doodle breeders, they could well argue that theirs would be a far higher quality and more informative register than the pedigree register where anything – or nothing – in the way of health testing is deemed acceptable.”

There is no doubt that the issue of so-called designed crossbreeds in a highly emotive issue. DOG WORLD was subject to a degree of criticism on social networking sites recently when Geraldine Cove-Print, who writes on rescue issues, wrote in positive terms about a scheme set up by Labradoodle breeders to provide rescue facilities for these dogs and to encourage good breeding practise. Critics felt it was wrong for DW to be writing about crossbred dogs, and there are forums on various social networking sites that are aggressively critical of anyone breeding anything other than a breed currently recognised by the UK KC – it’s an issue that’s sure to run and run.

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