HYBRID VIGOUR & cavoodles
There is a fair amount of controversy surrounding Cavoodles, “Designer Dogs” and Hybrid Vigour. Don't be offended if someone tries to "correct" you and say - "There is no such thing as a CAVOODLE, they're a Cavalier crossed with a Poodle!". I loathe the term “designer dogs” as it has so many negative connotations. I prefer to call them “Oodles” or “Doodles” or use “Doods”!! Yes they are essentially a cross bred. We all know that. But because this particular cross of these two breeds results in puppies very consistent in type and temperament (for first generation pups), they have been bred for over 15years and have become increasingly popular in Australia in the past 10years. It just so happens that because the "breed" has been around for that long - they now have their own cute name! So just smile and ignore the haters!
So why is the crossing of these two delightful breeds, so important to me?
All Purebred dogs have been developed using a small number of foundation dogs in a closed population. This means that the inbreeding continues over time and the health problems and genetic disorders become more prevalent especially since there is a fairly limited gene pool for most breeds in Australia. There are many different health problems affecting individual breeds of dogs.
The Cavalier King Charles is a perfect example of the major problems that can arise after many years of inbreeding/line breeding. Mitral Valve disease (MVD) is a heart condition affecting many Cavalier King Charles dogs and is the leading cause of death. The disease is seen in many CKCS from the age of 5yrs and older. There isn't a blood test to show if a dog has this disease or if it is a carrier, which makes preventing it all but impossible. The only way to "heart pass/clear" a Cavvy, is to have a Veterinary Cardiologist clear the dog from any heart murmurs on an annual basis. This disease does occur in other breeds of dogs but sadly it is 20 times more common in Cavvy's. Most breeders breed their dogs for the first time when they are between 12 months and 24 months of age, prior to them knowing if the dog will suffer from MVD. Many times MVD does not show up until after the dog is 5 years old, at which time they have already bred several litters and it is too late for all of the resulting puppies born, having unwittingly passed on the disease to them. Even if 2 dogs are clear of MVD they are most likely carriers and so can pass it to the offspring unknowingly.Some say that Cavvy’s therefore shouldn't be used for breeding till they have passed 5 years of heart checks. Yet according to many kennel council regulations in Australia a bitch can not be bred over 5 years of age and certainly should not be having their first litter from the age of 5. So the disease continues to be passed on.
Poodles too can suffer from a number of genetic health issues, the most prevalent being Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) and Progressive Rod Cone Degeneration (PRCD), both degenerative eye conditions eventually effecting sight and also Luxating Patellas (dislocated knee caps). Thankfully we can genetically and physically test for these issues and clear the dog prior to breeding.
"Heterosis can improve the performance of crossbred animals, relative to the average of their parental breeds.”
Dr. Kent Weigel, Department of Dairy Science, University of Wisconsin.
So, a little bit of info on Heterosis or Hybrid Vigour.
Simply put, hybrid vigour is defined by its success. If the offspring has improved in performance and health over its purebred parents, hybrid vigour has occurred! In the case of a cavoodle when crossing a Cavalier King Charles to a Toy Poodle, you are immediately reducing or eliminating the chance of that offspring being affected by heath conditions such as MVD and PRA. Simply because the chance of the Poodle and Cavvy parents BOTH being a carrier of the disease is extremely low. So in effect the Cavoodle is FAR less likely to suffer from the health conditions of it's purebred parents.
One final word about hybrid vigour: don't forget the key word is "hybrid".
By the time you get to, third, fourth, fifth generations, you're losing heterozygosity (the benefits of Hybrid Vigour). Which is why I only breed first and second generation Cavoodles and Spoodles. A first generation cross (or F1) is between two pure bred parents - cavalier or ESP with a poodle. This gives us the most hybrid vigour, but the resulting puppies can vary in the type of look and coat that they're born with (usually a fleece coat). However most still seem to be low to non shedding with varying degrees of curliness to their coat.
Second generation is a cavoodle crossed back to a poodle or a cavoodle crossed with another cavoodle (or spoodle and spoodle). This gives us a puppy more consistent in type and coat. Their coat tends to be curlier (wool coat) and are non shedding. Crossing these breeds is an extremely sore subject for registered breeders, as they will never admit to there even being such a thing as hybrid vigour. Their argument is that all dogs are of the same species, so they must all carry the same health conditions in their genes. But why then do individual breeds have their own specific set of genetic health issues, associated with only that breed?
I am by no means against purebred dogs, in fact I am quite the opposite (I was a registered breeder and exhibitor for 10 years!) I just feel that they have many health problems, some breeds more so than others and as much as the responsible breeders try to screen and breed healthier dogs it doesn't guarantee that puppies will be free from hereditary disease. I have been on both sides of the fence - pure bred and Oodles. Oodles beat pure bred hands down in terms of health, temperament and intelligence!
I have witnessed time and again the extreme characteristics that are desirable in particular breeds - breeders will breed for a shorter snout in Pugs, the sloped hind quarters of the German Shepherd, more wrinkles in the
Shar-Pei, massive bone in the Great Dane, just to name a few. These extremes are all associated with genetic issues in these pure bred dogs. My husband and I have over 45years Veterinary experience between us. Sadly, David has estimated that over 60% of his work, is treating dogs with genetic health issues associated with pure breed dogs.
So, after owning and falling in love with the Cavalier and the Poodle, then getting to know how fantastic the resulting Cavoodle is, I am now committed to breeding a healthy, non-low shedding, small but robust, intelligent and fun, gentle and loving cavoodles.
They are the perfect family dog in my opinion!