First a disclaimer: There are no "bad" dogs. Only bad people. Its not the dogs fault how it was bred or who bred it, and every dog with the right health, training and temprement can become an assistance dog. But this blog post is for those of you who are considering where and how to purchase your potential assistance dog and about how to make wise choices with solid fact based information.
In Australia all registered ethical breeders are registered with the ANKC. The ANKC is the ONLY legitimate body that governs ethical registered breeding in Australia. In some juristrictions there may be people registed as breeders with their local council or shire, but this should be in addition to ANKC registration because sadly, as long a breeder meets the bare minimum requirements a council will register a puppy mill as a breeder. So council registration alone is not an indicatior that they are ethical.
If your breeder is not listed on the ANKC data base that is your first excessively big red flag that you are at best dealing with a back-yard breeder, or at worst a puppy mill. If your “Breed” is not on the ANKC data base its not a legitimate breed. It is a designer dog. A designer dog is a mutt (intentionally cross bred dog) with a fancy name to con you in to thinking it is a legitimate breed. The most common one that comes up is “Labradoodle”. No, that is a Labrador x Poodle. A deliberately cross bred dog, with a cutesy name and an over inflated price tag. Doodle/oodle anything is a cross breed.
All breeders who intentionally and deliberately cross pure-bred dogs are inherently unethical. There is no ethical breeder of cross bred dogs. To get the pure-bred dogs they base their crosses on they had to at the very least deceive a legitimate ANKC breeder. No ANKC breeder would ever knowingly allow their blood lines to be used in cross breeding. Secondly these people who are intentionally creating cross bred dogs are usually blatantly in it for the money, and as such will market their over priced cross breeds with impossible claims like guarantees that they will be “non-shedding” or a certain size or have a particular temperament. However, this is simply not how genetics work. Pure breeds breed true. You know if you breed a standard poodle with another standard poodle all the puppies will be approximately the same size, they will all have a particular coat type and a very predictable temperament (with room for individual personalities within those generalisations). When you mix say a Labrador with a standard poodle there is no way to know what the puppies are going to end up like. You do not know which genes from the poodle side vs which genes from the Lab side will be present in any particular puppy, and every single puppy will be different, even from the same parents in the same litter. I am not going to get into a full-on gene science lesson in this blog post, but feel free to research genetics and genetic inheritability further.
When you are looking for an AD candidate you need to stack the odds as much in your favour for success as you can. Given that cross breeds do not breed true there are far too many unknowns, that might not be a deal breaker for a pet but may be as an assistance dog. By buying a pure bred dog from a ANKC breeder you are getting a dog that you know will meet breed standards (height, weight, coat, temperament etc) and that will be from fully health tested stock, by a dam that has been ethically bred (so no back to back litters etc) and usually ANKC breeders will have titled their dogs in either sports or confirmation. You will get a legitimate pedigree that you can trace your dogs blood lines back at least 5 generations on your pedigree, more if you go digging in the archives.
If you really have your heart set on a cross breed, rescue one from a pound. That is the only ethical way to purchase a cross breed or you are just supporting the back-yard breeders and puppy mills. Of course, rescue dogs come with a whole other host of issues and risks as potential assistance dogs, but that is a topic for another blog post another day.
Another common myth about cross breeds is that they have "hybrid vigior" meaning less helath issues then pure breed dogs do. This is incorrect. Crossing breeds does not make the off spring any healthier, infact now instead of having concreate knowlege that your dog may be prone to XYZ health issues, and that those health issues are tested for in breeding stock by your registered ethical breeder in an effort to actively breed these issues out of their bloodlines, you now have double the amount of potential health issues (from both parent breeds) and the potential that the cross could compound or create new health issues.
Now you are going to hear the success stories of those who brought cross breeds and were lucky enough that it worked out ok for them. In fact, I even have clients who have cross breeds. But these people are LUCKY. It worked out for them because of good luck, not good planning. If you are going to invest the large amount of time, effort, and money in to training an assistance dog, doesn’t it make sense to go for the safest bet? The best chance of success? Buying a dog to train as an assistance dog needs to be a calculated decision, there is a lot of heart break that comes from having a dog wash out, and no dog is ever guaranteed to make the cut, not even an ethically bred pure breed so why take the extra gamble that the unknowns of a cross breed dog bring?
If you were thinking about a cross breed, and do not know what to consider instead considering this new information, contact me. Make an appointment for me to do a needs and lifestyle analysis so I can suggest some pure breeds that will meet your requirements.