Marley the Spoodle

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Name          Marley

Breed          Spoodle (Cocker Spaniel X Poodle)

Age               3 months

Location     St Clair Promenade

Marley was learning how to come when she was called when I introduced myself (or rather, emitted a high pitch squeal and ran over), and in all her fluffy puppy glory she was doing pretty well for 3 months… Must be the Poodle brains in her.

The Spoodle is  a curious thing. It is a so-called cross, but as Marley’s human confirmed,

“She’s purebred, from a proper breeder and everything- and was really quite expensive!”

Cross-breeds like Marley are commonly known as hybrids (although this is not technically accurate, as a biological hybrid requires that the parents be members of differing species, and that their resulting offspring are infertile). Many hybrids go on to become more a breed in their own right due to their popularity, especially if they succumb whats in vogue.

Most of us would assume that Marley’s mum was a Cocker Spaniel and her dad a Poodle (or visa versa) but actually what her human meant when he said she was ‘purebred’ was that both her parents were actually Spoodles – and probably their parents too. It is very important to draw the distinction between what we deem to be a ‘mutt’ and a purposefully mixed breed. They best way to differentiate them is to remember that most mutts are born of parents who naturally chose each other and were not forced to breed. Hybrid breeds can potentially have many of the same health problems as their purebred parents, especially a few generations on. In fact, those problems can potentially be even worse, and they may be bred in compromising environments because breeders have no obligations to fulfil if they are not breeding a recognised purebred. Purposefully mixing breeds is precisely how we have been creating new dog breeds for centuries – it is not a new concept by any stretch of the imagination.

The good thing about hybrids is that you can pick two dogs breeds with features you like and combine them to make one adorable super-dog! That’s how it works, right?

Well, sometimes, yes. But contrary to popular belief we can’t actually choose which genes are going to be expressed and which aren’t. For example, if we breed a Cocker Spaniel with a Poodle, we can’t guarantee that the puppies won’t inherit the Cocker Spaniel’s lack of brain cells and the Poodle’s stubbornness (on that note, it is a myth that all Poodle hybrids don’t shed hair like their Poodle parent, so beware!). That’s why we begin to breed hybrids with other hybrids, thus beginning the new breed cycle all over again.

But genetic variation is always possible – Marley’s human says that she seems all Cocker Spaniel, even though her brothers and sisters appear to have inherited more of the Poodle traits. Lucky she obviously has the Poodle smarts!

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