Question: Are your parents and puppies registered with the AKC (American Kennel Club)?
Answer: Sadly, no. The Cockapoo is not a recognized “breed” by the AKC, despite having been around for over 60 years!! So why isn’t the Cockapoo a recognized breed by the American Kennel Club? The problem with the Cockapoo becoming a fully recognized breed… well, the problem is money (isn’t it always?). Most breeders produce what are called first generation (or F1) hybrids. This is when you breed an American Cocker Spaniel to a (miniature or toy) Poodle, and get cockapoos. These puppies cannot be considered a “breed” since they are variable in the first few generations, and do not “breed true”. Cockapoos will always produce Cockapoos, and they will always fit into a range of physical features, however there is a wider variability in features making a tight standard more difficult to set.
When you get a first generation cross (F1) you are really playing puppy roulette. You might get an ideal cockapoo, and you might not. A cockapoo is supposed to follow a set of standards, and you cannot guarantee anything with a first generation (F1) cross.
In order to really have reliable genetic traits people would have to regularly be producing fourth and fifth generation cockapoos (F4 and F5) or higher. Unfortunately, that takes a lot of quality breeding stock (to include DNA tests and fresh, clean lines), time (think years), devotion, and most importantly, money.
Sadly most breeders produce dogs (pure bred and/or hybrid) for the business, not the dogs. A female cocker spaniel can be 25-40 pounds (when not in AKC standards; and often mills breed far outside of standards). She will yield a higher quantity of puppies each litter when bred to the 10 pound poodle male. And when you have more puppies, you have more profit…
A cockapoo should be between 15-25 pounds, ideally. But because of the variability of these early generation crosses, the puppies can be as small as dad (10 pounds) or as big as mom (30 pounds). That is a HUGE variation. How can you give families an idea of what to expect with that kind of range?
A cockapoo should not shed or have a double, seasonal, fur coat. A first generation cross is very likely to yield puppies that have fur, shed, or shed a little. Only some of the puppies will be non-shedding.
A cockapoo from an early generation cross can look like a cockapoo (and ideally, should), can look like a cocker spaniel, or can look like a poodle! There is no way to know for sure what a puppy will look like until it starts to get older. Even a very experienced breeder will have a truly difficult time identifying smooth-coated pups from a moderately-wavy coat and a dog sporting “facial furnishings” from a dog with an “open” face.
You can see the wide variability in this hybrid because of these greedy breeding practices very easily. All you have to do is search “Cockapoo images” on any search engine and you can see for yourself all the various sizes and shapes the cockapoo can be.
This can be very frustrating and upsetting for a new owner. You get a puppy, thinking that puppy will look like the breed standard, and you wind up with a high-strung, fuzzy-coated dog that looks mostly like a poodle? Or you get a very long-eared, shedding dog with a blocky head that looks like a cocker? What a major disappointment!
Getting a puppy isn’t an “Oh well, next time” experience!! This is a 14-18 year long commitment! You want to get what you want in the first place! Not settle for something because you had to play puppy roulette!
Even still, the further down the line the hybrid goes the more that “hybrid vigor” goes away and the more concerns there are about disorders cropping up. This is why it is imperative that lots of properly bred, well tested and cleared parents be used to breed these pups! You will certainly get much more consistent litters and pups around the third (F3) and especially fourth (F4) generation. Unfortunately when you leave the hybrid definition for the breed definition you leave your “hybrid vigor” behind. The health benefits from hybridizing are arguably relatively gone by the third generation (F3). The only way to bring health and vitality along with the further generations is to meticulously DNA test all breed stock and refrain from breeding any animals that are carriers for genetic defects. This is no easy (or inexpensive) task.
I breed multi-generational crosses and am working my way up to tenth generation (F10) Even F2 & F3 puppies are far more reliably “Cockapoo” and I can give more assurance about what the dog’s coat, frame, appearance and temperament will be like than the F1.
I produce the occasional open faced dog (no mustache or eyebrows and a slick muzzle sans fuzzy teddy-bear face) and a smooth-coated dog is certainly possible. The nice thing about having the variety is that both are very lovely dogs and I genuinely adore my open-faced smooth-coated F1 Cockapoo. She is beautiful and has a shiny, soft coat with just the slightest wave. Fortunately for me, she does not have an undercoat and does not shed (moult) and so far she looks good to place into the breeding program. That is a good thing because she has just the perfect bone structure for this breed and I’m excited to add her blood to my developing line.
Will the Cockapoo ever be added in as a breed according to the American Kennel Club? That is hard to say. Unfortunately as long as people continue to breed first generation crosses I can’t imagine the AKC will be able to admit the Cockapoo without some fuss. Eventually I do believe we will see such popular dogs like the Australian Labradoodle (developed as a better Seeing Eye dog) and the Goldendoodle (ranked as the most popular dog in the USA) and the American Cockapoo in those fancy-pants dog show rings and all holding conformance titles and such. Until then I guess we’ll all just have to live without those papers and kennel club fees.