04/02/2015 05:00 EDT | Updated 06/01/2015 05:59 EDT

Labradoodle marketing fetches $2,500 puppy price

A puppy that sells for $2,500 in Canada isn't even a dog that cracks the Top 10 most popular purebreds.

In fact, the Labradoodle never makes the Canadian Kennel Club's list because although increasingly popular, it is not a purebred. It's a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle. 

So what makes the Labradoodle, dubbed a designer dog, so expensive? 

"Part of the price has to do with the demand, and certainly there has been increased demand," said Debi Andrus, an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.

"They're so cute, but the other thing is they have been positioned in the minds of the people buying them, the potential pet owners, as having the best of all of the breeds they are cross-breeding."

That's the easy-going nature of the Labrador retriever with the smarts of the poodle, she said. But for some buyers it's the breeder promise of a low to non-shedding pet that might be better for allergy sufferers and people who just don't want to deal with fur.

"You still have to keep them well groomed and brushed, but there is a slight misconception that they are hypoallergenic, but it isn't 100 per cent, people still do have issues. If you are very, very sensitive you will have issues with any breed of dog," said Andrus.

The Labradoodle also has the celebrity endorsement factor that has spiked the popularity of dogs from the Chihuahua to the chow chow. "It is part of the pop culture now that we see photos of celebrities and their dogs," she said.

Ethical breeding

The world of puppy breeding can be murky with a huge price range between a puppy sold in a parking lot through contact on Facebook to one that comes from a well-known breeder who tests for genetic ailments and offers a lineage that includes show dogs. There are options in-between too, with ethical considerations for potential puppy owners.

While Labradoodles aren't members of the Canadian Kennel Club, there is an association of breeders called the Australian Labradoodle Association of America that maintains a database of more than 20,000 dogs and sets health testing standards.

Member Gail Groeneveld has bred Labradoodles for 10 years near High River, Alta. After her beloved Labrador retriever died, she did some research and was drawn to the idea of a low-shedding, family friendly dog. While many breeders charge $2,500 for a pup, Groeneveld recently upped her price to $2,750 for a fixed puppy, which includes GST. Her puppies are fourth-generation Labradoodles.

"There is always a big demand for them, our puppies are always pre-sold — they are sold before the puppies are born," she said. "We really educate our families. I am not selling a dog with an ad on Kijiji and having someone running out from Calgary on a whim to pick up a puppy."

Long before the puppies go to homes, she gives the new owners books to read and makes sure they have the appropriate supplies and have contacted a dog trainer.

Do the research

Some purebred breeders are hesitant to talk about the Labradoodle, but one standard poodle breeder in Ontario was blunt about his feelings. 

"If you want the best of a poodle, why don't you buy a poodle?" said Peter Welsh. "Why would you dumb down a poodle?"

Andrus, who once owned a keeshond dog, recommends that anyone who wants a puppy to do extensive research. Labradoodles, like any dog, can have behavioural and health problems if poorly bred or trained. There are even rescue associations dedicated to the breed.

"I think anybody wanting to buy a dog has to look at why they are buying them and do the research, whether it is a rescue dog, a crossbred or a purebred, and know that any pet is going to take time and effort," she said.