origins of the habibi

The Habibi Bear Project

Are you curious about why we call them 'Habibi Bears'? The name is a nod to our family's Egyptian heritage and the beautiful Arabic language they speak. "Habibi" translates to 'my beloved' or 'sweetheart' in Arabic. The word itself carries the frequency of love! It's the perfect name for these magical little dogs that connect to our hearts and raise our vibration by simply being in their presence.
They, indeed, are our Beloved Bears.

Puppies with a purpose!

Welcome! Our Habibi Bear puppies are here to bring joy and comfort to your home. These unique pups come in a variety of sizes and are full of love and snuggles. And the best part? Their allergy-friendly coats make them great for allergy sufferers, so you can enjoy their hugs without any worries.

We've spent over 30 years focusing on the well-being of our dogs, not the number of litters. We nurture just a few litters each year, ensuring every Habibi Bear is a standout. These puppies are part of our family, and we're excited to share them with you.

Our program is small, but our passion for pairing our Habibi Bears with loving families is huge. These pups are whip-smart, super affectionate, and have an innate ability to connect with people, making them excellent therapy, Emotional Support, and family companions. They're not just pets; they're furry family members with a purpose.

Here's our backstory. It all started with Schnoodles for my students, and the desire to do more. We discovered new stunning colors in Schnauzers and Poodles that DNA tests revealed additional breed genetics.  We then infused healthy rare imported lines to increase the genetic diversity.   That's the origin of our Habibi Bears—sweet, empathetic, and just the right fit for those in need of a furry friend.

We use DNA testing to ensure a diverse and robust canine family. This labor of love has been our path, and we're thrilled to invite you into our world. Discover the Habibi Bear difference for yourself.

Habibi is an Arabic word that means 'my beloved'
and they truly are our beloved bears. 

Connectivity between dogs and humans is a profound, transformative experience. It is our deep passion to help nurture and promote this meaningful relationship. Therefore, after much introspection, we knew we had to align our name with our vision. We chose the Name 'Habibi'  as a nod to our family's Egyptian heritage, an Arabic term of endearment meaning 'my beloved' and 'Bear' for our dogs' adorable teddy bear appearance.  

Why We Embrace Purpose Breeding and Creating a New Breed through Outcrossing
One might question the rationale behind choosing crossbreeding or purposely breeding a new breed rather than breeding purebreds. The reason is straightforward: we are in pursuit of specific temperaments and personality traits that are not fully encapsulated by any single purebred breed. Often, the breeds that resemble our vision are either exceedingly rare, making them less accessible, or they may share only the physical characteristics without the desired temperament.

Furthermore, purebred lines were established in the era prior to the advent of genetic testing, leading to prevalent inbreeding practices. Although purebred dogs can be wonderful in their own right and suitable for many, they do not align with the objectives of our breeding program and The Habibi Bear Project goals. Through crossbreeding, we are able to circumvent these challenges, ensuring a diverse genetic makeup and honing in on the precise qualities that distinguish Habibi Bears as extraordinary

Inbreeding & Bottlenecking health issues
In the world of breed clubs, many have closed their stud books, meaning that traditional breeds cannot introduce new breeds into their lineage to increase genetic diversity or rectify potential health issues caused by years of inbreeding and line-breeding. This lack of genetic diversity can increase health problems within specific breeds, creating a bottleneck in the gene pool and limiting their well-being. This is one of the numerous reasons we have chosen to embark on our own development path. Our focus is simple yet profound – we prioritize temperament and health above all else. We do not adhere to the traditional methods of maintaining "purebreds." For more information on our approach to breeding, please visit our  Hybrid page.

"Dog breeds must be ‘rebooted’ to halt health problems,"
Prof. Clare Rusbridge

In this article, Prof Clare Rusbridge states,  "Dog breeds must be ‘rebooted’ to halt health problems".   Prof. Rusbridge calls for careful cross-breeding to introduce new genetic material through careful cross-breeding to save pure breeds from ingrained health problems.  From French bulldogs with spinal and respiratory issues to cavalier King Charles spaniels with skull malformations and heart problems, many breeds are prone to specific disorders.

But while efforts have been made to breed healthier pedigree dogs by screening for problematic traits, the approach has limits. Clare Rusbridge, a professor in veterinary neurology at the University of Surrey, said many diseases arose from a complex array of genetic variants, while the gene pool of breeds was often so small that there were simply not enough unaffected individuals to breed from.

It seems that science indicates inbreeding as a dangerous practice leading to increasing issues in pure breeds. Therefore, we are committed to producing our Habibi Bears.

What Breeds are involved?

Habibi Bears are a unique combination of parent breeds:

Since 1989, we've purposely developed the Habibi Bear with a meaningful intention-  to create a unique breed through strategic outcrossing. Our exceptional dogs combine beloved companion breeds to enhance genetic diversity, offering extraordinary temperaments tailored to your modern lifestyle. 
To date, the breeds in the background of the Habibi are listed below, and we leave our studbook open to infusing new breeds when needed to reach our goals. 
Small & Mini Line: Bichon Breeds, Poodle, Shih Tzu, Cavalier, Schnauzer, Pekingese
Moyen Line: With the addition of Large breeds - Poodle & Schnauzer, Goldendoodle, Bernedoodle, Aussiedoodle

Each year, we work increasingly closer to the goal of integrating the entire gene pool of all sizes into one cohesive line.

It is interesting to note that while these breeds are in the background and recorded in our studbooks, depending on dilution, we notice that not all will be detected in the Embark Test.  The most recent case in point we wrote about in our recent blog is our newest additions to our breeding program, Bluebelle. We observed an example of breed dilution. We also saw how the coefficient of inbreeding (COI) improved over time by comparing her DNA panel to that of her parents, who belong to the previous generation.  Bluebelle's parents are Elliot and Belladonna.  Elliot's pedigree includes a total of four breeds in his background, but due to dilution over time, he only shows two breeds on his Embark test. On the other hand, Bella, is an imported Shihtzu from Korea, and she and her sister's DNA notate a small percentage of Chihuahua.  We can attribute this to the fact that 1) all breeds were created by mixing at one point and  2) Embark did not have these imported dog's samples in their reference panel, so they matched other markers.
A win for restoring genetic vitality!
Back to Bluebelle, it's exciting to note that in this generation, we have successfully eliminated the COI, and as you can see, she now has a 0% COI! This is a significant victory for us and our dogs' future. It has been a long, uphill battle to reverse all the damage caused by generations of inbreeding, which is still practiced and considered preferable to create a uniform look by most purebred clubs.

Embark Explaining Why Even Registered Purebred Dogs Show Mixed Results

Embark explains how this can happen to a purebreed dog, Why does a purebreed dog show mixed heritage?

According To Embark 

For various reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the registered “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registry. In fact, because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures that are not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed.

For a deeper dive, take a look at how a purebred dog’s DNA may diverge from that of the reference panel.

From Embark
Dog fanciers are passionate about their breeds and the unique attributes that define breed type, characteristics, and temperament. Generations of careful breeding and selection have helped to refine these breed-specific traits and allow everyone to enjoy the remarkable variation that is represented in hundreds of purebred dog breeds.
At Embark, we celebrate and support the dog breeders who have worked passionately to produce exceptional dogs. We share their mission and appreciate the opportunity to contribute our expertise in genetic health risks to this important pursuit.

What is a reference panel?
We understand it can be concerning when a purebred dog is tested using Embark for Breeders DNA test, and the results indicate the dog is a mixed breed. While this is uncommon and can be an indication of crossbreeding, there are also situations where purebred dogs receive this result.
When Embark conducts a DNA Test on a purebred dog, we use a proven scientific approach to assess the genetic makeup of the dog using a process involving reference panels. A reference panel is a group of dogs that have all been registered as purebred in a particular breed. Embark’s reference database of tens of thousands of purebred dogs is the largest and most diverse in the world. This database is used to identify a genetic signature unique to the breed but does not include every dog in every breed.

Why would a purebred dog not match the breed reference panel?
For various reasons, the registered purebred dog tested by Embark may not perfectly match the genetic signature of the reference panel. One example is the dog may have an ancestor that is in a closely related breed which was utilized prior to the closing of the breed’s studbook many generations ago. Another reason is that the dog may come from a bloodline that is geographically very distant from the group of reference panel dogs. These results in no way affect the registered “purebred” status of the dog or its standing with the registry. In fact, because these dogs usually contain genetic signatures not common in the breed, they can be highly useful for maintaining or even increasing genetic diversity in the breed.
For a deeper dive, take a look at how a purebred dog’s DNA may diverge from that of the reference panel.

A note from Embark: 
Hi everyone, we are pleased to offer the most accurate and comprehensive dog DNA test available. However even when testing with 200,00+ genetic markers, a DNA breed test cannot be used to certify a dog as a "purebred". This is because a "purebred" status is not itself a scientific designation, but includes human-defined registration status and pedigree records indicating all of a dog's ancestors were documented as purebred as well. While the term "purebred" is often associated with "single breed", this is not actually the same thing. Embark's DNA testing can generally inform on 3-4 generations of ancestry, which even for registered dogs will in some cases identify some DNA from another breed, often a closely related breed. This can occur for a variety of reasons, and these results do not affect the dog's registration or purebred status, because as stated earlier "purebred status" is not a scientific designation or dependent upon DNA ancestry results.
While we encourage owners and breeders to use DNA testing to learn more about their dog's ancestry, health, traits, and relatives, owners looking to register their dogs with various organizations will need to submit their pedigrees to the appropriate registry body for that certification. These registries typically do not include the requirement that the dog be certified as "single breed" from a DNA testing company such as Embark. We encourage breeders to contact their preferred registries and breed club organizations to learn more about their requirements and expectations for dogs of your breed.

A Mi-Ki Breeder's experience in developing their new breed:

Another interesting read on the topic from a Mi-Ki breeder discussing the mis-labeled breeds in the background of their dogs.


Imagine a dog that's all about companionship, one that's eager to learn and in tune with your emotions. That's the essence of a Habibi Bear. These pups are just as content joining you for a brisk walk as they are lounging around the house on a quiet day. They're the ultimate easy-keepers—no endless exercise required to keep them serene.
What we aim for in a Habibi Bear goes beyond the physical; we focus on cultivating a stable mindset, sociability, and an even-keeled nature that can handle life's surprises with grace. These qualities form the cornerstone of our breeding philosophy.

Yet, we don't compromise on their spirited nature. Our Habibi Bears retain their lively character and love for life, all while being responsive and cooperative. This blend of traits makes them the perfect addition to any family, providing joy and companionship in equal measure.

They exhibit a friendly disposition towards other dogs and showcase exceptional cleverness, sociability, and joyfulness. Quick learners of unusual tasks, these active and occasionally comical dogs may attempt to outsmart their humans if undisciplined. Habibi Bear training should be calm and consistent, with daily mental and physical exercise to prevent behavior issues. Despite their loyalty to their own family, these non-aggressive dogs are friendly and approachable, making them wonderful therapy and support dogs.

That Habibi Bear Magic

This exact combination of genes is proprietary information, but the result is undeniable: 
People can't help falling in love with Habibi Bears.

Our Habibi Bears are the product of a deliberate breeding strategy aimed at increasing hybrid vigor and reducing the genetic coefficient of inbreeding (COI) resulting from centuries of line breeding in the purebred parent lines.  This approach ensures that our dogs are not only healthy but also possess a vibrant and engaging disposition. As the DNA of our dogs is a blend of various breeds, certain complexities may arise with DNA testing. It's important to note that the accuracy of these tests can be limited, and they may not always reflect the full genetic history of our dogs.

We prioritize the well-being of our Habibi Bears by avoiding inbreeding and maintaining genetic diversity. Our dedication is to provide families with dogs that are not only physically sound but also have the temperament to be loving companions.

Dog DNA Tests: Mixed Results

DNA tests that purport to identify the breeds in your mixed-breed dog are still a work in progress but the technology improves daily.
By Kathryn Socie-Dunning
On a gorgeous spring day in Montana, I was heading back from a romp in the mountains with my three dogs when we stepped out of the woods into a meadow, replete with song birds and a smattering of open range cows grazing peacefully. My trail companions quickly discovered, to their absolute delight, fresh, delicious cow pies.

It occurred to me, however, that I didn’t know the MDR1 (multi-drug resistance gene) status of the newest member of my three-dog crew, Hap. MDR1 is a genetic predisposition to adverse drug reactions to more than a dozen common veterinary drugs, and the gene is found predominantly in herding breeds. Hap looks to be mostly Border Collie with maybe, just maybe, a pinch of Australian Shepherd, so having this predisposition could put him in danger in this situation. Cows are often given ivermectin as an anti-parasitic agent, and the drug can be found shortly afterward in their droppings; eating these droppings can cause a fatal reaction in a dog with the MDR1 mutation. So, I put a moratorium on the afternoon’s pie sampling, much to the dismay of my crew, and off we strolled into the sunset.

When we got home and I began looking up information on MDR1 testing, I learned that many of the genetic tests for breed-typing now also include genetic health screens, including testing for the MDR1 mutation. I thought, why not solve the mystery of Hap’s breed-mix and get health information at the same time? It sounded like fun!      – KATHRYN SOCIE-DUNNING

How Do Dog DNA Tests Work?
While some of the early mixed-breed identification tests used a blood sample, all of the products on the market today extract DNA from cells swabbed by the dog’s owner from the inside of the dog’s cheek. The swab is sealed in a container provided by the company and mailed off to the company’s lab. There, technicians extract your dog’s DNA from the swab, and use computers to identify and compare specific bits of it to bits taken from dogs of known lineage.

The genome of a dog contains about 2.5 billion nucleotides (the building blocks of DNA); researchers focus on “only” about 200,000 of these individual genes – or rather, microsatellites or repeating sequences of DNA called single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs, pronounced “snips”) that form signatures particular to various breeds.

Researchers must have enough SNPs from enough purebred representatives of each breed in order to have an adequate array of SNPs to which they can compare your dog’s SNPs. The larger the company’s database of samples from purebred dogs, the better. When a company fails utterly to suggest ancestors of candidate breeds that are remotely likely, it’s probable that it lacks enough breeds in its databanks to find good matches for your dog’s SNPs.

Some Puzzling Dog DNA Results…
On the more comedic end of the spectrum, Hap, my happy, hoppy, flying Border Collie/mystery-breed cross was declared by Wisdom Panel to be 88 percent Border Collie and 12 percent – ready for this? – Boston Terrier! Having never even seen a Boston Terrier in Montana in my 20 years living here steeped in all things dog, this struck me as highly unlikely.

Since I live in a rural, ranch-heavy area and the shelter from which I acquired this chap is small and more like a herding dog rescue than a general open-door shelter, I struggled to imagine where Boston Terrier genes could have possibly come from. On the other hand, Hap is definitely the most playful, gregarious dog I’ve known and these qualities fit the personality type of the Boston Terriers I’ve met, so maybe. Perhaps there was a Boston Casanova passing through that visited a ranch at just the right time. Strange things can happen.

But sometimes, the results do test the bounds of credulity. Take, as a case in point, the results returned by DNA My Dog from a sample from Otto, a highly-mixed breed dog belonging to WDJ’s editor, Nancy Kerns. Otto has been tested by several companies (see “Otto’s Results,” below). The two companies with the largest breed databases returned fairly similar results. But DNA My Dog, a much smaller company, returned results that were not just completely dissimilar to the results from the two larger companies, but also incredibly improbable. The breeds suggested are highly unlikely to be present in Otto’s geographic area of origin, and even less likely to be present in the identified combination.

Genetic Diversity = Health!

We proudly maintain an open studbook, allowing us to introduce breed genetics when necessary for the advancement of our beloved bears and to correct any traits found in DNA testing. Our focus is on hybrid vigor, prioritizing the overall health and vitality of our bears over breed recognition by a specific club or registry. When DNA testing our Habibi Bears, our goal is to restore vitality by reversing centuries of inbreeding seen in purebred foundation lines. This process requires time and patience, and we have dedicated decades to achieving this goal. With each generation, we are one step closer to our objective. The wide gene pool is always evident, proving that our dogs are indeed hybrid lines, and we steadfastly reject the practice of line-breeding or in-breeding.

When Dog DNA Results Don’t Make Sense

The companies that offer this service have a few standard explanations for results that don’t seem to make sense.

None of the companies would admit that their reference databases are of an inadequate size to accurately identify the SNPs from your dog – but they might suggest that this could be true of their competitors.

All of the companies will be quick to explain that there are hundreds of thousands of genes that are responsible for a dog’s appearance, and that many breed combinations result in dogs who look very different than what you would expect from that mix of breeds.

Also, genes in mixed breeds do not always combine in the same ways within all litter-mates, so size and physical and behavioral characteristics in the same litter of pups can and often do vary, sometimes wildly. 

They also explain that the complexity of your dog’s mix will affect the accuracy of the results.

First-generation crosses between two purebred parents are relatively easy to identify, but dogs who don’t have any purebred ancestors within several generations are much harder to identify with much certainty, as the length of the inherited SNPs that are unique to purebred dogs become much shorter with each generation of mixed-breed progeny.

Problems with identification can also arise when there is a lot of divergence within a specific breed-type, like in the case of Australian Shepherds and Border Collies, where you have field-bred lines and show-bred lines. The genetic signatures in the companies’ databases usually correspond with show-bred lines, so field-bred Aussies and BCs might even get assigned to a different breed altogether.

Embark and Wisdom Panel make it easy for consumers to contact them and ask questions about their dogs’ results. I called and asked a representative from Wisdom Panel to review Hap’s results with me and was told that the statistical confidence in the Boston Terrier finding was marginal, meaning there is a high probability this result is not correct. Hap could have 12 percent of something not represented in the Wisdom Panel database (such as field-bred Australian Shepherds), but since this unique signature does not currently exist in the database, he was assigned to the breed with the closest matching genetic signature. I was told that updates will be made to Hap’s report as new information is added to the database.

Otto’s Results

Otto’s results have morphed over the past eight years, with the unlikely Basenji disappearing and a bully breed and Australian Cattle Dog appearing in the mix. Note that the results provided by the two leading mixed-breed test providers are pretty darn similar – and that the results from the smallest company offering this service border on fantasy. (Those breeds are highly uncommon in Otto’s area of origin, and would be even more uncommonly seen in the same dog.)

German Shepherd Dog
Chow Chow
Border Collie

2016 DNA MY DOG:
Level 3 (20%-36%): Collie, Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever
Level 4 (10%-20%): English Setter, Norwegian Elkhound

12.5% American Staffordshire Terrier
12.5% Australian Cattle Dog
12.5% Border Collie
12.5% Chow Chow
12.5% German Shepherd Dog
37.5% (mixed)

2018 EMBARK:
21.3% American Pit Bull Terrier
14.1% Australian Cattle Dog
13.2% German Shepherd Dog
12.3% Chow Chow
10.3% Labrador Retriever
8.0% Border Collie
4.3% Rottweiler
16.5% (“Supermutt”)


Kathryn Socie-Dunning lives with her husband and three dogs in Montana.

Our Habibi is a genetically diverse hybrid

Due to the diverse background of our imported rare lines from where breeds originated, we have not seen accurate results from the DNA reports of our lines.
At the end of the day, our focus is on developing a healthy hybrid that has the purpose of being a wonderful Service, Therapy, ESA, or Facility Animal.  Our dogs are consistently proving to be wonderful in these arenas and we are proud to raise them.   With our wide gene pool, we have rarely seen a DNA result accurately show the correct lineage, and many times some breeds are so far back in the gene pool they don't register.  We have even seen such inaccurate results from Embark showing Rottweiler, Dachshund  and Staffordshire Terrier resulting from our little mini parents of Coton, Shih Tzu,  and Maltese lineage, as well as the same dog being tested elsewhere with entirely different results.  All we could fathom is its picking up the marking and coat colors and trying to connect the dots. Embark states on their site that the test shouldn't be used to prove breed percentages-- based off of certain DNA markers, it can pull a different breed when there actually isn't a different breed in their DNA.  (see their statement below)  Many breed clubs are not accepting results from these companies due to their known inaccurate results.
Whether the DNA results are accurate, or not, as the Habibi is a hybrid breed- a unique dog that has a wide gene pool and genetic diversity, and the results speak for themselves, as they say. The careful hybridization of complimentary breeds in the background of our lines creates puppies that have a similar type without the risk of limiting gene pools by inbreeding.

There are breeders of pure breeds finding the same DNA results (visit link)

Mutt? Hybrid? Pure Breed? 

The definition of a mutt is,  "a dog of unknown ancestry". While our dogs were developed from different breeds, known as hybrids- that is where our similarities end.  Our dog's ancestry has been purposefully selected, and pedigrees have been cataloged for over 30 years to track our progress.  This is how many breeds were created in the Victorian Era, but instead of inbreeding as was the common practice,  we have modern-day science to select healthy dogs, and DNA testing to help us choose the perfect combos to eliminate genetic issues  

 "A breed is a mental construct only; nothing more. For the truth is, that there is no such thing in nature as an animal breed. All distinctions in animal taxonomy below the species level are relative, transient, and ephemeral. Zoology does not even deal with "breeds" - it admits only subspecies and variations within a species and argues endlessly about those.
It is created as a practical matter when type requirements and, more importantly, a pedigree barrier are set in place. Animals conforming to the type requirements are then bred inter se (to use Agriculture's language) behind the protection of the pedigree barrier, usually under an inbreeding regime."   --- J. Jeffrey Bragg, Seppala Siberian Huskies

Let's connect on Instagram @theofficialhabibibear