HANNAH'S HEART The waiting list is now open! Apply Here  

origins of the habibi

What's in a name? The story behind 'Habibi Bears'.

Curious about why we call them 'Habibi Bears'? The name is a nod to our Egyptian heritage, with "Habibi" translating to 'my love' in Arabic. It's the perfect fit for these lovable pups that are just waiting to snuggle into your heart and home.

Puppies with a purpose!

Glad you stopped by! Our Habibi Bear puppies are here to fill homes with joy and healing. These pups are unique, coming in a variety of sizes and bursting with love and snuggles. And guess what? Their hypoallergenic coats mean you can forget about allergies and just enjoy the hugs.

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 and service dogs. 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 my deep passion to help nurture and promote this meaningful relationship. Therefore, after much introspection, I knew I had to align our name with my vision. We chose the Name 'Habibi' for our Egyptian heritage, an Arabic term of endearment meaning 'my beloved' and 'Bear' for the adorable teddy bear appearance of our dogs.  
As time has progressed, I have purposely infused breeds to further the Habibi line's gene pool.  Each infused breed was used to help balance characteristics we liked, correct flaws, and introduce a new gene pool to the line--resulting in increased genetic diversity and hybrid vigor. 

Why Create our own 'breed"?
Every breed has a purpose. They were created to fill a role, to serve a need that humans found worthy. However, many of the traditional breeds were designed for a world that no longer exists, leaving them struggling to fit into today's fast-paced urban lives. Our genetically diverse, hybrid 'Habibi Bears'  are specially developed to provide emotional support, companionship, therapy, and service work. Their sole (soul) purpose is to be your healing companion. And just like every beloved breed, they too started as a combination of different breeds, creating a new type. Genetic testing confirms this  blend. When two or more breeds come together, it is called hybridization. The initial breeds are known as the 'Parent Breeds', and the additional ones are called 'Infusions'. These infusions are carefully chosen to balance the breeding, diversify the gene pool, and correct any faults. Unlike the centuries-old practice of inbreeding, Habibi Bears are bred with meticulous consideration for genetic diversity. It has taken 30 years to develop a type without compromising genetic richness. Through a combination of genetic testing and my own method, we have created a consistent type of dog without sacrificing genetic diversity. Their purpose? To provide life-saving and life-changing support. 

Inbreeding & Bottlenecking health issues
In the world of breed clubs, many have closed their stud books, meaning that traditional breeds are unable to 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 contribute to an increase in health problems within specific breeds, creating a bottleneck in the gene pool and limiting their well-being. This is one of the numerous reasons why we have chosen to embark on our own path of development. 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.

What is a Habibi Bear?

Habibi Bears are a unique combination of parent breeds: 

Bichon Family Breeds (Bichon, Coton de Tulear, Maltese),  Poodle (in all sizes), European Imported lines of Shihtzu, Pekingese and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
(Original foundation lines were Schnauzer & Poodle)

Note: Please note that DNA testing by the Embark DNA testing company has revealed the presence of other breeds in some of our purebred parents. It's important to recognize that these results may be influenced by rare lines not considered in their testing system. While the presence of Lhaso Apso and Chihuahua has been indicated in our imported lines, we maintain skepticism about the accuracy based on our dogs' pedigrees. Refer to the note below from Embark regarding this aspect of genetics. Additionally, it's worth mentioning that DNA tests may not display all the breeds in a dog's background, or only two breeds may be identified. This phenomenon is common in genetics, where each puppy within a litter pulls from the entire ancestry/gene pool of the parents and receives a unique percentage of genetics. This variability is similar to humans, where siblings can have different DNA results in ancestry DNA reports. An example being, a child having red hair and blue eyes born into a family with dark hair and brown eyes. Genetics involve pulling from the entire gene pool, leading to the emergence of recessive genes or only identifying dominant genes. This diversity is observable in our dogs' coats, leg lengths, nose sizes, and eye shapes within a litter.   Regardless of the parents' "generation" (F1, F2, F1B), it is not so simple that each puppy will receive those exact percentages, like a math equation.  Breeding on paper (Pedigree) can look different than genetics/DNA.  Instead, each puppy receives a different percentage of genetics from the ENTIRE gene pool, and we have absolutely no control of this matter.  This is one of the things that Mother Nature has the final say.  While human breeding practices involve tracking and recording generations and identifying them  with pedigrees and registries, the science of genetics operates differently. PawPrint Genetics refrains from employing breed identification in their testing due to numerous variables, which can introduce inaccuracies and confusion. We advocate using both systems; pedigree for tracking ancestry AND genetic DNA testing, emphasizing the importance of distinguishing between the two.  Together both systems help us develop our special dogs and give us insight in our progress.  Your dog might exhibit different percentages of mentioned breeds or even breeds not identified in the line (due to limitations in the DNA test company's information). Nevertheless, your dog remains a cherished and purposefully bred Habibi Bear, nurtured and empowered from birth to be an intelligent canine companion and heart healer.
When categorizing Habibi Bears by generation, we utilize a system—HBF1, HBF2, HBF3—where HBF stands for ‘Habibi Bear Foundation.’  Despite being bred for over 35 years, we maintain genetic diversity and always go back to the original parent breeds when needed to ensure we maintain hybrid vigor.  The puppies' breed combination can vary based on the parents, influenced by dilution and the infusion level of certain breeds. Our objective is to preserve genetic diversity through hybridization, ensuring that our line consistently possesses a robust gene pool. We keep our studbook open to introducing new breeds when necessary, prioritizing the health and well-being of our line.

In terms of temperament, the Habibi Bear is recognized for being good with children and easy to train. Initially developed for the creator's own students, the breed has gained global popularity as more families and professionals discover and embrace this unique breed. Habibi Bears are highly empathic and sensitive dogs, necessitating positive reward-based training, as aversive techniques can cause trauma to these gentle dogs.

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 stop falling in love with Habibi Bears.

In our quest to create something truly magical, we've infused new breeds, ensuring the highest level of hybrid vigor. These dogs hold a special place in our hearts, stealing the hearts of everyone they meet. With an array of healthy DNA from both female and male lineages, our Habibi Bears have been meticulously developed to embody a unique standard and set of traits.

Although some of the original breeds may no longer appear in DNA reports due to dilution over generations, our wide gene pool poses a challenge for most tests to accurately identify all the  genomes. Sometimes, unrelated breeds may be associated inaccurately, often by matching coat colors. 

In our pursuit of promoting the health and happiness of these little dogs, we choose not to engage in the dangerous and unethical practice of inbreeding. By preserving genetic diversity, our DNA makeup may always reflect various breeds in the background. Our purpose is clear—to produce and train healthy dogs with a vital mission to provide loving companions for families.  It's a calling that fills us with overflowing love and guides us on this extraordinary journey.

The Habibi bear is a unique line, developed with the use of science & genetic diversity 

After carefully monitoring each breeding, and infusing the appropriate qualities to correct faults, we have been able to improve areas that were lacking, while maintaining the positive traits. What was once a first generation (somewhat inconsistent) cross, is now infused with lovely qualities from rare or healthy gene pools, to create a stable companion, ready for therapy, service, emotional support, or facility work.  

As we continue to observe our dogs, we have an open studbook, meaning, we are open to infuse new breed genetics when appropriate, for further advancement of our beloved bears.  Hybrid vigor is our focus, not breed recognition by a breed club. When we DNA test our Habibi Bears, the wide gene pool is always present, which is proof that our dogs are not line or inbred.  

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 have an open studbook, meaning we are open to infuse breed genetics when appropriate, for further advancement of our beloved bears.  Hybrid vigor is our focus, not breed recognition by a breed or registry club. When we DNA test our Habibi Bears, the wide gene pool is always present, which is proof that our dogs are not inbred.

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 (see below)

Embark Explaining Why Even Registered Purebred Dogs Show Mixed Results?

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.

Breed?  No such thing?

"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