I think you pose a very interesting point of view. I don't know much about the history of labs, but I can speak about Border Collies. Let me see if I understand what you're saying.
There are factions in the Border Collie breed, roughly those that breed for work, show, and sport. Though it isn't quite as cut and dry as that. I am more familiar with those that breed for work. At one end there are those that thing only the world champion stock dogs should be bred, at the other end there are those who claim they breed working Border Collies who, in reality, their dogs wouldn't know what a sheep was if it ran them over.
But most working BC breeders are farmers, etc, who had BCs, love them, work them on sheep either part time or full time and need more BCs to continue working them. Is this the mid-range you're talking about?
Yes, that's pretty much exactly
what I'm getting at. BCs are one of my favorite examples, too, I live in Hartnagle country! It's also the mindset that ranchers who breed horses to maintain a suitable remuda tend to have, and the way these folks tend to produce animals for sale as well.
The Border Collie is a very healthy breed, but it has always been a very healthy breed. I believe that it's the same with labs (though, I'm not 100% sure about that). So I would argue that they remain healthy in spite of the breeding.
Horses are generally pretty healthy, too, thus the expression. But it doesn't take much breeder stupidity to screw them up royally-- most color breeds are health (and conformation) disasters, as are the halter showing segments of otherwise healthy breeds. I guess horses do tend to stay reasonably proper and healthy until folks go well out their way to make terrible breeding decisions.
As you mentioned, the lab is an easy breed. From what I know, the Doberman isn't most of the time. The Doberman was never bred to be easy, they were bred with a very specific purpose in mind. And, maybe someone who knows the history better than I can answer, have they ever been a particularly hearty and healthy breed?
While not as healthy as Labs or BCs, seems by most accounts, Dobermans have been healthier in the past than they are currently. I'd consider the widely-stated average lifespan of "11-13 years" for Dobermans (as seen in breed profiles around the Internet and books) to be pretty reasonable. It must just be an outdated estimate because that's more like an exceptional lifespan, now.
I know that labs are a rule in shelters because there are so many of them. Do we want that fate for the Doberman? Do we condone over breeding with less then stellar lines in hopes that somewhere down the line it makes the breed healthy and works itself out?
Dobes seem to end up in shelters often enough simply because their owners didn't know what they were getting into, we certainly don't need more of that. I also think something of great value would be lost if Dobes became morose enough to became a popular novice breed. I think I'd be happy if they just were giving GSDs, Rotts, and Mals more of a run for their money.
I think that "less than stellar" is subjective. If you're not getting anything of value from those lines, not even something that's hard to assess the immediate value of such as increased genetic diversity, then there's no point because it's not helping. If you're considering lines off the beaten path that are "mostly correct", simply not popular or this decade's "in" look, well, those are the lines I think might be worth a second look, and more effort into keeping active in the diligent-breeder circles, not just left to BYBs and Greeders.
One of my friends breeds her Yorkie much like you mention your friends bred their lab. Her puppies have been healthy (so far), but does that make it ok to breed them? I know she doesn't have in mind the betterment of the Yorkie breed, she's doing it for money. So I don't think she should be doing it, even though she's doesn't think it's a big deal.
That kind of stuff makes me cringe, because it's Greeding, not mere amateur hour. I consider my sister & her ex to be the latter-- they weren't passionate about Labs, they just trained theirs for pretty basic fowl retrieval & happened to breed one of them in cooperation with that friend, who took a pup or two for himself.
There really is an important distinction between motives, since Greeders tend to actively put money & their own convenience before what's best for the breed, whereas the amateurs don't mean any harm, they just don't really know what they're doing.
I'm a working dog person, I don't think people who don't work there Border Collies on stock should breed their dogs, I don't think people who don't demonstrate hunting ability should breed their labs. I don't think people who don't demonstrate that their Doberman has something to contribute to the breed, according to its intended purpose, should breed their Dobermans. If I ever get lucky enough to welcome a Doberman into my home it will be from working lines.
I agree in general principle, but I'm not entirely sure what a Doberman's purpose is these days, since they've largely fallen out of favor in police/military/guard roles, with much of the protection training being an end in itself, and that's certainly not for everyone. Maybe that's what happened to the "working middle".
I still stand by that breeding shouldn't be a starting goal but should come organically out of love of a breed and wanting it to be the best it can be. I think things do need to change to create a Doberman that is healthier, but I don't think that happens by people breeding the first two Dobermans they run across and hoping for the best.
It does take substantially more thought and effort than that, absolutely. I see some potential in educated folk who are interested in breeding their Dobermans, but there's definitely a burden on them to put enough thought into it to explain why they think their dogs are suitable, and what they expect to achieve with the pairing. "Just because" or "I need money" are the wrong reasons, most other rationale at least has the potential to take-on a direction which the aspiring breeder would learn from and develop goals that'd stand to benefit the breed.