All About Designer Dog Breeds
Most of you know about the new designer dogs. Some of you think they sound and look kind of cute and trendy or own one. A few of you may actually be in the market to buy one of these new dogs. You have heard all the cute names like Puggle, Schnoodle, Labradoodle and Maltipoo and you are probably wondering if they are purebreds or mongrels and why they cost so much.
“Designer dogs” are increasingly in vogue. It’s not uncommon to see a Labradoodle or a Goldendoodle–big dogs that look like animated Muppets–galloping down the street. Cockapoos, Maltipoos, anything with a “-poo” suffix are a dime a dozen these days. Puggles have entered into mainstream consciousness. The dogs are always cute. They seem happy. But I admit that I always get a little uncomfortable when I meet someone who owns and intentionally sought out a “designer dog” breed.
You may also have heard that designer dogs are healthier than purebreds, don't shed and are good for people with allergies. I will attempt to address these issues and provide other information in the other Designer Dog articles.
- The Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia has discontinued the cross breeding program. The reasons? Too few of the crosses were proving to be suitable for guide dog work, few of the non-shedding promises held true, and many of the heritable diseases of both breeds were expressed in the new generation.
- The latest, how about a Comfort Retriever. – AKA- cocker spaniel and golden retriever to produce a mini golden retriever? Did you know they have already done this?
- The Labradoodle is now recognized as the first of the so-called "designer dogs", selling for more than $1000 a puppy. In essence, it is a mutt, or mongrel, yet it has raced ahead of pedigrees in terms of price and desirability. Some pet shops report mongrels outselling pure-breds three to one, despite the high price of both. As a result, Labradoodles and their cutely named cousins -- spoodles, schnoodles, cavoodles, moodles, groodles and roodles -- are being pumped out across the nation, to meet demand "I'm not at all proud of my involvement in it," Mr Conran said. "But the genie's out of the bottle, and you can't put it back." The rise in popularity of the mutts angers pedigree breeders, who complain that cross-breeders are exploiting the fad for money, and forcing pedigree bitches to give birth to dozens of cross-bred pups every year. (See the Article; “Designer Dogs_Wally Conran Story” in my publications)
- A Goldendoodle has more chances getting hip dysplasia. Some of the problems in both breeds are: hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, epilepsy, allergies, skin and ear problem, and gastric torsion. Breeders of cross mixes rarely do any health tests – genetic or otherwise.
- A Purebred dog is one that has been bred over many generations to breed true. Meaning each puppy that is born looks and has the same temperament and characteristics as one another. Purebred dogs are beneficial in that, when you buy a purebred dog you know what you are getting. You know how big your puppy will grow and you know basically what type of temperament and care the dog will need. You know the dog’s limits, whether it is capable of agility, hunting, search and rescue, police work, herding, flock guardian, or just simply a companion dog. You have a pretty good idea if the dog will be good with your kids, you know if they will have a tendency to wander or if they will stick close to home. You have a pretty good idea if they will like strangers, or if they will fear them.
- In the 1990s, Mark Derr, author of “Dog’s Best Friend,” led a burst of criticism against the A.K.C., railing against the “appalling human practice of breeding mutant animals for ego satisfaction.” (Notably, this was just as the Labradoodle, and the potential for an altogether different kind of dog we chose to see in it, was first rearing its non-shedding head.) After a century of breeding dogs chiefly for looks and not sufficiently controlling for health, Derr reported that 25 percent of dogs of A.K.C.-recognized breeds suffered at least one genetic disorder. The litany of defects and degenerative conditions starts at bad hips and stretches toward the absurd: bull terriers with a particular neurological disorder can spend 80 percent of their time chasing their own tails.
- Did you know that these “oodles” and combinations were started in a puppy mill and mass-produced the “cutesy names” which created other breeders to do the same? The prime profit-maker for these franken-puppies: The giant puppy mill, paradoxically named Puppy Haven Kennel, in Wisconsin. What is so constructive and jarring about Havens’s approach: when he looks at a dog, he sees an animal. (See Story; “Designer Dog_New York Times” in my publications.)
- In the busy 21st century, people want dogs who act more like cats: They should be small, fastidious, independent, and require little attention or training. It’s a nice idea, but that’s not really a dog. But people promote and market “designer dogs” as if they were all of these things, as if they were nothing more than a new lamp to go with your living room, like this appalling myth that Labradoodles are “hypoallergenic”! (A myth that has been debunked.) They don’t make any noise! They don’t shed! They’ll never need any training! These are not dogs. These are glorified stuffed animals. Any time we mass produce an animal to fit our own flights of fancy, we’re doing a grave injustice and we should be ashamed of ourselves. In a country that demands instant gratification and convenience, it’s no wonder that we have designer dogs and puppy mills around every corner. I only wonder if this is something that will ever change. *sigh*
- What we label a dog — how we brand it — don’t necessarily have much bearing on its quality. Ultimately, the value of any dog, purebred or hybrid, is bound up in the priorities of the people stewarding it through the hazards of nature and nurture. There are doubtless many breeders of both designer dogs and purebreds who churn out animals far inferior to the proverbial mutt with three or four breeds haphazardly tangled in it. Nearly half of American dog owners have long possessed this sort of less purposeful mixed breed. When you’re breeding a mixed-breed dog, you’re only breeding a dog for money. There’s no standard there. There’s nothing you’re aiming for, other than to put these two dogs together and appeal to a fad.” With no set way to police human morals, the paradox is that adhering to those standards has driven fanciers to outlandish and distressing lengths.
What bothers me is NOT that people are making “new breeds.” People have been doing that for centuries. I get that and I’m not distressed by it. What really bugs me about designer dogs is that they are bred solely for cuteness and convenience. This also means that the majority of “designer dogs” are bred by money-making places, not concern of the breed’s genetics. The goal of these breeding facilities is to churn out these fluffy puppies as fast as possible to get them into the hands of the insatiable and regrettably unscrupulous public.
- How about a Maltipoo, which “fits” well in a little apartment.” Yes, the little creature is probably adorable and tiny, but sad that this animal had been micro-sized just for human convenience.
- In 2007, the New York Times ran an article on the explosion of designer dog breeds and examined the prime profit-maker for these franken-puppies: The giant puppy mill, Puppy Haven Kennel, in Wisconsin. (Mercifully, about a year after this article was published, the Wisconsin Humane Society bought the puppy mill and sought to re-home the 1,100 dogs it rescued.) The article makes the link between the existence of these terrible mills and the public demand for cute, convenient dogs. (See; “Designer Dogs_New York Times” in my publications”.)
- Katherine C. Grier, a cultural historian and author of Pets in America, said:
“The dogness of dogs has become problematic. We want an animal that is, in some respects, not really an animal. You’d never have to take it out. It doesn’t shed. It doesn’t bark. It doesn’t do stuff.”
I am a dog trainer who teaches obedience lessons. More and more often I’m experiencing a client whose dog is bouncing and leaping around at the end of the leash, releasing clouds of hair into the air which tell me they have a purebred Labradoodle and they’re just naturally well-behaved and hypo-allergenic too!” Ummm, purebred?? I’m tired of being the one to say “You just paid an exorbitant amount for a puppy on the basis of outrageous expectations!” I gently point out that a Labradoodle, by definition, is a mix. When you breed two different types of purebred dogs together you can get any combination of any of the characteristics found in either breed. And I’ve yet to meet any dog—pure breed or mix—that is “naturally well-behaved” or actually “hypo-allergenic”.
But what really bothers me is the underlying assumption that the puppy would be easy to train!” It’s this promise that’s absurd: the idea that anyone (with enough money) can purchase the perfect puppy. Just add water and food, and with no effort, you will have the perfect family companion—the perfect Lassie, and without shedding. What makes this an even more dangerous myth is the reality that the number one reason dogs end up in shelters is behavioral problems. Unrealistic expectations result in disappointment for dog owners and potential death for the dog.
So what are the goals of designer dog breeders? The most often stated reason is “hybrid vigor.” This concept assumes that a crossbred animal will be healthier than a purebred. In reality, this is false. Because of genetics, no dog, regardless of breed or cross, is safe from inherited health issues. A crossbred dog has the same chance of inheriting a health issue as a purebred.
- Cockapoos for example; Poodles and Cockers have many of the same health problems; therefore, a cross of them might actually stand a higher risk of inheriting a problem than a purebred pup from a good breeder. If there is a disease found only in Poodles, a poodle cross will not have it. But if the health issue is found in many breeds, even crosses can get it. Breeders of cross mixes rarely do any health tests – genetic or otherwise. With any dog, your chance of avoiding health problems is greatly increased if the dog’s ancestors and relatives were screened for genetic disease. However, the kind of careful, knowledgeable breeder who does this kind of screening will not knowingly sell to someone who intends to mix breeds. The odds of finding a “Cockapoo” from generations of health-screened ancestors are so slim as to be nonexistent. And since the breeders of these mixes aren’t terribly concerned with breeding to any standard, they aren’t terribly concerned with screening out any of the health problems either.
The myth that purebreds are unhealthy came about due to bad breeders who either did not care about health testing or who were ignorant and felt that dogs that show no outward signs of a problem do not have it. A purebred dog from a good and educated source has a greater chance of being healthier than a crossbreed.
When you breed two different types of purebred dogs together you can get any combination of any of the characteristics found in either breed. If you are stuck on a hybrid dog how do you know which one to choose? Read the temperament and care for both breeds in the cross and be prepared for any combination of the two. Do not assume or take the chance that only the good characteristics will emerge. You may be in for a big surprise and it is not fair to the puppy to chance that.
- There are hundreds of hybrid breeds with names such as “Bascottie”, a cross between a Basset Hound and a Scottish Terrier. Or maybe you’d prefer a “French Weenie”, a cross between a Dachshund and a French Bulldog. Doesn’t anyone else ponder the idea that breeds are being crossed more for their cutesy portmanteau names than for the desire to create a healthier dog?
- The most popular has been the Puggle, a cross between a Beagle and a Pug. The first to register a Puggle litter with ACHC and name the mix, was Wallace Havens (Puppy Mill). In 2008, at the height of his “success”, Havens’ Puppy Haven Kennels was, at any given time, home to more than 1,000 dogs and sold more than 3,000 puppies a year of about 30 different cross breeds. Some puppies were sold directly to “customers” but most of his business was providing animals to pet shops all across the country.
- Dedicated breeders have shrunk the Alaskan husky into a raccoon-like throw pillow, breeding it true and naming it the Alaskan Klee Kai. Even the Puggle is now being superseded by the “pocket” Puggle.
- Labradoodles continue to be bred as they are very saleable and for huge prices. (One to two thousand dollars per puppy is a very good price, particularly for a non-AKC registerable mutt or mixed breed). But in most cases, the puppies resulting from these cross breeding’s are no longer hypo-allergenic, dander-less or non-shedding. Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, all kinds of “oodles”, are showing up in shelters. People who have been promised easy care, non-shedding coats are finding that like Poodles, Labradoodles and Goldendoodles need regular grooming. And to make matter worse, because many of the Labradoodles and Goldendoodles are much larger than Standard Poodles, those grooming fees are often much more costly.
Are designer dogs a fad? I don’t know, but I do know I don’t want dogs treated like Tulip bulbs or Beanie Babies. Fads have often led to people paying exorbitant amounts for things that shouldn’t have been worth anything like the going price. And each time people stood around afterwards and said “What were we thinking?” And I know it seems obvious, but let me state right here and now: A puppy is not a Pet Rock~!
While doing your required research, you may find you would be just as happy with one of the founding purebred breeds for less money and less wait time. Even better you may be able to save a dog's life by visiting the animal shelters or breed rescue kennels in your area to see if there is a cute dog available which will meet your needs."
In order to better understand the concept of designer dogs, we need to know a little bit about canine genetics. Dogs have 78 chromosomes made up from 39 pairs or sets. Each puppy receives half of their chromosomes from their mother and half from their father. These chromosomes contain the puppy's DNA which defines its characteristics or genetic makeup. Generalizing, this means the puppy gets some characteristics from the mother and some from the father in a "random chance" manner and the number of possible combinations is well over one billion. Therefore it is almost impossible for two puppies in the same litter to have exactly the same combination of chromosomes or characteristics.
Purebred dogs were developed for a specific purpose such as hunting or herding by cross breeding two or more founding breeds that the breed developers thought would best contribute to meeting that specific purpose. Then over some period of time, the resulting offspring (usually first or second cousins) were bred with each other to minimize the "random chance" characteristics. Then over many generations the resulting dogs would start to breed true and have physical and temperament characteristics with minimal differences across generations and bloodlines. This new breed of dog could then meet a common breed standard and eventually be recognized by a national association.
Prospective buyers should ask for the breeding parents Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) orthopedic and other breed specific test results and also the Canine Eye Registry (CERF) recent ophthalmologists report for eye disorders.
Dogs have always been a product of their times. Designer dogs may only promise what dog breeding always has: the chance to create a custom-designed ideal, a more convenient, useful animal suited to our needs, whatever they happen to be. So, then, to what extent are these new mutts a remedy for what’s wrong with our old dogs and to what extent are they a symptom of what’s wrong with us?
The appeal of these new mutts is often chalked up to “cuteness” or “uniqueness,” surely two commanding advantages but ones also possessed by many purebreds and, moreover, by many of the roughly seven million dogs and cats we surrender to shelters each year. People are so influenced by the idiot box, they can’t think for themselves. They want whatever they see is hip and cool on TV. Right now, the big fad is designer dogs. And it’s just a continued fad which is becoming worse because throughout these years, none has yet to become a “Breed”!
- A Breeder who breeds Maltese and Yorkshire terriers said Yorkies never struck her as ideal family pets anyway; they’re intelligent but overly bossy. She also breeds Morkies now and was pleased to find “the smartness of the Yorkie and the sweetness of the Maltese.” This distills widespread, the idea that with hybrids we can have it all: “Designer dogs usually possess the best traits from each breed and combine them together.” This being absolutely incorrect; they take the bad traits as well.
- Breeders, accustomed to hunting or working with dogs rather than parading them around as showpieces, dismissed these new concoctions as “modern fakes.”
- An 1877 New York Times article denigrated Dandie Dinmont terriers — a small, fluffy-headed companion — as “long-legged, long-tailed, long-backed rickety looking homely beasts.”
- A tittering luxury class, an article in The Century Magazine charged, had “ransacked” the species “to pander to its bizarre and eccentric longing for novelty.” The growing cast of new and distinctive-looking canine characters whipped up a tumult of silly consumerism.
Predictability is what you pay for when you buy a purebred dog. Over decades or even centuries most breeders have been carefully breeding specific purebred dogs to have certain characteristics and a certain temperament.” Keeping each breed the way we like it requires not only tremendous effort but also tremendous cooperation. A breed is exasperatingly democratic: a fluid and often unforgiving amalgam of the tastes and skills of every person breeding it.
- For example, the A.K.C. has no choice but to register anything that’s the product of two registered German shepherds as a German shepherd. Mark Neff, a canine geneticist at the University of California at Davis, says, “I can go out and find the most bizarre German shepherds in the world, and I can start crossing and inbreeding them,” selecting for, rather than against, their eccentricities. Gradually, he could produce some deviant dogs. They could be lithe and spotted. They could be dwarfs. “I would be despised,” Neff said, but his dogs would be German shepherds by virtue of their all-German shepherd pedigrees.
For better or worse, we’ve turned the dog into a record of our priorities, of everything we actively select for and against, but also of what creeps in and we don’t bother to expel, including, of course, genetic diseases. You’ve removed natural selection and replaced it with artificial selection. Dogs are now subject to the whims of humans. We have ruined what is called a “Breed” and manipulated a dog’s purpose!
Dedicated breeders have resisted compromising the integrity of their pedigrees. Instead, they have been financing genetic research and sending cheek swabs and other DNA samples to labs in the hopes of discovering markers for these conditions or curing them outright. Breeders have the tools to identify probable carriers of certain defects and refrain from breeding those dogs — if they choose to. Again, it is a matter of priorities.
- “A Pug is a recessive gene”, says show breeder, Jutta Beard. “The entire Pug.” If they’re left to their own devices, or you don’t breed carefully, they won’t keep their flat faces.” Beard recently bred one of her bitches and, out of six puppies, found only one close enough to standard to keep. “They all had ugly pug heads,” she says. “They didn’t have good nose rolls.” It is not uncommon to keep none. Generally, show breeders label these rejects “pet quality” and sell them to us, who aren’t likely to notice their esoteric shortcomings.
- Ray Kolesar, editor of Pug Talk Magazine, got an exquisite kick out of introducing a speaker which was going to speak about designer dogs at a Pug convention. The subject inspired zero enthusiasm. “It’s a mixed-breed dog,” many told me, either with disgust, bafflement or disinterested aplomb, but always, it seemed, with the conviction that this was a sufficient rejoinder. A 78-year-old Southerner chatted at length about Puggles, then ushered me back into the crowd with a good-natured: “Good luck! I hope no one whips you before you leave!” “ We’ve worked so hard with our pugs,” one man said. He talked about tackling genetic health problems, sending in the brains of your dead dog for autopsy. “These are tough things to do,” he stammered. “As a breeder, you dedicate your life to the breed, and to see it corrupted, it just grinds you.”
While designer-dog sellers often claim to combine only the most functional and lovable qualities of each breed, I was being told just the opposite: that mixing breeds would create an intractable slop house of each breed’s most problematic traits.
- In a recent Pug Talk editorial, the puggle shortens the nose on a beagle. And beagles need powerful noses since they are hard-wired to sprint. What everyone seemed to dread is that a newfangled dog that looks cute as a puppy can ambush owners with unanticipated health or behavioral issues.
- Pug Rescue, which only rescues the purebred Pug, is strictly for Pugs, not Puggles. “Who’s going to take care of that dog when the fad fades?” In detailing the pug’s worst qualities, transitioning into the beagle’s; concluded that the puggle must be “a shedding, snorting wanderlust dog that’s going to pee all over your house.”
- There are 40 breeders which breed at least one Puggle litter every month. As ads for Puggles have proliferated on the Internet, some people, — people who don’t know better — are now breeding pugs to any old foxhound and selling them as Puggles, at Puggle prices. Some are crossing Puggles with Puggles and passing off those disorderly second-generations as Puggles.
Having a detailed and complete picture of a breed, and a tradition behind it, actually seems to help purebred-dog lovers be understanding owners. The Pug lovers, like lovers of any breed, were able to embrace all of the dog’s traits because they were familiar and unique to their breed. They even gushed about the pug’s humiliating shortcomings: the snoring, the dim-witted laziness.
Maybe re-engineering the dog itself, hybridizing newer models, represents “the last piece of the puzzle.” “Will we reach a level of convenience where you have a postage-stamp-size dog that makes you dinner when you come home and reads the paper to you before you go to bed? I’m not sure that’s going to happen. But certainly someone’s going to try it.” After all, the dog, which we’ve molded into one of the most physically diverse mammalian species on earth, has so far been uncommonly obliging to our needs. Why shouldn’t we be capable of driving the entire species toward its inevitable end, down a millennia-long trajectory from wolf to stuffed animal?
If we read a purebred-dog buying manual with the expectation of finding an instantly harmonious buddy, we will only end up noticing what should be irrefutably obvious: none of these dogs are perfect. The Havenese is prone to “house soiling”; the Pembroke Welsh corgi to manipulativeness or dominance; Beagles bay; Basset hounds are picky eaters; Greyhounds have “phobias.” Sometimes the signals are downright confusing. The Bedlington Terrier, positively despises all other animals and will fight them to the death. It is also “calm indoors and makes a good apartment pet.”
The designer dog’s greatest charm may therefore be its almost Rorschach-like ability to be whatever we see in it: something less constrained than a purebred, something more distinctive than a mutt. It gives us the possibility of the perfect companion. And if we keep projecting that image of perfection onto all its inevitable flaws, perhaps we’ll convince ourselves it actually is.
- A man in a park with a hulking, long-legged dog struggling to pick up the tennis ball at his feet said, “It’s a Labradoodle,” — surely an impossibility, though, given the size and strangeness of the thing. It was unlike other Labradoodles I have seen: gawkier, with a very long, straight yet nebulous coat of hair. The man threw the ball, but the Labradoodle only romped and plodded in place. “They’re really funny dogs,” the man said, as if he had just now arrived at the right way to explain it.
If dog ownership inevitably requires compromise, then this kind of familiarity — the hard-won dependability of carefully bred purebreds or at least their well-established reputations — should be a tremendous asset to any pet buyer. It should help us make informed decisions, letting us imagine what compromises a given dog will require us to make.
And so I come back to unreasonable expectations. Every puppy, purebred, designer, or mutt, comes with a variety of inherited health and temperament characteristics. How the puppy is reared, trained and cared for immensely affects an adult dog’s life. To assume that only the good characteristics of a puppy’s parents will emerge is not fair—to you or to your puppy. Choose your puppy carefully. Be educated about the health, temperament, exercise and grooming needs of different breeds and the background of each particular puppy you consider. Check for DNA testing. Train your puppy, have realistic expectations, and may you be blessed with many years of wonderful dog companionship.