Designer Dog Breeds – are they better than pedigree dogs?
What makes a crossbreed a ‘designer dog’? Over the last 20 years there has a been a massive increase in the sale of so-called ‘Designer Dog breeds’. Crossbreeds, or mongrels, have always been around and have always been popular. Many people think it is not important to have a pedigree dog and don’t care what mix of breeds their dog might be. But the new fashion trend for ‘specified mixes’ has a number of implications for the health of dogs in general.
Any crossbreed is simply a combination of two or more pedigree dogs. When this is done purposefully, in order to achieve a particular look, or type, it may be given a specific name, to demonstrate that it is a combination of the two breeds.
Of course this is how new pedigree breeds are generally created – we take different breeds of dog and put them together is a structured and managed way, to create a new, distinct type of dog. If we do this over time and can demonstrate that dogs will breed ‘true to type’ we can eventually have a new pedigree dog breed.
Labradoodles – the first designer breed?
The Labradoodle is a combination of the Labrador and the Poodle. The original intention was to create a dog that had all the benefits of these two distinct breeds, including the poodle’s non-shedding coat, which is considered to be hypoallergenic. This process was started in 1988 by a breeder named Wally Cochran, of the Royal Guide Dogs in Australia. He was asked to ‘create’ a dog that could be trained as a guide dog, but with a coat that wouldn’t aggravate an allergy. Labradoodle History then says
“Because of their immense rise in popularity, people began crossing any Labrador with any poodle without any regard to genetics, bloodline, or temperament and calling the puppies “Labradoodles. The result was an unpredictable variety of puppies with various physical characteristics.”
This is the issue at the heart of dog breeding. When it is done purposefully, to create something in particular, bearing in mind health and temperament, it is a positive thing. However, when it is then taken up as a fashion fad, it can become problematic.
Kennel Club view
The British Kennel Club have a primary aim, referred to when talking about Designer Dogs: “To protect and promote all dogs”. They encourage the registration of all crossbreeds onto their Activity register. Their main concern is:
“Some unscrupulous breeders may be breeding these types of dog simply for financial profit, rather than with the health and welfare of the dogs in mind. This can mean that they will mass produce puppies to meet the latest celebrity-driven trend and will sell them on to people who are buying the dog as a fad rather than based on an educated decision about what is right for them.
“Buying a dog is a lifetime commitment and they should not be purchased on a whim or to go along with the latest fashion.”
Other designer breeds
Once Labradoodles started to appear, people quickly jumped on the bandwagon. Now it seems as though every dog you meet has some fancy name. Other popular crossbreeds include:
- cockerpoo – very popular, Cocker Spaniel/Miniature Poodle
- sprocker – Springer and Cocker Spaniel cross
- maltipoo – Maltese/Poodle cross
- puggle – Pug/Beagle cross
- schnoodle – Miniature Poodle/Miniature Schnauzer cross
- jug – Jack Russell/Pug
Most of the ‘designer’ crossbreeds have some poodle in them. This is because people (mistakenly) believe that this automatically means you won’t get dog hair around your house. Unfortunately that is not necessarily the case. What people also fail to realise is that this means you will need to spend a great deal of time and money grooming your dog.
I could go on, banging on about issues with designer dogs and why they are not a great idea. Fortunately, the Kennel Club have been campaigning very actively to increase awareness of the health issues surrounding careless breeding. They report that:
The research found that:
- One third of people who bought their puppy online, over social media or in pet shops failed to experience ‘overall good health’.
- Almost one in five puppies bought via social media or the internet die before six months old.
- 12 percent of puppies bought online or on social media end up with serious health problems that require expensive on-going veterinary treatment from a young age.
- 94 percent of puppies bought direct from a breeder were reported as having good overall health.
Because of vigorous campaigning, we now have Lucy’s Law, which may well help to reduce the production of puppies by unscrupulous commercial breeders. It may also help encourage people to think twice before buying a designer dog. Unfortunately it may also make the process of breeding and buying a dog much harder for everyone.
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