Designer Dogs

I’ve been seeing a lot of comments and posts about how the price of puppies during COVID have skyrocketed, and how “mutts” are fetching thousands of dollars.

Purebred, papered pups have always fetched a high price, you generally have a breeder who has done their work to make sure the dogs are bred in a responsible way, a governing body that certifies the lineage, and hopefully a health guarantee against defects due to breeding. On top of that, you know what you are getting, what that breeds size, temperament and care will entail. All pets are individuals, but you know in general what to expect.

“Designer dogs”, dogs bred from different breeds to try to achieve blend of traits, are in high regard by some, but others regard them as mutts. Both are right, really. While the intent is noble and when you do get the desired traits from each of the included breeds, you can end up with a very good / appropriate dog. Unfortunately, you don’t always get the just the desired traits, and in the worst case scenario, you can get all the undesired traits, I have seen these unfortunate outcomes firsthand.

The “inventor” of the labradoodle was trying to create a dog for a client that needed a service dog, but whose husband was allergic. He thought that he could breed a dog had the service dog traits of a Labrador, and the hypoallergenic nature of a Poodle. A noble concept, but it led to legitimizing “designer dogs”, crossing breeds and coming up with cute and marketable names.

I’m not saying every “doodle” is a badly bred dog, there are some very reputable breeders of crosses out there. The problem occurs when a “backyard breeder” tries to pass off poorly bred dogs with designer names. The practice undercuts what the dog breeding community has been striving for, the whole reason pedigrees (papers) exist. Traceability. Being able to look back through a dog’s family tree to make sure the dog has a clean pedigree without health issues.

As soon as you cross dogs, you remove these decades old pedigree trees, as kennel clubs do not recognize these breedings and do not track them. Can a breeder use these pedigrees as a basis for their programme, and continue the practice with non-pedigreed dogs? I guess so, but I have never heard of it being done. Breeders who cross breeds have no restrictions of what they breed, and in many cases have little or no documentation of the family trees of the actual dogs that were used. If a breeder continued a pedigree like a kennel club does, and was able to show that the lineage of the animal contained diverse and health issue free parentage, that would be great and something to look for.

Unfortunately, many barely record what breeds of dog the puppy’s mix is. They may claim that the pup is a mini golden double doodle, which I decipher as meaning a cross of a mini poodle and a goldendoodle that was a cross of a mini poodle and a golden retriever. Without a pedigree, we do not know how many of the poodle ancestors may be related, or even the same animal. For all you know all the male parent, grand parents and great grandparents might be the same poodle, or at least a large portion of them. This is not as uncommon as you might hope, some “back yard breeders” have one stud male they use for almost every breeding. I have seen operations where dozens of litters of puppies are produced yet there is only one male, and females are retained to use in the “breeding programme”.

Yes, pedigreed dogs can be line bred, and may share ancestors to re-enforce breed standards and make champion dogs. But when those breedings produce unhealthy or compromised dogs, those lines are stopped and the dogs altered to prevent that line from continuing. To my knowledge, there is nothing like that in the “designer dog” community. Many times, breeding a batch of unhealthy dogs might stop a line from being bred, but it might also just mean a change of address or phone number for the breeder, to avoid bad publicity.

Due diligence is key in adding a canine companion to the family. Please make sure the breeder you choose is a responsible individual, not someone just out for the cash. There are lots of tip sheets on buying a puppy and what to look out for, a little research can save a lifetime of heartbreak and expense.

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