Before Buying a Designer Dog
Most of you have heard about, read about or seen the new designer dogs. Some of you are probably wondering what the hype is all about. Some of you think they sound and look kind of cute and trendy. 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. 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 following article.
Designer dogs were initially developed by crossing two purebred breeds with the intention of producing a cross-breed dog with certain desirable characteristics. For example a Puggle is a cross between a Pug and a Beagle and a Shorkie is a cross between a Shih Tzu and a Yorkshire Terrier. In an attempt to design a low shed or hypoallergenic dog, breeders have crossed a variety of breeds with toy, miniature and standard Poodles. Examples of the “poo” designer dogs include the Schnoodle (Schnauzer), Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever), Maltepoo (Maltese), and Cockapoo (American Cocker Spaniel).
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. A current success story is the Silky Terrier which was developed in Australia around 1900 by crossing an Australian Terrier with a Yorkshire Terrier in order to obtain the best characteristics of both breeds. The Silky Terrier was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1933 and has become a popular companion dog ranking 65th out of 154 dog breeds registered by the AKC in 2005. Not all characteristics of a new breed are desirable. Some characteristics such as inherited tendencies to specific diseases are bad and breeders try to minimize the chances of this happening by screening the parents before breeding. However this won’t entirely prevent diseases from being passed on to the next generation if both parents are carrying a recessive gene for that disease.
Now back to designer dogs. Designer dogs can be created by breeding two appropriate purebred dogs. The resulting puppies are first-generation designer dogs that will have some “random chance” combination of the parents physical and personality characteristics. Reputable breeders will have screened the breeding parents for genetic diseases and desirable personality characteristics. 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. Many breeders will argue that first-generation designer dogs will be healthier because they come from a larger gene pool. Multi-generational designer dogs are developed when breeders have decided to concentrate on a particular designer dog. These breeders commit themselves to a multi-generational breeding program by breeding the same species of dog in order to standardize on certain desirable characteristics. Let’s take the example of a Puggle, where breeders may be trying to minimize the breathing problems of the Pug and tone down the Beagle’s single-minded scent following characteristics. Which is better – the possibly healthier first-generation Puggle which may have more or less of each parent’s characteristics or the multi-generation Puggle with more predictable characteristics? It really is your choice.
More important is deciding on the type of designer dog you want. Size, activity level, coat type, child tolerance, etc. are all factors you need to research. Go to our Directory of Breed of Dogs and research the founding stock that makes up the designer dog. The most popular designer dogs are the Puggles (Pug and Beagle cross) followed by the Labradoodles (Labrador Retriever and Standard Poodle cross). See our Puggle/Labradoodle page for more information on these dogs.
Note that there are really two types of Labradoodles. The first is the unofficial mixed Poodle/Labrador designer breed and the second is the Australian Labradoodle which has resulted from an exhaustive Australian breeding program intended to develop a pure-bred dog breed that will be recognized by the national kennel clubs around the world. The Australian program actually involves 6 different parent breeds: Poodle (standard, miniature, and toy); Labrador Retriever; Irish Water Spaniel; Curly Coat Retriever; American Cocker Spaniel; and English Cocker Spaniel.
Other popular designer dogs are the: Schnoodle (Miniature Schnauzer and Poodle), Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever and Poodle), Shorkie (Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terrier), Schnorkie (Miniature schnauzer and Yorkshire Terrier), Maltipoo (Maltese and Poodle), and Chorkie (Chihuahua and Yorkshire Terrier).
Some popular designer dogs are expensive and depending on the area in which you live, you may have a substantial wait time. 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.