An interesting Monday morning read…


 

The Nashua Telegraph
Monday, July 26, 2010
 

Plusses and minuses to ‘designer dogs’


By Michelle Posage and Bruno Massat

 

What do you get when you marry a spoon with a fork? A spork, of course. A plum with an apricot ... a plumcot. Skirt and shorts ... a skort. And finally, what do you get when you breed a golden retriever with a poodle? Yes, a goldendoodle.

 

So called “designer dogs,” or crossbreeds, are the result of a mating between two distinct types of purebred of dogs in hopes of producing puppies with the appealing features of each parent.

 

The list of crossbred dogs is a long one. Puggles (pug and beagle cross), shih-poos (shih-tzu and poodle cross) and cockapoos (cocker spaniel and poodle crosses) are just a few common examples of puppies sold by breeders and pet stores for prices once reserved for registered purebred dogs.

 

In fact, since coming into vogue, some designer breeds fetch more than the purebred dogs from which they originated, thus distinguishing themselves distinctively as crossbreeds, which are bred purposefully, as opposed to mixed breed dogs (aka mutts), which are not. Is it all a fad? Clever marketing? Or is there something substantial in the shift away from purebred dogs.

 

Historically, in the Middle Ages, dogs were bred for function rather than looks. A dog’s appearance came second to his or her working ability to hunt, pull or protect. Then came the Victorian era, when kennel clubs and dog shows designed to limit breeding stock and purify bloodlines shifted selective breeding more toward a unified appearance by supporting a set of guidelines describing the desired qualities of each breed, called the “breed standard.”

 

Today, there are 169 fully recognized breeds in seven groups listed by the American Kennel Club, one of the largest purebred canine registries in the world. The objective of the AKC is to “advance the study, breeding, exhibiting, running and maintenance of purebred dogs.” As such, a crossbred dog does not qualify for registry nor competition e in conformation shows – competitions where dogs are judged against the breed standard. However, even the AKC has nodded its head in acknowledgement of the popularity of crossbred and mixed- mixed-breed dogs as pets and now allow these dogs to compete in AKC sport and training competitions.

 

A frequently voiced concern about purebred dogs relates to their health. It is often said that mixed breed dogs are healthier than purebreds. Genetic diseases have widely plagued the canine genome. By limiting the variety of genes with an unnaturally small breeding pool, as in purebred dogs, the chances for the expression of a defective gene increases significantly. This problem is compounded by uneducated and disreputable breeders motivated more by maximum profit than the overall health of the breed and breeding stock.

 

Breeding outside the limited pool, by crossing two breeds, increases the variety of genes with the potential for advantageous health-related results. For example, pugs are a very popular type of purebred dog, but suffer from respiratory problems due to their pushed-in noses. The AKC breed standard for the pug says “the muzzle is short, blunt, square ...

 

When pugs are bred to beagles, the nose of the resulting puppies (called puggles) is longer, reducing the likelihood of breathing problems. Since the puggle is not an AKC breed with an established breed standard, nothing stands in the way of a longer muzzle becoming a positive attribute.

 

Those against the concept of designer breeds will argue that popularizing crossbred dogs does not make any sense when thousands of mixed-breed dogs can be obtained at fraction of the cost at animal shelters across the nation. Likewise, fads (usually spurred by movies and television shows) are not necessarily good for any dog breed in fashion. When the novelty of owning a fashionable dog wears out and the responsibility of ownership sets in, these dogs often end up neglected or abandoned. Not only that, less than reputable breeders will often capitalize on a such a fad which can lead to abuse and poor breeding.

 

Whether you agree with the concept or not, the crossbreeds are seemingly as popular as crossover vehicles right now. Puppy classes are filled with dorgis and dorkies, and, hopefully, they are as loved as any mixed-breed or purebred dog would be for their entire lives as the devoted pets they were
“designed” to become.


Link to original article: http://www.nashuatelegraph.com/living/lifestyles/805698-224/plusses-and-minuses-to-designer-dogs.html

 

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"Likewise, fads (usually spurred by movies and television shows) are not necessarily good for any dog breed in fashion. When the novelty of owning a fashionable dog wears out and the responsibility of ownership sets in, these dogs often end up neglected or abandoned. Not only that, less than reputable breeders will often capitalize on a such a fad which can lead to abuse and poor breeding."

This is why breeders are charging so much and why so many designer mixes are seen in shelters and rescues, now.
The term used to describe two AKC breeds with genetic and physically good health pasts is said to result in "hybrid vigor". The best of both breeds it is thought. A strength of good health it is thought. However, as knowledge and genetic tests grow and define themselves in the medical canine world, we can see that certain of the traditional diseases of "issues" among two breeds (labrador X poodle or golden retriever X poodle) may actually be carried, and sometimes exaggerated in the progeny. This appears to be the same in other mix crossings as well. We have yet to understand this sort of DNA analysis...and how it is modified or grows more alarmingly...if and as it does. But that is coming...just as with human health and genome study.

If one looks at the illnesses of the Doodle dogs needing asssitance...carefully looks, the specific illnesses of each appear to be the worst of the worst resultant illness possible of the cross these Doodle dogs. BUT, this may also be considered a sample among the hundred thousand Doodles in companion homes. We are still early in examination, we meaning canine medical researchers and geneticists. We do seem to know, however, that temperament in these two specific mixed breed categories...known sometimes as the Designer Dog...is almost universally great as companion animals and most live long and healthy lives, loved for their smart, but goofy, friendly, and gentle fur-kids! Perhaps that is what the "design" was really about some 25 years ago.

Anyone who is thinking about owning ANY mixed breed, or standard breed dog needs to be cognizant of those genetic propensities, make a considered judgment and go forward on finding that doggie friend. Just as quickly and unexpectedly as any illness or disease can strike a loved dog, so can a bread truck or the UPS truck strike. Owning anything really requires a certain investment and a certain amount of caretaking along the way. If the worst "should" happen, then we must be prepared to deal with that...not unlike a human child who also comes with certain "hybrid vigor" and genetic predisposition.

I own 2 Labradoodles and 1 Goldendoodle. My oldest Goldendoodle passed away 2 years ago at 15, his "brother", the Goldendoodle still living, is almost 15. Both were found in no kill shelters a year apart. In their long and happy lives they never once created any medical issue which caused for anything more than their annual examinations. Two big standard boys. My black and silver labradoodle was rescued with terrible fear issues..he is better now at 5, but some of those will never leave him no matter how many behaviorists I find. Those appear to have developed in, possibly, his first and, possibly, abusive family. Yes, I've had the help and cost of a behaviorist...and it was worth it and I learned a great deal about how to help him, physically healthy, healthy. My chocolate multgen Labradoodle girl is looking at a propensity for Hip Displasia. Her test scores were not great and she was held back by a breeder from breeding. I purchased her knowing this, knowing I would have to be aware of a wobbly gait, limping, and potential surgery. At four years she is well and shows no sign of what may be in her future and mine. I would purchase her 4 times over for the sheer joy and love she provides to me and her brothers. But yes, I've got a savings account growing if she needs it at some point. So I think it is really our knowledge, what we are hoping for as a companion, and our own needs and resourceful knowledge that is so critical when we purchase, or rescue, any dog. Three of mine were rescued, one purchased from a breeder.

I've seen the "hybrid vigor" so I can understand it, I've dealth with the wonderful temperaments and love, so I can understand that, I have yet to deal with the medical issue of HD...but if it becomes fully blown, I will understand that and what must be done on my part to move toward surgery and again good health IF it does happen. In the long run of things my
"Designer Dogs" were designed, I think, for me...that have more than met my expectations and my lifestyle. I consider the best of the best has happened to me for nearly 18 years so what more could I ask?
Judy, what a well thought out and interesting perspective. I am having a driveway put in right now so I will give your response better attention, later this evening. I just wanted to let you know that I thought you explined hybrid vigor very well and I appreciate your comments and contribution. I will get back to you on this topic, as I just don't have the time to devote right now. I hope Sue comes in to comment in the interim as I am sure she has an equally interesting perspective. -Lynne
Agreed! Judy, your response is insightful, easy to understand, and provides a fantastic personal perspective. This is exactly the type of response that helps educate and, hopefully, encourage more discussion.

I have limited knowledge in hybrid vigour, genetics, DNA, etc., but here are my thoughts:

1. I have been willing to accept that two different breeds, with different health issues, may produce puppies that are less likely to develop those health issues. The idea that the wider gene pool reduces the chances of “defective” genes pairing up.

2. I also fully expect that cross breeding two different breeds (i.e. poodle and golden retriever) that are susceptible to the same health issues (i.e. hip dysplasia) puts the puppies at the same risk of developing the health issue(s) as purebred puppies.

Are these two trains of thought a “good rule of thumb” or just too simplified? I don’t know, but I think Judy put it very well (and it deserves repeating)…

Anyone who is thinking about owning ANY mixed breed, or standard breed dog needs to be cognizant of those genetic propensities, make a considered judgment and go forward on finding that doggie friend. Just as quickly and unexpectedly as any illness or disease can strike a loved dog, so can a bread truck or the UPS truck strike. Owning anything really requires a certain investment and a certain amount of caretaking along the way. If the worst "should" happen, then we must be prepared to deal with that...not unlike a human child who also comes with certain "hybrid vigor" and genetic predisposition.
What I found interesting in this article was the statement about how dogs were bred historically for function not looks, and later appearance took over as the main purpose of breeding with a set of “breed standards” for appearance. The reason I find this interesting is because it seems we have become a very superficial society – focused on the latest fashion, fastest car, largest home, and a whole list of “wants” vs. actual “needs”.

Unfortunately, it seems society focuses on appearance and other superficial attributes in dogs, rather than temperament, breed purpose, and health. I recently watched a documentary, Pedigree Dogs Exposed, which I highly recommend. Basically, the point of the documentary was that show [purebred] dogs are being bred for appearance at the cost of their health. I found myself asking who comes up with these “appearance” standards and why? Here are some images of “older” breed and today’s “breed standard” from the documentary.


The recently popular poodle cross breeds is just another example. It seems to me that poodle cross breeding is largely for superficial reasons: primarily the shed factor. Low or non-shedding dogs mean less vacuuming and less use of the lint brush, right? The goal seems to be to keep the popular parent image (i.e. the Golden or Labrador retriever) and just “fix the shedding problem” by adding poodle into the mix. But purposely cross breeding does not guarantee anything and cross bred dogs can take on traits of either parent. In other words, the poodle mix can shed and, sadly, they end up in shelters simply because they shed.
I should be the first to admit that the non-shed factor was highly persuasive in my decision to adopt 3 doodles. That said, I also knew enough about both breeds to make a decision that I would like the personality of either parent, or a mix of the two, and I understood the exercise requirements as well as the possible health issues of both breeds. These factors were my first criteria, the chances for a reduced shed factor was sort of a bonus. And I always had an expectation that my girls could still shed.
Hi back...yes the changes, the development of the years of the "hunting dog", the "hound", the "ratter", the the...that is what has chronogolically changed from the wolf. Coat, color, size. The pocket poodle for those in apartments or condominiums perhaps. Shed, no shed...it's all happened over a long, long period of time. I suspect one of the reasons we see so many poodle crosses is that they are thought to be very smart, sort of responsible when trained, friendly, owner oriented and family oriented. On the other hand, the golden retriever for it's need of family, it's wonderful ability to work with and be with children. These two factors have a major significance. And the lab...good friend, good hunter, swimmer maybe, shiny coat, by and large friendly around the house and out of doors...

So if we look at those characteristics...at the time of the development of the Designer dog, so called, then what about a combination of those traits? These brreds are among the top five owned by people (I'm pretty sure I am remembering this correctly!), then who wouldn't want to make an attempt to combine the beauty and brains so to speak...in a very defined way. Now Wally Conran (sp?) the "founder" said not long ago he was sorry. The swash throughout the world was frightening. He's right in many respects.

But then I think...what if he hadn't purposefully mixed two AKC breeds...I never would have known Posi, Trac, Gus, Gypsy...and those I have as a consequence rescued or rehomed. How sad the last eighteen years would have been. And that, again is the personal choice one makes in selecting a dog, the reasons one select a specific breed, or rather goes to the Humane Society or a Rescue and suddenly find a bundle of something who "speaks" to them. Should people be looking at the best potential traits of that mixed breed or breed...absolutely. But for some it is the look of the eys, a happy"smile" and an unknown heritage.

I'm guessing many of the latter have also lived long and happy lives simply because they were able to make a mental connection to to someone who happened by on a visit, maybe even simply a remembrance or recollection of an earlier time...or one who wandered into the yard and stayed. Still and all it is a life...and after all we are responsible, I think, for our choices. As has been said in the book, The Little Prince..."we are responsible forever for whatever we have tamed".

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