Want to know how to get the internet angry? Go anywhere online and make a comment about so-called “designer dogs.” Then, simply wait and a hoard of angry commenters will soon amass on your post to tell you what a horrible, disgusting person you are. But fear not! Owning a Cockapoo or a Labradoodle does not instantly slate you for a destiny of handlebar mustache curling and laughing like the akin-to-satan enemy you (supposedly) are. Like with any topic, there are people who fiercely believe that they are right and everyone else is wrong.
First of all: What in the heck is a “designer dog” anyway?
The term “designer dog” is something coined by the media (according to the Encyclopedia Brittanica, around the late 20th century) to refer to the breeding of two purebred dogs together (i.e. Labrador Retriever X Poodle = Labradoodle). There are tons of these around now, I even made a post of some common (and some not so common) dog breed crossings a little while ago.
It began with the Labradoole and other Poodle-bred crosses, in an attempt to share the Poodle’s (relatively) non-shedding coat with other breeds. For many breeders, the idea was noble; they wanted to reduce the incidence of a number of certain health problems that can affect purebred dogs. The idea was this: in a pool of pure-bred dogs health issues can abound from inbreeding, but by adding another breed into the mix, you’re adding more genetic variability, which (so the thought goes) results in a healthier animal overall. More info on that here.
However, this largely depends on the health of both of the parents. If both the male and female have bad hips, for example, then their pups will likely have bad hips as well, regardless of what breed of dog they are. Therefore it is very important that both parents be genetically tested for known defects in their breeds.
Also, the effect of hybrid vigor (the idea that breeding two different purebred dogs together adds more genetic variability to their pups’ DNA) will decrease the more those dogs are bred. For example, say you breed a Poodle and Labrador Retriever. The result is a Labradoodle. But if you breed one Labradoodle with another Labradoodle, then you’re lessening any possible genetic benefits gained by the original cross of a Poodle and Lab. That only multiplies the more Labradoodles are bred with other Labradoodles. Which brings us to…
Why do so many people jump down the throats of anyone with a Schnoodle or a Yorkipoo? One of the many arguments I’ve seen is that there are so many unwanted dogs sitting in shelters, and it isn’t fair that these designer dogs get homes just because they are “cute.” Which isn’t really that terrible of an argument when you think about it.
However, and most importantly, the problem arises in the vast number of people who getting into the dog-breeding business for the money. With the uprise in designer dog breeds, there’s also an uprise in puppy mills. A puppy mill, for anyone who doesn’t know, is essentially a terrible place that breeds dogs in a horribly inhumane way to get the most amount of puppies possible (which are usually RIDDLED with health problems), ergo earning themselves a big fat profit. If you see any puppies for sale in a pet store (NOT an adoption agency that has set up in a pet store trying to find homes for rescue dogs), there’s a very, very high likelihood that they are from puppy mills (which is why you should NEVER EVER EVER EVERY UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVERY BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE). Puppy mills don’t care who buys their pups, so long as they are making money.
Let’s take a for instance here of how this is problematic:
John and Mary just bought a house and want to get a dog. More specifically, they want a Labradoodle puppy because they saw one in a pet store and it was super adorable. So, they look in their local paper and see an ad for Labradoodle puppies. They make a phone call and that weekend they are on their way to pick up their new pup. They arrive to a person’s house. This person has LOTS of dogs, many of whom are in cages. Some of them seem kinda skinny and a little dirty, but “hey, they’re dogs!” think John and Mary. They pay for their new puppy and head off. Several months later, John and Mary are getting a little sick and tired of their puppy, who is now 40 lbs, destroying all their shoes and making a mess of their carpeting. And it’s FORTY POUNDS! It’s a Poodle mix! Aren’t Poodles supposed to be small? Their new puppy is making their life a living hell, so they decide to drop poor puppy off a local shelter. If puppy is lucky, it’ll be picked up by a rescue or find a foster home until it is adopted out. If not, puppy will be euthanized.
See? Terrible for poor puppy. The problem with puppy mills is they are not only inhumane, but they are utterly uncaring about who adopts their pups. That means there is a very high likelihood that it will end up in a shelter somewhere, because the people who bought it had NO BUSINESS getting a puppy, let alone a high-energy dog like a Labradoodle.
People scoff at many designer dogs because “they were just bred to be cute” (which, honestly, is true for a lot of them), but it’s important to remember that every dog breed we know today is the product of human intervention. People selected certain dogs with certain traits and bred them together in order to get their “ideal dog” for whatever purpose was in mind, be it for hunting or for sport, such as bull bating. Even dogs like Yorkies and Dachshunds, which are largely treated as pampered purse dogs now, were bred selectively in order to serve a purpose. You could argue that designer dogs are the 21st century’s version of that. Except today, most people don’t need the perfect hunting dog or a dog that can wrestle a wild boar, they need a dog that will be okay living in a small apartment that doesn’t shed too much (because who wants to be stuck in a 500 sq ft apartment with a dog that just won’t stop shedding). You can’t always find a dog like that in a shelter.
I’m not saying designer dogs are right or wrong. I’m not saying breeding designer dogs (responsibly, of course) is good or bad. I am simply playing devil’s advocate in hopes that people on either side might see the other’s point of view.
Regardless of what kind of a dog you get, if you’re planning on getting a puppy from a breeder, please take the time to find a reputable breeder! It’s not only important for you and your dog, but the only way to put puppy mills out of business is to make it so it’s not cost-effective to them: which means not buying their puppies (or also legislation, but that could take a while)!