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Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Controversy Week: Designer Breeds

Labradoodles. Schnoodles. Puggles. Yorkiepoos. And many others. One of the latest crazes in dogs are these so-called "designer breeds". People will often pay well over $1000 for one of these dogs, and believe that they are getting something special. I hate to break it to you, but you didn't buy a special new breed of dog. You just spend a grand on a mixed-breed dog.

You can go to the shelter and get a dog whose mother was a German shepherd and whose father was a Labrador retriever and spend less than $100. You can go to a breeder and buy a dog whose mother was a Labrador retriever and whose father was a standard poodle and pay over $1000. What's the difference? Price! Really, there isn't a difference otherwise.

If you take two dogs of different breeds and get a puppy from them, you don't suddenly have a new breed of dog. Calling them something new and cute like "puggle" (a beagle/pug cross) doesn't make it a new breed. When I was growing up we had a Siberian husky/German shepherd mix. She was a great dog, and we loved her very much. But she wasn't a special "Siberian shepherd" or "German husky". She was a mutt, and a great one.

Getting a new dog mix to become a recognized pure breed takes many generations. Many of our current breeds are the result of centuries of careful breeding and selection. These designer breeds haven't been around for this long, and there isn't a good consensus on characteristics yet. That may come, and in the 22nd century we may have recognized labradoodles participating in the major dog shows. I'm also not saying that these are bad dogs. Frankly, I think that puggles look pretty cute, and many people love their schnoodles (schnauzer/poodle). These can still be great dogs and great family pets.

But don't be deceived. If you buy one of these dogs, you're paying a lot of money and not getting a registered breed. Check the shelters first, or talk to someone who breeds actually recognized and registered dogs. If you still want to fork out that kind of money, I have no problem with that. But be aware of what you're spending your money on.