By Victoria Heuer, PetMD
What comes to mind when you hear the term “designer dog”? For some people, the term conjures images of little dogs traveling in their little designer totes, which are perched on the shoulders of their high-fashion, globe trotting “puppy-mammas.” For others — those who are better versed in the world of designer dogs — the image that comes to mind is simply that of a dog that is the best of two purebreds. Both images can be true, of course, and both images illustrate the social consciousness of the dog as status symbol, since designer dogs often carry a price tag that exceeds the cost of their purebred parents. In any case, a designer dog is never a mutt — it is a hybrid.
Just a Fad?
While the term “designer dog” is fairly new, there is nothing new about them. Although many people who were new to the dog world saw the pairings of different breeds as a 20th century fad that was worth noting, avid breeders had been crossing purebreds for centuries. The difference was that earlier hybrids were intended for work purposes – to make better hunting or shepherding dogs, in many cases. The Australian Shepherd is a wonderful example of this, but she’s not the only one. Some of our most recognized and entrenched breeds started out as designer dogs. The Bull Terrier (Old English Bulldog+Old English Terrier) became “official” in 1885.
One of the main sticking points may be that hybrid dogs are not recognized by breed clubs, leading some to wonder why anyone would pay the hefty prices, but that has not slowed the still growing movement. There are currently over 500 “designer” breeds recognized by the Designer Dogs Kennel Club, and some breeders take their programs very seriously.