‘Designer’ Dogs 101

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.

See Also: What Does My Dog’s Breed Say About Me? (Slideshow)

Breed Qualities

Today’s designer dogs are more likely to be companions than work mates. They are bred for appearance, temperament, and often for their hypoallergenic (i.e., non-shedding) qualities. In fact, returning to Australia, we find that one of the most popular designer dogs, the Labradoodle, originated there in the 1970s, and even this breed began as a working dog. The Labrador, recognized for its excellent guiding abilities, and the Poodle, known for its intelligence, trainability and very low shedding, were paired to fill a need for disabled people who had allergies to dog dander. This initial endeavor turned into a movement that has become a serious world-wide breeding program. While the Labradoodle is not an officially recognized pure-breed yet, it is well on its way to becoming one.

The Poodle, in part because of its hypoallergenic quality, is one of the most popular breeds for crossbreeding. The Poodle has been the progenitor of the Cocka-Poo (Poodle+Cocker Spaniel), the Yorkie-Poo (Poodle+Yorkshire Terrier), the Pug-a-Poo (Poodle+Pug), and even the Saint Berdoodle (I’ll let you guess).


Choosing Responsibly

Just as consumers are willing to hand over their hard-earned dough for the latest gadgetry, they will also fork it over for the newest and cutest puppy breed. That can be both good and bad, since we want the ethical breeders to succeed, but there will always be opportunists in the ranks taking advantage of the supply and demand chain. To bring a hybrid to its full potential takes true dedication to the vision and an ethic that supersedes monetary rewards.

You want a breeder who gives serious thought to the compatibility of the pairs, provides proof of the parents’ health and well being, along with the results of genetic testing to screen out genetic problems such as hip dysplasia and eye disorders. In other words, just as with a purebred, you should expect papers with your hybrid puppy too, even if you don’t plan to breed on your own.

Not all hybrids will have the vigor to pass the muster, but you can count on seeing a lot more of them join the ranks of the purebreds. And you’ll be able to say, “I knew them when…”

Related:
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Deconstructing the ‘Designer Dog’ originally appeared on petMD.com

210 comments

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

Nancy, your comments are totally confusing to me. Why are you directing them to me? This discussion/article is about designer dogs, which basically ARE "mutts", regardless of what name is assigned to their respective crosses. I never said a mutt was not a good dog, just that I'm against the purposeful breeding of two unrelated (by breed) animals in order to produce some "fad" progeny with no other purpose than to show off, to fulfill one's desire to have the "latest" or "most exotic" whatever. There are hundreds of breeds out there now, so surely there is a breed out there to fulfill anyone's personal tastes. If a pet is all one wants, then by ALL MEANS, go to a shelter and adopt. If one has allergies or a specific "job" or purpose that one wants in a dog, then a purebred from a responsible breeder should be an option or available to anyone who wishes to go that route, and they should not be given any "guilt trip" if that is their choice.

Nancy Bragg
Nancy Bragg3 years ago

Tues Aug 21 '12 @ Diane L, I did not mean there is A N Y T H I N G W R O N G with a mutt. If I could adopt, I would go to a shelter or rescue!!!!! I already have 2 cats 16 & 12 yrs, 4th & 5th in 29 yrs. The social housing building will not let me adopt or even foster. On another issue.... To help me get me past NOT being able to adopt, I recently learned from something on FB - animals get depressed @ shelters/rescues. A person does not have 2 B an actual volunteer to visit, the animals... I went to the pound, last week -took biscuits 12 dogs, 24 biscuits ... felt so good for "doing something!!!" Vancouver Canada

Nancy Bragg
Nancy Bragg3 years ago

Tues Aug 21 '12 @ Diane L, I did not mean there is A N Y T H I N G W R O N G with a mutt. If I could adopt, I would go to a shelter or rescue!!!!! I already have 2 cats 16 & 12 yrs, 4th & 5th in 29 yrs. The social housing building will not let me adopt or even foster. On another issue.... To help me get me past NOT being able to adopt, I recently learned from something on FB - animals get depressed @ shelters/rescues. A person does not have 2 B an actual volunteer to visit, the animals... I went to the pound, last week -took biscuits 12 dogs, 24 biscuits ... felt so good for "doing something!!!" Vancouver Canada

SL L.
sheila l.3 years ago

I had designer dogs; I loved the Boston terrier/chihuahua mix, vet said it was not good breeds to mix though, he died age 4 of respiratory problems.

I have another dog which is min. poodle and fox terrier, cute lil dog.

Susan Lynch

Please pardon my many typos in the previous post. :-)

Susan Lynch

Sadly, most Designer breeds" are the result of accidental pairings on puppy mills. the mill owners want to be able to sell each pup for obscene profits, so they come up with a name to make it sell. "Chi-Weenie" my ass. The dog is a chihuahua/Daschund mix and just as precious without the fancy-schmancy name as it is with it. Mixed breeds rock. Don't buy into pet store myths about the latest designer breeds. Visit your local shelters and rescues to find your next best friend!

Linda S.
Linda S.3 years ago

Adopt from your local shelter.

Linda S.
Linda S.3 years ago

Adopt from your local shelter.

Nadine Hudak
Nadine H.3 years ago

spay and neuter, stop breeding!

Diane L.
Diane L.3 years ago

"There is no such thing a responsible breeder of other animals. Breeding animals is yet another step in human desire to play god. Anyone who breeds animals is ignoring the plight of billions of animals worldwide in desperate need of homes.".........Wendy, with all due respect, you are entitled to your opinion, but I highly disagree. RESPONSBLE breeders are, in fact, very concerned about the future of the species they are involved with, and their "goal" is to breed individuals better than what exists now. They do their homework and choose breeding animals carefully, with the desire to eliminate genetic defects and mutations if at all possible. They're very much aware of overpopulation of animals and most do not breed a single animal without it's future being guaranteed.

According to your "theory", then we should just let Mother Nature allow every species to "do it's own thing" willy, nilly. Do you have a clue how many dogs and cats will then end up being produced and have no future, no homes and will end up either dead in the streets or in shelters? If we don't continue breeding many species, they will simply die out and become extinct, but I realize some people are all for that.