May 5, 2006

The Designer Dog Debate

By Ana Hernandez-Bravo

With all of the media attention being paid to how dogs and puppies are being smuggled across the border, one has to wonder what exactly is creating the market for these animals.

With the trend being for small dogs to become very “fashionable” pets, their puppies are ideal for smugglers because of their small size. They can be fit into glove compartments, under the seats, and other easily concealed compartments.

But small dogs are not the only victims of smuggling. New “designer dogs” are becoming all the rage in the U.S. and create a large market that the smugglers are catering to.

These “designer dogs” are basically new dog hybrid breeds that are not yet recognized by the American Kennel Club. Their appeal lies in the fact that these “breeds” are basically combining two AKC recognized breeds into a new kind of dog that is ascetically different from its parents.

Now in the U.S. there are breeders that are specifically breeding these kinds of dogs. Now instead of combining two different dogs the populations are growing enough that these breeds to start breeding them to each other.

These new “designer” breeds that we are seeing come are in an interesting variety. The Labradoodle (a Labrador, poodle combination), Yorkipoo (a Yorkie terrier, poodle combination), cockapoo (an American cocker spaniel, poodle combination), and schnoodle (a Schnauzer Poodle combination) are some of them. The labradoodle is the most popular of these new breeds.

Too many people, these dogs may seem like the myriad of mutts that we can find in our community animal shelters, the demand for these new hybrid breeds is creating breeders and the smuggling market. These dogs are so desired that they are sold for the same high prices that many purebred dogs are.

The appeal of these hybrid dogs is that these breeds are combined in hopes of creating a dog with certain traits such as shedding, temperament, intelligence, allergen levels, and even energy levels.

This selective process dated back to when humans started the domestication of dogs, which is about 14, 000 years ago. So while the original dogs were breed starting with focuses on hunting and guarding, dogs such as the labradoodle are now breed for the purpose of being a good companion dog.

So while the refinement of these breeds and their work towards AKC recognition continues, the hybrids also present another appealing alternative to their pedigree parents.

Since purebred dogs were bred mainly for looks, the breeds are prone to many health problems because of inbreeding. Also champion breed, while they may look nice, are coming from a very small gene pool that has many bad traits. This caused the puppies to be prone to in inherit many diseases.

However, these “designer dogs” have the same health benefits that all other mixed breeds. Mainly that their genetic material is varied which helps eliminate or dissipate inherited health problems.

However this does not mean that purebred dogs cannot have these traits as well. Basically dog buyers have to do their research and see exactly how involved their breeders are in monitoring health problems.

This is regardless if their dog is a purebred or new “designer” crossbreeds. Since there is a boom in demand for these hybrid breeds, many amateur breeders are not experienced enough to watch for genetic traits and most do not have breeding credentials.

So potential hybrid dog owners are taking risks if they consider buying a dog without knowing the breeder and what methods were used to monitor the health of the animals. Those considering purchasing a smuggled “designer dog” should consider what conditions these dogs have been bred in and weigh the consequences of not being informed about where their dogs really came from.

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