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Better Dogs and Gardens: Facts About Designer Dogs

By Randi Bildner

Better Dogs...They come with odd sounding monikers such as Boxerdoodle, Labradoodle, Puggle and Whoodle, just to name a few. One simply cannot deny how irresistibly cute these curious mixtures are. But unfortunately, these adorable pups are victims of the latest trend, or in some cases, scam - called designer or hybrid dogs.

With shelters bursting at the seems, filled to the brim with wonderful dogs in need of good homes, why is it that some feel a creative cocktail is needed to create a canine concoction that promises to be - "the perfect dog."

Geneticists agree that this method of "cooking up" the superdog is unreliable and comes with its own set of problems regardless of what goes into the mix. In other words, a dash of poodle and a half cup of lab "does not the perfect dog make."

According to American Kennel Club board member Patti Strand, "Crossing two different breeds masks recessive traits during the first generation, but in the second generation of designer dogs the negative genes reappear with a vengeance." Veterinarian Ray Calkins of Wilsonville Veterinary Clinic adds, "Sometimes you get the worst of both worlds."

No Foolproof Recipe

Breeding is a specialized and arduous task. It is timely, expensive and significant expertise is required. It is unrealistic to believe that the slews of designer puppy-makers are adhering to this difficult process.

According to Strand, "A breed is a group of dogs that have been selectively bred to predictably possess and produce certain characteristics, such as speed, size, temperament, performance ability or appearance. It takes generations of selective breeding to produce healthy dogs that breed true to type."

BooWizard of Claws, a so-called designer dog establishment located in Pembroke Pines, Florida, boasts a list of celebrity clients. The company is currently under investigation by the Florida State Attorney General and is being sued by the Humane Society of the United States. They have been accused of obtaining their unique “special” breeds (which include designer dogs) from puppy mills.

A quote from the HSUS website states, “Wizard of Claws portrays itself as a boutique ‘breeder network’ catering to the stars, selling dogs who are from a ‘few select breeders.’” The truth is that many of the puppies sold by Wizard of Claws are mass-produced at out-of-state puppy mills.

Good Business = Sad Statistics

Designer dogs are a very lucrative business. Customers pay thousands of dollars for dogs they were told were of high quality. Many of these dogs have become very sick or died. Even the rich and famous are not exempt from designer dog heartbreak. There were tears in four-time Academy Award-nominee Julianne Moore's household after the family's new Puggle puppy died of distemper just three short weeks after arriving in their home.

In an article entitled “Super-Mixes or Mixed Blessings?” by Pet Talk columnist Deborah Wood, Ms. Wood states, “It is just hype that these dogs are the ‘best of both worlds.’ The truth is that even the combinations are still unpredictable. It is a fact that some Labradoodles have soft, wooly coats, while others have wiry ones. Temperaments are just as mixed too.” Woods continues, “Some have the sweetness of a Labrador combined with the Boo2cleverness of a poodle. Others have the high need for mental activity of a poodle inside a big Labrador body with that powerful tail that can wipe everything off a table.”

A Culture Obsessed with Perfection

With so many facts in tow important questions arise: What do people really get when buying a designer dog and why do they feel the need to procure one in the first place? In many cases money, status and control are the issues at hand. People pay thousands of dollars for what they are mislead to believe will be the “perfect dog,” when no such animal exists.

The need for a designer dog says a lot about our society - and what is says is not good. We live in a world where people expect money will buy anything, fix anything, or in this case create anything. The desire to perfect the dog shows lack of respect for the natural world: not wanting a dog to be a dog.

The Designer Dog Treasure Chest – your local shelter

Designer dogs sell quickly for very large sums of money, while their doubles, the unintentional mixes deemed mutts, sit in shelters and wait for someone to recognize they are special too. In many cases those once labeled “designer dog” sit alongside, abandoned, having fallen short of the promises accompanying their designer tag.

Susan Smith, Community Relations Manager for the Franklin County Animal Shelter in Columbus, Ohio, says, "The problem with designer dogs is people might think they're trendy - and that's not a good reason to buy a dog. Before they put down, say $1,200 for a Labradoodle or Puggle, they should look first in a shelter because they can probably find the same type of dog here." Smith points out that her shelter often houses mixes such as Bed BooPuggles, Laboradoodles and other blends of dogs.

While the facts clearly prove that there is no need to continue creating designer dogs, the bottom line is: if healthy, those already in existence can make loving companions - as long as one doesn't believe the "stepford dog" hype.

Taking the life out of the dog

Katherine C. Grier, a cultural historian and author of “Pets in America,” sums everything up with this sentiment: “The dogness of dogs has become problematic. We want an animal that is, in some respects, not really an animal. You’d never have to take it out. It doesn’t shed. It doesn’t bark. It doesn’t do stuff.”

If the demand is high enough and the money available, the next step towards “perfection” could be to remove other “annoying traits" - possibly the bark along with the poop can be genetically weeded out.

The perfect place to obtain the “perfect” dog

For those who must have a non-shedding, obedient, perfect creature for their companion, your local carnival or amusement park can provide one for a lot less money. Win the ring toss enough times and you can have your pick. Choose your dog; don’t worry, stuffed animals don’t bark, shed poop or breathe.

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