Monday, November 17, 2008

Designer Dogs

The following is a really awesome article by a local dog trainer (see her website: I was on there because I am signing my dog up for agility classes and I came across this. I try to not be judgemental of people who decide they want a "designer dog" after all, it's their money, even though I think it's a really poor investment. But if you are thinking of getting something that has poo or doodle in its name, please read this. It's not your typical animal activist guilt trip.

But I want a designer dog…
If I get one more call from someone who has a new designer dog that they call a gerrottyoodle (my new breed German Shorthair, Rottweiler, Poodle) I may just fall out of my chair. When I was growing up we called them Mutts or mixed breeds and there was/is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You could get them at your local supermarket from young children with tear-stained faces that needed to "get rid" of them that day.

Now people are getting them off the internet (they had a beautiful website) and paying hundreds, even thousands, of dollars for them….sight unseen. It's like getting a mail-order bride you've never spoken to or buying a car from an ad in the newspaper you've never driven. Don't get me wrong there are some very nice dogs purchased off the internet but there are so many more stories about misery sold to unsuspecting people. Checks that clear but no puppy, contact numbers no longer in service, questionable parentage, medical issues, shy fear biters, and parasite infested.

I had a lovely puppy in puppy class several months ago, at the first class there was something about the puppy didn't seem right and I suggested they take him to the vet for a complete checkup. They did so then called to tell me they had found out the puppy was deaf and going blind, both symptoms were determined to be congenital, when they called the "breeder" they were told that unless they had proof it was one of their puppies they wouldn't help them. When the client produced the cancelled check they were told that the puppy in question was not one of theirs. With no way of proving it the family, who had of course fallen in love with him, kept the puppy only to find out several months later that the puppy had a growth in the lower intestine and needed surgery, which was done. This very sweet puppy will have problems with digestion for the rest of its life. The family is committed to this puppy and he will live out a good, loving life with them. This is a story that ends well, far too many don't.

By now you probably think I don't like gerrottyoodles or any designer breeds, but that would be missing the point. I have no problem with mixed breeds, I own one, Barney. He is a very sweet little dog, however, when I evaluated him at the shelter, with his littermates, I could not put him up for adoption because he was so fearful and a potential fear biter. Of his 7 sisters and brothers, I could only pass 3 for adoption. I was, however, able to find homes for the 4 with friends who understood that these were special needs pups. Everyone wants him to be a *whatever* (insert your guess). I know what he is….Wanna guess what type of dog he is? What I object to is unsuspecting people being duped into paying lots of money, being told "it" is a breed, when if fact, it's just a breeding of two dogs. Some people qualify "Designer dog" as one that you know the mother and father even that is questionable with many of these dogs. Years ago I owned a miniature schnauzer that had AKC papers and my groomer always called her a schnoodle (schnauzer/poodle mix). Truth be known I always wondered about her, she came from a pet store that got her from Kansas. A friend couldn't keep her so we took her. It didn't make any difference if she was purebred to us or not, she fit into our family nicely and that was what was important.

Many people say they need to have a dog that won't shed, here's a news flash, many shed. A lot depends upon what breeds were crossed. I know a woman that has a Goldendoodle and it sheds more that any dog I've ever seen. I would have to roller my pants before I could go to my next client because I was covered with so much white hair. He was a nice dog but lots of energy, much bigger than she thought he'd be, more athletic than either breed, and a lot of pulling power. I told her I suspected some Iditarod breeding in there somewhere!

This is also one of the problems with mixed breeds, you might get all the attributes of the breeds you love or you might get everything you dislike about those breeds. I wish I could show you the whole litter that Barney came from, none of the puppies looked alike. Some had wire hair (more terrier), some had long legs (more????), some had fur rather than hair (like Barney), one even had a smooth coat, some were white, some tan, some underbites, etc. It's why many people restrict themselves to purebred dog; consistency. That doesn't always hold water, either. It's just a bit better bet with the outcome. I almost always have one of each; a purebred and a mixed breed. But it's not so much about the breed; it's more about the individual dog. Yes, I am a Rottweiler person but even then I look for certain attributes on a one on one basis. Take my latest Rottweiler, Cane (Hurricane Watch), he comes from a very reputable breeder, who tests and gets clearance for all the health problems we have in Rottweilers, and yet with great, clear, healthy parents, Cane has a heart problem. Would I get another pup from the breeder, you bet I would. She did everything humanly possible to produce the healthiest puppies, ones that are true to the breed standard. She breeds to improve the breed…it's not about money. There really isn't that much money in breeding provided you do all the right things. Lots of people asked me why I hadn't bred Chase and the reason was always the same. He only had fair hips and I won't breed a dog with anything less than a good rating. I, too, want to improve the breed!

I know people will come up and tell you what a great looking dog you have, but do you really think they know your breed's standard? If you don't even know what the standard is for your breed how can you say you are not doing it for money? I've been told "I want another Sally, so I'm going to breed her, even if she has bad hips". If the pup comes out like Sally, maybe it's your training that makes it a wonderful dog. And if it doesn't, will you compare them constantly? Is that fair to the pup?

The point of this is: there are many, many dogs in this county that are euthanized for no reason other than space. Why not go look at the Salinas Animal Shelter, Monterey County Shelter, Animal Friends Rescue Project, or the SPCA of Monterey County for your next designer dog. Ask to see the designer dog section of their shelters; I'm sure someone will be more than happy to assist you. And you need a cute name for the breed ask us, we're pretty good at coming up with breeds names!

I hope maybe you learned something you didn't know. Buying from these mix breed breeders just encourages them, making you apart of the problem. There are plenty of cute little poodle mixes in the shelters and won't cost you a grand and you will be saving a little life.

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