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Who hasn’t heard of a Cockapoo? Called Spoodles in other countries, these cute dogs are a mix of Cocker Spaniel and Poodle and have the traits and qualities of each breed that have made them so popular. As one of the early designer dog breeds, first seen around the 1950s and before anyone referred to mixed dog breeds as “designer dogs,” Cockapoos exhibit fewer of the genetic problems that afflict either breed, but can still have the knee and eye problems typical of their parent breeds.
Certainly, many new dog breeds have simply appeared on the scene due to opportunistic mating and lack of supervision by preoccupied owners. This also has created the presence of “mutts” and the enormous variety of mixed dog breeds in yards and homes everywhere.
Designer dog breeds, however, are the result of breeding by design, by purposely cross-breeding certain dogs to achieve a desired result, especially in an attempt to improve either breed by enhancing certain traits, such as a non-shedding coat, or to inhibit undesirable traits, such as bone development problems or inherited vision defects.
Initially, it seems, cross-breeding began as a way to improve the looks, or “conformation” of the dogs. During Victorian times, when dog shows first became all the rage in a society that demanded the appearance of refinement, dog owners responded by purposely mixing dogs to create the perfect, “refined” dog, gaining respect and popularity for their accomplishments.
As this practice grew in popularity itself, some dog owners saw a potential for great financial gain, fueling the designer dog breed movement.
This in turn has led to increasingly odd breed combinations and has drawn the interest of unprofessional and unscrupulous dog owners as they try to build credibility as breeders. They have come up with some interesting breed names without regard to the undesirable behaviors and health issues they unwittingly perpetuate.
While certain designer dog breeds, such as the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever plus Poodle), can be a dog with more desirable traits for specific purposes, such as family pet, unprofessional backyard breeders with no knowledge of genetics happily wreak havoc on unsuspecting customers who buy their product pooches for name alone.
Labradoodles are desirable for their easy-going dispositions, their intelligence, and their curly, non-shed coats.
But there is no good reason to make a Bagle, nor a Bassador. Essentially, you get a Beagle or Labrador with short legs. What is the logic of that?
Surely, too, some owners have taken advantage of the current popularity of the designer dog breed movement by inventing their own versions of mixed dog breeds in their own back yards, pretending credibility for the results of their inattention to what’s going on. So, when the neighbor’s Shih Tzu visits their unsupervised Chihuahua, they can sell, rather than having to give away, the new Shihtzuhuahua puppies. Never mind that they have not improved either breed, the usual intention of authentic breeders.
As with any particular breed interest, anyone looking for a new pet with a fancy name or certain characteristics should check the breeder’s qualifications and track record, or one might wind up with a dog that will have expensive medical problems or severe and unsafe behavior issues later.
Stick with reputable breeders and avoid unprofessionals who are just cashing in on their own quasi-clever inventions.
Dr. R.J. Peters is a retired health professional who established a pet rescue shelter in 2002. Learn why pets need insurance, too, at Every Pet Matters.