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Pooches - Purebreds vs. Designer Mutts


kudzu

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Full disclosure - everything I know about genetics, I learned on the playground. Also, I have a bunch of dogs in this fight - I have owned purebred dogs; my four present dogs are all adoptees of unknown and diverse ancestory; my granddog is a Labradoodle.

 

The crossing of purebred dogs, supposedly seeking to capture the better traits of both breeds, but likely just out of boredom or the human affinity for mischief, has become rampant. Though there is a huge market for these designer mutts, as I call them, the fanciers of the purebreds are quite upset by the trend.

 

What prompted this post is that I recently read a piece by a purebred aficionado claiming potential genetic disaster in crossing breeds that have been "refined" over many generations. This does not seem logical to me when many of the healthiest, hardiest and most intelligent dogs I have known were mutts, designer or otherwise.

 

What about the genetics? What about the trend?

 

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Lets_Play_Two

Seems to me that the risk here is the same risk you run when "purebred" dogs are over bred. As the demand goes higher the diligence with which less than quality dogs are weeded from the gene pool diminishes. Just as you have to be careful when buying a lab or a poodle, you have to be careful buying a Labradoodle. I have a Lab, a Poodle and a rescued lab/poodle mix. The rescued dog at age 5 has hip and knee problems far beyond anything old age has brought to the 12 year old Lab.

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As the owner of an AKC champion "purebred" dog with obedience and agility titles to boot, and a former breeder who has produced a couple of litters of "purebred" dogs that have earned championships and numerous obedience and agility titles, I can say that I am way past fed up with both the AKC and the snooty, elitist attitudes of many dog fanciers. Mainly because of hypocrisy that I can't tolerate.

 

First of all, EVERY "purebred" breed was derived by crossing dogs of other breeds (or mixed breeds) to achieve particular characteristics. These practices began way before the science of genetics was understood anywhere near as well as it is today. Frequently, breeds were developed for aesthetics alone, and often with little or no regard to potential genetic complications. As a result, most breeds have a closet full of genetic defects and congenital problems (a genetic "cesspool," so to speak), some of which are severe and threaten the vitality of the breed and its specimens. Unsuspecting purchasers of AKC-registered puppies can discover this in tragic ways, after it is way too late, when they are forced to deal with expensive and heartbreaking medical problems that might have been avoided by more responsible breeding practices. Yet the AKC continues to condone irresponsible breeding practices by granting registrations to any breeding of any two AKC-registered dogs of the same breed. Why? Because it generates revenue for the AKC, and because AKC registration carries a cache that uninformed dog owners think has some kind of merit or value. It really doesn't.

 

Second, you'd think that fanciers of purebred dogs would care enough to take advantage of the scientific knowledge available and begin cleaning up the genetic cesspools in their breeds by using more responsible breeding practices. Many do, but there are also many who do not. The latter care more about results that gratify their own egos, or pad their wallets, rather than improve the breed. Numerous breedings occur between dogs with known genetic defects or other flaws that dilute the purity of the breed or defy the breed standards, but are ignored or swept under the rug. They AKC condones it by registering the litter anyway, with no meaningful inquiry into the breeding practices that produced the litter. The risk is MUCH higher for dogs sold in pet stores, which tend to be stocked by puppy mills that are really just livestock breeding operations. But it happens even among enthusiasts and the elite of purebred dog fanciers. I've seen devastating results when a breeder intentionally bred two dogs with known genetic risks for epilepsy. I've seen handlers refuse to go into the ring when the judge brings out the measuring wicket to determine if the dogs entered meet the breed standard for height. They know damn well their dogs don't conform. A dog that does not conform should not be shown in the conformation ring, or bred, but it happens all the time.

 

My only concern with the designer dog trend is that the breeders of these dogs could be making similar genetic mistakes (or intentional misdeeds) as breeders of purebred dogs. Crossing a purebred lab with a purebred poodle to produce labradoodles could have sad results if the purebred specimens emerged from their own breed's genetic cesspools rather than lines that have tried to follow responsible practices. Any responsible breeder should have extensive knowledge of the pedigrees of the sire and the dam. This is hard enough when it involves a single breed; it would be doubled for a hybrid. And, genetic problems sometimes don't show up for a couple of generations. So my point is that purchasers of hybrids might not be justified in expecting "hybrid vigor" that could be superior to purebred dogs. Any particular breeding could produce a litter that exhibits some or many of the worst traits of the sire's and dam's bloodlines (or cesspools). I just don't know if most buyers are aware of the full scope of what is invovled, and the related risks.

 

Most problems that arise with dogs aren't the dogs' fault. At the root, they're people problems (poor breeding, poor training, poor care, etc.). You can't really blame the dog for those things.

 

All that said, I still admire a good, sound specimen of a purebred dog, but there is lots of room in my heart for others. They all need love.

 

“We give dogs time we can spare, space we can spare and love we can spare. And in return, dogs give us their all. It’s the best deal man has ever made.” - M. Facklam

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I know almost nothing about dogs, but as a casual observer to this conversation, what you say makes a lot of sense to me. Endangering an animal, by intentional miss-breeding, just to satisfy an person’s ego to have 'the right image’, is beyond disgusting IMHO.

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Lets_Play_Two

I think most or all of the designer dog trend has to do with creating dogs that don't shed and are also hypoallergenic. Hence the poodle in the mix. My wife wanted a poodle and I agreed as long as we did not trim him like a poodle!!! (Absolutely stupid looking IMHO in AKC drag). I also named him Bear.

 

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3 month old Bear learning the ropes from 12 year old Nick!!

 

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Nick, Bear (6 months old) and Xena.

 

Bear is now 11 months old and the biggest of the 3 dogs...still with all his clothes on.

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As the owner of an AKC champion "purebred" dog with obedience and agility titles to boot, and a former breeder who has produced a couple of litters of "purebred" dogs that have earned championships and numerous obedience and agility titles, I can say that I am way past fed up with both the AKC and the snooty, elitist attitudes of many dog fanciers. Mainly because of hypocrisy that I can't tolerate.

 

First of all, EVERY "purebred" breed was derived by crossing dogs of other breeds (or mixed breeds) to achieve particular characteristics.

 

Joel--

 

Thanks for writing this. It's very helpful to those of us who are not really "in the know." I guess the question that naturally follows from your explanation is this: for those interested in a "purebred," what steps can they take to ensure that they're dealing with a responsible breeder?

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"Give me a mutt any day."

 

Amen to that along with saving them from the needle. While I have respect for breeders and purebred owners we have had friends/neighbors with purebreds and their dogs have had a myriad of problems. Several have had to put them down. We have a rescue dog and he is one of the friendliest and most loving dogs I have ever seen (Spaniel/Lab mix). BTW, this is the first dog I have ever owned. He is a true companion.

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As the owner of an AKC champion "purebred" dog with obedience and agility titles to boot, and a former breeder who has produced a couple of litters of "purebred" dogs that have earned championships and numerous obedience and agility titles, I can say that I am way past fed up with both the AKC and the snooty, elitist attitudes of many dog fanciers. Mainly because of hypocrisy that I can't tolerate.

 

First of all, EVERY "purebred" breed was derived by crossing dogs of other breeds (or mixed breeds) to achieve particular characteristics.

 

Joel--

 

Thanks for writing this. It's very helpful to those of us who are not really "in the know." I guess the question that naturally follows from your explanation is this: for those interested in a "purebred," what steps can they take to ensure that they're dealing with a responsible breeder?

 

There's never any real certainty in this, but my advice would be to first research what you can about your breed of choice's health issues. You can start by asking your vet, and you can also look HERE for a reference. Other similar references are published, too, and there is a lot of good information on the internet.

 

Once you have a grounding in the common health concerns, you can begin looking for breeders by asking your vet, and inquiring at dog training centers and with the secretary of the local kennel club. It would also be useful to visit a dog show held locally and purchase a catalog from the show superintendent. This catalog lists every dog entered in the show, along with information that includes the dog's breeder. Then go visit the ring where your breed of choice is being shown, and watch a while. The number worn by the exhibitor corresponds to the dog's listing in the catalog. Sometimes you can tell just by watching in and around the show ring which of the breeders or exhibitors treat their dogs like livestock rather than companions, which is a potential clue. When the breed's judging is finished, you can approach an exhibitor and ask questions. Be careful not to do this while the judging is underway. Usually, the "good" ones are flattered to be asked about their dogs. If they aren't, be suspicious.

 

Ask what they do about the health issues you've read about. Good breeders are picky about their breedings and screen for as many of those factors as possible before breeding. If they are dismissive about health concerns, be suspicious (although some of the less popular breeds have remarkably few). Ask if they they might have pups for placement in "pet homes." Responsible breeders know that there will always be a pup or 2 (or more) in any litter that aren't worthy of being shown, but will still make great companions. If they purport to never place pups in pet homes ("We only produce show quality"), or to have puppies available frequently, be suspicious. Ask for references, particularly for pet homes where they've placed pups. Ask what kind of health guarantee they provide. Good breeders will take back a pup who exhibits a common health problem within a specified period of time. If things progress, ask to see the sire and dam, in person, and play with them. Ask for copies of the pedigrees. Be wary of the breeder's own kennel name showing up frequently in the pedigree. Ask to see the contract the breeder uses when placing a pup. If the contract does not require a pet home to spay or neuter the dog when it reaches a suitable (but still quite young) age, be suspicious.

 

Google the breeder and see what else you can find out. In any case, I can't recommend responding to ads in the newspaper or online. Responsible breeders usually don't use those media to place pups. In many cases, they've got homes lined up before they breed. Even if they don't, if they can't place a pup through word-of-mouth or their regular networking, they usually won't resort to the paper. IMO, the existence of newspaper and online ads for dogs enable irresponsible breeding.

 

Be ready to spend time and $. Well-bred dogs fetch a price that can be steep, but most responsible breeders don't make any money through breeding. I can attest to that. We collected fees for 4 pups in our last litter of 5 pups (we kept one) that I would have flinched to pay, and yet still came out WAY upside down. Done right, it will be a hobby at best, not a commercial enterprise.

 

If you or anyone else has other questions PM me. I feel like I might be using more space here than might be warranted.

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