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Norwich Bulletin - 7/27/2008

The Designer Dogs

"Rare!” “Exotic!” “Hard To Find!” We have all read these classifieds in the larger city papers, while looking for a puppy. And if you are very lucky, the ad tells you that you can get a registered new breed, with papers! And for only $700! Interested in a Schnoodle? Or perhaps a Puggle? Or are you just curious as to what is going on in the dog world?

I know that most everyone at some point in their lives, want something unique, something no one else has. But what are these brand new canine breeds with funny names and high price tags? And where do they come from?

There is the Poo group: Yorkie-Poo's, Cock-a-Poo's, Lhasa-Poo's, Peke-A-Poo's, Pom-a-Poo's, Doxie-Poo's or instead of the Poo work they will go to the Oodle group – like perhaps, a Bassatoodle or a Cockanoodle. You also have the Kimolas and the Bi-Tzus and don’t forget the Cock-a-Shells and the imposing Rott-a-Dor down to the diminutive Peke-A-Pom and Affan-Huahua.

What do all of these dogs with the whimsical breed names have in common? That’s an easy question to answer. They are not breeds. As cute and desirable as they sound, the truth is they are just mongrels — mixed breeds — masquerading as something glamorous, valuable and priced high so someone breeding mutts (excuse me, I mean designer dogs) can make a bundle of money because of a cute name and a cute pup. A Yorky Poo is just a Yorkshire Terriers crossed with Poodles. A Bi-Tzu is a Bichon Frise/Shih Tzu mix. Cock-a-Shels result when Cocker Spaniels are bred to Shelties and Rott-A-Dors occur when a Rottweiler and a Labrador Retriever join forces.

Have you ever looked at a Basset Hound and a Poodle and wonder what a puppy from the two dogs might look like?

It’s a cute dog but it certainly is not worth a $700 pricetag. Lots of us have wondered what different breeds of dogs together might look like, but most of us are not in the habit of playing these games and conning people into believing they have something rare and priceless.

You will be told that a new breed is being created and that the AKC is going to recognize the Affenhuahua very soon. The truth is that creating a new breed and more importantly, having that breed accepted by AKC is long and involved and takes years and generations to perfect a breed standard. Many of these cross breeds with the same name look totally different. There needs to be a particular look and personality to a breed. There has been no serious work among real breeders to actually mix breeds.

Also, genetically a breeder cannot just pick and choose what features will be passed on from each breed. Crossing breeds is random and you have no idea what the puppies will be like. There will be no consistency – instead of getting the best of both breeds, you could end up with the worst. Specific traits are achieved only by years of careful breeding and narrowing the gene pool until you have the right traits occurring regularly. Of course, you will be told that the dogs are registered.

Unfortunately this does not mean anything except that the “breeders” have paid a fee to some agency to record their dogs name in a book and they have a certificate saying so. If the puppy is not registered in either the American Kennel Club or the United Kennel Club, you do not have a purebred dog. And on the other side of the coin, don’t let people tell you that the price is so high because the puppy is one of a kind. Every mongrel is one of a kind and you would be better served going to your local humane society and adopting a mixed breed puppy for a reasonable adoption fee. And then feel free to make up your own name – hell, everyone else is!

There's no doubt that mixed breeds like Cockapoos and Schnickerdoodles can make wonderful pets. Thousands of people own and love mixed breed dogs of every description. But they are not valuable, unique, designer dogs. Not any more so than the many wonderful mixed breeds available for adoption at the local animal shelter. So don’t be fooled by whimsical names and high prices. A mixed breed is just that – a mixed breed.

This little hybrid cutie is a cross between an Affenpinscher and a Chihuahua and goes by the exotic name of Affenhuahua. But that doesn’t make it a new breed. It is a hybrid which simply means it is the offspring of genetically dissimilar parents; i.e. something of mixed origin. It’s okay to want a mixed breed puppy – in fact it is wonderful – call your local shelters and if they don’t have what you are looking for, my guess is that shelters in New York City certainly will. But don’t be fooled by names and prices – know what you are really getting for your money.

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