“I released a Frankenstein,” this was the claim of Wally Cochran, creator of the first designer dog.
The demand for delightful pups is ever-growing and a new type of canine is dominating – the designer dog.
Designer dogs are a deliberate cross between two purebreds, for instance a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle create a Cockapoo.
Over the past 10 years crossbreeds like Labradoodle’s and Puggle’s have become all the rage with celebrities and pet owners alike.
As cute as these fancy pooches may be, they are fuelling an already severe overpopulation in dogs and furthermore are being exploited by cruel puppy farms.
The new designer dogs are pushing the undesirable, old purebreds to find new homes in shelters and unfortunately when these dogs cannot find a home they must be put down.
Twenty dogs a day are put down in the UK – that is nearly one an hour.
So what is a designer dog?
Another lovable breed or another product of the now commercialised pet industry?
The first designer dog was the Labradoodle, a cross between a Standard Poodle and a Labrador Retriever.
The breed first began in 1989 in Australia, vet Wally Cochran began crossbreeding to create a guide dog for a blind woman who was allergic to dog fur.
He produced low allergen pups that possessed the best qualities of both breeds.
Thus, the Labradoodle was born and this set off a crossbreed craze, which was heavily popularised by celebrity endorsement.
Celebrities such as Jake Gyllenhaal, Mischa Barton and Jessica Simpson all own designer dogs.
The overpopulation of dogs has become a crisis in the UK.
According to Dog’s Trust an estimate of more than 6 thousand dogs were put to sleep for want of a home last year.
The popularity of designer dogs are one of the many driving forces of the problem.
Commercial breeders are breeding the fashionable dogs to satisfy public demand.
However there are plenty of dogs already in need of a home in shelters.
Vicky Fyfe of the Edinburgh Cat and Dog Home which facilitates more than 100 dogs said: “There are more dogs because people are breeding them just for the money… Unwanted dogs are just being tossed everywhere…Shelters all around the country are full. Crossbreed or purebred it doesn’t matter you should adopt. There are plenty of loving dogs in need of a home…In my opinion designer dogs are just mongrels and we have plenty of mongrels.”
Designer dogs are provocative subject because some say it has generated an increase in puppy farms in the UK.
Puppy farms are similar to factories, where dogs are bred solely for profit.
The dogs are made to squander in deprived conditions, are bred too regularly and are born with serous physical and mental health issues.
The puppies from these farms are separated from their mothers far too soon and are sent to away to be sold.
Many of the puppies are left traumatised by the transition, and many do not survive.
These puppies – many of them designer- are given the worst possible start in life.
The RSPCA estimates more than 8 million dogs come from puppy farms in the UK.
Laura Quickfall a spokesperson for The British Kennel Club said: “The Kennel Club is concerned that some unscrupulous breeders may be breeding these types of dog simply for financial profit, rather than with the health and welfare of the dogs in mind. This can mean that they will mass produce puppies to meet the latest celebrity-driven trend and will sell them on to people who are buying the dog as a fad rather than based on an educated decision… Buying a dog is a lifetime commitment and they should not be purchased to go along with the latest fashion.”
Shelters are constantly dealing with unhealthy dogs from puppy farms.
Ms Fyfe of The Edinburgh Cat and Dog added: “We can tell if a dog has came from a puppy farm from their health problems. Especially females because their skin on the stomach is really saggy from the over breeding…They’re not healthy dogs”
Despite stirring such a controversy in the dog-breeding world, designer dogs have brought a positive outcome.
As the crossbreed’s popularity continues to rise, so are the numbers of happy pet owners.
Margaret Foster is the owner of three-year-old Labradoddle Effie, she said, “I love Effie so much, she has the perfect temperament. She is so loving everyone wants to play with her. She has so much personality and she’s quite nutty. …The reason we bought her was because of my daughter’s asthma and Effie’s hypoallergenic coat was perfect. So she became one of the family…. Of all the dogs I’ve had which were all pedigree, the Labradoodle is the best I’ve had. The stigma against mongrels is horrible.”
Many hybrid dogs such as the Labradoodle have given owners with allergies and disabilities the chance to own a dog.
It has also been proven that many designer dog are healthier and longer living.
This is because when two different dog breeds are mixed, it produce a variety of characteristics and the dog’s DNA is enriched; this is known as Hybrid Vigor.
An example of a healthier dog is the popular ‘jug,’ a cross of a Jack Russell Terrier and a Pug.
The Jack Russell is a particularly healthy dog, whereas Pug’s are often susceptible to health issues.
The combination the two creates a dog that still retains the distinct look of a Pug but is healthier than the purebred Pug.
Although this crossbreeding is creating healthier dogs, another hitch is that because many of the breeds are so young it is unknown how the dogs are going to develop physically and what their temperament may be.
They are exceedingly unpredictable.
Some may say that dog breeders are becoming their very own Doctor Frankenstein’s, moulding what they believe to be the perfect pooch.
Designer dogs may be better or worse to a purebred, that is for pet owners to decide.
But the message of buying any dog remains simple.
Every dog bought has a significant cost.
If you buy a dog -designer or purebreed – another animal will lose its chance of a home and may be put down.
For every puppy bought from a breeder another homeless dog is euthanized, according to PETA research.
Regardless of this, the demand for the elaborate canines persists.
Every dog has its day and it appears that this day belongs to the designer dog.