“Behind the Breed” has been a regular series here at Animals of the Pacific Northwest for more than four years and has covered more than a few dog, cat, rabbit, chicken, and horse breeds. In fact, more than 80 different dog breeds have been discussed! During this time and long before this series started, designer dog breeds have gotten particularly popular and some have become really “trendy”. Note: because of my experience working in animal welfare and dog care, I am personally not a fan of designer breeds. Anything expressed in this article is going to be influenced by my own experiences from working with animals over the last eight years; opinions expressed here are solely my own and not reflective of any past, current, or future outside employers.
These designer/hybrid breeds often have cute names for the new mix, like puggle (beagle + pug), pomsky (pomeranian + husky), or the myriad of doodle variations (literally any other breed + poodle). If you are being generous, the goal of these breed mixes is to get some of the best traits of two different breeds into one dog and for some, the differences between purebred, designer, and mutt breeds matter a lot. But there are some who’ve spent years working in animal welfare or some sort of animal care industry who have voiced concerns over the popularity of designer/hybrid breeds.
The person who first developed the Labradoodle, the first of any doodle breed, went on the record back in 2019 about how he felt about his work. Wally Conron told Sum Of All Parts from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation that “[he] opened a Pandora Box and released a Frankenstein monster”. The rise in the popularity of these hybrid breeds means that folks can charge hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars for one dog. Unfortunately, unscrupulous breeders have jumped on the bandwagon over the last couple of decades and have bred these breeds with little to no regard for the animals’ medical or genetic history, the parents’ well-being, or the future of the breed.
Some dog groomers, like Marcia at @ilikedogsmorethanyou, have gone on social media recently to share their experiences with suspected dog breeders bringing in dogs that have clearly been neglected but are still used for breeding. These anecdotes that groomers have shared tell a story about poodles coming in with severe matting and they are able to fill in the gaps based on their own past experiences and conversations with the owners.
As a side note, matting can be a very serious issue for dogs and cats and happens when their coats aren’t brushed regularly. For pretty much every type of dog and long-haired cats, their coats require regular brushing (anywhere from a couple of times a week to as needed) with different types of brushes and other types of grooming. Double-coated dogs, for example, often need two different types of brushes – one to comb their top coat and the second to get their inner coat. If your dog or cat does get matted in a few places, please take them to a groomer to help get the mats out and to learn some tips on how to make brushing fun for you and your pet! Many, if not almost all, groomers want the best for you and your pets and will likely be willing to help you find a solution to matting. Regular brushing can also help with shedding!
The breeding for certain traits with ill regard to other hereditary traits that may negatively affect the animal can and often is a by-product of trendy dog and cat breeds. The same traits that make Pugs or Scottish Fold Cats incredibly cute are the same ones that also make life just a little difficult all the time for the animals (brachycephalic dogs, for example, find it hard to breathe because of their short noses). By breeding simply for the cutest traits regardless of how that affects the animal’s well-being and health, you completely disregard what is actually best for the animal and are willing to continue the cycle of harm.
It is the blatant indifference and negligence for the animals involved by some breeders that make the current situation with designer/trendy breeds particularly distasteful and frustrating. Social media has also played a negative role in this issue, as some folks (but obviously not all) seem to view the animals in their life as props rather than living creatures with their own needs and intrinsic value. There are plenty of folks that will also get an animal without realizing just how much work that goes into caring for them and eventually find out just how much work these animals require. If their needs aren’t met, dogs can develop behavioral issues, like separation anxiety, destructive tendencies, reactivity, and more.
For people interested in getting designer/hybrid breeds (or any animal!), please do a lot of research and planning before getting an animal, like how to recognize red flags in breeders and finding a great dog trainer or doggy daycare in your area. Hybrid breeds like pomskys, doodles, puggles, or even Border Aussies (border collies and Australian shepherds) are so cute and wonderful dogs. But a lot of these breed mixes include working dog breeds who come with their own needs and traits. Every single dog is going to need plenty of exercise, training, and enrichment to be a happy and relatively sane companion. That is especially true for more active breeds like Border Collies, Huskies, and retrievers like the Novia Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.