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Morkies, Labradoodles, and Teddy Bears: Are Designer Puppies Bad?

Dr. Mark is a veterinarian. He has been working with dogs for more than 40 years.

A labradoodle, designed to not shed much.

A labradoodle, designed to not shed much.

What Is a Purebred Anyway?

I was reading an old book published in the first years of the 20th century, Dogs and All About Them, authored by Robert Leighton. It discussed the origin of many dog breeds from an early 20th century perspective. It was interesting because, at the time of publishing, no clear rules existed for a lot of breeding kennels, and there was no such thing as a designer dog.

One example he gave was of a Fox Terrier Kennel. When the puppies were born, the owner would look at them and say, “Oh, those must be Jake´s pups because they look like him” and record it as such in the breeder´s book. When developing a breed like the Yorkshire terrier, the breeders had the black and tan wire haired terrier and then used the Maltese to make the dog smaller with a smooth coat, the Skye for the ears, and the Dandie Dinmont (for something, although I have no idea what). Were these dogs considered mutts? No, at the time they were just considered crossbreds and the progenitors of a new breed.

The Question Remains

So are purebreds really purebreds?

Not as far as any of us can tell. Being a registered purebred only signifies that a group of people somewhere have decided to give you a piece of paper stating that your parents were of pure breeding. (It is also supposed to signify that a purebred animal will pass down known characteristics.)

Perhaps the Siberian Husky is pure, since it was so isolated that no other breeds were able to come in and mix with it. Very few breeds can meet those standards. Even some of the isolated purebreds were mixed with other dogs when they were introduced to Europe, however.

Other than Sibes and Samoyeds, all of us are mixed breeds.

A Mauzer, one of the designer dogs.

A Mauzer, one of the designer dogs.

Qualities of Purebreds and Designer Dogs

Here are some traits we can see in designer and purebred dogs.

Qualities of a Designer Dog

  • Heterozygous (there is no way to tell how the offspring will be born).
  • Characteristics that dog owners are looking for at this time.

Qualities of a Purebred

  • Homozygous (the offspring will be born the same as the parents).
  • Characteristics someone wanted at one time, and may still want now.
And this is a Morkie on duty.

And this is a Morkie on duty.

Are Designer Dogs Bad?

Since designer dogs are just mixed breeds, if one is bad, so is the other. What is wrong with all of these new designer dogs?

In my opinion, nothing is wrong with them. Some of these crosses, like the labradoodle, fit the desire of customers who think they want a specific breed (the Labrador Retriever) but cannot deal with all of the shedding around the house, so they really want a Poodle. Is there something inherently wrong in producing a F1 hybrid that fits the customer´s needs?

There are others, like the Mauzer, the Morkie, the Chipom, the teddy bear…there are really too many to list them all here. Any two breeds of dogs thrown together are going to breed and some buyers will think they are good dogs.

This is a teddy bear puppy.

This is a teddy bear puppy.

Which Dog Is Better?

Why get a registered purebred instead of a designer dog? If both dogs are equal, the main reason to focus on a purebred is health. Some purebred dog breeders will tell you that since the designer dog breeds are usually the product of backyard breeders, they rarely have the necessary genetic screening.

It is true that designer dogs rarely have genetic screening. Sometimes it is because the designer dog breeder is trying to save a buck, at other times it is because many of the genetic diseases are a product of generations of line breeding (a polite way of saying incest) and the dogs may show up with two recessive genes at one location, in some cases revealing an inherited defect that had otherwise been disguised by a dominant gene.

The designer breeds are heterozygous, that is they have a mixed up genetic picture, and are unlikely to demonstrate a genetic disease, even if they are carriers.

Should designer dogs be spayed and neutered? Most of them are, and most of them should be. It is never clear how cross bred puppies are going to turn out, and when they are bred again, there are so many variables that many families will not want to adopt them.

My dog trying to prove she is part Labrador Retriever.

My dog trying to prove she is part Labrador Retriever.

Final Thoughts on Purebreds

If you find yourself wanting a Puggle instead of a Pug, he is more likely to be healthy than at least one of his parents. Do your best to look at the parents, however, and do not accept one of these puppies from a puppy mill that is marketing their dogs through the internet.

A purebred is nothing special. A mixed breed is not such a bad thing.

How many of you out there can claim to be purebreds, after all?

© 2012 Mark dos Anjos DVM


Jeannie Wearn on November 05, 2012:

There is a direct relationship between the puppies that are sold and the number of shelter dogs that are euthanized. A shelter dog loses his chance at a forever home for each puppy that is sold.

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 11, 2012:

Good mutts and bad, right? I will probably catch some flak for saying designer dogs are okay, but we are all mutts at one point or another. At least compared to someone or something.

Bob Bamberg on August 11, 2012:

Interesting hub, DrMark. I saw a lot of designer dogs and their very satisfied owners. Purists believe that it contaminates the gene pool, but that pool is sort of a swamp now anyway. You put it nicer, though.

A few veterinarians I know, and one I listen to who does a weekly radio show, have distanced themselves from breeders now because of what they term "indiscriminate breeding." They used to respect breeders and occasionally turn to them for information, but now they say too many people are in it, which has also caused the breeder pool to become contaminated.

I had some backyard breeders as customers and I wasn't impressed with their knowledge, but I also had a couple of breeders whom I thought were very sharp and knowledgeable. I guess, just as in any other unregulated industry, there are good ones and bad ones. Voted Up and Interesting. Best regards, Bob

Mark dos Anjos DVM (author) from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil on August 10, 2012:

She was going after coconuts, as usual, so I guess I failed to teach her to use a "soft mouth" like the hunting Lab people work on. Oh well! It keeps her happy, even if she does look serious. :)

wetnosedogs from Alabama on August 10, 2012:

I'm not a designer person, so I couldn't have a designer dog.

What did your dog get out of the water? Your dog makes it look like serious business.