By Sammy Caiola
Expensive taste isn’t just about clothing, fine dining or luxurious cars. Nowadays, it also applies to pets.
Americans spent an astonishing 55.7 billion dollars on their pets in 2013; up 4.5 percent from the year before, according to research that The American Pet Products Association released last week. A lot of that is for fancy toys and canned chow, but people are also throwing out more cash for the perfect dog. The recent emergence of highly coveted purebred hybrids, also known as “designer dogs”, has added a whole new dimension of sticker shock to American pet culture.
A designer dog, as the media has labeled the phenomenon, is a product of artificial insemination between two purebred dogs of different breeds, the theory being that hybrid dogs will have the ‘best of both worlds’, and be less prone to genetic problems because the gene pool is mixed.
The most popular of these experiments thus far has been the “Golden Doodle”, a medium-sized dog with the temperament of a golden retriever and the curly, non-shedding texture of a poodle. Its big puppy dog eyes and golden locks put it at the top of Vet Street’s “hottest dog breeds” list last May. Good choice, huh?
Native Foods uses this image courtesy of goldendoodlehq.com
But as more breeders enter the designer dog game, more exotic (and humorously named) options come available by the day, including the Affenhuahua (Affenpinscher x Chihuahua), the Bullypit (American Bulldog x American Pit Bull Terrier) and the Swheat-n-Poo (Poodle x Soft Coated Wheaton). The American Canine Hybrid Club has more than 500 known breeds in its directory.
The appeal makes sense. You love the coloring of the Bermese Mountain dog but you want something with short hair? Breed a Bermese with a labradore for a Labernese (below). The possibilities are endless.
Native Foods uses this image courtesy of greenfieldpuppies.com
Proponents warn, however, that customers should love ALL aspects of BOTH breeds before committing to a hybrid dog, because there’s no guarantee of which characteristics from which breed will come through in the litter. If there is anything in either purebred that is not compatible with your lifestyle, you may want to consider a standard purebred dog.
Though the term “designer dog” is relatively new, people have been cross breeding purebreds to create better sporting and hunting dogs for decades (take the Australian Shepard, for example). Now, smaller dogs are being bred as status symbols for consumers. Despite their exorbitant pricetags (usually upwards of $1,500), designer dogs are not recognized by breed clubs. People who acquire designer dogs from the few breeders in this specialty field do so most often for recreational purposes.
Personally, I’m a bit disappointed in the materialism of the whole thing. A dog is a man’s best friend, not his accessory. There are plenty of existing, well-behaved dogs in shelters and at rescue organizations that can provide the love and companionship that dog owners seek. What gives us the right to custom-create a new breed of dog when we’ve already got so many in need? In an era when people are choosing the eye color of their offspring in vitro, do we need to apply social standards to our pets as well?
Designer dogs could be a fad, or they could change the face of dog breeding forever. Either way, my only hope is that consumers buying a designer dog treat it with love and respect, even if it doesn’t turn out exactly the way it was formulated to.
And who could really be upset with this trend when it’s putting these guys into the world?
A pomsky pomeranian x husky) puppy. Native Foods uses this image courtesy of pomskypuppies.us.