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  • Writer's pictureEmma Kay Bleakley

A Cockapoo is just a crossbreed!

The myth of the Designer Dog

On my daily walk with Jack, the creatively named Jack Russell, it seems that most dogs I encounter are a portmanteau of two breeds, such as a Cockerpoo, or a Jackahuahua, or something equally ridiculously named. They’re all just dogs, aren’t they? The adorable, funny, loveable companions with whom we share our lives.

Why do people get a “designer” dog?

Erin Burnett and her colleagues at the Royal Veterinary College, London found that during COVID (2020-2021) there was an explosion of “designer” dogs being bred and purchased, with crossbreeds such as Labradoodles (Labrador X Poodle) and Cockerpoos (Cocker Spaniel X Poodle), being some of the most popular. When asked by a research team lead by Dr Borbála Turcsán from the Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest, two of the main motivations behind owners buying a “designer” dog, were that the dogs were easy to purchase online and were hypoallergenic. Both these reasons have considerable drawbacks.

The ability to buy a “designer” dog online quickly and easily is, at first, very appealing. You can specify the mix you want for your family and almost pick it off the shelf. The kids probably just want a playmate, whereas the adults want a companion, workout partner, a dog that doesn’t shed much hair, and doesn’t cause or affect any allergies. When all these ingredients are combined, the result is usually a Poodle cross. Alas, Erin Burnett’s research found that most ‘designer’ dogs purchased from the internet meant their new owners did not see the dog’s parents, sibling or even the breeder’s home. The dogs were passed over at a pre-arranged meeting place, which is highly risky. The new owners had no idea where the dogs had come from, their health or behavioural traits, all of which could have been assessed if they had visited the breeder’s home. This naivety could be attributed to the fact that most ‘designer’ dog owners have never owned a dog before, according to Erin’s study.

Crossbreeds are healthier, aren’t they?

During their research, Dr Borbála Turcsán’s team found two significant differences between purebred dogs and ‘designer’ dogs. They found that ‘designer’ dogs were not as calm as purebred dogs and that the dogs demonstrated more behavioural issues, including being antisocial. This could be due to the lack of experience of their owners in dog socialisation, although the ‘designer’ dogs were perceived to be more trainable compared to purebred dogs when owners were interviewed by Erin and her team.

The claimed hypoallergenicity of the ‘designer’ dog is also a major reason behind a new owner’s motivation to get a dog crossbred with a Poodle. In fact, the UK Doodle Trust, who represent Poodles and Poodle crossbreeds, say that ‘Doodles’ being hypoallergenic is a ‘myth’. The CanF1 allergen, which is the protein that causes allergies and is present in dog saliva, hair, and dander (skin cells), was shown to be present in equal amounts in both pure-bred dogs and "designer" dogs, according to research conducted by Dr Betty Petrak-Ron and her colleagues at Colorado State University, confirming the statement by the UK Doodle Trust.

Ultimately, the only distinction between a Great Dane and Chihuahua, a Labradoodle and Cockerpoo, is selective breeding, which humans have been doing since the wolf became domesticated. When a dog breeder uses selective breeding, they take a dog with a desirable trait—say, a curly coat in a litter of flat-coated puppies—and breed it with another curly-coated dog to increase the number of the desired curly coats in the subsequent litter. This is how we have such a diversity in the dog ‘breeds’ we see today.

Should you get a ‘designer’ dog then?

Whether you get a ‘designer’ dog, a mongrel or a purebred, the most important thing is to talk to dog owners, dog trainers, breeders, rescue kennels, and veterinary staff. Get as much information as possible about the type of dog that you’re interested in. Only then will you be able to make the best decision for you, your family, and your new dog!

Courtesy of Elina Fairytale: Pexels

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