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The Allure of Designer Dogs – A Mixed Breed Illusion

Dog Breeders | Dog Rescue

The Fallacy of Designer Dogs 

This is a message to all those who are breeding mixed breed designer dogs.

Designer Dogs - Mixed Breed Dogs or Hybrid Crossbreed Great Weimer

You refer to your puppies as designer dogs, first-cross hybrids, crossbreed dogs, and designer crossbreeds. 

You breed dogs with the promise of bringing together ONLY the best qualities of two purebred dogs to create tailor-made puppies for a handsome profit. 

But, sadly, deliberately breeding mixed breed dogs and calling them “designer“ makes you a con artist and your buyers, willing victims.   

In this post you will learn:

  • The 5 arguments against the production, marketing, and sale of designer dogs
  • Legitimate cases for crossbreeding the right way
  • The top 7 benefits of purebred dogs that you may not know
  • A shortlist of designer dogs currently being sold for top dollar 

The Case Against Designer Dogs – 5 Facts They Don’t Want You To Know

1. Genetics of Designer Dogs Don’t Add Up

Let’s begin our discussion with a little math lesson. 

In Kindergarten, you learned 1 + 1 = 2.  

Outside of genetics and common core math, this equation is true. 

When it comes to breeding dogs however, it is more accurate to say: 1 + 1 = something slightly better than 1.  You hope.  

A breeder will strategically breed two top champions and pray that the offspring of that litter, at least one or two of the puppies, will more closely match the breed standard than either of the parents.    

They know from experience, however, that all the right decisions can be made – AKC championed sire and dam with perfect health testing and a record of canine good citizenship – and yet the majority of puppies in the litter will follow this equation: 

1 + 1 = 1 or something slightly less than 1.  

There is a reason the majority of puppies produced by ethical preservation breeders are sold on a limited AKC registration.

Limited registration is a foreign concept in the designer dog world.  It means that a dog should never be bred because his or her genes do not contribute to the betterment of the breed. 

Reputable purebred dog breeders make no claims about perfection because they know how genes and traits are passed from generation to generation.  

Deliberately breeding mixed breed dogs and calling them “designer“ makes you a con artist and your buyers, willing victims. Click to Tweet

2. The Mixed Breed Crapshoot

By extension, predicting the outcome of crossbreeding is near impossible.  

Lady and the Tramp distort this as much as designer dog breeders do.   

Crossbreeding dogs produce puppies that may have some of the qualities of either parent, but they may not. 

For example, it is equally likely that a puppy will get size from his father, eye disease from his mother, and coat from his great grandfather.   

The fact is when you cross two purebred dogs you’ll likely be getting a puppy with mixed traits.  An endless permutation of possibilities that cannot be reliably predicted. 

Designer Dogs - Doodle Breeding Mixed Breed Dogs
Contrast doodle “creativity” with purebred dog “breed standards.”

And herein lies the risk of buying a designer dog.

Marketing and selling a daniff puppy as a gentle giant just based on parentage results in owners seeking rescue when that gentle giant is reactive and out of control.  

Wally Conron, the man credited with the creation of the Labradoodle, expresses this crossbreeding reality and his regret this way, 

“I opened a Pandora’s box, that’s what I did. I released a Frankenstein. So many people are just breeding for the money. So many of these dogs have physical problems, and a lot of them are just crazy…. If you are going to buy a Labradoodle, check both of the parents, make sure they have a [health] certificate. A lot of them are untrainable, and a lot of them are no good for people with allergies.” [7]

3. The Myth of Hybrid Vigor

Genetic diversity.  Hybrid vigor. Heterosis. 

All three of these terms basically mean the same thing; the tendency of a crossbred organism, and in our case a dog, to have qualities superior to those of either parent.  

A mathematical equation for this might be 1 + 1 = 3

I spoke briefly about hybrid vigor in What Do You Get When You Cross a Doodle and an Unwich®?, but I want to go slightly more in-depth here. 

The Claim

Popular opinion is that mixed breed dogs are healthier than their purebred counterparts. 

And on the surface, it makes sense.

The narrower the gene pool, the more likely the dog is to inherit health problems. 

So mixing things up between breeds should create healthier genetic hybrids, right?

The Facts

There is science behind the validity of hybrid vigor, however, as it relates to cross breeding dogs, new landmark research makes it pretty clear. 

Mixed breed dogs are not necessarily healthier than purebred dogs. [10]

Published in the June 1 Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, UC Davis researchers tapped some 90,000 medical records of dogs seen between 1995 and 2010 from the School of Veterinary Medicine. 

An analysis of the 62,750 dogs that were diagnosed with genetic disorders during the 15-year study period found a variety of conditions to be statistically equivalent among purebred and mixed breed dogs.  

According to Anita Oberbauer, an animal physiologist and the study’s lead author, 

“The public is under the impression that mixed breeds exhibit vigor and will not express genetic disorders.  This is simply not true.” [6]

Here are the facts about dog breeding that remain undisputed:

  • Inbreeding can cause problems.  Linebreeding is a critical part of purebred dog breeding, but smart breeders know that risks increase with each successive generation.  They often mitigate those risks by including genes of other lines within the breed.  
  • Not all hybrid or mixed breed dogs are unhealthy.  Some may live longer than their parents and suffer less disease.  The same is true for purebred dogs. 
  • DNA and health screening can reduce genetic disease in all dogs, purebred and mixed breed alike. 
New landmark research makes it pretty clear. Mixed breed dogs are not necessarily healthier than purebred dogs. Get the facts about hybrid vigor here... Click to Tweet

4. The High Cost of Going Designer

No different than looters during a hurricane, breeders of these designer mixed breed dogs are taking advantage of their newfound fame.  Stealing what is known and predictable and valued in two purebred parents while jacking up the price on the offspring. 

They slap a sophisticated breed-esque sounding name with claims of hybrid vigor and people pay.  

And while the names daniff, mastador, and doberdane sound exclusive, they are nothing more than the white labeling of a generic.  A looter-designed breed at a premium price. 

A simple Google search on any of these new first-cross hybrids will result in a plethora of websites dedicated to glamorizing the crossbreed business and even more people wanting to sell you one.

With prices well up over $1,000, you may wonder why someone would pay such a high price for a mixed breed “designer” dog?

Here are just a few of the reasons I have come up with to answer this question:

  • People want to feel they are on the cutting edge of a trend. 
  • People are gullible.  Remember the medicine peddlers of the nineteenth century?  
  • People are lazy and education takes time.  They believe Google has all the answers they need on the first page of results. 
  • People are impatient.  They want a puppy and they want it now.  
  • Facts don’t matter to most people.  If you need proof, read Buying a Puppy: The Gap Between Desire and Reason.

And so the puppy production continues while the con artists rake in their loot.  

5. The Untold Story of Designer Dog Rescue

#adoptdontshop

That is what we are told.  

Dog rescue zealots and #adoptdontshop’ers believe that until there are no more dogs needing rescue, buying a dog is evil.  

designer dogs - Mixed breed dogs Saint bernard x tibetan mastiff

That the source of our overpopulation woes in shelters is due to purebred dog breeders continuing to breed. 

I disagree.  Strongly. Here’s why… 

Purebred dogs represent a minuscule percentage of dogs in shelters. 

In fact, according to a study published in 2015 by the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), an advocacy organization for responsible animal ownership, the number of purebred dogs found in shelters has dropped to about 5%, an all-time low.

This study contradicts a long held and popular estimate of 25-30%, a percentage that supported national animal organizations and the media’s stance that purebred dog breeders are part of the problem. 

These data are based on 18 US animal shelters, 2 from each of 9 census divisions.  Shelters recorded the dogs they had on hand every Monday for 52 weeks. For more on the methodology and results of this study, click here

Sheila Goffe, Director of Government Relations for the American Kennel Club, had this to say about the study results,

NAIA Shelter Project Survey Results
Image credit to National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA).

“The NAIA study results are very encouraging.  It is the most extensive survey on this subject to date and it shows that dogs identified as purebreds are rare in American shelters today, an outcome that responsible breeders, rescuers and AKC have worked decades to achieve. We are gratified that AKC programs were able to contribute to this result and we are committed to continuing these programs to further reduce the need for shelters and rescues – not just for purebreds, but for all dogs.” [2]

To be clear, what I am not saying is that 95% of dogs in shelters are designer dogs.  Not only is that a stretch, but it would be impossible to prove.

What I can say is that, based on this study, 95% of dogs in shelters are not purebred dogs.  Whether some are strays, some designer, and others of the Heinz 57 variety of generational accidental breedings, the percentage of designer dogs in shelters will vary widely.

#adoptdontshop’ers believe that until no more dogs need rescue, buying a dog is evil. That our overpopulation woes in shelters is due to purebred dog breeders. I strongly disagree! Here’s why… Click to Tweet

The Development of Purebred Dogs

I can almost hear some of you now.  

Ok, Big Dog Mom, well, how do you think the purebred dogs got here if it weren’t for the practice of crossbreeding? 

Let’s cover 3 examples of crossbreeding done the right way.

1. The Origin of a Purebred Dog 

Many of the purebred dogs we recognize today started out as two or more separate breeds.  

Post-revolution America had a need for a raccoon hunter and by crossing Foxhounds and Bloodhounds, the Black and Tan Coonhound was born. They were first recognized as a breed in 1945, but their breeding started nearly a century earlier. 

And recognized by the AKC in 1908 is the Doberman Pinscher, bred as a protector for tax collectors in the 19th century.  According to the AKC, the Black and Tan Terrier (Manchester Terrier), German Pinscher, Rottweiler, and smooth-coated herding dogs all contributed to this powerful working breed as we know it today.  

So, yes, crossbreeding is nothing new.  

But notice how each of these started with a goal in mind.  The purpose of these cross breedings had nothing to do with current trends in the marketplace. 

The tax collector needed a protector. And those pesky raccoons needed to be tracked.  

And from the moment the new breed was conceived until admission by the AKC, almost a century of fine-tuning was required. 

2. The Backcross Project in Dalmatians

Outside the scope of this post, but a no less interesting case of purposeful crossbreeding is the Backcross Project designed to help reduce the incidence of uric-acid stones in Dalmatians.  Breeding a single Pointer with a test group of Dalmatians resulted in learning more about the genetics behind urinary stone disease.  

While this project is a bit controversial, it is an interesting case study on the topic of crossbreeding. [11]

3. The Formation of a New Purebred Dog – The Silken Windhound

Silken Windhound - Purebred dog
Silken Windhounds, Styx and Aero. Photo credit to Misty Lorenz

Using top Borzoi, small coated sighthounds, and a single Whippet, breed founder Francie Stull, breeder of more than 200 Champion Borzoi, had a dream to create an

“ideal sporting companion for those wanting the elegance and athleticism of a sighthound, with the protective addition of a silky coat, and a smaller size than any other long coated sighthound.” [5]

The Silken Windhound is an example of crossbreeding in the modern-day done the right way and for the right reason. 

Notice that Francie didn’t name her new breed a borpet or a whipzoi. 

She doesn’t market her puppies as F1 or F1b or sell borpet or whipzoi puppies like the crapshoot that is the modern-day designer dog. 

She has worked for decades on a breeding program with a singular focus in mind; a medium-sized, athletic, family-oriented, coated sighthound.  With a priority on health and temperament and strict adherence to a breed standard. 

Top 7 Benefits of a Purebred Dog

1. Purebred dogs are predictable.

There are no surprises when you breed a Mastiff with a Mastiff.  In general health, appearance, and temperament, you know what you are getting.  

top 7 benefits of a purebred dog - designer dogs

2. Purebred dogs come from health tested parents.

Reputable purebred dog breeders health test their breeding stock to reduce the incidence of genetic diseases.  Recommended tests are communicated by national breed clubs with the results publicly reported on the CHIC-OFA website. 

3. Purebred dogs are placed based on fit, not hope.

With a purebred dog, you can select the exact perfect breed for you with a high degree of certainty that when a puppy matures, he won’t outgrow you or your lifestyle.

Having met the parents, researched the breed, and done your due diligence, you can select a breed that is the perfect fit for you.  No prayer hand emojis required.  

[READ: Large Breed Dogs are NOT Right for Everyone – Are you a Good Fit? and 7 Best Questions To Ask A Dog Breeder Before Buying A Puppy]

4. Buying a purebred dog reduces the number of dogs needing rescue. 

It is a fact that no matter how many dogs you rescue, you will never make a dent in the number needing it.  

The only way to reduce the influx of dogs into rescue is through education and supporting reputable preservation purebred dog breeders.  

The fact is, when you buy a dog from a pet store, a backyard breeder, a puppy mill or a breeder of mixed-breed dogs, you are endorsing them with your money.  

You are saying “keep breeding, I agree with everything you are doing.”  And even if you don’t agree, you have just funded it, so it will continue.

[READ: The Fallacy of Dog Rescue: Reputable Breeders Are NOT the Problem and How to Put an End to Dog Rescue: 10 Simple Solutions that CAN Work!]

When you buy from a pet store, a byb, a puppy mill or a designer dog breeder, you sanction them. You are saying “I agree with everything you are doing.” And even if you don’t, you have just funded it, so it will continue. Click to Tweet

5. Purebred dog breeders and owners invest in the health of their dogs.

And these investments benefit all dogs. 

For example, epilepsy is the #1 neurological problem in dogs and it can affect all dogs, purebred dogs and mixed breed dogs alike.  

On this terrific episode of Pure Dog Talk, Dr. Diane Brown, CEO and Chief Science Officer for the AKC Canine Health Foundation (CHF), reviews the significant strides that have been made in the area of epilepsy research in dogs. 

In the second half of the episode, Dr. Brown states,

 “The purebred dog community is amazing and a lot of what has been learned and published about canine health in general, … comes from the funding for research in a particular breed. …There becomes this false impression that purebred dogs are somehow less healthy.  Well, they’re the ones who are investing in the research that resulted in a publication. So when you go to search for information on these disorders, these breeds pop up. …These disorders occur in the mixed breed dog population …And yet it’s the purebred dog population, because of the nature of being able to study a population where there are known pedigrees going back generations and generations, their investment in research through the AKC Canine Health Foundation and others.  That’s what results in the scientific findings that then can be applied to new tests, new treatment, and the overall improvement in health for dogs. [All dogs!]” [8]

6. Purebred dogs are held to specific breed standards.

Purebred dogs are held to breed standards set forth by their national breed club and with support from organizations like the American Kennel Club, United Kennel Club, the International All Breed Canine Association and others.   

These standards are there to ensure each purebred dog conforms to the form and function for which it is designed and bred.  They were bred with a job to do and the standard is there to ensure each member of that breed conform.

7. Purebred dogs are supported by the American Kennel Club.

From genetic health research through the Canine Health Foundation to sanctioned conformation and dog sporting events across the country, the AKC is far more than a registry of purebred dogs. 

Since 1884, the AKC has been a recognized and trusted expert in breed, health and training information for dogs.  They have been a fearless and dependable advocate for responsible dog ownership and the rights of dog owners and purebred dog breeders. [3]

And while I have been critical of them at times, I cannot imagine my life without the support and leadership of the American Kennel Club.  

And while I have been critical of them at times, I cannot imagine my life without the support and leadership of the American Kennel Club. Click to Tweet

The Choice is Yours

Fortunately, we live in a country where you are free to make your own choices.  

You have the right to buy a mastador, borador, or goldador if that’s what you want.   As long as you understand both the risk you are taking and recognize that you are not paying for a “breed.”  

Designer Dogs - Mixed Breed Dogs or Hybrid Crossbreed Great Weimer

If, after reading all of this, you still want to buy a designer mixed breed dog, here are 7 tips I will offer you in closing:

  1. Consider adoption instead.  I can’t recommend this highly enough. There are more than enough mixed breeds dogs in rescue to choose from.  
  2. Demand to see documented health testing on both the sire and dam.  Tests you should be looking for will be determined by the national parent club for each breed. 
  3. Meet the sire and dam in person and speak to others who have purchased from this person in the past. 
  4. Temperament test your puppy before buying
  5. Only buy with a contract in place that stipulates the breeder will take the puppy back if you can no longer keep him. 
  6. Negotiate a (much) lower price since you are not buying a purebred dog and are taking a risk. 
  7. Trust your gut.  If the breeder doesn’t ask you any questions, walk away!

Summary

The designer dog breeding business is based on a delusion.  Looting for profit with the promise of perfection.  A marketing scheme with a willing victim.   

The fact is, crossing any other breed with a Great Dane or a Great Pyrenees ceases to make those puppies Great.  They are mutts, plain and simple. 

I use that term as a definition, not a derogative.  Mutts are dogs too and have a life worth protecting and cherishing (and spoiling rotten) just like purebred dogs do.

But mutts, mixed breed dogs, should not be produced or marketed and sold as something they are not.  

Because that, my friends, is a designer illusion. 

Designer dogs are based on a delusion. Looting for profit with the promise of perfection. A marketing scheme with a willing victim. The fact is, crossing a breed with a Great Dane ceases to make the dog Great. It is a mutt. Click to Tweet

Designer Dogs Dictionary

In an effort to provide you with a comprehensive resource on the topic of designer dogs, I thought I might include this abbreviated list of hybrid crossbreeds.    

With a little research and surveying the Big Dog Mom Community, the following designer dogs are being sold by backyard breeders and pet stores.

Sadly, the number of possible mixed breed puppy permutations are endless. 

Case in point, check out all 710 designer dog “breeds” that are “registered” on the American Canine Hybrid Club list of hybrid crossbreeds. 

PLEASE share this and educate your friends!

  • mastweiler – Mastiff x Rottweiler
  • daniff – Mastiff x Great Dane
  • mastador – Mastiff x  Labrador retriever
  • goldador – Golden retriever x Labrador retriever
  • pyrador – Labrador retriever x Great Pyrenees
  • borador – Border Collie x Labrador retriever
  • labracollie – Labrador x Border Collie
  • great bernese – Great Pyrenees x Bernese Mountain Dog
  • bullshit – Bulldog x Shih tzu 
  • puggle – Pug x Beagle
  • beaglier – Beagle x Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • cavachon – Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Bichon Frise
  • newfsky – Newfoundland x Siberian Husky
  • saint bermastiff – Saint Bernard x Mastiff
  • doberdane – Doberman x Great Dane
  • labradane – Labrador retriever x Great Dane
  • snorkey – Schnauzer x Yorkshire Terrier
  • morkie – Maltese x Yorkshire Terrier
  • dorkie – Dachshund x Yorkshire Terrier
  • chorkie – Chihuahua x Yorkshire Terrier
  • schnoodle – Schnauzer x Poodle
  • bug – Boston Terrier x Pug
  • chug – Chihuahua x Pug
  • jug – Jack Russell Terrier x Pug
  • pomsky – Pomeranian x Siberian Husky
  • chipom – Chihuahua x Pomeranian (also called: Chi-pom, Chimeranian, Chiranian, Pomahuahua, or Pomachi) 
  • shih-chi – Shih tzu x Chihuahua
  • maltipoo – Maltese x Poodle
  • bichpoo – Bichon Frise x Poodle
  • cockapoo – Cocker Spaniel x Poodle
  • pekeapoo – Pekingese x Poodle
  • yorkiepoo – Yorkshire Terrier x Poodle
  • english bullmastiff – English Mastiff x Bullmastiff
  • doubull mastiffs – English Mastiff x Bullmastiff 
  • american mastiff – Mastiff x Anatolian Shepherd
  • bernedane – Bernese Mountain Dog x Great Dane
  • great bernards – Saint bernard x Great Dane
  • frenchton – Boston Terrier x French Bulldog
  • sproodle – Springer Spaniel x Poodle
  • pyredane – Great Pyrenees x Great Dane
  • bullet – Basset Hound x Bulldog
  • newfybernard – Newfoundland x Saint Bernard 
  • muscle mastiff – Dogue de Bordeaux x Mastiff
  • neo daniff – Neopolitan Mastiff x Great Dane x Mastiff
  • labrala – Labrador retriever x Vizsla
  • boweimar – Boxer x Weimaraner
  • goldmaraner – Golden retriever x Weimaraner
  • labmaraner – Labrador retriever x Weimaraner
  • great weimer – Great Dane x Weimaraner
  • german shorthaired weimaraner – Weimaraner x German Shorthaired Pointer
  • … and more doodle breeds than one can count. 

Resources

  1. Survey of Shelter Dog Composition: Mutts vs. Purebreds
  2. NAIA study confirms fewer dogs, scarce purebreds in US animal shelters
  3. AKC Foundation Stock Service
  4. The Right to Breed Dogs by Catherine McMillan 
  5. Kristull Silken Windhounds 
  6. Prevalence of inherited disorders among mixed-breed and purebred dogs: 27,254 cases (1995–2010)
  7. A Designer Dog-Maker Regrets His Creation
  8. 236 – CHF Research Examines Neurological Diseases / Pure Dog Talk
  9. Proud to be Purebred: Breed Standards, the Breeder’s Blueprint
  10. Veterinarians question validity of hybrid vigor in wake of study 
  11. The Backcross Project in Dalmatians  
  12. The myth of hybrid vigor in dogs…is a myth
  13. Using inbreeding to manage to inbreeding

Photo Credits: 

I want to personally thank two ladies from the Big Dog Mom Community who so graciously donated images of their dogs for this post.  A heartfelt thank you to Mariah Nougues and her adorable and photogenic great weimer (Great Dane x Weimaraner), Cooper, Anya Bolshakova and her sweet and handsome dog Gordy (Saint Bernard x Tibetan Mastiff) and Misty Lorenz and her silly Silken Windhound puppies, Styx and Aero.  Without your beautiful images this post would not be what it is, so thank you!

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3 Comments

  1. Joy Eriksen says:

    Great article. You have really hit the mark here. My brother has a Goldendoodle that is the same age as my Purebred Golden. His dog has already had some health challenges with tumors. My dog has absolutely no health problems at 7 years of age. You are absolutely right too, about the money they charge for them. Around here, they are going for more than $3,000. 00!

    1. Thank you, Joy! It is one thing to buy a mixed breed dog because you want the mix. In my mind, it’s a completely different issue to pay a premium for a mix that will never live up to the “designer” claims of its maker. It’s the marketing of these dogs that I have such a problem with. If you want a smart, highly trainable, healthy, low-shedding breed, buy a poodle. Why pay $3000 for a goldendoodle puppy that only has a tiny percentage chance of having all of those qualities? …. or maybe I’m in the wrong business… $$$ 😉

  2. Hi, one comment on the study you cited. The article’s abstract says that of the 24 genetic disorders they studied, 13 were as likely in mixed breeds as in purebreds, but 10 were more likely in purebreds (and 1 was more likely in mixed breeds). So, 13/24 of the studied disorders are equally likely, but 11 aren’t. So it’s not quite like you said. But it’s good to know that mixed breeds aren’t free from genetic disorders–thanks for sharing!

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