Over the last decade or so there has been a lot of commotion about ‘designer dog breeds’. Goldie-poos (Golden retriever x Standard Poodle), Shi-poos (Shi tzu x Miniature Poodle), and Jugs (Jack Russel terrier x Pug) are some of the more commonly seen breed combinations. These cross-bred dogs (as we will refer to them in this article) have been advertised as having various desirable physical and personality traits. The claims run from non-shedding to “the best qualities from both breeds”. There has been a lot of attention, both praising and critical, given to these cross-bred dogs. We will try to distinguish myth from truth in this article.
Cross-bred dogs are not purebred. They are the result of breeding two different purebred dogs together. A purebred dog must have generations of parents and grandparents who were of the same breed. The reason a purebred dog is called ‘pure bred’ is because the puppies born to parent dogs of the same breed, have more predictable characteristics. Puppies from cross-bred parents will all look different. What we’re trying to say here, in a very nice way, is that cross-bred dogs are well-planned mutts.
The word ‘mutt’ has such a bad connotation. There is nothing wrong with a mutt; in fact they tend to have fewer health problems. Unless you want a breed that is genetically driven to do a specific task such as guarding, hunting, or herding, any average mutt is just as good of a companion or family dog, as any purebred dog.
So, you ask yourself, why are you paying extra money for a cross-bred dog? You are paying for the fact that you know the breed ancestry of your dog. That is it. If you like dogs that look like poodles mixes, Labrador mixes, or beagle mixes, go to the pound. There are many mutts out there waiting for homes.
Keep in mind that there is nothing inherently wrong with buying a cross-bred dog. It is the same idea as buying a purebred dog; you buy based on the looks and the anticipated personality traits. Except cross-bred dogs are not purebred. If you make the decision to buy a cross-bred dog, just make sure you are not buying it convinced that you have a purebred dog. Also understand that physical and personality traits that are characteristic for each parent breed (example a Jack Russel and Pug for a Jug) will combine in unpredictable ways in the puppy.
Breeders of cross-bred dogs are often breeding these dogs in an attempt to combine the positive traits from different breeds. One of the classic examples is the Labradoodle, which has Labrador Retriever and Standard Poodle parents. The idea behind this breed was to combine the personality of the Lab with the non-shedding quality of the Poodle. The non-shedding aspect is especially attractive to people with allergies. Often it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Every breed intitially started with the careful selection of mutts with desirable characteristics. It takes many, many generations of selective breeding to finally develop a genetic line that is predictable enough to be considered a breed. This idea fuels the hopes of breeders of cross-bred dogs or ‘designer breeds’. Their hope is that with enough time and genetic selection, the Goldie-Poo, Juggle (Jack Russell terrier x Poodle), Cock-a-poo (Cocker Spaniel x Poodle), etc will eventually become recognized breeds.
If you are thinking about buying a cross-bred dog, just understand what you are buying. You are not buying a purebred dog, you are buying a well-planned mutt. Most likely, the plan will work out well for you. Just don’t forget all of the other ‘designer breeds’ that are waiting down at your local pound.