Hybrid cars, hybrid hounds?

A Maltipoo is also a hybrid dog, mixing a Maltese and  a Poodle. A Maltipoo is also a hybrid dog, mixing a Maltese and a Poodle.

An investigation into the surge of designer dog breeds

By Sara McKinniss

A Maltipoo is also a hybrid dog, mixing a Maltese and  a Poodle.

A Maltipoo is also a hybrid dog, mixing a Maltese and a Poodle.

In 2005 when Toyota lent its new line of hybrid Prius cars to the stars for a more eco-friendly arrival for the 2005 Academy Awards, everyone who was anyone in Hollywood wanted to own one. Toyota’s supply could not keep up with the growing demand for the first popular, mass-produced, eco-friendly and affordable car. The term “hybrid” quickly became synonymous with having the best of both worlds, and in this case — the vehicle.

The hybrid phenomenon entered the pet world when hybrid dogs (aka “designer dogs”) started showing up in the Louis Vuitton pet carriers of celebrities.
Designer hybrid dogs are the products of a cross between two different selective dog breeds for multiple reasons, and they are usually double to triple the cost of their purebred counterparts.

“Usually, these dogs are bred for specific factors,” said a local pet store sales manager who wished to remain anonymous. “Most of the time, the breeds that are used are chosen for their appearance, hypoallergenic properties or behavioral traits. However, genetics are genetics, and we don’t always know what characteristics a dog will inherit or exhibit.”

More commonly, these dogs are bred for the sake of their appearance. If an owner likes the way a specific breed looks, but aren’t sure about its size or potential personality traits, crossbreeding allows for some control. Take the Goldendoodle for example. Traditional Golden Retrievers are large and shed several times a year, per the American Kennel Club.

Combine a Golden Retriever with a standard Poodle that by genetics sheds less, and the end result is a Goldendoodle: a medium-sized dog that could have the personality and resemblance of a Golden Retriever, but the hypoallergenic properties of a Poodle. It’s the control that attracts many future pet owners to this type of dog.

“There’s a demand for this type of dog,” said the pet store sales manager. “They are designer dogs and they are bred for a reason. People will pay for them and we know they will. It’s why we continue to get requests and why we continue to sell them at the rate we do.”

Hybrid dogs are certainly not a new concept but have recently caught onto a societal trend. When Jessica Simpson’s Maltipoo (Maltese and Poodle) Daisy went missing in 2009, it made national headlines. Last year, the bit became a storyline on the HBO hit TV show Entourage. The show drew laughs from Simpson and Entourage fans, and the cameo was picked up on popular gossip sites and drew hundreds of thousands of searches for Maltipoos on Google after the show aired. As Americans, we know celebrities influence culture and like most trends, this one has left the big city and entered our own backyards. However, it raises concern.

Designer dogs, like any companion animal, come with their laundry list of responsibilities. It is when unforeseen issues arise that owners often regret their designer dog purchase and that “must have” pet winds up in the local animal shelter.

“If a person chooses to bring a dog into their life, whether designer, purebred or rescue, they must understand that pet ownership is a commitment,” said David White, executive director of the Animals for Life Foundation, a non-profit organization that educates the public about the value that animals bring to human life. “Dogs require a seven- to 15-year commitment, so a person needs to make sure they are ready to make that commitment before selecting any dog.”

Thousands of dogs, including purebred dogs, end up in animal shelters every year. Owners often forfeit a dog’s well-being when economic hardships arise or when they don’t understand what it takes to own a dog.

“Pets cost money, especially unique ones,” said White. “Given the economical struggles our country is facing, regardless of breed, dogs end up in shelters because owners cannot afford proper care … This is why a pet owner must fully understand the costs associated with veterinary care and pet supplies … before opening their home to a pet.”

Some designer dogs are bred specifically so that their anatomy changes during breeding to avoid potential popular issues that are known of the traditional breed. For example, the short snout of the English Bulldog can lead to nasal problems, but when combined with a breed that has a longer snout, those concerns are alleviated, but not necessarily. Before getting any dog, it is recommended that a potential owner speak with a vet first about health and breed specifics.

The Ohio Veterinary Medical Association, the statewide professional organization for Ohio veterinarians, recommends before a person buys a dog, they inquire about: annual and sick care, vaccinations, health records and annual cost of care estimation. Any research done on the breed before purchasing or adopting a dog is helpful.

Despite these concerns, designer hybrid dogs can be an option for those who are looking for something specific.

“We see families with special needs children or who have allergy issues, and hybrid dogs can be a good choice for them,” said the pet store manager. “We aren’t going to sell someone something they aren’t sold on. This is why it is very important to research breeds beforehand and make sure the designer dog that has caught a potential owner’s eye can rely on its owner for proper care and attention.”

Reach Hanks’s owner Sara McKinniss at SaraMcKinniss@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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