From my ‘Crossing the headlines’ column in Dog World (11th December 2013) where I discuss the irresponsible and misleading articles on designer dogs.


“Is this the cutest dog in the world?” asked the Daily Mail headline. “Imagine the ideal designer dog; it would be smart, healthy and hypoallergenic. It would have the yap bred out of it and longevity bred in. And, most importantly, it would never lose its puppy face…it is the perfect pet accessory”.

Yes folks, this article REALLY did appear in the Daily Mail and, as it went on, it got even worse. Apparently the latest craze Stateside is the ‘Cava-poo-chon’ – a Cavalier King Charles and Bichon-cross mated to a Miniature Poodle.

This creation appears to be the result of a “decades-old search for the dog-face fountain of youth” and that “dog owners…” (so we are told) “have been desperately searching for a dog that never loses its puppy appeal – an eternal puppy”. Up until now buyers wanting that ‘forever puppy-face’ have had to make do with ‘specialised dogs’ such as the ‘Miniature Yorkie’ or ‘Miniature Maltese’ but not anymore; with the help of geneticist and ‘reproductive veterinarian’, the tribrid (or ‘triple cross’) has been created by Linda and Steve Rogers.

Their very professional website is filled with wonderful photos of these fluffy dogs which are admittedly very pretty little things but, to my eyes, not much different to the myriad of other cleverly named mongrels we’ve seen come and go. Of course, all of this ‘research’ comes with a hefty price tag, dispelling the myth that people buy these designer mongrels because they are cheaper than their purebred counterparts;  the average Cava-poo-chon can be yours for a cool $2,275 (about £1,500)! But, for this, you do “get the best of all three breeds”. The Rogers’ offer a choice of colours and they have two coat types on offer, “curly or very curly”.

So far, it was claimed “…58 families have returned to purchase their second Cava-poo-chon and 12 of them have been certified to work in hospitals and nursing homes as therapy dogs”. One owner, Amy Wolf, is quoted as saying that she has “found her perfect dog in the breed”, stating, “I can’t tell you the amount of times I look at her and say, you are so cute”. She goes on to say that their three year old Cava-poo-chon, Callie, has become the “love of her husband’s life (despite his allergies) and has enchanted the whole neighbourhood”.

The article read as an advert for the ‘breed’ as, once again, the same old ‘hypoallergenic’ lines were trotted out and there was even a link to the farm that created these dogs.

Another satisfied customer, Brande Bradshaw agreed saying that she thought her six month old Cava-poo (there is no Bichon in her one apparently) was “the perfect dog”.

Of course, it’s very easy to sit back and to smugly think, ‘Well, that’s America for you,’  dismissing it all for the nonsense it is but, how long will it be before the above mix is touted on our puppy buying websites? What happens in America today very quickly seems to happen here tomorrow. Fuelled by irresponsible articles like this (just before Christmas) how many people are now going to look at the Maltese, the Bichon and the Cavalier King Charles and see the pound signs made possible by (in the words of a certain famous celebrity vet) “mixing them all up”? And, once again, scrolling down to the Daily Mail’s readers’ comments provides some very interesting reading as (surprisingly) it’s the Kennel Clubs (AKC & KC), pedigree dogs and pedigree dog breeders that get a bashing! It appears that the problem of rescue dogs stems from us.

Over and over again the well-organised mantra is being pushed; ‘Get a rescue dog – don’t breed.’

But why should the responsible show-going breeder be told to give up breeding or be made to feel guilty for the mess being created by others when he/she often has a long waiting list for their desirable puppies – puppies that are also usually bred from health tested stock?

It does make me wonder if the people making these inane comments ever stop and think about just who is producing this tide of unwanted rescue dogs (the vast majority of which seem to be irresponsibly bred mongrels and crossbreeds). As I’ve stated before, the problem is staring back at you from the plethora of rescue kennels up and down the country but people still insist it’s the ‘pedigree breeders’ that are to blame. ‘These are the ones who need controlling’, they loudly shout. ‘These are the ones who need yet more regulations heaped upon them’. Reading through their comments made me think of another story I’d read about…

Once again, it also featured affairs Stateside and the famous fashion designer Ralph Lauren who has ditched the use of his usual glamorously shot models posing alongside their elegant, purebred dogs (and horses) for his glossy ads and (on teaming up with the ASPCA) replaced them with mixed breeds from shelters. Once again the clarion call is being sent out, ‘Don’t buy a dog…adopt a rescue,’ which is, I guess, a noble sentiment. Sadly, there will always be dogs in need but in these campaigns to persuade people to take on a rescue I never see the root cause of the problem that created many of these ‘rescues’ being addressed. Again and again it is the responsible breeders, the kennel clubs and even the show world which is blamed and then hammered with further regulation.

I really do hope that during Crufts season we can make a concerted effort to head off all this negativity and criticism and start the fightback. The KC’s ‘find a breed’ service is the perfect tool for the novice and pet-buying public (but how can they use it when they don’t know it’s there?) and that service can only work because the pedigree dog have such predictable characteristics. When you take on a purebred dog there is less of a gamble on how it will mature, less of a gamble on what kind of coat it will go on to grow and less risk taken on the temperament and exercise needs it will have. We sadly live in a throwaway society (something which I can’t see changing anytime soon) and today’s pet owners have less room (or desire) for manoeuvre and, if their pet doesn’t live up to expectations or if the ‘gamble’ taken on a mongrel, designer or otherwise, doesn’t pay off (once it has outgrown the cutesy puppy stage which – and this may come as something as a shock to the ‘eternal puppy’ Cava-poo-chon owners – they all eventually do), this is exactly the kind of dog which will then finds itself callously dumped at the shelter’s door. Articles like that appearing in the Daily Mail certainly don’t help matters and they should be firmly addressed. Dogs aren’t the latest fashion accessory and should never be described as such.

We all know that (to a certain extent) the pedigree dog has something that the mongrel (however fancily monikered) can’t hope to offer; generations of planned matings have imbued them with a very desirable trait – predictability.  I believe that a pedigree dog that has been bred and reared by a responsible breeder is the very best way to find your canine companion and this message needs to be championed. It needs to be shouted from the rooftops just as loudly as those who constantly denigrate our breeds. For far too long we’ve sat on our hands as ‘experts’ have branded them as unhealthy, degenerate and dumb. This has fed through to Joe Public and I often hear the celebrity vets’ words coming from their mouths when my little group of Dachsies are being walked, ‘Oh, I’d love a pedigree dog, but they have so many health issues’. How I enjoy putting them right!

The most frustrating thing is that our KC has got everything in place. Its site should be the first port of call for prospective pup owners however so many people I speak to have never heard of it. This has to change. A far stronger media presence is needed. The ‘designer dog’ isn’t a healthier pet proposition and it can often times be quite the opposite.  In an exacting, unforgiving and demanding world, the pedigree is the dog for the 21st century.


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