From my ‘Crossing the headlines’ column in Dog World (12th February 2014) where I discuss potential pitfalls of designer crossbreeds.

While the dog world has been embroiled in arguments concerning the Assured Breeder Scheme, the media continues to focus on the growing numbers of ‘designer dogs’.

Jody Thompson writing for the Huffington Post (Jan 8) asked a question, “Why are people paying for designer dogs?”

It’s a fair question and one that many of us have puzzled over. Just why do people pay £800-£1,500 for a mongrel? Of course, it’s a free country and, as the old adage goes, a ‘fool and his money are easily parted’ but, why do a growing number of people pay out such a vast sum for their pet when a trip to the local animal shelter could fulfil all their needs for a fraction of the cost? If a long pedigree or owning a mongrel doesn’t bother you then why not simply adopt? This was the point Ms Thompson succinctly made in her well-written article.

A recent visit to the market town of Sherborne certainly gave me a lot to think about. As we meandered around its charming little streets and alleys, we were suddenly engulfed by one of those heavy showers that seems to have plagued us recently so we took shelter in a shop doorway and, as we stood there (with the wind howling and the rain lashing down outside), a young lady dragging a little dog joined us in our dry haven.

Of course, marooned in the middle of Sherborne in monsoon-like conditions, we all started talking; first about the severity of the weather and then I remarked upon her rather strange-looking little dog.

“So, what is he?” I asked.

“Oh this is Morse… he’s a Puggle, you know, a cross between a Pug and Beagle.”

Morse didn’t wish to stay in the doorway and was all the time eagerly straining and pulling on his lead – possibly betraying his stubborn (always on the go) Beagle heritage. He was a well-built chap (very Beagley in the body) of a coffee brown colour with a very tightly curled tail – one that any Pug would be proud of.

“Morse, stop it… Wait…” reprimanded the embarrassed-looking lady, but the more she tried to control him the more he yelped and pulled, eager to carry on his walk.

“He hates to stop,” she laughed. We talked some more and she admitted that although he was nine months old he still wasn’t fully housetrained! “If I’d had my way,” she whispered, “I would have got a Pug!”

Seizing the moment I asked, “So, why didn’t you?”

“Oh, my boyfriend wanted a Puggle,” she confessed. “He said Pugs’ eyes pop out when they pull on the lead.” She shuddered, “Could you imagine that?”

With the rain beginning to ease and with Morse’s ringing barks getting louder and louder, his owner finally conceded defeat and with a cheery wave goodbye disappeared off up the street.

It was my first meeting with a Puggle and a Puggle owner and one thing struck me above all; what an amazing job the media had done on publicising and endorsing these crossbreeds. How easily the young lady passed on the myth of the Pugs’ exploding eyes and how ingrained such tales have become and, speaking of tails, another thing that struck me was Morse’s tightly double-curled tail.

Recently I was reading that certain people would like to see the curled tail dropped from the Pug Standard as the curl allegedly increases the incidence of hemivertebrae. However, the very same people seem to quite happily celebrate the Puggle. Now, if the Puggle has a tightly curled tail, isn’t it just as likely to suffer hemivertebrae? Are vets studying this disease and recording incidences in the Puggle?

Spurious claims

Probably not. And, so, the spurious claims that the Cockerpoo, Puggle and Labradoodle are the ‘healthier’ option, that doodles are ‘hypoallergenic’, etc, continue to be bandied about in the press and on TV and nobody questions them. In fact, an increasingly gullible public easily swallow what they hear and thus further fuel the puppy farm trade.

I read Jemima Harrison’s repost to Jody Thompson’s article with interest: “Purebred dog owners hate designer dogs so much because it undermines what they do. The belief, very deeply entrenched, that purebred dogs are inherently superior to mutts; that show-ring success and a pedigree as long as your arm somehow mitigate for trapping the poor creatures in tiny gene pools polluted by ever-spiralling rates of dysfunction and disease.”

Ironically the beginning of the piece began with, “Unthinking prejudice against crossbreed dogs always makes my hackles rise”. It works both ways Jemima!

Of course the above is absolute nonsense. I (and I would assume most of the pedigree dog world) don’t ‘hate’ any dog. I think what we actually hate is the manipulation and overt promotion of these mongrels with wacky names and the creation of a doggy fashion accessory with their owners displaying exactly the kind of ‘snobbishness’ that the pedigree owner is often accused off; “Oh, no, she isn’t a Labradoodle – she’s an Australian Labradoodle,” or “He’s an F1 Dachajack.”

What we’re also against is the ridiculous crossing of breeds with vastly different temperaments and traits which can lead to behavioural difficulties down the line and the inevitable tragic outcome of thousands of dogs languishing in rescue kennels up and down the country.

A case in point was on the Alan Titchmarsh Show (Jan 21) where (once again) after a brief comic chat about the Wottie (a cross between a Rottweiler and a Westie) the ‘pet expert’ talked about the rise of the ‘designer dog’. “Crossbreeds are popular,” she said, “because of the controversy over pedigree dogs with their health problems, so they think if they can design a crossbreed to form a healthier dog, it won’t have all the usual health problems you get with a pedigree.” First up onstage was Monty, a Cockerpoo. “Here is an example of the benefits of doing this,” announced the expert. “This dog should be hypoallergenic so if you have a child in the family that’s asthmatic this is the perfect dog for you.”

Please reread this bit again. I know it seems unbelievable but it was broadcast!

Next up was Peggy the Puggle – who looked nothing like Morse but did share one similar quality, that of hyperactivity! We were informed that the Puggle was “very popular at the moment”. The lady went on to say, “You see, a Pug will have breathing issues with its flat nose but this has the hound’s extended one so it can breathe easily.”
Interestingly the Puggle’s ‘pug-like’ curly tail was pointed out.


Alan then asked if there were any disadvantages to owning a Puggle and her owner admitted she was lovely but hyperactive.

“Yes,” admitted the expert, “temperament can be a problem when crossing two very different dogs; here you have a hound and a toy. If it has more of the hound temperament then it can be a bit of a handful.”
Peggy then unceremoniously dragged her owner off stage and into the limelight stepped the Jackahuahua for more lavish praise.

For those who wonder why these crossbreeds have had such a huge rise in numbers, maybe the constant all-out promotion on TV programmes such as this along with their fawning recommendation by presenters and celebrity vets could have something to do with it?

And now we have the BBC getting in on the act with its ludicrous storyline appearing in EastEnders. The Carter family’s Bulldog, Lady Di, gets impregnated by a Bearded Collie-cross. She eventually has puppies which will be sold for “very modest sums”.

Yes, the very same BBC that took the moral high ground regarding the breeding of pedigree dogs and then refused to televise Crufts is now promoting the production of mongrel puppies for cash! No doubt the ‘mongrel is healthier’ card will be played given the proximity to Crufts.

And, still, there are those who insist there is no ‘dark conspiracy’ against pedigree dogs!

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