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What's a Designer Dog?

This week, The Grooming Corner explains the difference between a mutt, a designer dog and a pedigree.

Dear Groomer,

We are trying to find a dog for our family, and I heard about designer dogs. What are they? It sounds like a pair of sunglasses or a pocketbook.

Signed,
Want to be Styling in Holliston


Dear Styling,

Designer breeds are a fancy way of saying mutt. "Mutt" has the connotes a pound dog and designer dog sounds fancy. The major difference is that designer breeds are an intentional cross of two pedigree dogs.

Last week, in my column I talked about a very popular designer dog, the Golden doodle and Labradoodle. There are sorts of intentional crosses such as the puggle, a mix of a pug and beagle. Breeders, many of whom feel the gene pool of their favorite breed has gotten too limited, have decided to take two breeds and cross them to bring out the best of both dogs. This is called “hybrid vigor.”

There are many dogs clubs around the country working on promoting new breeds and adopting good breeding standards, just like the pedigree clubs of the American Kennel Club. Eventually, some of the new designers breeds could be recognized by the AKC, but that is years off. Many people are jumping on the cross bandwagon, so always get references and try to learn as much as possible about a designer breed before getting one. Sometimes, the cross can backfire and you get a dog that has the not-so-desirable traits of both breeds. From my perspective, the nice thing about this type of dog is that there are no grooming standards. It is whatever looks good and is easy to maintain. A local grooming salon is a great place to meet designer breeds.

Let us not forget the mutt. There are thousands of mutts in shelters all over the country. They are funny-looking, handsome, big, small, sweet and loyal. We don’t always know what the mutt’s background is, but there are DNA tests available to give you an idea. Sometimes, it can be quite a surprise. One of my dogs, Beef, looks like a beagle and pit bull mix, but the DNA test couldn’t tell us what his parents or grandparents were.

This means the DNA bank didn’t include the particular breed or breeds that make up the majority of the dog. Beef is a melting pot of golden retriever, English setter, Parson Russell terrier, Afghan hound and akita. If you have ever met Beef, you would shake your head at that makeup. We think he is mostly Vizsla, a Hungarian hunting hound, but we will never know for sure. The only thing we do know is he is the most affection thing ever.

The mutt represents what we are as Americans: a true melting pot, a mix of cultures who just wants to fit in. Sometimes they carry a little baggage and sometimes they need a little extra patience. I have never met a mutt that isn’t a wonderful dog. They are not to be overlooked when one is seeking out a new pet for the family. And if you want a designer dog, they (unfortunately) can also be found in the shelters. There are rescue groups to contact if you would like to adopt a designer dog and save a life at the same time. It’s a happy medium.

Pedigree dogs are breeds achieved through selective breeding. There are many reasons to pick a pedigree. Breeders can provide you with a family tree along with a health history of the parents, so you have an idea of what you are getting. If you study up on the breed, you can learn about the different health aliments and needs of particular breeds. Sometimes, we fall in love with the look of a certain breed or their temperament. Once an owner of a particular breed (e.g. Labs or wheaties), owners have a hard time looking at another breed when they are ready to add to their family.

All three types of dogs can bring you many years of companionship and love. Some are going to be more work in the manners, behavior, and shedding departments; it doesn’t matter whether they are a mutt, designer or pedigree. Just keep an open mind when thinking about getting a dog. Know your lifestyle, but keep your options open. Ask any dog owner, 99 percent of the time, their dog picked them not the other way around.

It will be a great world when all dogs have a home and all homes have a dog.

If you would like to learn more about designer dogs or meet one in person, please send an email to Serena Keating at lucybellemaude@verizon.net.

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