The term 'designer dogs' may conjure up images of pampered pooches being run off of a production line complete with Louis Vuitton collars intact, but the reality is somewhat different! Hybrid dogs, or 'designer' dogs as they are sometimes known, are simply dogs which result from a mating of two pedigree dogs of different breeds. You may well already be familiar with the names 'labradoodle,' 'cockapoo' or 'pomchi' and these exotic- sounding dogs are simply crossed mixes of a Labrador with a poodle, a cocker spaniel with a poodle and a Pomeranian with a Chihuahua respectively.
People often ask what the difference is between a cross breed or mongrel dog, and a designer or hybrid dog, and there is some confusion and differing opinions as to whether or not the two things are in fact the same, and if the terms should be used interchangeably. It's fair to say though, that designer or hybrid dogs have proven to be incredibly popular, and so the distinction should be made between a hybrid dog and a Heinz 57 type mutt, although of course both have their advantages and disadvantages and enjoy considerable popularity with the people who love them. Generally speaking, a designer or hybrid dog is the result of a deliberate mating between two dogs of two distinctive recognised pedigree breeds to produce a hybrid of the two breeds, and a dog with various personality and appearance traits acquired from both which can trace it's lineage back along the lines of both the pedigree sire and dam. Multi-generational crosses are also possible; say between two hybrid dogs bred of the same two original breeds, or of a hybrid dog back to a pedigree dog or one of the two component breeds. A mongrel or other cross breed dog is the result of a planned or unplanned mating between any two dogs where neither the sire nor dam is of a pedigree breed, or only one parent is a pedigree dog.
The full, correct usage of the term 'pedigree' dog refers only to a dog of one breed whose lineage can be traced back through several generations on both the side of the dam and the sire. So while a hybrid dog can have it's lineage traced back on both the dam and the sire's side through a line of pedigree dogs, the actual hybrid dog itself is not considered to be a pedigree dog, as the particular hybridised cross is not a breed in it's own right. Names like labradoodle and cockapoo are both relatively well known terms these days, and the popularity of these two respective hybridisations has led to significant demand for puppies of both of these types. While neither the labradoodle nor the cockapoo are recognised as breeds in their own right (although they are often incorrectly referred to as such in the usage of terms such as 'pure bred labradoodle' etc) both enjoy considerable popularity as pets, and the number of dogs in the UK of these and other hybrid pairings increases every year. There are several clubs and societies actively concerned with raising the profile and standard of hybrid dogs of various types, and it is entirely feasible that in the future, certain popular hybrid crosses of dogs will come to be recognised in their own right- after all, this is often how breeds which are now established as pedigrees with their own breed standards and specifications first came to be recognised. This has already occurred in the cat world- the Tonkinese breed of cat which is now recognised as a breed in it's own right originated from the crossing of pure bred Siamese cats with pure bred Burmese cats.
The main reason behind producing a hybrid dog from two distinctive breeds of parents is to combine the two best features of two particular breeds into one dog. In the case of the labradoodle, the intention was to produce a Labrador- type dog with the signature non shedding coat for which the poodle is well known and often popular. Another popular hybrid dog is the 'jug,' the cross of a Jack Russell terrier with a pug. The Jack Russell is well known for being a healthy, hardy dog, whereas pure bred pugs are often susceptible to a range of health and conformation problems that have come about as a result of years of inbreeding. A Jack Russell/ pug cross or 'jug' often combines a lot of the hardiness and outgoing character of the Jack Russell, with some of the distinctive looks of the pug in one dog. Of course, when you cross two different dogs in this way, the mixture of their eventual traits will fall somewhere between the two breeds, and so a 'jug' dog is likely to be rather hardier and possibly healthier than the average pug, but not to such an extent as the average Jack Russell. As with any hybrid dog or cross breed, the exact characteristics of the resulting hybrid will vary from litter to litter and from dog to dog. It is worth noting that often in the case of hybrid dogs, the decision to cross out one pedigree dog of a particular breed to another breed comes as a result of one or both of the parents not being of the highest standard or best example of the original breed. The owner of a pedigree dog that finds it is not quite up to show standard or has some perceived flaws that make its future offspring if bred to another pedigree of the same breed less desirable than pups of different parents, may decide to cross it out to produce hybrid pups instead, as there are no breed standards for hybrid dogs to conform to. Of course in this situation, the resulting hybrid dog will likely not have as many of the popularly considered 'good looks' of a hybrid of two high quality pedigree parents, although there is of course nothing wrong with this if it fits in with your tick list of what you want in a dog! It is worth bearing in mind, however, that all hybrid dogs are not created equal, and no two hybrid dogs, even of the same breed parentage, will look the same. Although none of the currently popular hybrid dog types are considered as pedigree, desirable hybrid puppies can often cost considerable amounts of money- often not far off the price of a pure bred pedigree dog in some cases. So if your intention in considering buying a hybrid dog is to get a pedigree dog or a near pedigree for a significant reduction on the cost of a pedigree puppy, you may be disappointed. If, however, you love the looks of a particular type of hybrid dog, or find a certain breed desirable but are concerned about certain health implications, or just can't choose between the desirable traits of two different popular breeds- then a hybrid dog may be the right choice for you.
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