I hope all your weekends were great. My pets left mine on an ambivalent note. On the one hand, I've started training my dog up a bit more, and he goes into transports of joy whenever he sees the clicker because it means treats! for doing! practically nothing! On the other hand, my Angry Pig was treated to a bath, and her utter outrage was made worse by the fact that I turned her into a piggy burrito with an old handtowel afterward. Partly for my own protection. So my dog is pretty sure that I'm the coolest person in the world, but my guinea pig keeps leaving threatening letters in my pillowcase.
(Senile Gerbil snoozed through the weekend, waking now and then only to mutter cantankerously about young people and their crazy hairdos these days. Old people are adorable. Even when they're not actually people.)
I got a comment on this post and planned on replying before realizing it had spawned an entire entry's worth of thoughts. So here it is (and I'm not trying to single you out, Linny! Sorry!).
""Designer dog" sales are now outstripping those of purebreds. I think this is largely because all the scientific research show mutts live longer and healthier lives than purebreds.
Most people just want a happy, healthy family pet. Say "Boxer" a vet thinks heart disease; say "Golden Retriever" and they think hip dysplasia. The incidence and severity of inherited diseases increases every year, and yet breeders continue as they've always done, with outdated practices that continuously limit genetic diversity, using breed standards that often encourage disability and deformity.
If there's anybody out there that still really believes all is well in the purebred world, they should watch the BBC documentary "Pedigree Dogs Exposed" at http://vids.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=vids.individual&videoid=44215931"
Too right, Linny! Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying purebred dogs are perfect. Far from it! So I hope nobody here gets that impression. How often do we see cases like the Pekingese, the pug, the Dachshund, the Shar-Pei, where breeders continue to breed in myriads of health problems for the sake of decades-old breed standards? You will hear time and time again that pugs snore, but nobody stands up to actively eradicate the inferred problems, because of course, a pug that doesn't snore evidently just isn't a pug. Nobody wants to give those flat faces more definition, because a pug with a longer muzzle won't be winning Best in Show.
Breeding pedrigree dogs just ain't as easy as it looks. I'm one of those people who stands by the belief that you should only breed to improve the breed, but that's easier said than done. You need to find dogs who not only reflect the ideal temperament of the breed, but are also healthy in general. Meanwhile, the lifespan of the average Golden retriever gets shorter and shorter, because in the scramble to produce these well-balanced popular dogs, breeders lose sight of the rest of the family history.
And of course some breeders lose sight of the right objective altogether. I can yammer on about predictability in purebreeds all I like, but it won't always hold true. Just look at my dog. Pedigree Border collie, the smartest breed of dog in the world, and my dog ... shall we say, colours outside the lines. He's not quite the "intense" personality I'd have liked; in fact, he's downright soft - a goofy, good-natured, embarrassingly neurotic Lab in a Border collie body. I'd shudder to think of unleashing his genes on the unsuspecting Border collie community, and yet there are people who would breed him without a second thought, because dog people like and want Border collies. (Plus, whatever else I say about Tip, he's hot stuff.) There will always be breeders who grab the first purebreed to cross their paths and breed it no matter what qualities it has, because some breeds are just too popular for their own good. Then there are the lazy breeders, who simply accept that their dogs will have health problems because that's just the way they are. Breathing problems in pugs is inevitable, cherry eye in Saint Bernards is inevitable, and hip dysplasia builds character. Whatever they tell you, these are just weak excuses. It might be a trial; it might be time consuming and require effort; it might take a long time, but you CAN help make your breed healthier.
Oh, and don't forget the teacup breeders. It's purebreeds they're after, and they won't rest until they can fit a family of Chihuahuas in a thermos and carry them to work.
So the world of purebreeds is not without its share of problems.
What alarms me is that the sale of designer dogs is starting to outstrip purebreeds. It's a band-aid on the real issue. And it's a magnet for bad breeders. Why? Because they are popular, and because the belief that these dogs are healthier exists. Not all the studies are saying hybrid dogs are healthier, you see. You can lead a mutt breeder to literature, but you can't make it think. Trend breeders are dangerous whether they're selling a designer dog or a purebreed: all they want is to cash in on the dog's popularity. But designer dog breeders may be even more dangerous, because while those who breed numerous Labs are aware that their dogs will have problems and don't typically care, the muttpuppy breeder is just plain ignorant. The idea that the best genes will out is wrong, wrong, WRONG. I won't ever tell you that muttpuppies are for a fact UNhealthy, but I haven't seen any evidence to prove either way that they are any more or less healthy than a purebred. And let's not get started on temperament! Even breeders themselves will admit that Maltipoos can be a little neurotic, and puggles a little high-maintenence...
Basically, designer breeding is not the solution to all of dogkind's problems, and it frightens me that some breeders truly think it IS. The Ori-pei is a perfect example. The initial breeder wanted a Shar-pei that didn't have the health problems of a Shar-pei. He bred to a pug, and today we have a hybrid at large with more problems than it should have ever had in the first place. But they still sell, because people believe in hybrid vigour, and that's all a breeder has to say to sell a mutt.
Cross-breeding WILL NOT get rid of problems in a dog. A Peke or pug muzzle can still show up in a hybrid, just like a Dachshund or corgi back can, just like hip dysplasia and cherry eye and skin conditions can. The only way to help get rid of health problems in dogs is to change the breed standard. That's on you, pedigree breeders.
And this is how I do my part: not by ranting about teacup toys and designer dogs and bad breeders (even if I do all those things). What I want to impress here is that the purpose of this blog is to advocate responsible breeding - whatever type of dog we're talking about. It's fine if you want to get a Shih-poo; just take care to find a dedicated hobby breeder who knows that health checks are, in fact, important in designer breeding.
The trouble is that these types of breeders are few and far in between. You'll always find somebody dedicated to the welfare of their own particular breed, perhaps involved with the parent organization, breeding to represent their breed in the best way possible. But that isn't often the objective among hybrid breeders. They see the demand and they supply to it. These are the lazy, who, suddenly, have found a market for dogs they don't need to health screen. In fact, their new customers don't even want a health certificate! All some people need to hear is "family dog" and "hybrid vigour", and they're out the door with their new baby. This unshakeable belief that the best genes always shine through in a hybrid fosters irresponsibility like you wouldn't believe. Can't you imagine?
Breed devotees know what to breed for, but others have nothing to breed for but money, and they're cashing in on the fact that designer dogs have pulled the wool over the world's eyes. Hybrids are not better than purebreds; no worse, either, but until we start concentrating on breeding better purebreeds, we'll surely see the deterioration in both camps. It's already happening.