Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Changing Tides...

Did you ever see that movie North County? And the end, when all the women stand up one by one alongside Charlize Theron in agreement on men in the mines being gross and sexist?

Well, I stood up - now, entering the New Year, I think I'm seeing others stand up too...

Here's a well-written article by an Atlanta dog trainer about adopting a new dog into your family, and the points the not-so-dog-savvy class don't always consider. This is what she has to say about designer breeds:

"Intentional mixed breeds, or "designer dogs," are trendy, though that trend seems to be cooling a bit. Think long and hard before plunking down a lot of money on the same mixed breed you can adopt from the local animal shelter. Intentional mixes are generally no more healthy or allergen-free than any other breed or mix, they just cost more."

From the mouths of the savvy!

Now another article about "hypoallergenic" dogs. Who'da thought even the selection of Obama's dog could get so political? We know he's never gonna go with a purebreed, because that would make him out to be an oh-my-God-elitist, but this person has some suggestion anyway.

""Designer dogs," often mixed with poodles, are not recommended for allergy suffers due to their unpredictable coat.
Each dog in a litter of mixed breeds is unique in its size, coat type, temperament and energy level, making the high prices unjustifiable and the claims these dogs are ideal misleading at best.
A "designer dog" lacks predictability and could pose a problem for Obama's allergy-suffering daughter."

For what it's worth, I do agree to some extent; though bear in mind that this writer's main source is the AKC, and we know they've got an agenda...

There is another big war kicking up in the dog world, my friends! And it started with Pedigree Dogs Exposed. But it's not as cut-and-dry as the Kennel Club vs. dog people. There are all kinds of groups getting wrapped up in this.

There's the Kennel Clubs and conservative breeders who don't think there's anything wrong or don't make it their business.

There are the purebreed breeders who accept that something's up with their dogs and want to help - though they run the risk of being practically booted out of the parent club...

There are the "abandon ship" breeders who give up purebreds as a lost cause (or as a cause no longer bringing in enough cash) and move on to mixed breeds.

There are the designer breeders who, unintentionally or not, take advantage of the insecurities being whipped up by promoting the hybrid vigour effect.

There are responsible breeders out there who, regardless of breed, just want to produce a happy, healthy pet, and do their best to do so - unfortunately, they seem to be underrepresented in this war...

And of course you've got the dog owners - the oblivious (who will probably dump their puppy as soon as they buy a new carpet), the uneducated (who don't know about this "war", or else just buy into whatever breed they think looks attractive). The "elitist" breed devotees and the others who stoutly swear by their muttpuppies. And, of course, that group I affectionately refer to as the dog-savvy, who do their homework and don't need designer breeders or the AKC to make up their mind for them.

I suppose all we can do is wait and watch and wonder. I've no idea who's going to win this war, if anybody can "win". But I will predict this: I think we may be about to see the extinction of a couple old breeds. Soak up the Neapolitan mastiff while you can...


Linny said...

"Intentional mixes are generally no more healthy.....than any other breed"

I beg to differ. Each and every very research study that's been done shows that crossbreds are healthier and live longer than their purebred cousins. I've yet to find a single piece of scientific evidence that shows the reverse.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

In the late 90s, geneticist George Padgett, DVM found that mixed-breed dogs are predisposed to over a hundred genetic disorders. More than some purebreds. So it ain't every research study!

The theory is still enough up in the air that neither of us can win this argument ... best not to start up again. ;)

Linny said...

I think you may have inadvertently misquoted Dr Padgett (who incidentally is a vet, not a geneticist). If memory serves me, he said over 100 hereditary diseases exist within mixed breed dogs AS A GROUP.

You could equally say that there over 100 hereditary diseases exist within purebred dogs AS A GROUP. I’d actually be surprised the number isn’t higher. Of course, not every disorder exists in every breed. Nor indeed in every crossbreed.

Dr Padgett has not published any research comparing the health and longevity of crossbred and purebred dogs. To quote Dr Paul McGreevy (head of Genetics in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Sydney) who has, “"Hybrids have a far lower chance of exhibiting the disorders that are common with the parental breeds."

In fact, every single scientific study that has been done shows crossbreds live longer and are healthier. But I’m guessing you've already know that ;)

an American in Copenhagen said...

I second Linny--sort of.

As far as I know all or at least the vast majority of studies show mutts live longer and are healthier than purebreds. However, I think the comparison is flawed, deceptive, and not very useful for relating to real life choices.

I think it's unfair and unproductive to lump purebreds and crossbreds into two distinct piles. Some breeds are riddled with problems (i.e. CKCS, Scottish Terriers, American Cocker Spaniels, etc.) while others are notably healthy (i.e. Standard and Giant Schnauzers, Whippets, most of the spitz breeds, etc.). I agree it may be only a matter of time before a shrinking gene pool hits these healthy breeds too (assuming breeding practices don't change before then), but it's deceptive to lump all breeds together at this point in time.

Furthermore, crossbreds are only as healthy as the parents. While you are likely to avoid some of the more rare/breed specific diseases that result from two recessive genes pairing up when crossbreeding you are just as likely to end up in a mess of trouble when it comes to most of the other common genetic and physical problems. Cross two teacup breeds and hybrid vigor will not save you from patelar luxation. Goldendoodles are as likely to get hip dysplasia from both sides as a purebred Golden or Lab is. How well do you think a Pug x Boston Terrier would be able to breath?

Most of the crossbred dogs used in these studies were unintentional crosses and therefore mixed distant gene pools. In contrast, many of the 'designer breeders' are a mix of similar looking and/or related gene pools. Furthermore, since designer breeders who are also puppy mills (and let's be honest, most of them are) use low quality purebreds for their crosses that are often rejects from quality pure-breeders they are playing Russian Roulette with more bullets than a top quality pure-breeder is.

Rather than grouping dogs into 'pure' and 'mixed' piles we should separate them into 'health tested' and 'not-health tested' piles, or as being from 'healthy' gene pool(s) or from 'unhealthy' gene pool(s). While studies showing the general better health/lifespan of crossbreeds are meaningful they aren't terribly useful when trying to evaluate a more specific scenario.

Assuming your only goal is a healthy dog…
Given the choice between one of Sherry Carter’s Shorkies and a purebred Yorkie or Shih Tzu from health-screened parents you’d be a fool to choose the crossbred. Given the choice between a Boxer x Basset in the pound and a Standard Schnauzer from health tested parents, your choice, health wise, should be for the Schnauzer.

an American in Copenhagen said...

Intruiged by my own suggestion of a Boxer x Basset I googled "boxer basset" images. Check out the first hit. Not ugly enough to be cute. Just ugly.

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Excellent points, AC... While I know the two camps aren't as black and white as that, my worry is that we will see a clear divide as more designer breeders try to play up the notion that [all] crossbreeds are healthy and [all] purebreeds are not.

Linny, I can always count on you to shake up my stance on hybrid vigour. ;) I know I've said somewhere that I do believe F1 crosses can be healthier... But AC summed up my thoughts on all that pretty well. If hybrid vigour held true for every designer breed, we wouldn't have disasters like the Ori-Pei.

Okay, looking up the boxer basset now and... Oh dear.

GoLightly said...

"Furthermore, crossbreds are only as healthy as the parents."

I'm with MoT on this one. Just my experience, but Mutts have just as many health problems as pure-breds.

Don't yell;)

Linny said...

I agree, an American in Copenhagen. The best bet for finding a healthy puppy is choosing a responsible breeder, regardless of whether the dog is a purebred or cross.

Perhaps a better blog title would be "Bad Breeders on Trial".

muttpuppiesontrial said...

Muttpuppies is snappier. ;)

Besides, look at what happens when I make the breeders angry. Ye gods, they're a crazy yet strangely ambivalent bunch.