If you ask an elderly relative if they’re interested in a bichpoo, you will likely look confused. But in a couple of years the breed will be as familiar as the spaniel, labrador, and golden retriever as crossbreeds become ubiquitous.
The recent realization that these pooches are more than a fad comes in the form of the traditional kennel club, a centuries-old supplier of pedigree dogs, who state that they are considering crossbreeding recognition.
But the trend has been picking up speed for a while, from the peekapoo trotting over to you in the park to the picture your coworker sends you of an Aussiepom (an Australian Shepherd mixed with a Pomeranian) that is supposed to be like an oreo cookie looks. BuzzFeed even prefers crossings as a list topic: certainly the marker for every zeitgeist.
Crossbreeds – or designer dogs as they are often called because of their appearance on reality shows and in celebrity arms – are also a status symbol. Last year a restaurant in Hampstead, north London hosted a charity called Cockapoo Doggie Sunday, which attracted 44 of the dogs and their owners. Rita Ora has a Maltipoo (a cross between a Maltese and a Poodle), Jake Gyllenhaal has a Puggle (Beagle and Pug), and Elle Macpherson’s Labradoodle Bella even mimicked its owner to test his paw while modeling. The queen herself breeds dorgis, a cross between a dachshund and a corgi.
Fetch high prices: Meme the Poodle and Rex the Labrador
(AFP / Getty)
But where did their popularity come from?
“I’m making an analogy with the Skoda car,” says Beverley Cuddy, editor and publisher of Dogs Today. “The Skoda was a good car, but it had a terrible name and had to be renamed, and so did the Poodle. The poodle is a great family pet that has gone out of style. “
So the poodle got – to put it cynically – a marketing boost and wherever it led other dogs slipped off their leashes and followed him.
“At all crossings, people love the anti-establishment too,” says Cuddy. “Crossbreeds were something new, and once people owned and liked them, it started verbally. It’s a phenomenon, and while it drives a lot of pedigree people crazy, it can’t be stopped. “
Oh yes, the “family tree people”. Purists, through and through, vehemently oppose crossbreed popularity and Kennel Club recognition, and they’re not the only ones.
Wally Conron of Australia’s Royal Guide Dog Association was the “inventor” of the Labradoodle and got the idea when he was asked to provide a guide dog for a visually impaired woman whose husband had a canine allergy. Now he’s seen where it was going and Conron regrets creating a “Frankenstein” dog.
There are also health concerns. Many crossbreed owners have reported more illnesses in these dogs, with experts concluding that this is due to the merging of the weaknesses of one breed with those of another. Mental health is also a concern – when you breed dogs that hunt with playing dogs, instincts become extremely insecure.
The “fight” is preferred by actor Jake Gyllenhaal
However, much of these problems can be eliminated through better health controls and breeder laws, much like what happens with pedigree dogs. This is one of the reasons the kennel club that maintains a dog registry is reconsidering this.
The organization has long recognized crossbreeds in their companion dog and activity registers, but this did not include the same detailed information as the pedigree register about the dogs’ parentage and health test results. Taking this step, says Caroline Kisko, the Kennel Club’s secretary, is one way for her to ensure that dogs lead happy and healthy lives.
“The Kennel Club is concerned that too many crossbreed breeders are making false promises about how their dog will perform,” says Kisko. “Crossbreed puppies inherit a random combination of genes from their two parent breeds, so you cannot make accurate predictions. Misinformation can cause the dogs to be abandoned by their owners if it does not suit their lifestyle.
“Additionally, many crossbreed breeders fail to provide the parents of their pups with the appropriate health and DNA tests for conditions that can affect their breeds, causing the pups to inherit problems.”
For now, however, it looks like designer dogs aren’t going anywhere. Except on the other side of the park, where they just saw a tennis ball play.