The Hidden Suffering of the Dogs Bred to Be Cute: The Trend for Cross-Breed Dogs Raises Disturbing Questions

Louise Exxles and Harry Mount, Daily Mail (London), February 21, 2014

Over the past five years, a canine revolution has been seen in Britain’s parks, streets and gardens.

Along with familiar dog breeds–the Labradors, spaniels and retrievers–dozens of new cross-breeds have appeared, from Chorkies (a Chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier mix) to Maltipoos (Maltese and poodle) and muggins (miniature pinscher and pug).

Britain’s dog-lovers have been buying the new cross-breeds in their droves, spending up to £2,000 to secure the rarest, most bizarre mixes.

They’ve been wooed by their cute names, by celebrity endorsements, and by the dangerous myth that cross-breeds are somehow healthier and more robust than pedigree dogs.

The cross-breeds’ popularity has been boosted further by the notion that they are ‘hypoallergenic’ and won’t trigger reactions in people who are usually allergic to dogs.

Only now is the tragic truth beginning to emerge. Far from being resilient to disease, many of these cross-breeds are, in fact, far more vulnerable to agonising illness and infection than pedigree dogs.

Today, thousands of ‘toy dogs’ sit in freezing cold, cramped cages and filthy sheds across rural England and Wales, awaiting new owners. Many suffer from parasites, kidney problems, heart disease and respiratory disorders.

Within several days of being bought by their new, unsuspecting owners, the unluckiest puppies will have to be put to sleep.

Earlier this month, the creator of the first Labradoodle–a Labrador crossed with a poodle–expressed his regret at creating these ‘Frankenstein’ dogs.

The man behind the breed, Wally Conron, said that by inventing the first designer dog in the Eighties, he had ‘created a lot of problems’.

The 85-year-old crossed a Labrador and a poodle to help a blind woman, whose husband was allergic to most guide dogs, find a puppy that did not shed its fur.

His kind gesture fuelled a new, lucrative and deeply harmful industry. The winsome-looking Labradoodle became popular among celebrities, including Hollywood actress Jennifer Aniston, model Elle Macpherson, chat-show host Graham Norton, and Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

Mr Conron, from Victoria, Australia, fears he opened a ‘Pandora’s box’. While the Labradoodle remains one of the most successful cross-breeds, some suffer from congenital defects, including eye disorders and hip problems.

‘Instead of breeding out the problems, they’re breeding them in,’ said Mr Conron. ‘For every perfect one, you’re going to find a lot of crazy ones. There are a lot of unhealthy and abandoned dogs out there.’

‘You can’t walk down the street without seeing a poodle cross of some sort. I just heard about someone who wanted to cross a poodle with a Rottweiler. How could anyone do that?

‘Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine all of this would happen.’

The heart of the problem lies in the false idea that, by crossing breeds, you get so-called hybrid vigour: that a greater genetic mix produces a healthier animal.

Instead, in the new, unscrupulous world of puppy-farmers, they produce much unhealthier animals, by breeding without the health checks long-term pedigree breeders have insisted on for decades.

‘It can be very dangerous,’ says Marc Abraham, the TV vet who founded the charity Pup Aid, which has launched an online petition to ban puppy and kitten farming in the UK. The ban will be debated in Parliament next month.

‘You end up cross-breeding breeds which each often have their own genetic faults. So Labradors are prone to hip problems, and poodles to eyesight problems. Cross-breed them and you get puppies prone to both conditions.’

Mr Abraham has seen damaged cross-breeds pour into his Brighton surgery over the past five years. Tragically he occasionally has to put down the ones suffering the most because they have been so badly bred on the puppy farms.

‘I get sick cross-breeds all the time,’ he says. ‘People have fallen for the idea that they’re healthier than pedigree dogs, and that they’re hypoallergenic, which is complete rubbish. And they just love the names–anything with ‘-oodle’ in it sounds cute.’

Indeed, enterprising breeders have come up with the giant schnoodle (a schnauzer-poodle), the boodle (a bulldog-poodle) and the Dalmapoodle (a Dalmatian-poodle). And that’s before you even get to the Pekepoo (a Pekingese-poodle) and the Pomapoo (a Pomeranian-poodle).

‘Puppy farmers target young families, and the children immediately think they’re getting a “fun dog”,’ says Mr Abraham.

‘The moment someone has one of these cross-breeds delivered on TOWIE or Made In Chelsea, you get a huge demand for them.

‘It’s also much easier to get dogs nowadays, thanks to the internet. But that makes life much easier for the puppy farmers, too. They can deliver to your house — or even to a motorway service station.

‘You never get to see how they’re bred as you do when you visit a proper pedigree breeder. And they’ll bring you a different dog to the one you saw online.’

The Kennel Club estimates that one in five puppies, bought via social media or the internet, dies before it is six months old.

‘Because of the massive over-production in these puppy farms, the puppies are poorly socialised,’ says Mr Abraham

‘Their mothers are imprisoned, pumping out puppies who are taken away from them far too young. So the puppies end up being nervous biters.’

They are often so badly neglected, they don’t have effective immune systems. Soon after they arrive at their new homes, they develop eye, skeletal and heart problems.

‘They’re often dead within two days,’ says Mr Abraham.

Helen Morgan, 52, is one of the puppy farmers’ victims. She bought a cockapoo (a cocker spaniel/poodle) puppy for £650 after seeing an advertisement online.

Two weeks later, the puppy, Milo, died an agonising death, after contracting suspected Giardia, an intestinal disease which thrives in unhygienic puppy farms.

After spotting the advert for brown cockapoos, Miss Morgan had met a dealer at his smart, detached home in Dorset. She was reassured by the well-spoken man, a married father and writer, who claimed to breed puppies in his spare time because of his love of dogs.

‘He showed me the supposed mother and said Milo was the last pup of the litter,’ says Miss Morgan. ‘He looked like a little brown teddy bear and I fell in love instantly.’

She did ‘everything right’, asking for Milo’s birth certificate and questioning him about the puppy’s parents. The morning after taking Milo home, however, he was violently sick and developed diarrhoea.

‘He was lethargic and crying. It was awful to see but, when we called the breeder, he said his dogs were healthy and refused to talk to us about it.’

She took the dog to the vet, who put Milo on a course of antibiotics. But, two days later, he took a turn for the worse. He was found to have intestinal worms and was placed on a drip.

Milo was tested for Giardia and parvovirus, which can cause intestinal disease, but died a week later, before the results were back.

‘I was devastated,’ says Miss Morgan, who has two children aged 15 and 21. ‘We only had him for two weeks, but he was a joy and became part of our family.’

A representative from the local authority later told her that several dogs from the same seller had fallen ill with Giardia. When she spoke to the other buyers, she found that puppies of different colours and sizes had identical birth certificates–suggesting they had been forged and that the dogs had been bred elsewhere.

She took the breeder to court for the cost of the vet’s fees and the puppy, ‘on a point of principle, to stop him doing it again’, but lost because she could not conclusively prove Milo had died of Giardia.

The breeder is still selling dogs, but has since moved to Derbyshire. Campaigners have also raised concerns that puppy-farm dogs are being carelessly bred from two completely incompatible breeds, to cash in on rare mixes.

A prime example is the Gerberian Shepsky — a cross between a German shepherd and a Siberian husky–which is increasingly popular among the rich in search of an attractive guard dog.

‘If you cross a dog that has one instinct, with another that has an entirely different instinct, it will not know if it is coming or going,’ says Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club.

‘It will develop mental health problems. The husky’s instinct is to hunt and the German shepherd’s instinct is to round animals up. If a cross of these sees a rabbit, which is it supposed to do?

‘The golden doodle is another example. You can trim a poodle’s coat or brush a retriever’s coat, but mix them together and you have a completely unmanageable, matted coat. It is irresponsible breeding and it is done purely to make money.’

The Doodle Trust, which rescues unwanted Labradoodles and other poodle cross-breeds, has also expressed concerns that owners simply aren’t able to cope with the exuberance of such dogs, which are energetic and easily bored.

Barb Turnbull, founder of the trust, warns that some people may find these dogs unmanageable.

‘They have the weight and the stubbornness of the Labrador and intelligence and bounce of the poodle. They have to be in the right hands.’

The trust has seen increasing numbers of these dogs abandoned. It rescued more than 100 dogs last year and, in the first six weeks of this year, it had taken in 20 dogs.

The Battersea Dogs & Cats Home has also reported greater numbers of poodle crossbreeds needing new homes because their owners feel overwhelmed.

The Kennel Club does approve cross-breeds, but only if they’ve gone through the medical checks puppy-farmers dodge.

These tests–often including hip X-rays, eye tests and DNA scans–are expensive, costing £200 or more. But they ensure many of those genetic faults that are so common in some breeds are not present.

Those who seek to avoid paying for these tests, or who are seduced by the promises of unscrupulous puppy farmers, are supporting a cruel and shadowy industry.

Defenceless, vulnerable puppies like Milo are the true victims.

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  • D.B. Cooper

    Domesticated dogs come in various sizes, and several of them wouldn’t survive in the wild, much less among a pack. Domesticated cats are pretty much the same they’ve been since they were first domesticated thousands of years ago, and can easily revert back to the wild if need be.

    About 10-15 years ago, I watched a program that dealt with genetic hip problems in several pedigreed Irish Setters. The fixed it by breeding a few with a closely related dog, an English retriever I think. They took the pups who were red, and continued to breed them with purebred setters until the hip defect was wiped from the bloodline, yet all other Irish Setter Traits remained.

    There was another problem with the Florida Panther. Zoologists discovered that several of the ones tagged and captured were weak, small, frail, lost fur and teeth; and they discovered a lot of the problems were due to inbreeding caused by a shrinking habitat. The fixed the problem by bringing a couple of healthy 200 lb. male mountain lions from the Rockies and impregnated some female panthers then released them back in the wild. A few years later, the panthers they observed in Florida were more or less back to normal.

    Our problems is that the lower caste humans are the ones doing the most breeding, and a lot of top quality females have aged themselves out of reproduction due to putting career first.

    • frederickdixon

      I remember reading of a similar problem with Samaritan Jews, and a similar solution. About a century ago their numbers were down to a few hundred and, for some reason, two thirds of those were men belonging to just three lineages. Intensely inbred, they suffered from a variety of genetic woes, especially a tendency to blindness in middle age. Forbidden to marry outside of their religion they squared the circle by importing a number of girls from Jewish orphanages in Iraq, these girls were brought up as Samaritans and in due course married Samaritan men. They thus refreshed their blood without either breaching the prohibition on marrying out or changing their racial identity.

      • Oldcorporal

        I was told once by a friend who was from Pennsylvania, that the Amish in his part of the state had had a real problem with too much inbreeding. Their solution was to persuade a number of young, male Puerto Ricans (White ones, presumably) to convert to the Amish faith and marry into it. Thus they brought in some much-needed new genes.

    • JohnEngelman

      Inbreeding is probably more of a problem than cross breading. I grew up with a dog who looked like an Irish Setter, except that he had a white chest. He was a cross between an Irish Setter and an English Setter.

      He had far more personality than any Irish Setter I have ever known since. Shamrock was one of the best friends I ever had in my life.

      • BonV.Vant

        read the article again, it is the cross breeding that is causing the problem.

        • JohnEngelman

          Read my comment again. Cross breeding made my dog a better companion.

          • LovelyNordicHeidi

            Face it. The article predicts that cross-breds have more diseases,
            therefore your dog was probably a weakling which appeared to be nicer just because he was less healthy than his parents. It is not so hard to understand that. It just sounds a little cruel, like reality and nature.

          • JohnEngelman

            Shamrock was a healthy dog. He loved going on long walks. He was fond of adventure. He was highly skilled in self defense, and quick to avenge slights to his honor.

          • BonV.Vant

            Read the article again, crossbreeding is leading to more genetic problems that pure breeding.

        • curri

          DM articles that aren’t about black-on-white crime have to taken with a lot of salt. The article is really a mess if you read it closely. The real problem is people with no ethics or empathy for dogs breeding them-along with dog buyers who don’t do research.

      • M.

        White people are counted by millions today, so there’s enough genetic diversity to go around. We should be more worried about race-mixing than inbreeding.

    • Michiganman6

      Yer all wrong. Dog breeds are a “social construct” & really don’t exist in science! ;-)

      • Oldcorporal

        I assume you’re being sarcastic.

    • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

      “Our problems is that the lower caste humans are the ones doing the most breeding, and a lot of top quality females have aged themselves out of reproduction due to putting career first.”
      You’ve described the essence of “dysgenic fertility” which — along with “dysgenic immigration” — is destroying the West. Richard Lynn has lectured on these topics in recent years. He sees no hope democratic western societies will/can address these problems. Authoritarian non-Western states such as China are best positioned.

      • BonV.Vant

        Feminism has been one of the leading causes of this. Do we need women doing jobs that men can do? What does that prove? What good does it do to have childless females? What good does it do to have two working spouses that have to pay more than the salary of one spouse for day care and private schools. Those who pride themselves on their intelligence and achievement are in fact being truly shortsighted and foolish. I have met single “successful” females who are bitter about the fact that men are not interested in them. The more successful they are the more they narrow the filed of potential mates . That field becomes divided between men who want a mother to take care of them and that they can live off of, or the very much smaller number of men that are super successful and would not be intimidated by them. Those high achieving males though, would rather have the younger prettier females. There is much in the media that glamorizes the career woman, and promises them fulfillment and romance and that they will get everything they want. the reality is quite different. The vast majority of them grow old as single or divorced ,bitter alcoholics.

        • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

          Western democratic states are especially vulnerable to egalitarian pathologies like feminism. What these pathologies do to young women is encapsulated in a remarkable display of ignorance of by three bright young women (three Harvard MBAs) in SIXTY MINUTES segment “THE BIOLOGICAL CLOCK: Women Who Want It All May Find Out It’s Too Late,” August 17, 2003.

  • Puggg

    The best way to come up with a new breed is to branch one off of another, which is the way it has historically been done since just about the beginning of the breed era of dog domestication.

    There’s a condition that’s the opposite of hybrid vigor, that actually appears more often and has worse consequences. I can’t remember its name. But whatever its name is, that’s the problem with most of these designer cross-breed dogs. That and most x-breeds are disgustingly ugly, though the muggin actually looks okay at least visually.

    • IstvanIN

      Outbreeding depression.

      • texasoysterman

        Actually it’s INbreeding depression. :)

  • E_Pluribus_Pluribus

    LA Times Headline: “Arctic ice melt may promote cross-breeding, further imperiling endangered animals: Mating between different species could lead to the extinction of many Arctic animals, because hybrid offspring are often less hardy, scientists say.” (By Amina Khan, December 16, 2010)

  • Sharps Rifle

    Sounds more like puppy mills than any inherent defect in breeding out. I’ve had purebreds and mixed breeds all my life, and while all were good dogs, the mixed breed dogs were generally healthier and more intelligent than the purebreds (one mixed breed I had, I was able to teach twenty different tricks. My purebreds were all livestock herding dogs, and did what they were bred to do with aplomb and vigor…however, trying to train them to do dog tricks, as well, was not an easy task. Healthwise, the purebreds had breed-specific issues…hip and spine problems, occasionally. No such problems with the mixed breeds). My suspicion is that the Brits aren’t as used to dealing with puppy mills as we are here, and this, plus the poor quality of Animal Control/Humane Enforcement they have there, is what has led to their mixed breed (“designer dogs,” feh!) being in such poor condition.

    • David Ashton

      Depends on which breeds are crossed, and also whether selection follows breeding.

  • http://saboteur365.wordpress.com/ bigone4u

    My mother took in a cockapoo similar to this back in the 60s. Chester limped and his whole back end was a weak mess. He screamed in pain at the slightest surprise touch. Sweet as he could be in his heart and soul, but a physical mess. We had no idea that there were genetic problems like that back in the day. As a moral duty we must oppose this form of cruelty to animals. Also, as a moral duty we must speak out against human race mixing, which brings forth similar problems.

    • Conrad

      Logic. Reason. Eugenics.

    • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

      What a nice face!

  • WR_the_realist

    Different dog breeds are so similar genetically that it’s vary hard to tell them apart from the genes alone. There are greater genetic differences among the various human races. Yet the usual suspects keep up the foolish claim that miscegenation leads to hybrid vigor.

    • Einsatzgrenadier

      There’s actually empirical evidence indicating that individuals of mixed race suffer from a higher incidence of psychological and physiological ailments than people who belong to a single race. According to this study (2003):

      Objectives. This study compared the health and risk status of adolescents who identify with 1 race with those identifying with more than 1 race.

      Methods. Data are derived from self-reports of race, using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health), which provides a large representative national sample of adolescents in grades 7 through 12. Respondents could report more than 1 race.

      Results. Mixed-race adolescents showed higher risk when compared with single-race adolescents on general health questions, school experience, smoking and drinking, and other risk variables.

      Conclusions. Adolescents who self-identify as more than 1 race are at higher health and behavior risks. The findings are compatible with interpreting the elevated risk of mixed race as associated with stress.

      http://www(dot)ncbi(dot)nlm(dot)nih(dot)gov/pmc/articles/PMC1448064/

      • JohnEngelman

        American Negroes average about twenty percent white. They also average fifteen more IQ points than 100 percent Negroes living in Africa.

    • David Ashton

      No evidence of hybrid vigour in human case. In any event, it would not survive the first generation, without careful control of subsequent crossing and selection.

    • M.

      “Hybrid vigor”… Yeah, we’ve seen how that worked out for Latin America!

  • David Ashton

    Sexism, racism, and now breedism. Watch out for the equality police!

  • Tarczan

    So if we cross-breed a Kenyan communist with a white American liberal, we get…….?

    • John R

      ……the worst of both!

    • dd121

      Actually, she was a communist too.

    • Conrad

      Barack Obama.

  • dd121

    Out of respect, let’s leave the Pug out of this discussion. :)

  • Conrad

    Beautiful, simply beautiful.

    • LovelyNordicHeidi

      Seriously, I had one of those cats when I was a little girl!

      The cat didn’t live that long though.

  • Conrad

    The Hollyweird crowd has found a way around the ugly dog problem.

    • dd121

      The authorities outlawed owning Chimpanzees because when they grow up they’re 10x stronger than a human and will tear you face and gentiles off.

    • Oldcorporal

      Yeah; instead of dogs, they adopt tar babies.

    • Garrett Brown

      The baby doesn’t even want to be there.

  • Spartacus

    “Britain’s dog lovers will pay up to £2,000 on the designer dogs, like
    Cockapoos (pictured). They have been wooed by their cute names,
    celebrity endorsements and the dangerous myth that cross-breeds are
    healthier and more robust than pedigrees

    ———————————————————————————————————————

    Oy vey ! Zat iz zo raycis !

  • Max

    This cannot be correct. I have engaged people on this very forum and others who assure me that race-mixing confers “hybrid vigor”. These dog breeders must not have discovered this benefit. I think “dog breeds” is a social construct.

  • BonV.Vant

    Even CNN has a problem with it’s british dogs.

  • Oldcorporal

    And it follows as the night the day, that wholesale miscegenation among the various races of man will also cause problems. Of course, if this article ever sees the light of day in the mainstream media, and someone dares to suggest that, they will be immediately pounced upon as a “racist.”

  • http://www.amren.com/ Michael Christopher Scott

    Ours is a fox. He only thinks he’s a dog.

  • Kenner

    Slow news day?

  • BonV.Vant

    “The trust has seen increasing numbers of these dogs abandoned. It rescued more than 100 dogs last year and”…. how ridiculous is it that people are spending money to care for unwanted dogs and “give them a happy life”. The dogs are unwanted because they have genetics that program them to be bothersome.
    You know, there is a country called north korea that is starving to death. Why not ship the dogs there and make a small profit?

  • curri

    “They’ve been wooed by their cute names, by celebrity endorsements, and by the dangerous myth that cross-breeds are somehow healthier and more robust than pedigree dogs.”

    ON AVERAGE mixed-breed dogs are healthier than purebreds-that doesn’t mean you can disregard common sense.

    “Instead, in the new, unscrupulous world of puppy-farmers, they produce much unhealthier animals, by breeding without the health checks long-term pedigree breeders have insisted on for decades.”

    Testing is a long way from being a panacea. See border-wars (DOT) com/2012/03/the-limits-of-health-testing.html. See also the documentary “Pedigree Dogs Exposed” at You Tube.

  • curri

    A prime example is the Gerberian Shepsky — a cross between a German shepherd and a Siberian husky–which is increasingly popular among the rich in search of an attractive guard dog.

    ‘If you cross a dog that has one instinct, with another that has an entirely different instinct, it will not know if it is coming or going,’ says Caroline Kisko, secretary of the Kennel Club.

    ‘It will develop mental health problems. The husky’s instinct is to hunt and the German shepherd’s instinct is to round animals up. If a cross of these sees a rabbit, which is it supposed to do?

    She doesn’t know what she’s talking about. Despite the name, the GSD was developed specifically for protection work by Max von Stephanitz. But Siberian Huskies are lousy guard dogs-so this cross is a bad idea on those grounds alone.

    • David Ashton

      Conscious development is responsible for specific animal breed abilities/functions.

  • LovelyNordicHeidi

    “Only now is the tragic truth beginning to emerge. Far from being resilient to disease, many of these cross-breeds are, in fact, far more vulnerable to agonising illness and infection than pedigree dogs.”

    When the different cow races are mixed, they also get more diseases. Glad we are rural in Niedersachsen, so that this is common knowledge. Science just proves what we already knew since the beginning of humanity and the domestication of animals.

  • ShermanTMcCoy

    Hee hee hee.

  • David Ashton

    This would require subsequent selection and controlled breeding similar to that of domesticated animal breeds. The genetic difference between the cold-adapted and lighter-skinned northern peoples of Europe and Asia are smaller than those between either of those peoples and west African blacks. There are some minor individual problems specific to MongolidxEuropid crossings. There are enough crossings in existence already for an objective study to be made of this phenomenon, but this is politically incorrect to an extreme. The problem is that hybridizations are irreversible, and mistakes cannot easily be unravelled, if at all.

  • Conrad

    It is you who is pre-judgmental with this topic. The Chinese, Koreans and Japanese are not “Northern Asians”, but nothing else than East Asians. Northern Asia is in SIBERIA, Russia which is above Mongolia.

    The Mongoloid race has the right to survive just like the White race, and neither deserves to be destroyed for the selfish convenience and/or lust or treasonous individuals. Central Asia is already filled with mixed Eurasians like the Kazakhs, Uzbheks, and Uyghurs who are nowhere near being fine “productive lines” just like the Mestizos.

    Please get a map and stop pushing White genocide.