Mixed Breed Dogs – Is it Ethical To Have Hybrid Dogs

A purebred dog is a dog who has been selectively bred for many generations to become a true breed.  A dog is said to be a true breed when every puppy of it produced looks alike and shares the same characteristics.  Its almost like you kept the dog on a paper and made a drawing with a carbon paper beneath. Thus, you will end up having a dog with the same traits.  It is these traits which makes dogs valuable as they come with the same looks which we have enjoyed throughout all these years.

Source: Google

Over the past 20,000 years or so we humans have worked intentionally cross-breeding dogs by selecting parents with good traits. We then decide which offspring would best suit our needs like hunting, guiding, etc.  Certain standards were set for breeders according to which they had to follow certain guidelines.  Such guidelines were set so that they followed the ideal description of the purebreds to produce a crossbreed.

Genetically what happens when a dog is bred to a closely related dog

What would happen when distantly related dogs are bred? If one is allergenic and the other is hypoallergenic, then what would a cross look like?  The hypoallergenic trait is a dominant trait. The version of this trait is “fixed.” That is, there are none of the other types of the gene in this breed. This crossbreed will then all be hypoallergenic.  But and it is a big but, they could carry the gene for being allergenic received from the other parent.

The breed of dogs become breeds by continuous breeding. Mating dogs that are closely related could create genetic problems.  This is because the genes which cause problems are recessive.  By mating related dogs the chances are that the offspring could receive two copies of the recessive gene. This could lead to an increased rate of genetic diseases.

Source: Google

Unfortunately, this is one of the two major causes of genetic problems that we get to see in designer dogs.  With very few purebred dogs, it may be necessary to mate related dogs just to expand the breed.  This is not a problem for designer dogs but also for relatively rare breed dogs.

The second source of genetic problems is those unethical people who simply breed them for their financial gains. They have no regard to the background of the dogs that they are using. They are not bothered about the quality of the puppies they produce. 

What is cross breeding or hybrid dogs

The practice of cross-breeding always creates a furor in the dog world.  In biology, the term hybrid means an offspring of individuals from different taxonomy. It could also be a cross between breeds within a single species. 

Breeders of purebred dogs consider the mixed-breed dogs to be just a mutt.  The propagators of mixed breed dogs feel they are adding vigor to the genetics of breeds which they are crossing.

Crossbreeding occurs when two different breeds of dogs are bred. Potentially any combination of two breeds can be mixed. Even purebred with mixed-breed dogs can be combined as they all belong to the same species.  But sometimes it is hard to believe that all the dogs are from the same family. This is because of the variety of sizes, shapes, and personalities they have.

Source: Google

In cross breeds, you can never predict what the offspring will be like.  It could have the shared characteristics of the parents or sometimes it could be totally different. Hybrid dogs lack reliable traits and hence there is no official standard breed for them.

If managed carefully by the breeders then the health and viability of the puppies could be improved and give way to delightful pets.

History of Mixed Breed Dogs

During the earlier days, before man had his preferences on the canine populations, there was not much difference between one dog and the other.  They were all of the medium size, brown and most of them had short coats.

Today, the semiferal dogs who are living on the edge of human life look somewhat the same,  Climate does not affect them since similar dogs are seen in Australia, North America, and Asia, though some of them have longer coats than the others.

It’s always hard to figure out a mixed-breed dog’s heritage because they draw directly from the line of non-breeds who were never selectively bred. This means that they have never had a purebred ancestor.

But the truth is that a lot of mixed breeds are truly mixed.  If you are able to identify the breeds contributing to the mixed breed, then it would help you to get some insight into their personalities, though of course this would only a partial story.

Mixed Breeds are sometimes overbred

The problem with hybrid dogs is that they become over popular.  When a dog gets over popular then the wrong type of breeders will get involved. So what may have started as a good hybrid dog would end up getting out of hand.

Dogs will soon get overbred due to careless breeding without paying any attention to health or temperament.   Some breeders are only interested in the money they make.  Hence it is very necessary to diligently choose your pet.

Labradoodle and Goldendoodle often become popular because they are marketed as being hypoallergenic, odor-free, and non-shedding dogs.  But the truth is no dog is totally hypoallergenic because the causes of allergies vary from one being to another. 

Source: Google

Wally Conron, who created the first Labradoodle by mixing a Labrador with a Poodle feels responsible for the spread of designer dogs with bad temperaments and a plethora of health problems.  He had set out on this quest to find a perfect guide dog for a woman in Hawaii whose husband was allergic to dogs.  Conron feels that instead of breeding out the problems the unethical breeders are breeding them in,

Unfortunately, many hybrid dogs are mass-produced on farms and the puppies are poorly socialized.  They are also often removed very early from the litter because of which may they may end up having serious behavior problems later in life.

Mixed Breeds need not be Healthier

A common belief exists that hybrid dogs are actually healthier than purebred dogs.  This phenomenon is known as “hybrid vigor” or scientifically called “heterosis”.  The unethical breeders often used this phenomenon in advertising their hybrid dogs telling that they are superior.  This is their claim for charging exorbitant prices. 

This thought could actually be stemming from the belief that shallow gene pools which are seen often in purebred dogs, make them open to inherent health issues and inbreeding depression.  These issues could vary from small litter sizes, short life span, low sperm count, and low conception rate.

Carol Beuchat, a vertebrate biologist with a Ph.D. in animal physiology says that the introduction of another breed or even another line of the same breed will add genetic variety to its vitality.  This is the so-called “hybrid vigor” strategy which dog breeders have been implementing for a long time in their breeding programs

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association, it was found that after studying more than 90000 health records, there was no difference in inheriting conditions among purebred and crossbred dogs.  There were a few exceptions where it was found that some hereditary conditions remain specific to some breeds.  Other than this the superior health benefits which the breeders claim just seem to be a myth.

These health issues could be a result of poor breeding as they focus more on conformation and certain traits instead of health. For example, Labradors are prone to hip problems and if they are cross-bred with Poodles who are prone to eyesight problems then you could end up with puppies having both these issues.

The claims by the breeders that crossbreeds get the best of health conditions from both its parents is still quite unfounded.  It is a nice story to listen to but for geneticists it just a laugh claims Stanley Coren professor and author of the book “Why Do Dogs Have Wet Noses?”

A Starting Point

Hybrid dogs need not be bad bred dogs.  Some breeders test the health and temperament of their purebred stock before they are allowed to mate.  Such breeders would breed the hybrid dogs in the same ways as they would breed for purebreds.

During the olden days, dogs with desirable traits were matched and bred over the years which is resulted in today’s purebred dogs.  People who argue that dogs have been designed must understand that was crafted this way hundreds of years ago ever since selective breeding practices took place.

Source: Google

The difference is that in the past selective breeding was mostly done over the years just to get that perfect dog, be it hunting dogs, herding dogs, or lap dogs. Some designer dogs which we see today stand a chance to get recognized one day as a true breed if they are in the right hands of knowledgeable breeders.  Thus, it is by cross-breeding that several recent breeds have attained recognition.

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How Good do Hybrid Dogs Look?

Mixed breed dogs boast of a personality as unpredictable and varied as its human owners. It is an accepted fact which we have to accept that designer dogs look very adorable.  But the question which always arises is that are they worthy of costing so much?  Not necessarily so because they could be bred by some backyard breeders which could lead to additional costs because of the potential health problems popping up.  The best bet you could take is to look for breeders who have health tested and temperament tested their breeding stock, but these dogs always cost as much as purebreds.

If you have fallen in love with hybrid dogs or you are looking for an eye-catching dog without costing a fortune, then you could often find many hybrid dogs at the shelter homes for a lesser cost.  They could be as unique as the expensive designer dogs with cute names advertised in the newspaper.

While adopting the best is, what you generally see is what you get, as the chances for guesswork are practically eliminated.

Just remember that they are dogs and as such, they also have needs and are not meant to be used as fashion accessories nor attention seekers because of their unusual looks.

A Wide Variety of Choices

Since there are so many breeds it is possible to create a wide variety of mixed-breed dogs.  As long as the two purebred dogs which have been chosen for mating are compatible, the designer dog of your dreams is a straightforward process.

If we were asked to make a list of the variety of crossbreed dogs then the list would go on.  There would be no end to the choice available.  This is mainly because for centuries humans have been striving to make that perfect man’s best friend as his ultimate pet.  By trying for such a long time ultimately, we have landed with a wide range of mixed-breed dogs.

Some of the most popular crossbreeds in the world whose combined genetics just includes two breeds of dogs are :

  1. Labradoodle – Labrador Retriever crossed with a Poodle
  2. Cockapoo –  Cocker Spaniel crossed with a Poodle
  3. Puggle – Pug crossed with a Beagle
  4. Chorkies – Chihuahua crossed with a Yorkshire Terrier
  5. Muggins – Miniature Pinscher crossed with a Pug

Some less known yet popular cross breeds are :

  1. Aussiepom – Mix of a Mini Australian Shepherd with a Pomeranian
  2. Labsky – Labrador crossed with a Husky
  3. Bullmatian – Bulldog crossed with a Dalmatian
  4. Cheagle – Chihuahua crossed with a Beagle
  5. Goberian – Golden Retriever crossed with a Husky

Thus, you can see that there a wide variety of crossbreeds available and it is just impossible to list all of them here. From sighthounds to cattle dogs to companions the abundance of dog types is astonishing! 

Mixed Breeds Have Balanced Characteristics if Matched Correctly

 The benefits of crossbreed dogs are that you can end up having a pet that is better suited for a specific environment.  The primary reason for inbreeding dogs was to strengthen their characteristics and traits.  This is done so that they become functional pets in the field of hunting, working, showmanship, etc.

Hybrid dogs have a more balanced behavioral response.  This is because their genetic pool has been broadened during the cross-breeding process.  This means that if you have another pet, a cat, or another dog, in the house then your crossbred dog will get along with them better than any purebred dog would.

Source: Google

Breed standards hold the highest importance for purebreds and unfortunately, breeders were so infatuated with obtaining perfection rather than a healthy dog. Various attempts at getting that perfect purebred dog revealed weaker dogs that could not handle most environments.  This was one of the reasons why the need for crossbred or minimal pure breeding dogs arose.

Cockapoo (a crossbreed between Cocker Spaniel and Poodle)

Mixed Breed Dogs are Budget Friendly

Purebred dogs usually cost thousands of rupees, while crossbreeds are available at reasonable prices.  Most of the designer dogs are found at animal shelters, rescue homes where the adoption fee includes the neutering charges which could save you more money.

As cross-breeds are healthier and more resistant than purebred dogs, you need to spend much on their vet bills and medication, except of course when they fall sick.  They rarely need maintenance check-ups because mixed breeds most likely do not develop genetic diseases.

However, you should always ensure that a genetic test is done.  This is just to uncover the breeds that make the dog.  The breed information which we obtain by running the dog’s DNA test will help us in our decision especially whether he could manage in extreme climatic conditions.  This understanding of our dog’s response to weather will help us to treat it better and to protect it from diseases.

Mixed breed dogs are also cheaper to insure than purebreds.  On checking with popular insurance companies it shows that insurance for a purebred Labrador would cost about 20% more than a mixed breed of the Labrador of the same age.  The reason why mixed breed dogs avail fewer insurance expenses is because of their susceptibility to hereditary conditions than their purebred partners.

Science Says Mixed Breeds Will Live Longer

Author Agnes Sligh Turnbull says “The lives of dogs are too short. Sadly and really their only fault.” These words ring so true with any dog owner.  The biggest heartbreak which comes with saying goodbye to a beloved pet in the family is one which all of us would like to put off as long as possible.

A study conducted by Purdue University, North America in 1997 of more than 23,000 dogs says that the medium age of death was lower for purebred dogs when compared to mixed breed dogs. This study has coincided with the studies conducted in Denmark as well. 

Source: Google

While there are exceptions, mixed breed dogs live an average of 14 years while purebreds live an average of 10 years. Some mixed breeds, like the Dachshund, Yorkshire Terrier, Siberian husky, etc, whose twilight years see them regularly hitting 14 years and beyond!

Health of Mixed Breed Dogs

Mixed breed dogs are considered to be healthier than purebred dogs because they have a broader gene pool.  In other words, producing a mixed breed is the opposite of inbreeding. But no assumptions can be made that a mixed breed will be the healthiest dog you have ever had. If the parents are healthy then it will make a lot of difference.

If you can determine the breeds that have gone into your mixed breed’s heritage, then it is worth researching the health issues which are common for those breeds.  Like all dogs, mixed breeds are also prone to certain conditions and diseases.

Some of the common health issues faced by mixed breed dogs are :

  • Hip Dysplasia – This disease is an inherited disease in which the thighbone does not fit properly into the hip joint.  Some of the dogs show lameness on one or both the rear legs. Either way, as the dog ages it can develop arthritis. 

Dogs who already have hip dysplasia should not be bred.  So if you are buying a hybrid puppy then ask the breeder for his health record proving that the parents have been tested for hip dysplasia.

  1. Allergies – are a common problem in dogs.  They could have allergies from food, contact, and inhalant allergies.  Food allergies could be treated by eliminating certain foods in their diet.  Contact allergies are caused by reactions from bedding, flea powder, shampoos, etc. Inhalant allergies come through airborne allergens like pollen, dust, and mildew.

       Treatment will vary according to the cause and may include restrictions in diet, medications and changes in environment.

  • Cancer – This disease can develop in dogs as well as humans.  There are different types of cancer and can be treated both surgically or medically depending on each case.
  • Ear infections – This is most common in dogs who have long ears.  You can prevent many ear infections by keeping the ears of your dog clean and dry.  Also, ask your vet about appropriate ear care products.
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Pros and Cons of Cross Breeds

Source: Google

While we cannot predict exactly how the genetics between two breeds of dogs will combine, yet there are a number of positive points to cross-breeding :

  1. Unique Look – If you are trying to find a dog that looks different from every other dog, then cross-breeding is the only way that you can obtain such a dog.  Even within the same litter, you will find each pup looking different from each other.  A startling fact isn’t it!
  2. Great Pets – Some of them feel that being a crossbreed will not make him a good pet.  Well, that is not true.  If they are given proper socialization and training from the right age, it will bring out the best in any dog’s behavior and temperament.
  3. Variety of choices – There are so many purebred dogs available that it is possible to create a wide variety of crossbreeds.  As long as the two dogs chosen for cross breeding are compatible then it would be a straightforward process for getting the dog of your dreams.
  4. Fewer hereditary issues – Purebred dogs face a common problem of genetic issues being passed on to them from generation to generation.  By choosing a crossbreed, you can lower the risk of hereditary issues especially if only one of the parents has this problem.
  5. Extended Lifespan – Most crossbreeds have a more resistant immune system when compared to purebreds.  They have a lower risk of heart diseases, cancer, etc which helps them to live longer.  This is because of the hybrid vigor they have received from their descendants.  Purebreds sometimes face deteriorating health especially of two closely related breeds were mated.
  6. Have Superior Characteristics – In cross-breeding, the physical appearance can be modified and different qualities can be combined up to a certain extent to make the puppies strong, efficient, and good looking.  The temperament of the crossbreeds is better than the purebreds as their genetic memory is diluted because of the process of cross-breeding.
  7. Best Combination – You can always have the best combinations of two purebreds you like. For example, if you like the look of a Cocker Spaniel but prefer the friendly Labrador then you can cross the two.  If you are lucky enough such a crossbreed may sometimes have the better of both the parent traits.
  8. Economical – Most purebreds cost so much of thousands because it is difficult to maintain their purity and are rare to find.  Whereas cross breeds are less expensive and low on maintenance.  They are readily available in shelter or rescue homes.  Crossbreeds are more healthier and resilient and so low on medical expenses.
  9. A new future purebred – Many people forget that purebreds which we have today also originated from crossing different breeds in the past.  This was done to achieve certain specific physical and behavioral characteristics.

This means that the cross-breeding we see today could potentially become the future purebreds. This would be possible as long as the breeders make wise choices and keep to a consistent plan of action.  For instance, the Cockapoos were originally bred for their hypoallergenic coats.  Yet today they are a popular household pet because of their commendable traits.

Like every dog crossbreeds also have their negative points some of which are listed below :

  1. Adult size – Size will be a major issue for all potential owners especially those who live in small houses.  If the parents of a smaller size, then the crossbreed can also probably be of a small size. But in some cases, for example, if the parents are a Terrier and Doberman, it would be extremely difficult to predict the size of their crossbreed.
  2. Unpredictable Temperament – Purebreds have been developed for certain purposes and so their temperament matches according to their purpose.  Hence, it would be very difficult to predict the exact nature of the crossbreed
  3. Genetic unguaranteed – Crossbreeds are very healthy, have a long life span, and fill the life of the owners with lots of love and joy.  Some of the crossbreeds end up being more cuter than their parents.  But there is no guarantee that the end result will always be the same.  The crossbreeds we see today have been developed over time with a lot of patience just to get that perfect bred dog.
  4. A strong chance for hereditary problems – Many hereditary issues like hip dysplasia, eye diseases, epilepsy, etc across multiple breeds.  This means that the crossbreeds also stand a chance of facing such health issues especially if the parents are carriers of one or more of these genetic diseases.
  5. High-Risk Deliveries – Breeding dogs of different sizes can sometimes lead to difficulties in deliveries.  This would be more if the male dog is much huger than the female. It could also be if he is from a breed that is large-headed.  During delivery, the bitch may have difficulty in pushing the puppies and hence may require a C-section.
  6. Sometimes more expensive – We always expect to pay less for crossbreeds.  But that is not the case always!  With the growing popularity of designer dogs, slowly they are becoming expensive than purebreds.  Breeders charge more with the tag of it being a “designer dog”

They somehow manage to paint a picture of these dogs to be more superior than purebreds. This is why they are charged such a hefty price tag.  Also, crossbreeds are more expensive to maintain when compared to purebreds.

Find That Responsible Breeder of Cross Breed Dogs

If you are lucky, you will easily find a breeder of hybrid dogs who has put enough care into their puppies which they deserve.  He should have carried out all the necessary health tests also.

The reason why it is difficult to find that perfect breeder is the stigma against cross-breeding.  A breeder mixes two pure breeds to produce puppies that are desired by the public. He is then viewed by the rest of the dog breeder community, in a similar light as a mass murderer!

Purebred dog breeders, mostly have already made their name breeding pedigree puppies and there is a vast majority opposing cross-breeding.  Experienced and knowledgeable breeders are scared of destroying their reputation by gaining the label of designer dog breeders.

Hence it is always important before you adopt a mixed breed dog that you buy it from a reputed breeder. Check all his documents are proper.

Source: Google

Conclusion

Hybrid dogs are unique and they have intriguing names.  They come in a vast array of shapes, colors, and sizes.  But hybrid dogs are not purebred and not any particular breed.  They don’t even have a breed standard to adhere to.

They have the stake of being bred with little interest in their health and temperament.  Hybrids are like wild cards genetically and their non-shedding qualities cannot be predicted.

So would you choose a crossbreed dog over a purebred? Well, the answer to this really depends on you.  Crossbreeds can be as loving and friendly as any purebred.  Everything depends on whether or not we agree to the principles behind the practice of cross-breeding.

Before you decide on going for a hybrid dog it is important that you weigh up the pros and cons.  Take a thorough look at the breed of dogs that have gone into the crossing.  This would be helpful for you to determine once for all which type of dog is right for you.

So the final take-home message is to use caution.  Ensure your breeder has made all the necessary health testing. Because whatever their claim could be, we all know that no hybrid vigor can magically wipe out all health problems! No matter which dog you prefer, take a DNA test to determine the best pet which would suit your lifestyle. Dogs treated unethically is one of the most saddening things that concerns every pet owner.