Nadia and Sawyer with their Puli Pippin


by Katherine Roll

Katherine is IPG-Certified in Non-Sporting Breeds and is working towards becoming a Certified Master Groomer. Additionally, she is a Certified Dog Trainer and a graduate of the Animal Behavior College located in Northridge, CA Katherine has two Lowchen, Sawyer and Nadia, plus a Puli, Pippin.

While working professionally with pets for over 20 years, I have seen many trends come and go. The latest one affecting dogs, owners and canine service personnel is the “Designer Dog” craze. There are many breeders cross breeding every possible mix that they can think of, (space required) putting attractive names on them, and then demanding and often receiving high prices. Admittedly, such pets can be really cute and very appealing to the consumer.

As a professional groomer, I encounter these dogs and their owners on a daily basis. I find that most owners do not get good coat maintenance information from the breeder of their newly acquired cross breed pet. However, when people choose to buy a purebred dog, there is considerable information on the internet with regard to coat and temperament. Details pertaining to mixed breed care are vague, due to the fact that care can vary, even amongst littermates. People therefore have to depend on their breeder for good information.

Unfortunately, many mixed as well as purebred dog breeders are primarily focused on cash, rather than the welfare of their dogs. Such individuals are inclined to tell people whatever they want to hear. It is sad for the owners and the dogs when these pets fail to live up to the breeders’ promises. Many Labradoodles, Goldendoodles, plus various other mixes, end up in shelters when they lose their puppy coat. At that point, it may be apparent they are not hypo-allergenic, as promised. Some may actually have a non-shedding coat. Few new owners are aware that a dog that does not shed naturally will require regular grooming. All too frequently, they are not prepared for increased coat maintenance fees. Sadly, many of these dogs don’t see a groomer until they are almost adults. By then, the coat is often a complete mess and has to be totally shaved down.

Owners typically inform me that their breeder has made all kinds of promises, while assuring them that this is the perfect dog for their needs. As a professional working with dogs, these claims often sound absolutely ridiculous to me. Here are a few:

  • Puggles (Pug + Beagle) don’t bark? I have yet to see a Pug or a Beagle that doesn’t bark, so how does crossing these two breeds create a barkless dog?
  • A prospective client presented her 4 month old Goldendoodle puppy for a grooming price quote. It was obvious that this was going to be a very large dog, so she was informed that the price would increase as the dog grew. The lady told me that her dog would not grow anymore. Indeed, the breeder had promised this puppy would never get larger than 30 pounds. The dog returned for grooming, but when its weight exceeded 70 pounds, the heartbroken owner was forced to give it up. Her condo had a weight limit clause that her pet had clearly exceeded…and it was still growing!
  • A pair of 2 year old Goldendoodles had grooming appointments at my facility. Upon arrival, the exasperated owner asked me at what age these dogs might begin to calm down, as they were presently destroying her home and garden. She had told their breeder that she wanted calm, easy going pets. I looked at her dogs, and then had to tell her that in my opinion her girls were purebred Border Collies and were not likely to become calm, quiet dogs anytime soon. She didn’t believe me and stated that the breeder was just wonderful and would not have lied to her.
        Here's Nadia!

        Sawyer trains with Katherine for freestyle disc

One of the reasons that these “Designer Dogs” have become so popular is that people believe that mixed breeds are healthier than purebred dogs. This belief can be supported when people look at the internet and can look up many of the popular purebred dogs and see what health problems may be exhibited. There is no such information on mixed breeds and therefore people often believe that the mixed breeds are inherently healthier. The fact that there are no databases to track the health issues of any given mix does not mean that such problems don’t exist.

There are health problems prevalent in certain breeds, however there are many more medical concerns that are not breed specific. One huge cause for concern that I see is in basic structure. Personally, I’ve witnessed just as many devastating hip dysplasia and other orthopaedic problems in mixed breeds as in purebreds. Most people don’t realize that when we show our purebred dogs, we are not just showing a pretty face, but we are trying to improve structural soundness in our dogs, as well. At a conformation event, the judge watches the dogs on the move, coming and going, as well as from the side. A good judge can see from the way a dog moves whether the structure is correct or not. Basic soundness can greatly affect the dog’s quality of life. It is sad to see young dogs that want to run and play, but their bodies won’t allow it.

One of my clients has a Shih-Poo that is absolutely obsessed with lively games involving tennis balls. Unfortunately, such fun times generally end with the owner trying to put this one year old dog’s kneecap back into place. By the age of four, severe arthritis may develop. Her hips are bad as well, and it is anticipated that her spine will give her trouble as she ages, due to the constant strain of repetitively using her strong front end to compensate for the weak back end. I see many, many similar cases. Careless breeding practices too often lead to compromised lives.

As a groomer and trainer, I do my best to educate people on the care of the dog that they have chosen for a pet, regardless of what breed or mix they have selected. I only wish that I could reach more people before they select a new family member. Most owners love their dog dearly and will continue to nurture it, even if the pet is not as advertised and anticipated. I will always do my best to help people take care of that dog.

Article: © Katherine Roll, 2011
Photos: © Rhonda Croxton, 2011