Thursday, 7 May 2015

Crossing the rubicon - and no going back

There's a fabulously snobby piece in this week's DogWorld in which Dachshund exhibitor Lee Connor decries a designer-dog breeder for mating a Bichon x Shih Tzu with a Miniature Poodle and dubbing the resulting mix a "Daisy" dog. He writes:
"Yes, the very first litter of 'Kennel Certificate registered Daisy puppies' have been born in the UK. You can take your pick from a range of colours; from the run-of-the-mill blacks and chocolates to the rather more fitting creams and champagnes. 
"The advert, which has certainly caused a lot of interest and comment on social media, states that the Daisy puppies are from a “carefully planned breeding… to produce the highly sort [sic] after hypoallergenic designer toy breed, ‘The Daisy’ (ideal for allergy sufferers)”. 
"The mother it goes on to say is an “F1 hybrid Bichon x Imperial Shih Tzu” (note, in the style of the famous Marks & Spencer adverts, this is not your usual Shih Tzu… this is an Imperial Shih Tzu) and the father is a “KC-registered show-quality Chocolate Miniature Poodle”.

"The advert then assures us that “only the very best bloodlines have gone into this breeding to produce the very best quality… an outstanding litter of non-moulting adorable Daisies”. 
"And, dear reader, you too can buy into this hypoallergenic dream of a dog for a mere £900." 
Now,  granted, the chances of this being a quality breeder are less than the chances of seeing a ridgeless Ridgeback in a show-ring. There's no mention of health-testing and the "Kennel Certificate registered" claim is undoubtedly a scam designed to sound like "Kennel Club registered". I also agree with Connor that their coats are going to be high-maintenance.  And, yes, there's the concern that "Imperial" might mean a tea-cup Shih Tzu as it's a term used by breeders pitching at the teeny-weeny-cute market.

(Been thinking of a coffee mug meme for this... "No tea-cups here... [pic of weeny dog] runts are for ....." What do you reckon?)

So all in all, I'd be hard pushed to make any claims for this particular litter. But wouldn't it be nice if Connor + co expressed the same righteous indignation about shitty breeders of Pugs or French Bulldogs or one of the other purebred dogs du jour?

Plus if you're gonna do a three-way cross (something that's often advocated in livestock breeding as there is evidence that it results in the most hybrid vigour), in principle you could do a lot worse than with these three breeds.

It is true that all three can suffer from hereditary cataracts (although may not be the same mutation) and slipping patellas, so you'd need to take that in to account when choosing your stock (and yes, we have no evidence that the breeder in this case has done this). But all three are long lived (13-14 on average) and have moderate conformation.  This is a pic of a Shih Tzu x Bichon - an attractive little dog. Throw Miniature Poodle into the mix and the result should be a really smart, athletic cookie. Kept clipped, pas de problème!

© Sue Thatcher
But this is ignored by Connor in favour of raising a red-herring question mark over this mix's ability to give birth naturally. 
'I would like to see the figures for caesareans among these so-called designer breeds especially among the ‘toy/miniature’ ones like the miniature labradoodle featured on the Jonathon Ross show the other week. Surely if you breed a six pound bitch out of a ten pound mother by a four pound father you are setting yourself up for far more whelping difficulties than the uniformity, that took many years to stabilise now found in our recognised pedigree toy and miniature breeds. Of course the numbers of pedigrees needing such interventions will and quite rightly so be available but is there anyone out there collating figures for dogs such as the Daisy?"
Well no. Although we can get an idea by looking at the C-section rates for the individuals concerned (source) in this three-way cross and their average weights.

Bichon Frisee - 5.6% (3-6kg)
Shih-Tzu - 21.1%  (4-7.2kg)
Minature Poodle - 5.3% (7-8kg)

I think there's a pretty good chance that this mating would result in a natural birth. And certainly a better chance than in Lee Connor's own breed, the Standard Smooth Dachshund, which has a C-section rate of 31%.

The Standard Smooth also has a whopping  risk of back disease (IVDD - invertebral disc disease).  One in four will suffer from this condition which is at best painful at at worst paralysing. (Source)

That's a higher risk for that single health problem than for all the major health problems put together for any of the breeds in the Daisy 3-way cross.

Finally, Connor also gets aerated about the fact that some designer dogs come with a pedigree! 
I mean, how could they when they're mongrels? 

He writes:
I wondered how one would possibly go about creating a ‘pedigree’ for what is essentially a mongrel litter. Surely, by their very nature, the background of most of these dogs would be at best sketchy.
Well no, not always. There have always been selectively-bred crossbreeds with extensive pedigrees (think lurchers and other working dogs). And an increasing number of "designer dogs" are now being bred with care and with their ancestry well-documented.  But of course, in Connor's Fancy-fuzzled head, there is no good to be found in any crossbreeding.  People who breed them know nothing, are nothing, produce good-for-nothings and are only ever in it for the money.

Ah, and it's all the fault of PDE, despite the designer dog trend being enormous in the US where PDE made little impact.

I am depressed by another anti-crossbreed report in Dog World this week, too, concerning the proposal to be voted on at the KC's upcoming AGM re a working party to discuss crossbreed registrations. (Read it here.) There are mixed messages coming out of the KC on this one, no doubt reflecting that on the one hand it sees sense more inclusivity as the way forward while having to cope with the purists who hate crossbreeds and mongrels - so much so that some would rather the KC wound back and the block and didn't recognise them at all, not even on the activities/companion register.

Dinosaur judge Jean Lanning believes that the KC acknowledgement of crossbreeds "is inadvertently encouraging the trend and the public perception of the endorsement this brings. Also, a breeder of these crossbreeds is able to be a member of the KC Assured Breeder Scheme.”

Shock horror! And so very revealing. If you loved dogs... if you truly loved dogs and your professed concern was that the poor crossbreeds were being so badly bred... wouldn't you want them to be produced under the auspices of an initiative that encourages better husbandry/welfare?

Apparently not. 

Also troubling Lanning (and indeed many others) is the KC's registration of imported dogs, some of unrecognised colours ‘such as blue Bulldogs and French Bulldogs’, which she says indicates that another breed had been introduced.

Yeah, because colour is sooo a bigger issue than the fact that one in four of even the "best-bred" French Bulldogs suffer from Brachycephalic Obstructed Airway Syndrome or that both breeds struggle to give birth naturally.

As you may have noticed, I  loathe the unthinking putting-down of crossbreeds when we've all seen the damage that breeding for purity can do - and the constant fretting about the ingress of foreign blood when an injection of new genes in genetically-depeleted breeds could be of real benefit.  And, boy, the fancy is just so clueless in this respect. Who do they think they are convincing now that the public is so much more aware of the health issues in pedigree dogs? Seriously, you're never going to convince the buyers by trashing the opposition when you need to put your own house in order.

There's also the small matter that it smells like racism.

So while Connor and his ilk tut-tut in their ever-decreasing circles, the public is buying crossbreeds with silly names in their thousands because they think they're fashionable and fun.

Now, some of these breeders are awful. Really, really awful.

But I have to be honest and say that until someone outlaws the crap, fast-buck breeder, I'd much rather they were putting a Shih-Tzu x Bichon to a Poodle than mating together two Pugs or two Cavaliers or two Standard Smooth Dachshunds.

There's less of a chance of producing a short-lived dog that suffers.


  1. Never having met one, can't really comment on the merits or otherwise of this cross, but personally I'd leave out the bichon and shih-tzu! Where I seriously take issue with this breeder is the way he advertises them as "ideal for allergy sufferers". That sort of claim was made for another popular poodle cross, labradoodles, with distressing results for at least one allergy sufferer who ended up in intensive care when his pup reached 7 months (before which age no pup sheds) and gave him a violent asthma attack. I gather they are now at least 75% poodle to improve the chances of inheriting its non-moulting coat. With a pure breed of course, allergy sufferers can spend time with their pup's parents before buying, and if their allergy is not triggered be assured the offspring will still be likewise hypoallergenic when reaching maturity.

  2. The Bichon, the Shih Tzu and the Poodle are commonly advertised as 'ideal for allergy sufferers'.

    Why would you take issue with this advertising for a cross of these three breeds, without taking issue with those that sell the purebred breeds this way as well?

    1. I'd take issue with any breeder who won't allow potential pup-buyers to spend time with at least one parent before buying - especially buyers with allergies. Some allergies any dog can set off, and if you can't test their claims BEFORE purchase, my advice to the buyer is walk away, whatever the excuse. That's what you get with a pure-bred, the assurance that if you're OK with the parent you'll be OK with the offspring when mature. I've said it before and I'll say it again, caveat emptor!

    2. There is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog or dog breed; it's all marketing BS.

      The dog proteins that humans are allergic to are produced in glands inside the mouth of dogs. These proteins get on the skin when the dog licks itself. These proteins get into the air when dead skin sloughs off the dog. Individual dogs will produce more or less of these proteins. Individual dogs will lick themselves more or less than others. Individual dogs will produce more or less dead skin flakes than others.

      Based upon this people will find that some dogs produced more or less allergic reactions than other dogs. Since licking behaviors, skin health, and protein production can be under genetic control; the level of allergic reactions produced can run in family lines.

    3. Can f 1 levels in hair and homes of different dog breeds: Lack of evidence to describe any dog breed as hypoallergenic
      J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2012, Volume 130, Issue 4, Pages 904–909

      conclusion section from article:

      So-called hypoallergenic dogs had higher Can f 1 levels in hair and coat samples than did control breeds. These differences did not lead to higher levels of environmental exposure to dog allergens. There is no evidence for the classification of certain dog breeds as being “hypoallergenic.”

    4. Bob Grundy, finding out if you are allergic to a dog takes more than sometime with one of the parents. Someone could take a pup home and could have an allergic reaction a couple days after the pups has been in the home, as allergen from the pup builds up into a level that effects the owner or a member of their family.
      I would take issue with a breeder that uses the term 'caveat emptor !" as a get out clause. A pup is a living breathing sentient being, not a piece of real estate.

    5. Non shedding crossbred dogs are much less likely to cause allergies than dogs of the same breeds combinations - 14 % of all poodle crosses, in a survey of owners, cause allergies to family or non family members whereas only 4% of non shedding poodle crosses cause allergies in the same question. Poodles and non shedding poodle X dogs ARE hypoallergenic. Hypo means low - not zero

    6. Anon 21:01 I wasn't aware of cumulative effect, but anyone so allergic, if wise, will insist on a sale contract that provides for no-quibble full refund if pup returned within say 6 weeks - which many breeders do anyway.

    7. The lower rates of allergic responses from crosses relative to purebred could simply be related to better skin health (producing less dander in the environment) due to less inbreeding. It is certainly not due to poodles having less of the proteins that cause human allergies.

      Did you know that the WHO International Standard for Dog (Canis familiaris) Hair Dander Extract (used to standardize all allergy tests) comes from "an equal mixture by weight of dander from Alsatian and Poodle breeds"

  3. I disagree that everyone who does not want to see the Kennel Club invest a lot of resources in registering mutts hold this opinion because they hate mongrels. As a breeder of a dog breed, for the purposes of breed preservation and not conformation showing, and of several rare livestock breeds, I feel any kennel club should be there to support the preservation of dog breeds, and it should no more be there for mongrels than the RBST should be there for cross-bred battery chickens. I have no problem with mongrels, mutts, lurchers, purpose-bred working dogs, etc. and their aficionados are welcome to start their own registries and clubs. I have even considered in future buying or even breeding a purpose-bred working mutt to participate in a sport with, and if I ever do I do it will be none of the KC's business. I do object to breeding mix-breed dogs for the sake of a silly name and bogus claims, as novelties/commodities, mainly because the association does actually make it difficult for people wanting to do an outcross to another breed in a breed that might benefit from it to be taken seriously.

    Calling people 'dinosaurs' as an insult and comparing breeding practices to racism weakens your argument. They are simply ad hominem attacks. Dinosaurs were one of the most successful groups of animals ever to evolve on the planet, and just about any animal breeding practice could be compared to discrimination were it applied to people; if a law was passed saying that no person will be allowed to reproduce with a person of their own race, and must instead breed with a person of a different race to increase heterosis in the human species, this would still be racism.

    1. Yes but dinasours became extinct because they couldn't adapt to their environment. Get it?

      And your argument about racism.....bonkers,

      Breeds were created purely for their predictability. Stereotyping. A healthy mental tool when understood for the reasons why it is useful and natural for humans to do this. The problem is, stereotyping to the degree where it becomes black and white thinking, pardon the pun. Right or wrong, Meme mentality. I would love to hear what Richard Dawkins thinks of the Pedigree Purity Brigade.

    2. "if a law was passed saying that no person will be allowed to reproduce with a person of their own race, and must instead breed with a person of a different race to increase heterosis in the human species, this would still be racism."

      Lol. So ad hominems are bad, but a straw man is fine?

    3. but the current law says (as Hitler so decreed) that no-one of the arian race should defile themselves by breeding with a Jew

    4. We already have laws on incest and monogamy in the human race for reasons of genetic diversity, and if the human race was to become depleted to an extent that to keep it viable, humans needed to breed outside what you refer to as 'race', then if the science backed it, it would not be racist.
      Before you reason that incest and monogamy are wrong on moral grounds, then why is it okay to practice it with other species of animals then ?

    5. A piece of writing that might have good and reasonable points but is full of insults is unprofessional and alienating. An article that is respectful and well-written, even if some of the arguments in it are flawed, is never offputting to that extent. Ever see the film Inception? The characters are trying to implant an idea in the mind of another person, and I can't remember exactly what they say, but the gist of it is an idea that comes about from a positive experience is much more likely to stick than one from a negative experience. It's just a film, but it's right, at least in my 'bonkers' experience.

      I used to enjoy Richard Dawkins a lot, but he apparently has now become a vegan fundamentalist and spends his time on that instead of biological sciences. Those who fight with monsters...

    6. Dawkins is a vegan fundamentalist?


    7. Oh I get it! You are implying that Richard Dawkins is an AR nut aren't you?? I know he loves dogs and is one of the most respected Biologists so I am thinking he may have a bit more clarity than your waffling bout Inception. Which is just a science fiction movie btw. Not real......

      You don't need to watch Inception to learn about Classical Conditioning, which is what you are describing. It's called associated learning. But you are getting that mixed up with taking offence. It is your choice to be offended, nobody else's. If you don't like what is being written, ask yourself why.....

    8. Then there's the small matter that Dawkins' wife shows Havanese... (or certainly has in the past...) ;-)

    9. Ooh interesting!

      Havanese are not in too bad a shape I think.

      I should really join twitter and interrogate the poor man. Not that he doesn't have enough crap doled at him already regarding people caught up in cultural memes that firmly belong in the past.

  4. I'd go as far as to say that articles written like this are doing more damage to the KC than PDE ever did !!!!

    1. Why? Please clarify your reasoning.
      I am eager to understand why a post that discusses the lack of scientific understanding and the refusal to acknowledge sound breeding practices and ethics by some people who breed and show dogs is damaging the KC!!

  5. I'd like to make a strenuous plea to PDE and others involved in these discussions, to cease the misappropriation of the term "designer" to describe crossbreeds. We should use it more accurately and appropriately - for pedigree dogs.

    Pedigree dogs are, after all, the ones with pages of precise design specifications. They have people who measure and assess their specs, and breed them to get closer and closer to these specs. There's none of that with mixed breed dogs. Their 'design' is far, far looser.

    So pedigree breeders' use of "designer" as a derogatory term for mixed breed dogs could hardly be a more extreme case of the pot calling the kettle black. Pedigree dogs are, by their very definition, the pinnacle of dog design. They are the ultimate designer dogs.

    1. Yes absolutely, they were created using assorted other breeds anyway. Within closed registers the tinkering and designing never stops. Pedigree dogs just become more and more bizzare the closer they get to the standard ideal, the winning types.

      They are the designer dogs de jour. Pedigree mutts. Some are lovely and quite healthy others not so lovely or healthy unfortuntely.

  6. The Oodle breed standard:
    A Shaggy dog – preferably about dingo sized but can be larger or smaller depending on the parent breeds.
    Nice dog, agile, normal dog’s exceptional sense of smell, soft mouth; often with a keen love of water. Adaptable, devoted companion.
    Happy friendly dog. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness.
    Dog Shaped – nose not too short, eye sockets not too shallow, head not too domed.
    Not too prominent or too recessed, tight fitting eye lids, normal architecture in the anterior chamber and retina, no evidence of hereditaty cataracts.
    Floppy – possibly a regrettable divergence from ideal dog shape but inevitable in crosses between dogs originally bred for retrieving. Spaniel crosses should be bred with care to avoid extreme ear length. Hairy ear canals is a fault which breeders should try to avoid as it predisposes to ear infection in floppy eared dogs.
    Enough room to fit all teeth, scissor bite
    Strong enough to hold up head.
    Dog shaped
    Chest not so deep as to predispose to gastric torsion. Ribs easily paplable, obvious underline tuck and waist evident from dorsal view - ie not fat. Legs long enough to preserve general dog shape
    Hocks not overly flexed or straight. Withers and rump approximately equidistant from the ground when standing squarely.
    Four – with 4 toes on each, dew claws on front and variably on hind legs
    Usually carried gaily or curled over back. But sometimes not.
    Able to run very fast.
    Can be curly wavy or straight. May grow constantly or may shed. Preferably not a marked double coat as this increases the likelihood of horrendous shedding. Can confidently predict dog will be hypoallergenic if curly and non shedding
    Wholly black, yellow or liver/chocolate, parti coloured or rarely merle and dilute– any colour acceptable as long as its origin can be explained.
    From 5 – 65 kg depending on breed combination
    Hairy ear canals, obesity, any other characteristic which interferes with normal healthy function.

    1. A breed standard for the pet dog. Humane and functional.

      Publish it!

    2. A breed standard for the "showing dog. Humane and functional.

      Publish it.

      Unfortunately Kate Shoeffel has been implicated in some very dubious puppy mill practises in Australia so it might need some revising by someone not quite so contentious.

      I mention this because I looked up the case and it appears to be true, plus she didn't defend the accusation on another thread by the poster who brought this to our attention.

      Not the same Kate Shoeffel? I would love to hear from you.

    3. Ah but then I don't like floppy eared dogs, ;) what is dog shaped.

      I think my breed is dog shaped, and has prick ears like all wild candis. Has a wild type double coat and colouring too.

      Medium size, and most of the traits you mention.

      I find any dog that adores water a pain. I don't like herding or spaniel type traits.

      See we all like something different and it is why so many different types and breeds of dogs have evolved.

      I want the predictability that a purebred brings.

      One mans meat is another mans poison.

    4. Oh bravo Barbara! You have just perfectly summed up the whole human problem by expressing what you do and don't like about the appearance of dogs! Are you serious!?

      Kate's breed standard is written from the highly evolved empathy that some people have developed about the domestic dogs existence. It isn't actually all about what suits us is it? And the floppy ears represents the current state of evolutionary biology with most breeds.

      Oh dear.

    5. How on earth do you know it is the same person without any more personal details or a refutation? You can only judge what is written, not the person on a blog post. And what is written here is very sensible.....
      Puppy farming is disgraceful and should be banned. But then breeding pedigree dogs with known deformities and health issues is also pretty scandalous and people continue to defend their practices to the nth degree.

    6. Well I suppose the fact that their avatar bears an uncanny in fact exact resemblance to their alter ego plus the name are the little clues?

      They are in fact a vet, which makes it all the more horrific in my opinion, but what's worse they continue as though it were but small hiccup in their distant career down under. Something only the silently grazing wollaroos might remember, not to mention all the sad desperate dogs involved.

      Unfortunately they were actually onto a good thing for the welfare of dogs bred for pets rather than for the showring, but all they've ended up doing instead is giving the breeders of inbred pedigree showing mutts some rather accurate and indefensible ammunition.

      Not that I would throw away a whole bunch of grapes for one sour number of course....mixed metaphor alert (: I would just bin it of course and see how it goes with the rest of the bunch from there.
      Unfortunately usually it's also a sign of the same to come, so proceeding with caution I suppose is a good bet.

  7. Ps I would love a Daisy dog. For me it also needs a dash of smooth coated JRT to get that coat under control. Im sick and tired of the heartbreaking cries and screams coming out of dog parlours as tiny dogs dangling by their necks get groomed to within an inch of their lives. I bet the dogs are too. It's pure abuse.

    1. Umm, what? I have worked in many groom shops and groom my own dogs and there should be no "heartbreaking screams" coming from any grooming facility. Nor is dog grooming abuse! You can have a dog with coat, even a coat that requires some degree of upkeep without being abuse. How do you groom a dog to within an inch of his life?

    2. Take one neglected Yorker an indifferent groomer in a hurry and you have abuse of the most astonishingingly regular kind.

      Getting all those knots and mats out of a useless coat is extremely time consuming and difficult and will cause pain even in the best of hands.

      I'm an advocate for breeding dogs whose coats are more or less problem free. Too many of these dogs end up in recue trapped in their own excrete and urine. People don't realise how high maintenance these coats are when they buy these dogs and the dogs suffer. As do some cat breeds. It's not fair.

    3. Agree River P!

      I remember my mother brushing my hair as a kid - I hated it. It really isn't fair to breed animals that REQUIRE coats to be groomed as part of their recognized breed standard. In fact, it's utterly ridiculous and flies in the face of nature, ethics and common sense.

      If you want to groom something, become a hairdresser for human beings. These somewhat ridiculous animals actually believe this sort of nonsense is important....

    4. I meant a "Yorkie". I was in Burma on an ipad, my excuse anyway.

      Ipad is frustratingly irritating. Not only is spelling assumed to be American it also assumes what you want to say is American and constantly corrects what you don't want corrected into American, typing one word three times over is not unusal until it grasps what you are trying to write.

      Maybe time for a Korean 6-G phone, if only it could automaticaly correct my eye sight too I would be on to a very good thing. I could dump my clam shell 0-G though I dont think I ever will as its quite handy for making those things called phone calls. I also love flipping it open and the fact it looks like a phone.

      A "Yorker" is a bowling term in cricket. A fast bowled ball that lands rather alarmingly straight at the feet of the batsman, something which would make me at any rate spook sideways in fright. That would be tickets.

      We get our dog feed from a grooming parlour. Unfortunately they hold the sole import license for the brand.
      I cannot stomack the place the dogs all leap at me like I've come to save them from torture and the screams for help in the back rooms are enough to put anyone off for life. I've also seen abuse with my own eyes in those glass fronted grooming parlours and gone in and complained many times.

      They hang the dog so high by the neck its front paws are off the ground then they attack them with a sharp abbrasive hooked brush or comb pulling the dogs off all fours as they yank at the wet coat, especialy the little dogs. They scream in pain and are literaly terrified out of their wits!

      Someone should tell that idiot Johnny Dep.

      I don't need any more proof. I can imagine what goes on behind closed doors as well.

      Its such common abuse no one sees it as abuse. I have honestly had to restrain myself a number of times from going in and giving the groomer a kick in the head.

      I've also seen it at dog shows. One standard poodle was so traumatised that when the judge lifted his arm to stroke it down the side it fell back in shock and fear. It was immiediately thrown out the ring and there I was thinking (fuming) the handler should've been not the dog.........I saw everything the grooming the lot.

      Pure abuse.

  8. The comments Lee Conor makes about whelping and c-sections demonstrates that he does not understand anatomy and birthing that well. Birthing problems are normally caused by exaggerations in breeds. Over big heads, flat faces, narrow pelvis and over big shoulders.
    A bitch can can actually be mated with a lot larger sire and give birth easily. As long as she is fertile and conceives a good size litter and the sire is not exaggerated in the head or shoulder, she should birth okay. A vet I know knew of a Jack Russell bitch who conceived a litter and the father was a Labrador. She gave birth to six healthy pups without any help.
    Other problems that cause c-sections are low fertility and being very fertile. If the bitch conceives only one or two pups the chances are high for a c-section what ever breed, due to the pup/pups being able to have lots more room to grow in and the same can be said, if the bitch conceives a very large litter stretching the unterus and causing uterine inertia.

  9. If I ran the circus, birth, deaths, and cause of death would be registered . . . as with the Finnish KC.

  10. IMO, the root cause of the sputtering is because dog show breeders defray some of the costs by selling surplus puppies to awed outsiders, who think that having a dog with "Champion" parents is a bragging point. Thus the public demand for Designer Dogs is not only a threat to their income, but it may lead to them having to pay for the care and upkeep of dogs "without show potential", since the market for pet quality show dogs has tanked.

    I've seen the same objections to breeding coated xolos and deer head chihuahuas. Both are lovely animals which are often healthier than their AKC-recognized cousins, but people steeped in dog show culture ask what the point is in breeding "useless" animals when "shelters are full of mutts who need homes".

    BTW, how come this site won't let me use my Google ID to post under? It's very puzzling.