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Pet Purchase

Designer Dogs (Part 2)

Val Cairney October 16, 2020 244

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Hello and welcome to this episode of Val Talk’s Pets.  This episode is part 2 of my delving into the world of crossbreeding and designer dogs.  In part one I went over how the designer dog breed world began and discussed some of the concerning issues with regards to crossbreeding and designer dogs.  My intent with both of these episodes is to create awareness and education.   

When it comes to designer dogs there is so many misunderstandings and a lot of misinformation.  There are also a lot of disreputable people getting very rich. The expansion of puppy mills and the entire system of puppy milling has been given success on a silver platter because of the trend for designer dogs and crossbreeds.  I personally do not understand why there is hype and excitement when yet another crossbreed is being advertised.  I left off Part 1 with this exact example, where people are giddy over their new Pomsky.  This is the Siberian Husky Pomeranian cross.  Now believe me, they are cute, but when it comes to their breeding, it is not so cute.  I did some pretty good checking and I didn’t find any information on Pomskeys that didn’t say that natural breeding was “dangerous”.  So they artificially inseminate the female husky.  So, doesn’t this sound rather unethical and kind of disgusting, if the natural breeding would be dangerous?  What I want to know is, who in their right mind thought this would be a good pairing?  To me it does really sound Frankenstein-ish.  Who thought, let’s take a husky, average height 20 – 23 inches, weight, 35 – 60 pounds depending on gender and breed it with a Pomeranian, average height, 7 – 12 inches, weight, 3 – 7 pounds. Seriously?  This is not right.  Why would you mess with these two breeds like this?  And you can thank Queen Victoria for starting the trend towards even smaller Pomeranians.  She had a particularly small Pom and this started the trend towards smaller Pomeranians. Pomeranians were not always as small as they are now and a story was related on where internet sensation “Bertram” not his original name, was a larger Pomeranian, and for this reason the so called breeder, dumped him off at a shelter at the age of five months,  for being too big and not worthy of getting the big bucks the smaller Poms can get. Thank heaven for a New York artist named Kathy Grayson who saw this guy on Pet Finder and went to the Tulsa, Arizona shelter where he was dumped, to adopt him. He is now an internet star and looks just like Paddington Bear in his red hat and duffle coat.   And as I said, you know how they create these smaller than normal dogs don’t you? They breed runts to runts to get the smallness of the dog, but as we know, runts often have medical and neurological issues, but that is not considered when someone is thinking of the dollar value to sell small dogs.  The Pomsky is not recommended to be owned by inexperienced owners as they can be yappy, require strong socialization, can be stubborn and require a lot of coat care.  But, guess who buys these dogs?  The people who often buy these dogs are those that go on line and look up puppies and without any thought to the background of these dogs, order one like it’s a purse or a pair of pants.  The puppy millers have gone rampant with this runt to runt breeding to fill this fad for smaller dogs.  This is where you often find the abhorrent puppies mills with tiny underfed dogs being bred.   

This idea of designing dogs smaller and smaller has created almost a status symbol in some places.  People come in saying their dog is a teacup something or other and they seem to be rather proud of this.   According to Terribly Terrier, the dog site with bite, Teacup dogs are “smaller than any officially recognized dog breed, generally weighing four pounds or less at maturity.” “And, like all products, their market is shaped by current trends and fads.”  As I said, they often get these smaller versions by breeding runts to runts, but as Terribly Terrier points out, “This could include breeding dogs that are closely related, or even deliberately stunting a puppy’s growth through starvation or other revolting methods.” Teacups have common heath issues that include hypoglycemia, heart defects, collapsing trachea, seizures, respiratory problems, digestive problems and blindness.  Have you ever seen a tiny dog with its tongue sticking out?  I usually see this in Chihuahuas or Shih Tzu’s.  This is called Hanging Tongue Syndrome and is a medical defect.  According to, this syndrome can indicate an issue with the dog’s neurological system.  If the dog does not retract its tongue this can lead to some serious issues.  So, it isn’t cute, that a tiny dogs sticks its tongue out all the time.  It’s an indicator that possibly in the effort to get this smaller than normal dog, neurological compromise has been made and this is a real indicator of a puppy mill pup.   So the bottom line on Teacups is that these are man-made dogs.  They do not exist as a natural part of the dog world.  According to Madeline Bernstein in her book Designer Dogs, an expose, Inside the Criminal Underworld of Crossbreeding, “teacup is not a charming designation; dogs given this label have an assortment of birth anomalies and defects wrapped in a teensy fur coat.  “Many are bred in awful, unregulated puppy mills in South Korea and elsewhere, and suffer horribly at the hands of those competing to make each tinier than the last.  Teacup mothers often die in childbirth, as the process is too strenuous for such an infirm dog with so many medical issues.  For breeders, the price of the offspring more than compensates for that loss.”  So although there are many teacup owners that will tell you they know exactly where the dog was bred, the fact remains that the lineage is tied to the aberration of the breeding of smaller and smaller dogs and the way it was done and the legacy of that, is in the existing teacup dog.   

The trafficking and milling of dogs really rose with the fad of designer dogs, the ability to ship dogs internationally and the internet.  But don’t think that puppy milling is a new thing driven specifically by designer dogs.  After WWII farmers were the primary puppy millers, originally creating the farm puppies and in most cases the dogs were in deplorable conditions.  Farmers wanted to cash in on the extra cash that was available due to the boom after the war.  The selling of dogs in pet stores took off and again, a market was open, making way for unscrupulous people to jump into the fray breeding indiscriminately for money.  Wally Conron opened his Pandora’s Box with the Labrador poodle cross and calling it a Labradoodle.  Voila!  The designer dog fad began and even more unscrupulous people see a market to make money.  The demand is huge and the system has expanded.  Brokers who market pups for millers will source dogs from anywhere in the world.  Dogs are routinely shipped in large groups into international airports often in deplorable condition to be picked up by the broker who then begins the process of marketing out the pups through pet stores, the internet and lies.  In June 2020 a plane packed with hundreds of dogs landed at Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Canada.  The plane originated from Ukraine completing a 10 hour flight.  Inside the plane were 500 crated puppies, many dehydrated, weak and vomiting.  38 were dead in their crates.  Of course this sparked a huge investigation but to what end?  These dogs were being transported no doubt from puppy mills in Ukraine to brokers in Toronto.  The dogs were French Bulldogs who are brachycephalic or snub-nosed, hence the severe breathing issues the pups were experiencing.  This gruesome incident finally shed some light on the trafficking of dogs and many animal welfare organizations are now finally being heard.  This was no secret to those involved with animal welfare, but it was a fairly unknown practice among the general public.  

So going back to my podcast on how to avoid the pitfalls and scams when searching for a pup or dog, I outlined the red flags. These red flags that I outlined are vital to not only avoid being ripped off, but becoming aware so that the word gets out loud and clear, that puppy milling, indiscriminate backyard breeding, selling in pet stores, brokering of puppy mill dogs through the internet, and much more, is not acceptable.   

But, here is the biggest problem.  There is a market, a big market!  And it is getting filled by any means that it can.  There are new dog owners that fall prey to the fad, the misinformation, the ignorance of the whole underground nefarious workings, thinking that buying a teacup is okay, or that a yorkie poo is an actual breed, all because they just don’t know the truth.  These people become a cog in this unscrupulous wheel without even knowing.  Then there are the owners who don’t care that their dog was a product of some disgusting and unethical breeding, they just know that their dog is cute, fits in their purse or has a special eye colour.  As Madeline Bernstein points out, “The flotsam and jetsam of this industry is everywhere.  There are broken dogs and shattered hearts wherever there’s a puppy mill.  Two purebreds are required to make one crossbreed, increasing the number of misused animals.  Go ahead, we’ll make more.”   Well said Madeline!  Remember as I said in that previous podcast, Cesar Milan once pointed out in one of his shows, that when you buy a dog from a pet store, you are not saving a life, you are opening the door for another puppy mill dog to fill the space.  

So what can we do?  Well this is where I am calling on all animal advocates, responsible pet owners, experienced pet owners, lovers of pets, to talk, talk and talk some more.  We have to get the information out that cutsey names is only disguising the fact they the dog is a cross or mixed breed.  There is no shame in that.  As I’ve said before in other episodes, embrace the cross breed!  The next thing is to make sure that the acquisition of the dog was done through reputable, ethical means.  If someone says they are contacting a quote unquote breeder for a jackapoo, we need to jump in right then and there and start asking the hard questions.  Maybe this person can be educated and redirected to adopting a shelter dog or dog from a proper rescue organization. It’s possible they just didn’t know, that there is no such thing as a jackapoo, or that ordering one on line is the biggest red flag that a puppy mill broker is more than likely involved.   

As for the other type of pet owner that just doesn’t care, well those people are part and parcel of the exploitation of animals.  So, we need to dry up the supply.  As Madeline Bernstein states, “As the word gets out about the pain and suffering that is caused by puppy mills, tormenting and exploiting animals for no good reason, people will stop wanting puppy mill dogs and the abuse will stop as the abusers search for a new get-rich-quick scheme.  We can fix this.”  And I truly wish that we can.  Again, I implore my fellow animal lovers, to get the word out, educate people, mentor new pet owners.  We can lobby our local town or city councils to make it illegal to sell dogs in a pet store.  We can make ourselves heard to the decision makers that a plane filled with 500 dogs is exploitation at its highest degree.  As Madeline says, we can fix this, and I truly hope we can, by stanching the flow of designer dogs and crossbreeds through enlightening and education, because as I say, know is caring!   

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Val Cairney

Hi everyone, and welcome to Val Talk’s Pets, the forum for pet parents and enthusiasts alike. So, I have been working in the pet industry now for almost 10 years and, on a daily basis, I handle a lot of issues and questions arising from pet parents. I am not a veterinarian but I do have certifications in Canine, Feline, Small Animal, Fish and Herptile and Avian Health and Nutrition from the University of California, Davis Extension, the Vet College.

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