OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — More people have been buying so-called designer dogs over the last several years.
Many of them are bought from commercial breeders supplied by puppy mills and backyard breeders.
Unfortunately, this is nothing new, but the demand for these designer dogs has caused an increase in these disreputable breeding practices.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 10,000 puppy mills operating in the U.S.
Even though designer dogs are very popular, they still end up at shelters.
“We've had Aussiedoodles, we've had Bernedoodles, Goldendoodles, Labradoodles. And none of them look the same,” Sarah Rapisarda, behavior manager at Harbor Humane Society, said.
The highly coveted Goldendoodle is just one example of this designer dog craze.
“The idea behind its origin was to create the perfect service dog to create the affability and sweet temperament of a golden retriever, but with the coat of a poodle, which is less allergenic only because it doesn't fall out in the environment. No coat is truly hypoallergenic,” Jen Gavin, dog trainer and owner of ‘A Pleasant Dog’, said.
Designer dogs are bred with the intent of getting the best qualities of each purebred parent.
“At their core, they're a mixed breed. Again, it's a mixed bag, you never know what you're going to get,” Rapisarda said.
Recently, 35 doodles were rescued from a puppy mill in Alabama and transported to West Michigan.
The parents were used to breed litter after litter, the puppies selling for thousands of dollars, but none of the money was used for the adult's care.
Behavior specialists say while the goal may be for a certain look, temperament needs to be considered and health screenings are essential.
“We want to make sure that those breeding pairs that we're intentionally breeding for are healthy both behaviorally and structurally, we see a fair number of doodle dogs who suffer from almost an exponentially worse, either behavior problem or health problem than their parents,” Gavin said.
The rescued doodles are on their way to better lives and will likely get adopted quickly, but hundreds of thousands of mixed-breed dogs remain in shelters around the country.
“These are not dogs that are broken, because that is an old thought with shelter dogs. These are just dogs that, you know, had some unfortunate circumstances and maybe some of them do need a little bit more specialized care, but they need homes, just like all the others,” Rapisarda said.
Unless a DNA test is performed, mixed breeds typically have unknown parentage but are no less deserving of a forever home.
“I think it's so much easier to see past their breed and look at the actual individual dog and that in turn makes the human and the dog more successful,” Rapisarda said.
You can find what you’re looking for at the shelter whether that’s a purebred, crossbreed, or mixed, all while saving a life in the process.
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