Are We Accessorizing Dogs?

“Designer.” The adjective suggests an article of clothing. A handbag, a pair of shoes.

A few years ago I was crossing the street behind a forty-something, fashionista in a white faux fur coat carrying an oversized Prada handbag, when a man walking his 60-pound mutt crossed by her.  Out of nowhere came a harsh, virulent bark of a pint-sized yapper.
There was a tiny white-furred Pekapoo (cross between a Pekinese and a toy poodle) inside the woman’s handbag. The dog’s white fur matched her coat.
Claire Danes and her Schnoodle

While it may be cute that the Pekapoo fits her haute couture, let’s examine it from all sides. The Pekapoo is a “designer dog,” bred between two purebred dogs to be sold for its small size, it’s demeanor, its hypoallergenic-ness and its intelligence.

In the last decade especially, the mixing of breeds to create “designer dogs” has led to the cross-breeding of species to get a dog that doesn’t shed, has extra affection, a curly coat, and even a dog that does not bark.
There are Labradoodles (labrador and poodle) Chorkies (chihuahua and Yorkshire terrier), Puggles (beagle and pug), and Boggles (Boston Terrier and beagle).
The AKC recognizes and lists 178 dogbreeds around the world. Do we really need to take those breeds and cross breed them to see what we get?  Does it provide a sense of creativity, like making a painting or cooking a meal, to design our dogs genetically? Would we approve if an alien species did that with

Rihanna and her Maltipoo


My big issue with the “designer dog” is not that they are bred, but that they are bred for nothing purposeful, created primarily to satisfy a trend. Allan Reznik, editor-in-chief of Dog Fancy and Dog World in Irvine, California told National Geographic that designer dogs are “indicative of a society that loves labels.”
And because they are trendy (often times celebrity owners can popularize a breed) the sudden demand for the breeds leads to unscrupulous breeders, i.e. puppy mills, that ramp up production when the dogs are popular and abandon them when that popularity wanes.
The manipulating of genes to create new species goes on in many industries–cattle, poultry, rodents, often in association with maximizing food output or doing medical research. I believe there is justification for some genetic engineering of canines–perhaps for seeing-eye dogs or bomb-sniffing dogs. 
But when it becomes a leisure activity, when it becomes precious, when it becomes self-indulgence, then it breeds unethical business.
With a million dogs being killed each year according to the ASPCA, why do we want to encourage breeding new cross breeds just because Claire Danes loves her Schnoodle (a miniature Schnauzer and poodle)?
Dogs are not accessories, even if they do look good in a handbag.
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