What Is a Designer Dog Breed?

Cockapoo lying on a colorful rug
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Hybrid dogs, often called designer dogs, are the result of controlled cross-breeding between two purebred dogs. A hybrid can also refer to the genetic crossing of a dog and a wolf (usually called a wolf hybrid or a wolf-dog). But the term "designer dog" typically refers to the offspring of two purebred dogs of different breeds. It is believed that the "designer" term arose after many celebrities showed interest in hybrid dogs.

Hybrid dogs are technically mixed-breed dogs. However, unlike the average mixed-breed dog, or "mutt," a hybrid dog has purebred parents that, in most cases, were deliberately bred to one another to create the desired hybrid.

People have been breeding hybrids for hundreds of years, which in some cases has led to the development of new dog breeds that stand on their own today. However, the popularity and marketing of "designer dog breeds" began to increase in the latter part of the 20th century.

The reason for creating a hybrid dog is to develop a dog that has the positive attributes of two separate dog breeds. Among the most desired hybrids are hypoallergenic dogs that are family friendly. Common examples include the Labradoodle (a Labrador retriever crossed with a poodle) and the goldendoodle (a golden retriever crossed with a poodle).

Each variety of hybrid dog is typically called something that combines parts of its original breeds. The cockapoo is a cocker spaniel-poodle hybrid, the puggle is a pug-beagle hybrid, and so on. While purebred dogs are held to specific breed standards by organizations such as the American Kennel Club and the United Kennel Club, hybrid dogs are not quite as well-organized. However, there is a registry with the American Canine Hybrid Club.

When breeding two purebred dogs of different breeds, there is no guarantee that the offspring will come out the same each time. The size, coat type, color, temperament, health, and other attributes can vary much more than when breeding two dogs of the same breed. But hybrid dog groups still have put together guidelines of desirable traits for each hybrid, similar to the breed standards established by purebred dog clubs.

Moreover, not all hybrid dogs are 50% of each breed. Only first-generation hybrid dogs are 50/50. Then, some breeders will breed a 50/50 hybrid to a purebred that represents one of the hybrid's breeds, resulting in a 75/25 hybrid. Plus, hybrids are sometimes crossed with other hybrids, possibly resulting in a different combination of breed traits. In any combination, there is still no guarantee that the offspring will take on the desired attributes. For example, not all poodle hybrids will be low-shedding dogs.

Hybrid dogs from breeders are often as expensive as purebred dogs—if not more expensive. But you can find hybrid dogs typically at a lower cost up for adoption at animal shelters and rescue groups. Plus, a mixed-breed dog at an animal shelter might have the same desirable traits you're looking for in a hybrid dog. If you do decide that you want to get a hybrid dog from a breeder, be sure it is a reputable, experienced, responsible dog breeder who only breeds registered purebred dogs in excellent health without hereditary problems.