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Introduction to Designer Dogs

Designer dogs first became popular in the 1990s. They are intentionally created mixed-breed dogs. The mix is not random, but the result of combining 2 known breeds. Often, the F1 generation is interbred for a few more cycles to stabilize traits. Designer dogs are not recognized by AKC as breeds (yet) but they are becoming very popular as a slightly less expensive alternative to a registered purebred.

Many people know the Labradoodle, which is a poodle/Labrador retriever cross. There are one of hundreds of other named pure-breed crosses. Some have obvious benefits, but others make us ask, "Why on Earth would you cross those?"

Designer dogs are a good way for students to explore simple and complex inheritance. Some fixed traits in the parental breeds are retained, while others are not. Many of the crosses have predictable outcomes, but a few definitely are not what you might expect.

Online Guides

There is a very good pictorial introduction to designer dogs at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dog_crossbreeds(external link)
An extended repository of designer pairs with photos is located at http://www.dogbreedinfo.com/hybriddogs.htm(external link)

Good Starting Crosses

These 12 designer crosses have interesting, easily scored inheritance patterns. Click on names to link to photos and descriptions (where available).

Name Parent 1 Parent 2 Trait(s) of Genetic Interest
Schnoodle(external link) Schauzer Poodle Curly coat. Wiry hair and furnishings almost absent, despite being dominant allele.
Gollie(external link) German shepherd Rough collie Long coat retained.
Labradoodle(external link) Labrador retriever Standard Poodle Coat is curly rather than flat.
Dobernauzer(external link) Doberman Schnauzer Wire coat and furnishings retained
Puggle(external link) Pug Beagle Coat color is fawn with melanistic muzzle; retained from pug parent.
Chowherd(external link) Chow-chow German shepherd Coat length retained from chow, but variable length.
American Bull Dane(external link) American bulldog Great Dane Tall; loses bulldog’s short stature and broad face.
Australian Boxherd(external link) Australian shepherd Boxer Body type of boxer, but dominant merle gene retained.
Basset Retriever(external link) Basset hound Golden retriever Coat color varies but the short legs are retained.
Blue Spaniel(external link) Australian cattle dog Cocker spaniel Long coat of spaniel but merle of cattle dog.
Chi-Chi(external link) Chihuahua Chinese Crested Axial body hair absent, but body like Chihuahua
Chiweenie(external link) Chihuahua Dachshund Elongated body and ears retained.
Silky Pug(external link) Silky terrier Pug Long hair is retained.
German Indian dog German shepherd Native Indian dog* Crosses are long-haired, unlike shepherds.
Siberian Indian dog Siberian husky Native Indian dog* Retains some of husky coloration.

*Indian dogs are an interesting example for students in their own right. They are not a formal breed but instead a "breed type." They are distinctive, but only because they have been in physical isolation, not because of a formal breeding program. They intermingle within a village so have a mix of traits suited to life outdoors. Compared to most dogs, village dogs have a much greater range of genetic variability. Village dogs are common in Africa, parts of Asia, the Holoarctic, and Central America. They are a good example for introducing students to concepts of gene flow in open versus closed populations (i.e., pure-bred dogs).

Famous Designer Dogs

These 5 designer dogs were created for specific jobs, and we have specific information about the breeder’s goals. Three of them have been elevated to formal breed status. One of these designer dogs is so famous he has his own web page!

Lurcher: a mix of a greyhound or other sight hound with a terrier or collie. These are traditional farm dogs in parts of Ireland and Britain. They are crossed intentionally to produce specific features, so vary greatly. Using a terrier as a parent creates a smaller dog that will hunt and kill vermin and smaller game. Using a collie produces a dog that is better suited to herding and guarding stock.

Photo of a lurcher standing in snow

Tamaskan dog, Sarloos wolfhound: two designer dogs that are now recognized as formal breeds. Both were created for the same purpose-the breeders wanted dogs that looked like wolves.

  • Sarloos were the result of crossing dogs to wolves then backbreeding. They are wolf-like in behavior, aloof, and hard to train and manage.
  • Tamaskans are polar opposites of the Sarloos. They were bred from German shepherds and established breeds, and are extremely family oriented and social. NCSU’s sports name is the Wolfpack, and they have a Tamaskan as their mascot. "Tuffy" even has his own web page Go to his web page.(external link)

Photo of two tamaskan dogs

Sulimov dogs: a Russian jackal-dog hybrid developed by Klim Sulimov for the Russian airline Aeroflot. Anton Sulimov spent nearly 40 years developing the breed specifically for their ability to smell small amounts of target materials. They originating from a cross of two Lapponian Herders and two Turkmen golden jackals. Pups were backcrossed to huskies to smooth their temperament, then further refined by additional crosses to fox terrier and spitz. Watch their story on YouTube.(external link)

Dogo Argentino: created in Argentina by Antonio Nores Martínez as a big game hunting dog. They hunt silently in packs, and will work together to pull down wild boar. Hunters are using them in areas like Hawaii and western Texas to reduce populations of wild boar that are destroying crops and local flora. Dogos are an interesting story because their originating breed, the Cordoba fighting dog, was extremely aggressive to other dogs. The breeder mixed them with Great Dane, Boxer, Spanish Mastiff, Old English Bulldog, Bull Terrier, Great Pyrenees, Pointer, Irish Wolfhound and Dogue de Bordeaux. He selected for stamina and fearless when hunting, but simultaneously the ability to work well with other dogs. The breed is extremely sociable with other dogs, and is very family-oriented.

Dogo argentino recentre.jpg
"Dogo argentino recentre" by Argentine_Dogo_(535032632).jpg: Ricardo Martins from Gent, Belgium derivative work: Monsieur Fou (talk) - This file was derived from: Argentine_Dogo_(535032632).jpg . Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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