I have loads of really caring clients who seek to become the best animal parents they can. Unfortunately, too many have recently gone the way of the Internet breeder when sourcing their canine soulmate of the next ten to fifteen years.

"Dr. Khuly, can you please recommend a good Puggle breeder?"

What am I supposed to say when faced with that kind of question? Oh sure, I have a great one for you who’s been managing these pug-beagle crosses expertly for a dozen years!

There’s something ever so schmaltzy about a "breeder" looking for ways to meet the demand for high-priced mutts with the two or three breeds in his or her genetic arsenal. In fact, one of my least favorite clients has three tiny breeds she crosses regularly to achieve an alphabet soup of hybrid pups she ships across the U.S. willy-nilly. I pity the fools who buy her pups thinking her expertise in breeding amounts to any more than the two years she’s now got under her belt in the fascinating field of canine eugenics.

The schmalziness is typically confirmed by at least one major defect or deformity in the puppy, in spite of its "mutt" status. Isn’t it better to get a mix of two breeds, doctor? I mean, they’re supposed to be so much healthier than 100 percent purebreds, right?

Yeah, hybrid vigor and all that. If only they weren't coming straight from the puppy mills.

Today’s "Pocket Puggle" was no exception. Hip disease. Coccidia. And from the best Puggle breeder in Kansas, no less! (Check out Puggle.org to see where this well-intentioned client was getting some of her "responsible" information.)

But that’s not the point of this post. What really gets me wondering is what drives people to want these increasingly popular genetic cocktails. While I can certainly understand the desire to own a dog of a particular breed, I get confused when it comes to owning a blend of two. Even if I knew I could buy a "well bred" version of these through a reputable breeder, I don’t quite get the attraction. 

Is it the expectation of decreased health concerns in mixed breeds? The knowledge that a pug with a longer nose is inherently healthier, for example? Or is it plain and simple, the desire to own a designer dog?

I’m hoping it’s the former reasons. That would make some sense to me. I like an orderly world where human motivations are clearly intelligible. And I like thinking that people are actively looking for ways to source healthier family members—a strong genetic start means a lot, it’s true.

But I can’t help thinking that most of my "mix du jour" owners would have been better served picking out a pound pup than spending $1,500 based on an Internet site’s remarkable use of self-aggrandizing language. After all, they’re still just mutts, right?

Image: torasaurus / via Flickr