Q: With the holidays I’m looking for a puppy for my kids. I’m considering a hybrid since I’ve heard they’re healthier. Where can I find a good one?
A: Kudos for thinking about your options well over a month in advance. Since you’ll probably have this dog for more than 10 years, it’s worth spending a month or more on the decision to be sure you make a considered decision.
However, your question raises a couple of issues I’d like to address:
▪ If this puppy is “for your kids” and they happen to be under 21, you may want to consider that while this gift may make your children very happy, this pet will be the responsibility of the adults in the household. If you expect your kids to feed, water, train and take the pup to the vet, you might want to rethink your decision. I’ve rarely seen it work out that way.
▪ On hybrids: “Hybrid dogs” are effectively fancy mutts. They’re a mix of two distinct, well-established breeds of dogs selected with the notion that two breeds are better than one.
But for all the talk of “hybrid vigor,” hybrids are only as healthy as their immediate ancestors and the conditions they’re bred and raised in. Biologically speaking, there’s no inherent health enhancement to be gained from breeding two different-looking members of the same species.
Consider the adorable Puggle and the popular Labradoodle, for instance. Two great breeds that make better offspring? It totally makes sense –– in theory anyway. After all, a Poodle coat makes a Labrador retriever more allergy friendly and a Pug makes a Beagle more entertaining.
But what happens when the negative features of two chosen breeds collide unfavorably? Skin issues, bad hips, breathing problems and obesity are just some of the problems we’ve seen with these mixes.
The bottom line with any planned breeding remains:
a) If the “look” of the dog is what matters to the breeders and the buyers then health will inevitably suffer.
b) Buying a dog means finding someone who cares more about a dog’s health and temperament than about their appearance. And since all breeders claim to do both, it’s hard to tell a good one from a bad one.
c) Buying a dog means not saving a dog.
Perhaps this holiday you should find a reputable rescue group and select a pup or adult together, as a family gift. Ask your vet for a recommendation.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice at Sunset Animal Clinic in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.