DESIGNER PUPPYS: Everything you wanted to know about raising designer or mixed breed dogs,
featuring The BOYZ: Prince Alvin His Cuteness (on left) and Sir Simon The Sad, Cockapoo pups.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

"Designer Dog" Are NOT Dirty Words

Okay - I surrender!

Based on my blog The "Designer Dog" Controversy, the blog comments, and the fact that my post on the subject was deleted from a pet forum (so much for freedom of speech!), I guess this topic is way too hot for one person to handle.

People clearly have very strong feelings on the topic and are convinced that designer dogs all come from puppy mills and totally displace real dogs needing to be rescued.

I don't have to defend my use of the term "designer dog." It's America and we all are entitled to express our opinions as guaranteed by the Constitution.

And I also CHOSE to use the word "puppys" versus "pupppies." It's spelled correctly in this blog!

Monday, June 29, 2009

The "Designer Dog" Controversy

Until a few days ago, I did NOT realize the phrase "designer dogs" was so controversial. In a few dog forums, I mentioned that Alvin was a Bichon Cockapoo born in Missouri and immediately the fur began to fly (pardon my attempt at humor). For some people, "designer dog" is associated with puppy mills and haphazard breeding practices.

Here's a sampling of the indignation generated by the words "designer dog:"

"Make a mongrel and stick a "designer" tag on it, and people will spend a big heap of money on one. " Ouch!

"I just hate people breeding "designer" dogs while others die due to lack of homes." It's not okay to breed dogs for certain desirable characteristics? Hasn't that been the practice for centuries?

"Designer puppies are what a great number of puppymills produce. Because of our temperate climate Missouri is a hot bed of them." Is this a fact - most puppymills produce hybrid dogs? Show me!

"I myself and me have a problem with this type of breeding because of the trail of horror it involves and I find it very hard not to speak out. Alvin is beautiful. There is no doubt about that. I will always have a problem with encouraging the practices that produced him." Then you must condemn all dog breeders!

I was being good in my forum posts and focused on the fact that at least Alvin the Designer Dog was lucky to have a good home.

Let's get practical - I was looking for certain traits and found them in this dog. How come people don't give natural parents such a hard time? They've decided to have their own kid in their own images and do not adopt a child despite the fact so many kids need to be adopted.

This "designer dog" controversy is pure and simple discrimination. But then aren't these forum posters entitled to their opinions?

Long Live Designer Dogs!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Vote for Alvin, the Cutest Dog on Yapstar!

Need Your Help!

I entered Alvin in a "cutest dog" contest on yapstar, but he needs votes and a lot of them.

See the link under this blog's heading picture or click here.

You can vote once per day. The first time you vote you'll need to verify the vote in your email. After that, you just place your vote.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Crate Training 101 - Lessons Learned

Prince Alvin During One of His Rare Moments of Rest
in His Crate

Your "dog whispering" friends are recommending crate training because of course it worked for them both during the day and over night.

You google "Puppy Crate Training, " read the articles, buy a crate, and are hopeful that this will be THE solution to your housetraining nightmares. Here's a link: Crate Training a Puppy or Adult Dog.

I agree that crate training will work for your puppy under these conditions:

  • you are disciplined,
  • the pup is healthy, and
  • you follow the crate training guidelines outlined online.

Prince Alvin the Bichon Cockapoo was NOT blessed with owners who stuck to crate training rules. We used a crate at night and when we were out for short time frames.

During the day, I stuck to the standard schedule -

pup goes outside

  • when he gets up,
  • after meals,
  • after a nap,
  • after playing,
  • before bedtime
Also, take away the water bowl after about 8 pm.

The rules are that you take the pup out every few hours at night (hours = dog's age in months plus one). Alvin's time interval should have been 3 - 4 hours. Except that Alvin had a urinary tract infection (the infection was being treated with antibiotics) and cried every two hours to be taken out. Over a two-week period, I probably logged about 3 hours of sleep every night and was showing definite signs of sleep deprivation.

When he started peeing in the crate repeatedly, it was time to change the method. Remember this is NOT supposed to happen because dogs do not like to soil where they sleep.

Here's what I learned from this experience:

1) Know the signs of a urinary tract infection.
Try this link Urinary Tract Infection in Dogs and see if it helps you determine if your dog has a UTI. Alvin was peeing every 1 - 2 hours and drinking a lot of water. A lab test at the vet's confirmed the UTI.

2) When the pup crate trains YOU, it's time to change the method.
By the time Alvin's UTI started to clear up, he was fed up with the crate and wanted out. He developed the every 2-hour whining routine. This leads to #3.

3) Stick to the guidelines.
If your dog is healthy and you just took him out, but he's whining, put the crate in another room on the other side of the house/apartment, and set an alarm for the next time he's supposed to be let out (hours = dog's age in months plus one). Alvin's other family members can't handle his whining, so this did not work for us.

Hope this helps eliminate problems with your puppy's crate training.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bringing Your New Pup Home - Housetraining Prep

Prince Alvin sez, "Yes, I will destroy these Poop Bags!"

Why bother to prepare yourself for housetraining BEFORE your new pup arrives home for the first time? Failure to think about how you will housetrain your pup = lots of accidents = much frustration and sleep deprivation.

Housetraining is clearly the most important type of dog training and sets the ground work for other training. It requires scheduling, persistence, patience, consistency, and time. Your pup may follow the breed housetraining trend (for example, pugs are notoriously difficult to train; so it figures that a pug mix may follow the trend) or not. Depends on the trainer - YOU!

I am not going to repeat housetraining procedures in this post, nor will I debate the best method to housetrain. There's plenty of this type of information on the web. Instead, I'm asking that you do some research, talk to your friends who have dogs, and answer the following questions about housetraining:

1) What method will you use?
Crate training, sticking to a strict schedule (outside after meals, after playing, after a nap, when the pup wakes up in the morning, and before he goes to sleep at night), or some other method you discovered?

We were new to dog training and Alvin cried in the crate way too much for our comfort level, so we decided to stick to a strict schedule. During the day he goes outside according to the schedule listed above.

At first, whenever I deviated from the schedule one little bit, there was an accident. Two months later, accidents happen much less frequently, but the Prince is still on a schedule. We need to know his whereabouts at all times. For example, today he was confined to the deck while we were weeding next to the deck. He started to bark at the gate, seemingly for no reason, and then disappeared. A few minutes later we discovered he left us a present on the deck. Our double bad – he let us know by barking at the gate (door), but we ignored him AND we broke our own rule by leaving him unattended.

2) How many puppy caregivers are there? Are all the caregivers in agreement about the housetraining method? Who’s responsible for what puppy housetraining activities?

You’ll experience fewer panic situations (where IS that pup?), blaming and arguing if all caregivers know what to do and when.

3) Have you bought the essential equipment needed for housetraining?

Refer to the following blog entries for the equipment you need:
Bringing Your New Pup Home - Are You Ready??
Bringing Your New Pup Home continued

Note that these lists do not include “pee pee pads” and diapers. Alvin shreds pee pee pads and dogs look real dumb in diapers. I'm sure they serve a purpose, but they're not for Alvin.

4) What location will the pup use for elimination??
I know this sounds like a relatively insignificant question, but remember the word consistency I mentioned above. Taking the pup to the same spot every time expedites the dog’s association with one outdoor spot as the place to eliminate. Watch – your pup will start leading YOU to his spot sooner than you think.

Similarly, once you get into the habit of exiting through the same door every time you go out, another association will develop for your pup. I always wonder how a New Yorker in a high rise teaches housetraining. That’s a lot of associations and a long time frame to wait for a young pup. Maybe that’s where the pee pee pads come into play.

We use the word “Outside” every time we open the door to let Alvin out on his lease and “Hurry Up” when we arrive at his spot outdoors. You have to be careful not to say “Hurry Up” indoors.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bringing Your New Pup Home continued

Besides the items mentioned in my previous post “Bringing Your New Pup Home – Are You Ready??,” what else do you need before your new pup arrives? You may read some of these items or activities and decide that you don’t really need to get or do them, but that’s up to you.

Dog bed
A dog bed is intended for a dog to sleep in overnight. That’s D O G, not P U P P Y. For a puppy, you set up a confined area with the dog bed in the area. Then you’re supposed to get up at approximately 3 hour intervals to let the puppy out. As the puppy gets older, the interval lengthens and the theory is that eventually the pup will sleep through the night.

Needless to say, Alvin disproved the theory and soiled the designated area well before the time limit was up. The other more-accepted method is using a crate (see below) during the night.

Crate and/or Carrier
Most experts recommend a crate for house-training and sleeping at night. Crates come in different sizes according to the puppy’s weight. Some dog lovers believe it’s cruel to crate a dog; but supposedly, if you crate-train properly, puppies accept the crate as a sort of den and will sleep in it on their own.

Initially, we decided Alvin would use the crate for the times we would leave him alone (if it was only for an hour or so) and during the night. Bottom line – he hated his crate and whined every two hours throughout the night.

And a tip you may want to consider – if you put padding in the crate because you want the pup to be comfortable, be prepared to wash it frequently. Alvin violated the crate law that dogs will not soil their sleeping areas when the padding was in the crate. When I removed the padding and he slept on the plastic bottom, the soiling lessened.

Carriers can be used for car trips. Alvin arrived from Missouri in a small dog carrier. Car trips with Alvin in the carrier are pure torture for both of us. His I-want-to-get-out-of-here bark is ear-splitting!

Grooming Equipment
This includes puppy shampoo, a comb, brush, and if the dog is long-haired and you plan to groom the dog yourself, consider buying clippers, scissors, and an electric shaver. Lots of luck grooming a pup yourself. I have no idea how groomers keep a dog still while they clip fur/hair and nails.

Lead and Ground Spike, Electric Fence
If you have a yard, but no fenced-in area, a long lead and a ground spike will give the dog some running room. Alvin’s main activity when on the lead is to chomp on the plastic covering the lead. To satisfy his need for exercise, we built him a makeshift 24 X 16 fenced-in area using 2-foot high trellises, wood posts and plastic ties.

Consider an electric fence; pups need to weigh a minimum amount, so read the instructions carefully before buying one.

Deodorizer, Rug or Other Surface Cleaner, and Paper Towels
When the pup eliminates on an indoor surface, experts recommend deodorizing the area to neutralize the odor. Pet stores sell a product created for this purpose. Face it, an untrained pup will soil in the house, no matter how conscientious you are about housetraining. Sop up urine or pick up poop with a paper towel, apply the deodorizer to neutralize, and use the cleaner as the last step. Fail to follow this process results in the pup using the same spot again and again. You need to do it right the first time.

Schedule a vet appointment
First, find a vet through friends’ referrals and schedule an appointment when you know the date of the pup’s arrival. It’s important to take your pup to the vet as soon as possible after you bring the animal home. An independent checkup is sometimes specified in a breeder contract and you need to know if the pup has any conditions that require attention.

Bring the breeder information about vaccinations, microchips, etc. with you to the vet.

Read about Alvin’s initial vet visit in this post: More on Designer Puppy Breeders.

Training Information (Internet notes, DVD(s), books)
Read about housetraining, socialization, and general dog raising, especially if it’s your first dog or you haven’t had a pup in the last few years. Catering to the needs of dogs and puppies is big business and you’ll be amazed at the amount of information available on the Internet, DVDs, and books.

The DVD "It's Pawsible" leads you through 5 weeks of training for the basic commands. If you have the time to train a few minutes a day, you'll be amazed at the results. More on training in future posts. I mention this DVD because it's structured and consistent in the approach to each command as well as using untrained dogs for demo purposes.

Anti-chew spray
A pup WILL chew everything if allowed to do so. The first line of defense is to remove everything the pup can chew from the floor (for example, area rugs, shoes, electrical cords). If furniture becomes a target, you can spray the area with an anti-chew spray purchased at the pet store.

Among other things, Alvin chews his dog tags (microchip identifier and rabies tag) to the point where he started to remove the rabies info. I tried the spray and also a little hot sauce, but Alvin persists in obliterating the tag data.

Dental cleaning bones, edible bones, and plastic chewing bones satisfy the pup’s teething needs. Remove bones when the pup starts eating plastic pieces. Although these pieces are supposedly not a problem, a persistent chewer (you guessed it – Prince Alvin) will break off pieces and swallow them. I always wonder if he’ll choke and how pieces of plastic get through his small digestive system.

A bell for the door
Dogs can be trained to hit a bell hanging from the outside door knob each time they need to go outdoors to relieve themselves. Alvin rang the bell a few times during his first two weeks in the house. Now, he ignores the bell and locates the first outside door he can find when he needs to go out. Without a bell sounding, we have to be vigilant about his whereabouts.

Hope these pup preparation tips are helpful!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bringing Your New Pup Home - Are You Ready??

You've done all the research, found the perfect designer puppy, purebred, or mutt of unknown origin, (maybe) paid for the dog, and agreed to bring the pup home in the next few days. Maybe you're a pro at this or maybe it's your first dog.

On the eve of Prince Alvin's arrival at his palace, Ro, one of my dog lover friends, tried to warn us with this prediction, "Your life will never be the same!". And she was so so right!

Are you really ready for your new pup? Preparation for a new puppy is similar to that for a new human baby. You better have everything you need, or you'll be running out in the middle of the night to get the item you forgot.

Here's the list of stuff I compiled after an Internet search as well as some stuff I forgot and had to buy later. Also, some activities you need to consider (or not).

Puppy Food
Ask the breeder/former owner what the pup has been eating and at what times. Then, get the same food and use it when the dog arrives in your home. A natural type food with no additives is the best food because some pups will develop allergies from the standard brands.

If you need to switch over to a natural food, do it gradually. The first week use 1/4 new food and 3/4 old food. As long as the pup's stools are still firm, the second week use 1/2 new food and 1/2 old food. And so on until you have switched over completely to the new brand. It sounds tedious, but it works. We switched Alvin's food over to a natural duck and oatmeal formula. He's gaining weight (5 to 10 pounds in 2 months) but not getting overweight.

If you decide to go the gourmet route and cook the pup every meal, lots of luck. Even Prince Alvin does not get his meals cooked.

Treats come in many different forms; some are full of sugar and/or other not-so-good-for-a puppy ingredients. I try to stick with natural puppy treats because the Prince can't tolerate some natural dog treats. I use the treats for training but sometimes I can get away with using his everyday kibbles to train. Depends on his hunger level.

You'll need to separate the puppy from certain areas of your living space for obvious reasons. Alvin is still not allowed in the living or dining room. These rooms are separated with homemade wood gates. We had to make them because the openings were bigger than the biggest gate we could buy. If you need to buy gates, try a store specializing in baby furniture. A gate is an item you need to see and try before you bring it home, so visit a store instead of buying online. Or borrow one from a friend who has a kid (or dog) who no longer needs a gate.

Remove Rugs in Areas Not Gated Off
Before Alvin arrived, we put new area rugs in the bedroom. We rolled them up and stored them. They'll re-appear when His Cuteness remembers not to mess in the house - that will be sometime this winter (if I had to guess).

The web sites I visited recommended getting three toys for a new puppy. We went to the local pet store and got a bone for chewing, a tug of war toy, and a treat toy (you put a pre-formed treat into the toy and the dog has to work to remove it).

Alvin's visitors (friends just have to see the new puppy!) brought more toys. Now he has a toybox and I let him pick out a few to use every day. His favorite toys seem to be the ones that he discovers, like the empty soda bottle he rolls around on the kitchen floor.

Here's Alvin with one of his squeaker toys (and he does love the squeak):

Leash and Collar
Buy the right size for a puppy and try a heavy-duty leash. Right now, Alvin has a special order collar with our phone number on it in case he gets lost. His leash is the same color as his collar and is a thick, short leash. I tried a body harness for training, but he tried to chew it so I took it back to the pet store.

Poop Bags
Yeah, you gotta have them and you best use them unless you like upsetting the neighboors or stepping in dog poo yourself. You can buy the ones that fit into a dispensing unit you can attach to a leash or just use small plastic bags - the ones from the grocery store or the ones from the newspaper.

More pup prep items to come in the next post . . .

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Transporting a Pup by Plane - There are No Positives

Once Alvin the Bichon Cockapoo was officially purchased, he needed a ride from Missouri to CT. I considered driving halfway across the country to pick him up and then decided against it. In retrospect, I should have made the trip.

If I did the driving, I would have seen the kennel conditions and asked a lot more questions about the puppies' health.

If I drove the pup back home, I would have spared the dog the trauma of being closed up in the cargo bay of a commercial plane (with the luggage) for 7 hours. Yes, there was food and drink provided, but the breeder put it in the carrier at about 6:00 am. The plane arrived at Bradley at 3:00 pm. The food was gone and the water looked very murky. Alvin required coaxing to get him out of the carrier. The Labradoodle who made the trip with Alvin (in a B I G carrier) smelled awful.

After this experience, I do not understood how anyone would transport a pet on a plane. Hey, buy the animal a plane seat. At least maybe the flight personnel might make sure he/she has clean water. I realize that walking the dog is out of the question and barking might disturb the other passengers, but it's much kinder than letting the animal commune with the luggage at very high or low temperatures for what must seem like an endless trip.

Lesson learned the hard way. Hey, I'm making up for this mistake every day. We treat him like royalty and call him Prince Alvin or His Cuteness.

Here's a recent picture of the Prince romping in his playpen:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

More on Designer Puppy Breeders

Designer Puppy Breeders seem to be a breed of their own. Some produce purebred pups as well as designer pups. My guess is that although the demand for certain types of designer pups may be high, breeders cannot command a high price because the pups are mixed breeds.

Hear this - I'm not trying to make excuses for the breeder who delivered Alvin. The purchase went well and the pup arrived at the airport as promised, but after I reported that Alvin was showing signs of itching and scratching, all communications stopped.

For the price I paid, my expectation was the pup would arrive perfectly healthy. In the contract, the breeder promised initial distemper vaccinations and de-worming and also a (weak) guarantee if the pup had certain issues.

After the initial vet visit where the itching and scratching were duly noted (and attributed to ear mites and/or skin mites), the stool sample revealed a parasite called giardia, a common and hard to eliminate intestinal "bug." So far, two and possibly three kennel-originated issues.

Within a few days after he arrived, I also realized that the 12-week old dog was peeing way too often for a pup his age. Off to the vet with a urine sample we went. Ever try to collect pee from a dog who's only a few inches off the ground? The result of this vet visit - a urinary tract infection. Another possible kennel-related issue.

And so the tale (or tail) labors on; 2 months plus and counting. Here's a quick inventory of treatments for Alvin's bugs that very likely originated from the breeder's kennel:

1) Three separate treatments of antibiotics for the UTI.

2) Two separate medications to eliminate the intestinal bug (and it still might be there).

3) Four teatments for ear mites.

4) Three or four shots for skin mites (these shots sting; Alvin cried for about a minute after his first shot).

No living being need suffer this much medical intervention so early in life. And most of it is preventable under the proper kennel conditions. And think about this: Try house training a pup who pees every half hour. You'll need cases of the pee neutralizer sold in pet stores and lots of paper towels.

Here's the bottom line: Be smart and check out the breeder/kennel thoroughly.

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Monday, June 15, 2009

Finding a Reputable Breeder for Your Designer Pup Purchase

A referral from a satisfied customer is perhaps the best starting point to find a reputable breeder. Ask your neighbors, friends, or co-workers where they found their designer dog, but only if they are happy with the breeder.

Another source of breeder referrals is the local pet store or vet’s office. Personnel from these locations will have positive referrals because it’s in their best interest to do so.

Locating a Pup
There are several online sites for finding dogs of all types, including rescued dogs (google “find a puppy” or “find a dog”). I located Alvin on This site lists all types of pups, features an excellent a PuppySearch engine and breed descriptor, and best of all, shows Buyer Tips in a separate tab. These tips include important questions to ask a breeder and ways to prevent getting ripped off when you’re buying online. Note that I have no knowledge of individual breeders on this site except for the one who sold Alvin.

Check Out the Breeder

Regardless of the source of breeder referral, it pays to check out the breeder in as many ways as possible. Yeah, the pup may be as cute as a teddy bear, but an emotional purchase may lead to disaster.

Is the breeder registered with the Better Business Bureau and are there any complaints?

Any breeder web site info should check out with the results of your interview with the breeder.

If the breeder is local, visit the kennel and note the conditions. If the breeder is halfway across the world, see if there’s a video of the pups interacting with other dogs and people of all ages. Kennel conditions should be highlighted in a video if the breeder is not afraid to reveal how he/she raises the pups.

If I purchase a pup online again, I’d visit the kennel if at all possible. There are two reasons for this: first, Alvin was traumatized by the plane ride from Missouri to Connecticut. A nine-hour trip in the cargo area of a plane is a formula for puppy nightmares. Second, the results of Alvin’s first vet visit were not good. Although his general health was okay, he arrived with an intestinal parasite, a urinary tract infection, ear mites, and possible skin mites. The origin of these bugs – most probably the kennel.

Admittedly, buying Alvin was an emotional purchase. I did check out the breeder, but not thoroughly. And I got lucky, Alvin is a delightful pup.

More on selecting a breeder and buying a pup in the next posting . . .

Saturday, June 13, 2009

First Steps to Finding a Designer Pup

What designer pup combo best fits your needs?

Designer pup or rescued mix breed?
The biggest difference is that you'll know the background of a designer dog purchased from a reputable breeder. You won't know anything about the background of a rescued dog (unless you know the dog's prior owners). "Mutt" is a four-letter word when you talk about designer dogs.

Got a family and small children?
A small dog may not be the best choice. Some of the smaller hybrid pups will not tolerate children and/or may be injured by a child.

Need to leave a dog home alone all day while you work?
A lot of dog people would ask "Why do you want a dog if you're going to leave him/her alone all day?" But realistically, this is the only way some dog lovers can have a dog. Get a breed that's easily trained so that your living space isn't trashed. And do take time off to train the pup!

Think you may be allergic to dog fur?
Find a designer combo that's likely to be hypoallergenic (for example, a Cockapoo or a Bichon mix). These dogs have hair, not fur.

Live in an apartment? Will the pup need to exercise?
Then get a small designer dog (not more than 10 - 20 pounds as an adult). Also, if the pup will need a lot of exercise, make sure you can find an area where the dog can run - every day. Alvin needs to run frantically in circles to release pent-up puppy energy, so we set up up a big playpen for him in the back yard.

Is maintenance an issue?
Some designer pups require little combing, brushing, and grooming but others require daily maintenance. Alvin (Bichon Cockapoo) needs to be brushed every day, else he resembles Raggedy Andy. Also, it appears he'll need grooming about every six weeks. I may learn how to groom him because it sure is expensive to use a groomer! Here's Alvin before and after grooming:

Can you handle the vet bills?
If a dog comes from a breeder, it's possible he may arrive with internal/external bugs. Make sure you're prepared for the standard vaccinations (Rabies, distemper) as well as monthly heartworm and flea/tick control. Also, some hybrid dogs, like their parents, are subject to health problems.

More about bugs later. Alvin arrived from the breeder with three types of bugs!

Defining a Designer or Hybrid Dog

What's a designer pup?

Here's the recipe for a designer or hybrid pup:

Take two purebred dogs - the most popular combos are Cocker Spaniel and Poodle (Cockapoo), Pug and Beagle (Puggle), and Labrador and Poodle (Labradoodle) - and breed them. The resulting litter has (hopefully) the best characteristics of both breeds, although that's not always the case. The web is full of variations on this recipe - just google "designer dog" or "hybrid dog."

You can see live examples of the three most popular types of designer dogs on YouTube: Designer Dogs on "Mornings with Kerri-Anne," an Aussie program.

A slight variation on the original recipe is a cross between a designer dog and a purebred. Case in point - Alvin the Bichon Cockapoo. Here's his picture at 8 weeks from Note the eyebrows - I wanted to call him Groucho, but that name didn't work for his co-owner.

Alvin is a handsome pup with prominent black eyes and the colors of his parents and grandparents – a white Bichon Frise mother, a Cockapoo father, and black Toy Poodle and buff American cocker grandparents. Also, he’s an easily trainable (house and otherwise) and friendly pup with a stubborn steak. I’m not sure about the stubbornness, but the other traits are inherited.

And oh yeah - he's hypoallergenic, a trait that's absolutely wonderful for people who are allergic to dog fur.

So, that's the definition of a designer dog. More on Alvin and how to find a designer pup in a future post.