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Out with the old and in with the new: Designer Breeds Thrive Whilst Native Breeds Fall in Number

Image of a rough collie, one of the breeds at risk, as highlighted by The Kennel Club (Credit: Tia Hill)

The role of the dog as man’s best friend has somewhat shifted to that of fashion trend, as dog breeds thrive in the name of practicality, and once popular working breeds fall in number.

This year, Sky News reported fears that designer dog breeds are on the rise in the UK after an increase in the number of dogs since the pandemic. According to the Pet Manufacturing Association, the demand for puppies in 2020 rose by 104% compared to the previous year.

In February, GQ wrote an article on a fashion show featuring small pooches wearing jumpers. Earlier this month, Yorkshire Evening Post reported a list of the most vulnerable dog breeds. Whilst these events may seem unrelated, closer inspection shows a drive for aesthetic and characteristic ideals which is promoting some dog breeds, and leaving others out of the picture.

Designer Dogs: A Social Ideal

A designer dog, according to Time magazine, is “bred with a purpose – to optimise the best qualities of each parent.” Often, these kinds of dogs are created to meet the notion of being “family-friendly and hypoallergenic”, but they are also associated with notions of exclusivity and aesthetic value when we consider that the term “designer” arose from celebrities’ interest in these dogs.

With the addition of apps that are influencer dominated e.g., Instagram, Facebook, and more, the aesthetic and characteristic appeal of dogs such as Cockapoos, Labradoodles and Pomskies can be prevalent within the cultural sphere. According to The Kennel Club, the reason some dog breeds are in danger of extinction is because “people do not know they exist, or they are not considered fashionable.”

Dog Breeds: The New Accessory

The GQ fashion show is but one of the latest examples of how smaller dogs that can be handheld or handbag held are promoted in society. By showcasing small dogs as accessories to the human, we encourage the notion of the dog becoming accommodating to the human rather than just being a dog.

According to Westgarth, who is part of the Department of Vet Science at Liverpool, “it is because the dog is small, it’s allowed in our bed, allowed in our laps”. In other words, they are viewed as more practical than larger dogs. This perhaps accounts for why certain breeds are listed as endangered; the vast majority on The Yorkshire Evening Post’s list were originally bred to be high-energy working dogs, and therefore, do not mould directly into today’s aesthetic and practical ideal.

Raising Awareness: Keeping Breeds Alive

Video appeal of Tia Hill and Philip Elliot, from Ayr, talking about their rough collie who is one of the breeds highlighted as low in number by the Kennel Club (credit: Tia Hill).

Although the breeds listed do not perfectly fit in with the current social imperatives, this does not mean that they cannot be equally loving members of the family, as rough collie Lomond shows.

In order to keep breeds like the rough collie and the ones listed by the Yorkshire Evening Post in existence, we must be open to other dog breeds when we are getting a furry friend. We must also be like Tia Hill and Phillip Elliot and publicly celebrate the dogs that are low in number.


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