Book Review: Designer Dogs: An Exposé

By Susan Tasaki, January 2019

Design, the process of determining a subject’s look and function, is sometimes elegant, sometimes pedestrian. Occasionally, it’s ethically dubious.

According to a new book by Madeline Bernstein, Designer Dogs: An Exposé, the current fascination with crossbred dogs designed to satisfy the whims of the marketplace falls into the latter category. Bernstein is well-suited to write this book; as president of spcaLA, she well knows the price companion animals pay when people make bad decisions.

She defines designer dogs as one of two types: name brand (purebred) and custom-designed (dogs of different breeds mated to achieve specific results). She discusses the differences between legitimate and illegitimate breeders, and the consequences of their respective business models. She also points out deficiencies in the way agencies charged with overseeing animal welfare do their job.

The profitable market for made-to-order dogs has led to increasingly riskier practices, with predictable results, few of which are good for the dogs involved. Her presentation of the issues is clear, concise and at times, heartbreaking. The reader will come away from this book better informed, and with a burning desire to see the end of the “Frankendog” movement.

Susan Tasaki is a The Bark contributing editor.