When it comes to last Sunday’s NYT coverage of “designer dogs” (labradoodle = labrador crossed with poodle, for example), I do indeed have a dog in that fight. My family shares a house with a well-loved, brilliant three-year-old poodle named Lizzie, after Elizabeth Bennet. A neighbor of ours, who shares a house with a relative of Lizzie, looks at the labradoodle in the neighborhood and says: “Dumbing down the breed.”
The debate reminds me of the allegedly dilutive effect of unauthorized sequels to popular novels and films. Does a world of labradoodles betray an externality that causes market failure and an underproduction (or underappreciation) of poodles? Will dog shows have less popular traction if “mongrel” breeds proliferate? I don’t see it; if anything, as my neighbor’s comment suggests, the proliferation of varieties of “thing” seems to enhance the value of the original. Why aren’t AKC breeders celebrating, not battling, designer dogs?