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Decrypting the New “Designer Doggies”

This year’s must-have accessory isn’t a handbag or piece of jewelry:  it’s a “designer dog.” 

Traditionally known as mutts, mixed-breed dogs have been around for as long as dogs have existed.  However, some hybrids are now intentionally being produced, marketed and sold at very high prices, often with titles ending in “oodle” or “poo.”

Some of the most popular mixes include the Cockapoo (a cross between a Cocker spaniel and a poodle),  the Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever/Poodle);  the Schnoodle (Schnauzer/poodle);  the Puggle (Pug /beagle) and the Yorkiepoo (Yorkshire terrier/poodle).

With literally thousands of combinations available in the canine genetic smorgasbord, “inventing” new combinations may seem amusing.  However, the new mixes have become so popular that there are actually clubs and registries for breeders, such as the American Canine Hybrid Club.   Strange as they may sound, the following are actually “registered” breeds:

Broodle  — Brussels Griffon/Poodle

Chiweenie — Chihuahua/Dachshund 

Malchi — Maltese/Chihuahua

Scoodle — Scottish Terrier/Poodle

Wauzer – West Highland Terrier/ Mini-Schnauzer

Jarkie –Japanese Chin/Yorkshire Terrier 

Caveat emptor

The popularity of these designer breeds has caused prices to sky-rocket. Despite claims from cross-breeders that their dogs have superior intelligence or fewer health problems than purebred dogs, it’s really “buyer beware.”

Lisa Peterson, director of club communications at the American Kennel Club, warns:  ”Some of these breeders will tell you that with a mix you’re getting the best of both worlds; however, that’s not true.  When you buy a purebred dog from a reputable breeder, you’re paying for the predictability of the breed, including coat color, size, temperament, and training ability amongst other factors.”

Another dog lover named Lisa R. from Long Island, New York fell into the trap.  After researching breeds — both purebred and mixed —  for months, she decided on an Australian Labradoodle.  She paid $2,500 for what the breeder claimed would be “a perfect specimen” of the breed:  a 32-pound curly-coated beauty.   ”He’s grown into an 85-pound odd-looking fellow with straggly fur,” says Lisa. “but he’s as sweet as can be.”

Although the environment plays a large part in determining a pet’s personality, when it comes to hybrids, the best way to determine temperament is to look up all breeds in the cross.  Many of the designer hybrids are not products of purebred to purebred, but in fact are multi-generation cross.  Your pet can inherit any combination of any of the characteristics found in any of the breeds in his lineage.

The bottom line for buyers is simple:  do your homework.  Look for breeds that will fit your lifestyle –  whether it’s a purebred, a designer mix, or that all-American mutt waiting for a new home at the local animal shelter.