Trend Alert!: Designer DogsPublished December 15, 2008
Custom cars, custom clothes, custom coffee -- it was only a matter of time before we started demanding custom canines. And even though the 150 AKC breeds -- not to mention the more than 700 breeds worldwide -- would seem customized enough, today's canine consumer is finding a new way to get what they want: custom canine crosses. Sporting catchy names like Poogles and Puggles and Schnoodles and Whoodles, these designer dogs are the all the craze with people willing to whip out their checkbook and write big numbers. Big money for a mutt? Not a mutt, exactly. A mix. A first generation cross between two pure breeds. That Poogle was the result of a Poodle and Beagle tryst; the Puggle, a Pug and Beagle affair. The American Canine Hybrid Association recognizes hundreds of such crosses, and if you're the first to register a particular cross, you get to name the breed -- usually by combining the parental breeds' names. Not so fast, though. While some crosses do seem to have the best of both breeds, others are just plain insane. Unless you're in the market for a perpetual motion mischief machine, crossing a Min Pin and a Jack Russell Terrier, for instance, makes no sense. But other crosses have stood the test of time. The Cockapoo, Pekapoo and Schnoodle have all been around for decades. Others, like the phenomenally popular Puggle, may just be a fad, as the whole designer dog craze is likely to be. But one of the trendsetters of the designer dog craze, the Labradoodle, looks like it plans to be around for a long time. The Labradoodle was initially created in Australia as a hypoallergenic guide dog, but it wasn't consistently hypoallergenic enough to justify breeding it for that job. It did turn out to be a fabulously good natured bloke, though, and one branch of the Labradoodle line, called the Australian Labradoodle, has gone on to be considered its own budding breed. It differs from true designer dogs in that it combines a number of breeds and isn't made up of first generation crosses. Of course, that's how most pure breeds got their start. Somebody was looking for a dog that could do something they needed done, and by crossing various dogs and selecting the ones that fit the bill over generations, a true-breeding population of dogs that looked and acted similar emerged. That won't be the fate of most designer dogs. By definition, they're first generation crosses of two pure breeds. That's because it is the only way you can get predictable results. If you breed two Puggles together, for example, the next generation may have some Pugglish pups in it, but it will also have some pooches that get most of their genes from the Pug side, or most from the Beagle side, so even littermates may not look related. So why the designer dog craze? It's the cycle of fashion. A century ago only the rich could afford purebred dogs, and no socialite or movie star would be seen with a mutt. But as purebreds became more affordable, and anyone could have one, where was the status symbol there? Instead, people started looking for something nobody else had, and once celebrities starting showing off their cute puppies, the craze was on to have a dog like nobody else (well, except for the celebrity). The funny thing is, if everyone gets a designer dog, won't they lose their custom stamp? Maybe if you really want a one-of-a-kind original, the place to look is the shelter. And you won't have to write such a big number on that check. To see a list of hybrids, visit the American Canine Hybrid Association at www.achclub.com.