Letting the Designer Dogs Out
Singer Jessica Simpson totes hers around in a Louis Vuitton bag; actor James Gandolfini has a pint-sized pup, too.
"Any dog that costs upwards of $2000 is going to cause a considerable stir among those who look for trendy things," says Maggie Bonham, author of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Designer Dogs.
While mixed-breeds have been around forever -- usually the result of random couplings -- breeders are now intentionally producing mixed-breed puppies, marketing them as designer dogs and selling them for thousands of dollars.
These designer dogs are startlingly popular, according to the American Canine Hybrid Club, the designer-dog world's answer to the American Kennel Club.
The club is registering about 500 litters of designer dogs a month, more than double the number of litters it was registering just more than a year ago.The number of mutts grew by 1 million to about 31 million over the last five years, according to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association. Why are these pooches so popular? Breeders say more and more people are turning to designer hybrids because of their temperament, looks or allergy-proof fur. Many of the hybrid dogs are mixed with poodles to create dogs that supposedly don't shed -- hence new breed names that often include the words "doodle," "noodle" or "poo." "The most popular are goldendoodles, labradoodles and puggles," says professional trainer Andrea Arden, author of Dog Friendly Dog Training. "We're also starting to see a lot of cockapoos (cocker spaniel/poodle), schnoodles (schnauzer/poodle), maltipoos (maltese/poodle), and cavachons (cavalier King Charles spaniel/bichon frise)." The designer-dog trend actually started more than fifteen years ago with the Australian labradoodle, a cross between a labrador retriever and a poodle. The careful crossbreeding resulted in a curly-haired, friendly and hypoallergenic dog that commanded a price close to $2,000 per puppy. These days, the puggle, a cross between a beagle and a pug, is nearly as trendy as the labradoodle. The mixed pup has been riding a wave of popularity after being featured on the cover of the New York Post, appearing in a "Good Morning America" segment and being mentioned in an episode of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" when actor Jake Gyllenhaal appeared as a guest. "The current puggle excitement is because these dogs are so darn cute," says Bonham. "A lot of a crossbreed's popularity has to do with cuteness."
Barks of BacklashBut not everyone is singing the praises of the designer dogs. Lara Minch-Klass, spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, says she think this trend is out of control. "Designer dogs are fetching hundreds or thousands of dollars for what is nothing more than a mixed breed dog that you could find in a shelter," notes Minch-Klass.
A Pooch in Your FutureSo which designer dog will pop up next on the party circuit? "There are always new and upcoming combos," says professional dog trainer Sarah Hodgson Howell, author of Puppies for Dummies.
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