The designer dogs are just a passing trend, an AKC spokeswoman said.
By AMANDA GARRETT
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
For centuries, those who wanted a new dog had two choices: spend money for a purebred dog or go to the local shelter and find an adorable Heinz 57 variety.
Now, a new trend has emerged: designer dogs, also known as hybrid dogs -- two breeds mixed to combine the traits of both -- are become popular in the Mahoning Valley and throughout the U.S.
Critics say the puggles, labradoodles and shih-poos showing up in newspaper classified sections are not legitimate alternatives to purebred dogs.
Mike Light, a Youngstown breeder, routinely gets between 200 to 250 for puggles, which are a mix of beagles and pug. Light used to breed beagles, which sold for around 50, he said.
Light got the idea when he saw the puggles on a television show a couple of years ago.
"They were all the rage at the time," he said. "They've slowed down a bit since then, but they still sell better than beagles."
Puggles combine the cuteness of the smushed-face pugs with the hardiness of beagles, Light said.
"They make a great family dog," he said. "Puggles are good for children because they can take a little more roughhousing than pugs."
Pugs commonly have problems with their inverted faces, making it difficult for them to breathe at times, Light said.
Columbiana Co. breeder
Columbiana County breeder Greg Fidoe said he decided to try hybrid dogs after an owner tearfully returned one of Fidoe's golden retrievers because his daughter was allergic to the dog.
Fidoe, who likes to say the only thing that separates him from his dogs is an "e," began breeding goldendoodles -- golden retrievers mixed with poodles -- and has since begun mixing poodles with Labrador retrievers and shih tzus.
"If you breed a golden retriever with a poodle, you get the intelligence and nonshedding coat of the poodle combined with the family-friendly temperament of the golden," he said. "It's the best of both worlds."
Lisa Peterson, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, urged potential dog buyers to look closely before jumping on the hybrid dog bandwagon.
"Consumers should be careful before they spend hundreds of dollars on a designer dog. You don't always get the best of both worlds," she said. "Sometimes you get the worst of both worlds. Breeding two purebred dogs together doesn't guarantee that you're going to get only the specific traits you want. If someone really wants a nonshedding family-friendly dog, they should just get a poodle."
Fidoe said he takes great care with his dogs, and he uses a complicated genetic system to determine the health, temperament, coat and even color.
Word of warning
Fidoe also said some traditional breeders are irresponsible, citing a condition called hip dysplasia, which is common in large dogs such as golden retrievers.
"Some of these places are just puppy mills," he said. "They keep breeding dogs from the same gene pool without caring about the consequences. Some of these dogs can barely walk."
It's vital for potential owners to research before buying a purebred dog, Peterson said.
"First, potential owners need to make sure that the kind of dog they want will fit well with their lifestyle," she said. "Then they need to find a responsible breeder. Good breeders will have genetic and medical tests done. They won't breed an unhealthy dog."
Peterson urged prospective owners to visit the AKC's Web site at www.akc.org to find a responsible breeder.
For his part, Fidoe said he is unmoved by the criticism from purebred purists. He cited breeds such as the Jack Russell Terrier and the Dandie Dinmont Terrier, which were once shunned by the AKC, but have now been accepted.
"If you look far enough back in history, every dog is a mixed breed," he said.
Peterson, however, believes the hybrid dog trend will pass from the public consciousness as quickly as pet rocks.
"Before a new breed is accepted by the AKC, breeders have to be able to consistently breed multiple generations of the same type of dog with same results, and they have to fully document those results," she said. "It takes decades of time and effort to develop a true breed, and I don't see that happening with designer dogs."