Are Designer Dog Trends Bad For Dogs?

ByABC News
November 11, 2005, 8:15 AM

Nov. 14, 2005 — -- The "puggle," a cross between a beagle and a pug, has become so trendy, David Barber boasts, that a list of proud new owners of the designer dog sounds like an Oscar night lineup.

Jake Gyllenhaal, James Gandolfini, Sylvester Stallone and Julianne Moore are just some of Barber's recent customers -- and new puggle owners.

"They've become popular to the point where 90 percent of requests are for this breed," says Barber, of Puppy Paradise in Brooklyn, N.Y. "It's like mixing a Versace bag and a Coach bag together -- what do you get? You get the best of both without adding any of the problems."

Puggles are undeniably cute -- and, Barber claims, his $950 puggle pups escape some of the genetic afflictions (bulging eyes) and character flaws (stubbornness) that sometimes plague purebred pugs and beagles. 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 Gyllenhaal appeared as a guest.

But the popularity of puggles and other designer dogs, such as labradoodles (Labrador Retriever-Poodle mix) and schnoodles (a Miniature Schnauzer-Poodle mix), has become a contentious topic among communities of dog owners. Some argue the mixed breeds aren't breeds at all, but simply overblown, overpriced mutts, while others decry popularizing specially bred dogs when thousands of dogs languish in shelters.

"The problem with designer dogs is people might think they're trendy -- and that's not a good reason to buy a dog," said Susan Smith, community relations manager for the Franklin County Animal Shelter in Columbus, Ohio. "And before they put down, say $1,200 for a labradoodle or puggle, they should look first in a shelter because they can probably find the same type of dog here."

Smith says her shelter often houses mixes such as puggles, labradoodles and other unique blends of dogs. They may not carry the designer dog label, but she says the mutts are just as cute as any pooch that has been featured lately in the media.