W A S H I N G T O N, Feb. 11, 2004 -- Move over chocolate lab, the labradoodle has arrived. Why walk a corgi when you can have adorgi? Or coddle a poodle when you can cuddle a yorkipoo?
Mutts, by any other name, are all the rage.
Mixed-breed dogs, once the domain of U.S. animal shelters,are being sought by an increasing number of Americans lookingfor special pooches. Intentionally bred and cutely named,today's special-order mixes have new found status — and apurebred price tag.
"When there were a bunch of them around and a lot of themwere in the shelter, you'd call them mutts," said StephenZawistowski, science advisor at the American Society for thePrevention of Cruelty to Animals, about the popular mixes thatused to accidentally appear.
Sought-after mixes, some of which can fetch up to $4,000,are the labradoodle, a cross between the Labrador and thepoodle; the schnoodle, a schnauzer-poodle mix; the goldendoodle,a golden retriever-poodle mix; the cockapoo, a cockerspaniel-poodle match; and the yorkipoo, a cross between aYorkshire terrier and a poodle.
Even Britain's Queen Elizabeth is in on the mixing trend.She has owned more than 30 Welsh corgis since she was 18 yearsold and has bred several dorgis — dachshund/corgi mixes.
The bagel, a mix between a basset hound and a beagle, istypically found in shelters.
"Right now, there is a stronger interest in crosses than inregistered breeds," said breeder Jennifer Connell of Breezy HillKennel in Hartsburg, Mo.
The popularity of "doodle" dogs stems from the combinationof the poodle's non-shedding, allergy-friendly coat with theintelligence, temperament and size of Labradors, goldenretrievers, schnauzers and Yorkshire terriers.
The labradoodle was first bred intentionally in Australia inthe 1970s and has its roots there as a guide dog for allergysufferers, according to Beverly Manners, founder of the RutlandManor Labradoodle Breeding and Research Center in Victoria,Australia.
"I have not met another dog as gentle, intuitive, caring,and intelligent as the labradoodle," said Caren Cioffi, alabradoodle owner and Stanford University MBA student who did abusiness internship with Manners last summer.
Ralph C. Richardson, dean of the veterinary college atKansas State University, bought two schnoodle puppies, includingone for his son's family, and has ordered two more.
"I think the lack of shedding … is a great attribute that alot of people like," he said. "In our case, we were looking fora very small dog. For someone who wanted a larger one, perhaps alabradoodle or the goldendoodle would be appropriate."
Most allergists believe that no dog is 100 percentallergy-free, and often as dogs grow older their coats canchange and become more troublesome for allergy sufferers.
Labradoodles, the most popular mix, can cost between $895and $2,195, depending on coat and color, pricier than some ofthe 150 registered purebred dogs. Schnoodles and other mixes areconsiderably less, starting at $350.
Breeders all over the world report long waiting lists forspecial mixes. Depending on Mother Nature and what specificcriteria a potential owner wants, the wait can be anywhere froma few months to more than a year.
Mixed-breeding techniques vary from breeder to breeder. Forexample, some breeders cross labradoodles with labradoodles,occasionally adding in a poodle to "correct" the dog's coat ordisposition, while others mix Labradors with poodles once.
The labradoodle could be eligible for American Kennel Clubrecognition if there are at least 300 of them in at least 20states with three documented generations of labradoodle tolabradoodle mixing. A national breed club is also required.
"It's still a developing breed," Rutland Manor's Mannerstold Reuters in a telephone interview. She has bred up to eightgenerations of labradoodles over 15 years and is passionateabout breeding the best labradoodle possible.
Some animal experts believe cross breeding — either for onegeneration or for several — uses the best characteristics oftwo dogs to create one superdog. Occasionally purebred dogsinherit negative qualities if in-breeding occurs.
"Mixed-breed dogs are healthier," Zawistowski said. "Theyaren't as likely to have these inherited problems and peoplehave gotten some of that message and so they're buyingmixed-breed dogs."
On the flip side, purebred advocates relish knowing what toexpect from their pup since the reliability of doodle dogs'looks is not 100 percent.
"The problem is the lack of predictability," said LainieCantrell, spokeswoman for the AKC, said of labradoodles andother popular mixed-breds. "That's the whole point of a purebreddog and the benefit of a purebred dog is that you typically knowwhat you're going to get."