What, you don't speak Doodle?
Let's clarify: A poodle mixed with a schnauzer makes a schnoodle; a poodle mixed with a cocker spaniel makes a spoodle; a poodle mixed with a Labrador retriever makes a labradoodle. In these days of on-demand television and custom-ordered coffee, getting the perfect dog is a simple matter of mixing and matching."A Lab puppy is an extremely rambunctious dog," said Andrea Geddes, puppy care manager at The PetCare Co. in Hermosa Beach, Calif., where so-called "designer dogs" are popular sales. "A labradoodle brings out the intelligence of a poodle, and they're a little mellower."
"What makes these dogs different is that they were bred for a purpose," she said.
That purpose, Geddes said, is to eliminate the negative traits of the parent dogs and produce a puppy that is healthier, oftentimes more intelligent, and more fitting to the dog-owner (unlike accidental cross-breeds produced by, say, a late-night tryst between your German shepherd and your neighbor's Weimaraner). Labradoodles are the most popular of the mixed breeds, combining the intelligence, low-allergy, and nonshedding traits of the poodle with the playful, eager-to-please loyalty of a Lab. But there are others.
Take the puggle, for example.
"A pug has respiratory problems, a beagle has separation anxiety," Geddes said. "But a puggle doesn't have either of those problems."
Veterinarian Sean Goodell, who works at Bay Animal Hospital in Manhattan Beach, Calif., said there is some truth to that.
"I think to some degree it does mellow out the negative attributes of each breed," he said. "But the flip side is that you could end up with the worst sides of both dogs."
Goodell said he's seen a significant increase in hybrid dogs over the past several years.
"Labs have been America's favorite dog for a long time, so anything mixed with a Lab, people want," Goodell said. "I see tons of goldendoodles and labradoodles."
CLEAN AND LOVABLE
Labradoodles generally have a curly or wavy coat and grow to be about 50 to 60 pounds (Labs tend to be 55 to 80 pounds). And though some might call them mutts, they carry a purebred price tag of about $1,000.
Jill Giovannetti of Torrance, Calif., said she wanted a labradoodle the first time she saw one.
"I saw one on (the beach)," said Giovannetti, who bought her shaggy, cream-colored labradoodle, Lulu, from an Arizona breeder. "They're just so cute."
Cuteness isn't the only factor. Geddes said about 90 percent of her doodle-buying customers have a family member with allergies.
"A poodle just isn't our style," said Traci Gomez of El Segundo, Calif., whose husband and 4-year-old son have allergies. "So we thought, how about a labradoodle?"
But experts say there's no guarantee when it comes to mixing breeds.
"As a buyer I would be very wary of a breeder that says their dog is 100 percent hypoallergenic," said Niki Marshall, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club. "You really don't know what you're going to get."
BREEDS AND STATUS
Mixing breeds is nothing new. The dog itself was created about 14,000 years ago, it is thought, by mixing a jackal and a wolf.
Over time, dogs were selected for desired traits, including the ability to herd, protect and hunt. As they became wanted more as pets than as workers, their roles changed. Toy breed dogs - the Pekinese and the pug, for instance - originally were bred to be small companions.
The AKC recognizes 153 dog breeds. Achieving purebred status, Marshall said, depends on several factors: The breed must have geographical representation in at least 20 states, a national club representing it, and multiple generations of offspring. Purebreds must also fulfill a specific purpose. For example, a sheepdog's purpose was to herd; a greyhound's, to chase wild game, thereby aiding hunters.
That said, hybrids such as the labradoodle - its purpose being to provide an allergy-free pet - could eventually attain purebred status.
"All the dogs you see in the AKC were once mixed breeds," Geddes said.
On the other hand, some experts say hybrid dogs are nothing more than a passing trend, driven in part by celebrity endorsement and by the silly names they've been given by breeders. Puggles, for instance, have been featured on "Good Morning America" and "The Ellen DeGeneres Show." In addition, celebrities including Jake Gyllenhaal, James Gandolfini and Julianne Moore are all puggle owners.
"I wouldn't be surprised to see designer mixes turning up in shelters," Marshall said. "People are buying them because they've got a great name or because a celebrity has one."
Marshall said if you want a dog that's easy on the allergies, get a poodle. Not a schnoodle, a Saint Bernoodle or a spoodle - just a poodle. Period.
"The poodle itself is a wonderful breed," she said.
"Unfortunately, there's a stigma associated with poodles, that they're hoity-toity, when in fact that's not the case. They're loving, they're fun, they're intelligent.
"When you get a poodle, you know exactly what you're going to get."