Byline: Croke, Vicki
The problem with puggles : Designer dogs are hotter than Paris Hilton, and just as scary
By Vicki Constantine Croke
Puggles bug me.
Not the pups themselves, who are adorable crosses between pugs and beagles, but the whole "designer mutts" hoopla.
This trend--mating two breeds to create something allegedly better, purportedly cuter, and definitely more expensive than the originals--got started in the 1950s with Cockapoos and Peekapoos. It exploded over the last few years with Labradoodles (the mellow good cheer of a Labrador! With a poodle's low-shedding coat!). And now, puggles are kicking it into the stratosphere. Jake Gyllenhaal and Sylvester Stallone are among the puggle lovers, but so are a slew of regular people who want in on the tawny, fawny, puppy-faced action and will pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for the pleasure.
Dog snobs would have you believe there's something inherently wrong with mixing breeds. That's inherently ridiculous, considering that many pure breeds are crosses of older breeds. Besides, pure breeds have plenty of problems: It takes generations of inbreeding to produce them, and genetically speaking, that's not a good thing. Why do you think there are laws against marrying your brother? Cocker spaniels frequently go blind. Dalmatians are prone to deafness--helpful on the fire truck, not so great otherwise.
So you'd think I'd be throwing in with the designer mutt camp. But I can't. For one thing, crossbreeding can produce design disasters, like a corgi-collie mix I once saw whose stubby corgi legs could barely hold up its broad collie body. As for puggles, there's no harm in combining the eternal baby face of the pug with the low-maintenance coat of the beagle--unless he inherits the beagle's drive to run along with the pug's button nose and difficulty breathing.
How often does that happen? No one's sure; no one is tracking puggle problems. And that's the biggest concern when a breed becomes trendy: The dogs' welfare can get left in the dust. A buyer may see a hot cross only as a status symbol; a breeder, as a dollar sign on four legs.
You always have to be careful when picking a breeder. But your antennae have to be higher if you want a puggle--or a meagle, peagle, schnu, or cadoodle (yes, all are real crosses). The lack of "breed standards" for many designer dogs (no list of characteristics defining the perfect puggle or schweenie) combined with the lure of easy money produces a lot of free spirits who charge premium prices but may not care much about the merchandise.
Still, there's broad agreement about what makes a good breeder. She should raise just one or two kinds of dogs and know their genetic vulnerabilities. She should have health certifications to prove that your puppy's forebears were free of those problems and should be happy to answer questions. (For more advice from the Humane Society on picking a breeder, go to prevention.com/links.)
Of course, there's another solution. Mutts have long arranged their own breeding, with none of the pickiness that leads to a high risk of genetic problems. Want a nice crossbreed? Go to the shelter. It has plenty of great ones.
Vicki Constantine Croke has been writing about animals for more than two decades. She's the author of The Lady and the Panda, the story of the 1930s socialite who brought the first giant panda to the United States.
Pick of the litters : If you want a robust pure breed with a relatively low risk of genetic problems, try one of these:
Affenpinscher Brussels griffon Irish terrier Kerry blue terrier Miniature pinscher Papillon Schipperke Shiba Inu Standard schnauzer Whippet
A combo of compact breeds, the puggle is usually apartment friendly
I'm in love with my purebred Irish wolfhound. She's the person I'd like to be--quiet, noble, and dignified. I'm short, yappy, and ready for a fight.
The standard schnauzer is known for smarts, spirit, and reliability