By JENNIFER RIGG
NEW ALBANY, Ind. — When 26-year-old Amanda Perry was asked to breed her Beagle with a friend’s Pug to create a littler of Puggles, she thought an easy opportunity to make some extra cash had presented itself.
As she flipped through the classified ads looking at new breeds of designer dogs, including the common Labradoodles and Goldendoodles, she decided she may have stumbled upon a doggy gold mine. Many of them were priced at more than $800.
“When I saw how much Puggles were selling for I decided to go ahead with it,” Perry said. “I was also really anxious to see what they would look like.”
Weeks later six adorable puppies lumbered around her home. She set their price at $500 and waited for the phone to start ringing. Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Perry sold only one puppy at her starting price. The last two puppies — which didn’t sell until nearly nine weeks later — only sold for $100.
Those buyers — says a veterinarian in Sellersburg, Ind. — made the wiser decision.
“There’s a fool born every minute,” said 67-year-old Dr. Joan V. Evinger, owner of Care Pets Animal Hospital. “And anyone who would pay four figures for a mixed breed dog has more money than sense.”
While she has seen several of these “designer dogs” in her practice, Evinger said the American Kennel Club is nowhere near ready to recognize them as legitimate, registered breeds. To do that, the new breed has to have at least 300 representatives of the right color, size and temperament, and they must be third generation. The specific wanted characteristics of the new breed must be decided upon by a newly-created national breed association. Such associations have already been created for the more popular designer breeds, including the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle.
“These dogs are not new breeds,” Evinger said. ”People think they’ll put together a Maltise and Yorkie and make a million dollars,” she continued. “These people that are buying the puppies think they’re getting an exclusive dog, but what they have is a mixed breed dog that they paid a bunch of money for.
“When you’re trying to develop a breed, you really have to go through all the steps,” she continued. “You just can’t take two dogs, breed them and expect to create a new, legitimate breed. It just doesn’t work that way”
But Jim and Ellen Sparrow of Floyd Knobs and their two small children say their Goldendoodle, Louise, is as exclusive as they come.
“She’s a great dog,” Ellen Sparrow said. “She’s playful, smart — a great family dog.”
Louise was selected almost two years ago from a litter of Goldendoodles in Jasper, Ind. who were first — not third — generation. Louise’s mother was a Golden Retriever, and her father was a Standard Poodle. While neither will comment on exactly how much was paid for Louise, they both say they’ll never regret it.
“She’s a part of the family,” Jim Sparrow said. “The kids are crazy about her. She’s crazy about the kids. You’d be hard pressed to figure out who loves who more.”
Her intelligent and gentle nature even snagged her the role as Sandy in a production of “Annie” put on by New Albany High School in February.
“She did everything they asked her to,” Ellen said proudly.
The Sparrows went looking for Louise when the two dogs they had developed serious medical conditions. Their Golden Retriever has epilepsy, and their yellow Labrador Retriever has diabetes. Both require daily medication.
Ellen said she wanted their children to have a healthy dog they could play with, and she wanted one that didn’t shed as much as the other two. When she started doing research, she found the Goldendoodle — who was said to have the playful disposition of Golden Retriever and the hypoallergenic nature of the Standard Poodle — and easily made her decision. Fortunately, she got the exact combination for which she was looking.
“She’s really great with the kids,” Ellen said. “She loves to play, but she also is calm enough to curl up on your lap and take a nap. And she doesn’t shed!”
Dr. Evinger says the Sparrows are some of the rare lucky families who experience the ideal combination of the two pure breeds.
“There is no way to guarantee that you’ll have the best of both breeds,” Evinger said. “It’s like putting all those chromosomes in a blender and seeing what it spits out. You have no idea what you’re going to get.”
Ellen Sparrow said she understood Evinger’s point and could even attest to it. She said everyone in her family fell in love with Louise, and eventually her mother and sister decided to buy Labradoodles. The two dogs, however, look nothing alike.
“My mother’s dog looks more like a Poodle while my sister’s dog looks much more like a Labrador Retriever,” Ellen said.
And Evinger said there’s really no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, and people who believe the “oodle” in these breed names guarantees them a sneeze-free lifestyle are sorely mistaken. Having allergies, she said, is a very “individual thing.”
“You can’t guarantee that the dog will be non-reactive to everyone who has allergies,” she said.
On a more positive note, Evinger said people who breed designer dogs may be starting to correct the mistakes humans have made with some pure breed dogs.
“Mother nature would not have made many of the breeds that we love,” she said mentioning specifically the problematic nasal passages of the pug or chronic skin infections experienced by some Hound breeds due to extra skin. “You could end up with a better dog than either one of the ones you start with.”
Perry said once people realized the Puggles were really just a half breed dog, they became increasingly more difficult to get rid of. And if she was asked again to breed another litter of Puggles, she said she would kindly decline.
The Sparrows, however, have already agreed that when their K-9 threesome becomes only two, they’ll again go shopping for another Goldendoodle.
“Louise may be a mutt,” Ellen said, “but she’s our mutt and we love her!”
Jennifer Rigg writes for The Tribune in New Albany, Ind.
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Dr. Joan Evinger says if you want a designer dog...
Do your research;
• Find a legitimate breeder and look at pictures of all the dogs that breeder has sold, including the dog’s mother and father;
• Make sure you’re getting a third generation dog;
• Make sure they’re a part of a national breed association that ensures the wanted characteristics of that breed; and
• Hope and pray what the breeder told you was true.