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Designing A Cuter Dog

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(This story originally aired May 21, 2006.)

A Sunday in the park with dogs can be a lovely outing for a couple, as long as the couple can agree on what type of dog to own.

What if one person likes pugs, and the other, beagles.

What's a couple to do? Call it quits? Go on Dr. Phil?, CBS Sunday Morning contributor Bill Geist asks.

One couple found their miraculous answer in a pug and a beagle rolled into one -- a puggle. Another relationship saved, thanks to modern canine breeding science.

The puggle is, currently, the most popular of the new designer dog breeds that now number in the hundreds and can cost in the thousands.

They're trendy and pricey.

Like handbags and shoes, puggle sales boomed when word got out that celebrities were buying them -- a lot of them from David Deitz at Brooklyn's Puppy Paradise. Actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Sylvester Stallone have purchased designer dogs.

Sly's puggle was bred at a remote Wisconsin kennel where proprietor Wallace Havens invented the breed.

Havens has bred about 50 different hybrid dogs, and frankly, this one didn't sound too promising.

"They were hard to sell 'cause people would ask what kind of dogs do you have and I would tell 'em I had a beagle crossed with a pug and they'd laugh and say they didn't think they wanted one of those," Havens, who also coined the name, says.

The puggle has been so successful, he's added the pocket puggle to his designer line.

And Havens thinks he's come up with the next "it" dog. Is the mini-St. Bernard the new puggle?

Mixed breed dogs used to be called mutts but give a mutt some papers, slap a hefty price on it, call it a designer dog and stand back. The designer dog rush is on: a fuzzy flurry of trendy new designer dogs with some very unsual names.

Somewhere in this swirl Puppy Paradise there's a lhasa poo, a westie poo and two puggles: all the offpring of purebred parents of different breeds.

The question these days is not how much ss that doggie in the window -- the puggle's $950 if you want to know -- but rather what is that doggie in the window?

Deitz, the store's owner, says it is almost similar to breeding together a Versace bag and a Coach handbag and has an idea for what dog owners want.

"Puppies that are smaller in size than 15 pounds, that are fuzzier and are teddy bear-like qualities with cute round teddy bear-like faces and nice, fat pudgy bodies that stay small. They eat less, poop less," Deitz says.

In other words, small hybrids that require less fuel and produce fewer toxic emissions.

"People constantly want something new. They want something the neighbor doesn't have, that you can't go to the pet store and get every day," says Gary Garner, president of the American Canine Hybrid Club.

Garner says his group lists 325 hybrids to date.

The venerable American Kennel Club turns up its nose at hybrids and the Poodle Club of America has launched a campaign against them.

Well, Wallace Havens doesn't look the part of Dr. Frankenstein, but at his kennel in rural Wisconsin he's produced about 50 different hybrid breeds.

"They gotta be cute or people don't want 'em," Havens says bluntly.