'Designer Mutts'

Dog lovers are being treated to a number of new crossbreed combinations, and what could be called "designer mutts" are growing in popularity.

The Early Show's resident veterinarian, Debbye Turner, says breeds such as schnoodles (schnauzer and poodle) and goldendoodle (golden retriever and poodle) are going for about $1,000 in pet stores.

So before shelling out that kind of money for the likes of a labradoodle (labrador retriever and poodle), puggle (pug and beagle) or poochin (poodle and Japanese chin), Turner urges you to consider the pluses and minuses of mutts vs. purebreeds.

With purebreds, you know what you're getting every time in terms of size, color and temperament. There is usually a long, proven track record with the breed.

But many purebreds have inherent health problems associated with their breed. They can be expensive and hard to find.

Crossbreeds (such as designer mutts) have a reputation for being heartier, healthier, and some say, smarter. Mixed breeds are abundant, especially in shelters, so they're easy and inexpensive to obtain.

The downside of crossbreeds is that, if you get a puppy, you don't what size it will be as an adult or precisely what it'll look like. And, while crossbreeds can have the best of the breeds represented, they can also possess the worst of the original breeds.

Despite the cute names, these dogs are not breeds in and of themselves and aren't recognized by organizations such as the American Kennel Club.

Some, like the popular labradoodle, might be recognized as a breed in the years to come.

Some of the 153 breeds the AKC recognizes are, in fact, crossbreeds.

Many breeders have jumped on the designer mutt bandwagon.

But, Turner suggests, do your homework. Do not patronize a breeder who is really a "puppy mill," and don't go to pet stores that get their puppies from puppy mills.

Many of these designer mutts can be found at shelters, Turner says, because previous owners abandon them when they realize they are in over their heads.

You also can check for a breed rescue organization in your area. All of those animals desperately need good homes.

Here are descriptions of these "designer dogs," taken largely from www.dogbreedinfo.com.

Schnoodle
Schnoodles (schnauzer-poodle cross) are very intelligent and easy to train. They like to be with people and are happy and loving. The smaller varieties make good lap dogs. They tend to be demanding, delightful, very amusing, clever, energetic, affectionate, obedient, playful and alert. Schnoodles make good companions and family pets. There are three different schnauzer and three different poodle breeds, so be sure to pay attention to which schnauzer and poodle breeds are in the dog, since that makes a big difference in the dog's temperament, care and size. The schnoodle sheds little to no hair and is good for allergy sufferers. Like all dogs, the schnoodle enjoys long, brisk, daily walks, and loves play sessions off the leash. Its life expectancy is about 15 years or more.

Goldendoogle
The goldendoodle (golden retriever-poodle cross) is a hybrid dog, a first generation cross, and as such exhibits "hybrid vigor." This phenomenon in animal breeding refers to the fact that the first cross between two unrelated purebred lines is healthier and grows better than either parent line. The puppies take on the best traits of both breeds. Goldendoogles are medium-sized, terrific family dogs, friendly, intelligent, affectionate and easy to train. They are everybody's friend and devoted to their family. They are friendly toward children, other dogs and pets, and easy with strangers. They are social dogs, and happiest when with people. Goldendoodles are likely to get into mischief and develop behavior problems if they spend most of their lives alone.

Labrodoodle
The labradoodle (labrador retriever-standard poodle cross) is a classic example of logical and planned crossbreeding. Labradoodles were first produced in Australia in the 1980s. The goal was and still is to create a new "breed" with the best attributes of the original breeds. It is still too early to say whether this particular cross will be successful. The objective is to produce assistance dogs that do not shed hair (for people with allergies).

Labradoodles are good with children and easy to train. They get along well with other dogs and are extremely clever, sociable and joyful. They are quick to learn unusual or special tasks. Labradoodles are active and a little comical at times. They can attempt to outsmart their owners if undisciplined.

Puggle
The puggle is a relatively new hybrid dog breed produced by mating a select female beagle to a select male pug, resulting in a very sweet-tempered, affectionate (but not yippy, hyper, or insecure) puppy that is very low-maintenance, family-friendly (great with children and other dogs), loose-skinned, wrinkly-faced and endearing in both personality and looks.

Well into their adult lives, puggles exemplify the best of what dogs are all about -- loyalty, companionship, and affection, resulting in a breed that is very eager to please its owner. It has been proven over time that puggle owners feel their puggles change their own family chemistry for the better, giving everyone a "lift" by their happy, can-do natures. Puggles are durable, hardy dogs that can easily take a bit of rough-housing (boys love them for this). Girls appreciate their affectionate, lap-loving qualities.

Typical of most hybrid breeds, Puggles display no congenital defects or particular health concerns.

Poochin
The poochin is a new breed, a cross between a poodle and a Japanese chin. Poochins are very social animals and need very little exercise. They grow to about 10 pounds. The poochin is long-coated, but doesn't shed much. Poochins look like shitzhus because of their long hair.