What the Doodle?


Move over, Labs and beagles. There are some new dogs in town: schnoodles, puggles, cockapoos and bassetoodles, for starters. These “designer” breeds are the top dogs right now.

Designer dogs may sound like elite, sophisticated, high-priced canines — and in many cases, they are — but “designer dog” is just a term that means mixed breed.

They’ve been around for a while; the cockapoo — a cocker spaniel-poodle mix — was introduced in the 1950s. But it wasn’t until recently that these mutts became dogs in demand, especially if they’re a purebred hybrid. A blend of Pomeranian and chihuahua? That’s the Pomchi. Labrador and poodle? Labradoodle. Yorkshire terrier plus poodle? Yorkipoo.

The possibilities are endless. Woof.

Dr. Kirk Dixon of Hilton Head Veterinary Clinics has been caring for animals in the Lowcountry for more than 30 years and said he has seen phenomenal growth in the number of designer dogs in recent years.

“I’d say it’s taken a shift from pure breeds to designer dogs,” he said. “If it’s not a rescue, then it’s very often a designer dog (coming in).”

Local dog trainer Alison Armao, who owns Leader of the Pack Dog Training on Hilton Head Island, said she has also seen extraordinary growth in the designer dogs entering her programs.


Designer Dogs2DID YOU KNOW?

• Last year Americans spent $69.5 billion on their pets, according to the American Pet Products Association.

• Petplan, an insurance company, estimates that pet parents dropped $62 million in 2011 on plastic surgery for companion animals. Popular procedures include tummy tucks, nose jobs and eyebrow and chin lifts.

• Dogs are having their tresses colored, straightened, curled and waved.

• And pets now have their own Vogue (Unleash), and models (one is Jiff, a Pomeranian who has over 7.4 million Instagram followers).

“I would say at this point probably 30 to 40 percent of the dogs we see are designer dogs,” she said. “We see a lot of doodles. Mostly goldendoodles and Labradoodles.”

More people are adopting designer dogs, especially doodles, which are breeds mixed with poodles. According to Armao and Dixon, many dog owners think that doodles don’t shed — but that’s not necessarily true.

“Some of them don’t shed and some of them do. It depends on what generation of doodle they are,” Armao said.

Dixon said second generation pups often have the non-shedding gene, which can help those who have pet hair-sensitive allergies.

In addition to less shedding, Dixon said that designer dogs often are less prone to some of the more common ailments that plague their purebred counterparts.

“You get a larger genetic pool, so you’re less likely to have problems,” he said. “Take, for instance, the cavalier King Charles spaniel. They had a very limited gene pool, so as a result, the breed developed heart problems, but if you take a mixed breed dog, then you get less of that.”

Designer dogs also can exhibit positive personality traits.

“They’re smart, and they’re fairly easy to train,” Armao said. “I don’t find a lot of aggression in designer dog breeds with other dogs or with humans.”

But it’s not all Milkbones and Snausages.

“I find that doodles do a lot of jumping, because they are very light-boned like a poodle,” Armao said. “They’re very agile and a lot of jumping needs to be corrected more so than with a Lab or a golden.”

But whether your dog is a Labradoodle, a Yorkipoo, or a plain old golden retriever, Armao suggests using a professional pet trainer.

“Be sure you get some training,” she said, “because a well-trained dog is such a pleasure and an ill-trained dog is not.”