In praise of non-pedigree chums
The crossbreed is no longer considered an accident and dog owners are going crazy for these new versions. Emma Hughes sorts the schnoodle from the whoodle
T used to be so simple. Owning a dog followed a well-trodden path. The likelihood was that you’d either end up with a labrador—friendly Monty, Oscar, Bertie, with waddling gait and operatic flatulence in old age—or a spaniel, named after something you’d find on a woodland walk (Bramble, Bracken, Teasel).
Mixed breeds tended to be the results of brief encounters in the Post Office queue or the park or lurchers, the original crossbreed (of a sight-hound with a working breed), which had a loyal following with both dukes and poachers. However, on the whole, the ones we actually went out and bought were basically the same sorts we—or our family—had been buying for generations. It was a rare occasion that you’d bump into a friend with a dog at their heel and have to ask: ‘What is that?’
Then, the labradoodle arrived from Australia, cartoonishly cute and featuring a useful, non-shedding, non-allergic coat. Here was a dog that combined the intellect and trainability of its parent breeds (the poodle and labrador) and that wouldn’t carpet your car in fur. Suddenly, a whole new world of dog choosing opened up. Why decide between, say, the friskiness of Breed X and the considerable nous of Breed Y, when you could have both?
A cut above the old Heinz 57, 21stcentury mixes are big business—the leading breeders have waiting lists akin to those of top couture houses. Even the Kennel Club (KC), while worrying about trendy dogs being abandoned by owners who can’t cope, is coming round to the idea of them—with caveats. Since 2000, it has run Scruffts, a show for dogs of mixed parentage, in tandem with Crufts proper and is now considering whether to add certain crosses to its breed register.
Although there’s a perception that crosses are more robust than their pedigree cousins, the KC is anxious to remind people that this isn’t necessarily true. ‘We would strongly recommend that anyone looking for a dog, whether purebred or crossbred, only ever buys from a breeder who has carried out the
Irelevant tests on both parents and has the health and welfare of the puppies as their main priority,’ cautions secretary Caroline Kisko.
If you’re keen to try something different, here is our pick of the mixes.