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

Country Life Every Week - - In The Garden - Il­lus­tra­tions by John Holder

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.

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