That doggie in the window just got a whole lot more expensive. Because like Gucci and Armani, dogs have become fashionable brands, such as the labradoodle and the spoodle: "designer dogs" marketed to yuppies.
Ten per cent of dogs in Australia are so-called designer dogs, the latest fashion accessory, crossbred mongrels, cute and expensive.
Vet Rob Zammit is an aggressive critic of these trendy hybrid pooches.
"I've seen some at $3000 for some of the designer dogs, which is an incredible amount to be paying and with no guarantees," Rob said.
His former colleague, TV gardener Don Burke, was the first to spruik one of the original designer dogs as a family pet: the labradoodle.
The bitter feud over crossbreds versus purebreds continues.
"The experiments failed and unfortunately we're seeing a lot of dogs that don't work out," Rob said. "And its going to cost too much money to fix and the dogs become a nuisance and the dog is dumped."
Donna Sullivan from the Animal Welfare league sees first hand the health problems and genetic defects of cross bred dogs gone wrong.
"We're seeing a lot of adult dogs and puppies come through with things like soft pallet, ear and eye problems, hip dysplasia," Donna said.
She wants greedy, unregistered breeders to be held accountable and shut down.
"They're bred obviously to sell and when the breeder can't sell them, they've got nothing to do with them and the responsibility is put on us."
The clever marketing of these designer dogs is a reason unscrupulous puppy farmers are mass-producing dogs like they're going out of fashion. But don't be tricked: none of the breeders for these dogs can legally be registered.
"People are being tricked into believing these crossbred dogs, your cavoodles and your bealiers, are registered breeds - and their not," Donna said.
And there are responsible breeders doing the right thing. Amanda Reine from Dogs at Play believes there are definite advantages to mixing and matching breeds.
"A poodle cross will make the dog quite smart and intelligent," Amanda said. "With a cavalier, you get quite a gentle dog, with a labradoodle you get a playful dog."
Naomi Hulbert loves her cavoodle, Oliver, and she's a big fan of his combination of cavalier spaniel and poodle, not because he is fashionable, but because he's practical.
"I wanted a poodle mix because poodles don't shed and I live in an apartment, so I didn't want hair everywhere," Naomi said.
For anyone thinking of buying a designer dog, Rob Zammit has this advice: "Make sure who the parents are and find out if it's a breed that has hip problems or a poodle that may have eye problems. Make sure they have been tested and cleared of those diseases before they're bred."
Contact detailsThe cute dogs shown at the pet shop:
Pets Paradise, Chatswood
Tel: (02) 9415 2298Animal Welfare League (the homeless dogs are from the SA shelter)
Tel: (08) 8348 1300
Website: www.animalwelfare.com.auDogs at Play
Tel: (02) 9211 2040
Tel: 02 6282 8300
Website: www.rspca.org.auDogs Australia