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Of all the animals on earth, the dog is perhaps the most diverse. This is because man took over the dog's evolutionary chain and bred canines for specific purposes. Thousands of years of deliberate breeding has resulted in more than 400 recognized purebreds worldwide. (The American Kennel Club, the foremost registry in the United States, recognizes 158 breeds.)
The purebreds of today were developed by combining different breeds hundreds or even thousands of years ago. Today, though purebreds are still highly valued, crossbreeds are becoming very popular. A crossbreed is a mix of two purebreds – not to be confused with mixed breed dogs or more popularly known as "mutts."
Most of the popular crossbreeds are one-half poodle. This is because poodles are renown for their intelligence, temperament and their short coats, which do not shed as much as many other breeds.
The practice of crossbreeding is controversial. Many argue that with so many animals in shelters, where millions must be put sleep for lack of good homes, it's irresponsible to breed more animals for their "chic mutt" value. They feel it is better to decrease the overpopulation of pets instead of adding more.
However, many crossbreeds such as the labradoodle and the cockapoo have been around for more than 20 years. These are two of the most popular crossbreeds. Here is a list of the top nine and a brief description of each one.
1. Labradoodle. First bred in Australia in the 1980s, this increasingly popular dog is a cross between a Labrador retriever and poodles. The size depends on the size of the poodle parent (standard or miniature). Bred with a standard poodle, the labradoodle will probably be 17 to 20 inches high and anywhere between 20 and 55 pounds. A standard poodle/Labrador mix may be the size of a small Labrador retriever. Toy poodles, due to their size, are usually not bred with Labradors.
2. Goldendoodle. As with the labradoodle, the goldendoodle is a friendly, energetic dog. They also go by the names goldenpoo and goldiepoo. The appearance can run from a shaggy retriever to a curly, relaxed poodle. The result usually falls somewhere in between.
3. Cockapoo. Cockapoos (cocker spaniel/toy or miniature poodle mix) are also becoming popular crossbreeds. According to the Cockapoo Club of America (www.cockapooclub.com), the cockapoo should be calm and mellow; sweet and patient; intelligent and loyal. The dog should be sturdy with good stamina and health.
4. Pomapoo. This is a Pomeranian and a toy or miniature poodle crossbreed. These dogs usually resemble small balls of fluff that love to sit on your lap. However, they often retain the Pomeranian's yappiness. Because of their delicate, china-doll appearance, some owners are overly indulgent, which can lead to behavior problems such as nippy aggressiveness. All dogs require some obedience training.
5. Pekepoo. Crossing the courageous Pekingese and the toy poodle usually results in a loyal, protective dog of small size but large bark. They are smart and are small enough for apartments, but require a lot of activity.
6. Yorkiepoo. The Yorkshire terrier is another small dog with a lot of energy. However, they are better off with adults or senior citizens because of their small size. The coat is moderately long and straight, not wavy or curly.
7. Schnoodle. The schnoodle is of course a mix of schnauzer and poodle. They can come in a variety of sizes, but the toy is the most popular. As a toy, they are housedogs that do not require a lot of exercise (although some exercise is healthy for any dog). They are very intelligent and easy to train. They have short, shaggy coats that are low-shed and don't require a lot of grooming.
8. Westiepoo. This is a mix of the West Highland terrier and the poodle, and an excellent family dog. The "Westie" and the toy poodle mix makes for a little bundle of energy that is intelligent, low shed and fun loving. This is a sturdy dog that loves children.
9. Wolf hybrid. In an attempt to own a piece of wildlife, many people have bred wolves to various dog breeds (usually malamutes, German shepherds and Siberian huskies). The idea behind breeding a wolf to a dog was to produce a wolf-like canine with less of a wild nature. Though supporters of wolf-hybrids as pets have plenty of positive stories, hybrids in general tend to be more aggressive than wolves or dogs. They are also more dangerous since wolf hybrids are still predators and have now had the fear of humans bred out of them.
If you're looking for a crossbreed, be wary! Many of these dogs are marketed as being a "purebred" but they are not recognized as such by the AKC, the most reputable registry in the United States. Without a central registry, there really is no way to know if a cockapoo is really the offspring of a purebred cocker spaniel and a purebred poodle – unless the breeder can show an authenticated genetic history of the parents (for instance, AKC-approved breeding documents).