For a longer discussion on this and on choosing a breed for your family, my long article is here.
The invented mixes–the puggle, bugg, labradoodle, etc.–are extremely popular right now. I would caution you to look at them with the same jaundiced eye that you should be applying to every litter of puppies for sale, purebred or not. DO NOT SUPPORT a breeder who does not pass the following tests:
– Has shown whatever dogs are being bred, to their championships or close to it, in either conformation or another recognized peer-reviewed activity (field trials, earthdog, go to ground, etc.). If you’re talking purebreds, both parents should be shown. If you’re talking mixes, both parents should be champions or close to it of their respective breeds. This is because only the very best should ever be deliberately bred–we have plenty of generic dogs in this country; adopt one if you want one.
– Doesn’t just pair the dogs on his or her property. Very few good kennels are large enough to breed only within the kennel; you want to see the breeder going to outside stud dogs. If the kennel has bitches A, B, C, D, and dogs E, F, it’s a BAD SIGN if all the litters are A+E, B+E, D+F, D+E, B+F, etc. There is no way that those two males are the only right stud dogs for those females.
– Has performed health tests for every genetic disorder in each of the breeds, and is only breeding the healthiest to the healthiest. So for Labs this would be OFA hips, heart, elbows, probably thyroid; for Poodles this would be OFA hips, heart, SA (skin disease), CERF eyes, and a history/pedigree clear of Addisons, epilepsy, etc. For pugs this would be OFA hips, heart, history of palate disorders; beagles CERF eyes and OFA hips. And the list goes on.
– Interviews you and makes sure that you are a good match with their dogs. You should feel that it is difficult to get a puppy from them, NEVER that they want to make a sale. You should definitely get the impression that they reject a proportion of applications.
– Requires you to sign a written contract regarding the care and outcome of the dog; the contract should include a puppy-back clause that specifies that the dog come back to them if you cannot keep it at any point in its life. You should not be allowed to re-home the dog yourself without the input of the breeder.
– Doesn’t make money. This is not because money is evil, it’s because, unless you sell each puppy for five or ten grand, you just simply can’t make money on puppies if you do it right, if you show and health test and always take dogs back and so on. Feel free to test this out–after you’ve had a pleasant conversation with the breeder, say “So is it possible to make money from breeding?” You should hear incredulous laughter and a HUGE no; they’ll usually tell you how many tens of thousands they spent that year on the dogs and how this is a drop in the bucket.
If you can find a mixed-breed breeder that passes these VERY basic tests–and they are basic; they are only the beginning of what a good breeder considers to be her responsibility–you have the encouragement of the dog world to go for it. Contrary to popular belief, we’re not snobs. There are some breeders–for example, the border-staffie breeders who specialize in flyball–who are doing mixed breeding that pass all those tests, and they get big kudos as far as I’m concerned.
Unfortunately, I have NEVER seen a single person breeding for the companion “market” (for example, labradoodles or puggles) that passes these tests. Never. If you DO find one, please let me know (and I really do mean this; I am always willing to change my mind if presented with evidence) so I can revise my thinking.