NEW YORK – Hybrids are hot — and we're not talking about gas mileage.
The puggle (search) — the result of a one-night stand between a beagle and a pug — has families cooing and cuddling.
Even tough-guy "Soprano" James Gandolfini (search) recently bought one of the black-nosed rascals.
"Everyone is clawing for them, it's ridiculous," said Brian Incovaia of Metro Puppy Kennels in Forest Hills, Queens. "I get people calling left and right for them, and basically you get the equivalent of breeding a Marc Jacobs bag with a Louis Vuitton (search)."
Incovaia's designer dogs range from $650-$900, and less is more; the smaller the puppy, the higher the puggle price tag.
"The puggles are the most in demand. And they're just the cutest little dogs," said Garry Garner, president of the American Canine Hybrid Club (search), which registers and recognizes more than 200 hybrid dog breeds.
More people are turning to designer hybrids because of their temperament, allergy-safe fur or plain cuteness.
The Australian Labradoodle, a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle, started the designer-dog trend more than 15 years ago. The careful cross-breeding resulted in a curly-haired, friendly and hypoallergenic dog that had people paying close to $2,000 a puppy.
"Lately, people have been coming in and looking and calling especially for puggles. These are hot in Manhattan right now because they make great apartment dogs," said Michael Rubin, manager at Puppy Paradise on Flatbush Avenue.
Rubin says he's carried puggles for the last seven years but adds he's seen interest in the breed take off within the last couple of years — and he's sold 250 in the last year.
Brooklyn resident Stephen Padovano found his puggle by accident. Padovano spent the day cruising the shelters for a dog for his 18-year-old daughter, Dana, but thought they were all too big. After he stopped at Puppy Paradise, Bella worked her way into his heart.
"This dog will jump through hoops to try and please you. She's very lovable, she doesn't shed that much and she knows exactly what I want her to do," he said about his 6-month-old puggle puppy. "I was worried in the beginning that my neighbors would complain about her barking, but they tell me she has the cutest little howl."
But not everyone is barking the praises of the designer dogs. Lisa Peterson, spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club, says she think this trend is out of control.
"Here's the thing, people who breed designer dogs are cross-breeding with the hopes of getting the best of both worlds. They may get the worst of both worlds," she said. "Hybrids are trendy because they are new. It's the equivalent of buying the new 'It' shoe or bag.
"I'd like to know how long these breeders have been breeding puggles. Do they own a beagle and their friend has a poodle and they get together and breed a puggle?" she said. "Historically, all breeds were bred to help man out to hunt, herd or as a companion. What is the purpose of a puggle (search)?"
For some buyers, it may simply be the name. Both Peterson and Rubin agree that New Yorkers love the idea of a pup called a peekapoo or a Labradoodle (search).
"They're not really breeds. Tomorrow someone could breed a Great Dane with a mastiff and they call it a Great Stiff," Peterson said.