Not so long ago, most New Yorkers under 70 wouldn't have been caught dead walking a yapping lap dog - much less dressing one up in a leopard-print raincoat, or a tiny green and red doggie sweater with matching vinyl booties. That was before the rise of the 'puggle', a new designer breed that now tops the canine A-list. The doey-eyed mutt, sired by mating a pug and beagle, can be found popping out of designer bags on 5th Avenue, strolling in sweaters through Central Park and charging around dog runs across the city. Local paparazzi have sighted the trendy canine on the arms of a wide array of celebrities in recent months, ranging from Sylvester Stallone to James Gandolfini of The Sopranos. Uma Thurman, singer Kelly Osbourne and Oscar nominee Jake Gyllenhaal have also adopted puggles in the past year. With its wrinkled brow, floppy, beagle-like ears and tiny frame, new owners are finding that the puggle has become something of a celebrity on its own. 'When I walk down the street, I can't get [2 metres] without somebody stopping me,' said Debra Kamers, whose dog Maisy was born in June. 'She is adorable.' Jonnathan Kessler, the owner of four-month-old Dougie, said: 'It's a good conversation-starter. I've met some girls.' The puggle is the latest and most popular of the so-called 'designer dogs', a trend in pet breeding that began with the creation of the cockapoo, (cocker spaniel and poodle) and quickly expanded to such new breeds as the labordoodle (labrador and poodle), schnoodle (schnauzer and poodle) and bullmatian (bulldog and dalmatian). The trend-driven nature of the breed and the high demand makes for a hefty price tag: in New York, puggles cost upwards of US$1,500. Promoters of the puggle say there is good reason for the price. They claim the breed combines the best attributes of the beagle and pug, minimising the former's annoying barking and correcting the congenital breathing problems common to squash-nosed pugs. But critics say there is no guarantee the unwanted traits will actually be bred out. The controversy has done little to curb demand. Though no figures are available on the number of puggles in the US, most sellers say they do a brisk trade and sometimes even have a waiting list. 'They are our most popular dog along with the English bulldog,' said Holly Hemmingway, owner of Pets & Parrots in Greenwich Village. 'It's perfect for the city, where there is not a lot of space. I don't keep them very long.'