THE WASHINGTON POST – They’re cute and curly-haired. They don’t shed much. They come in multiple colours.
Aficionados see a lot to love in the labradoodle, the Labrador retriever-poodle mix that ranks among the world’s most popular “designer dogs.”
But not Wally Conron.
The Australian man who introduced labradoodles to the world back in 1989 said the breed is his “life’s regret” – the spark for a proliferation of poodle hybrids that he claims has run amok with irresponsible breeding causing health problems.
“I opened a Pandora’s box and released a Frankenstein’s monster,” he told the Australia Broadcasting Corp in an interview last week.
The comments have drawn confusion and indignant disagreement from Labradoodle lovers everywhere – but also recognition of dangers in the reckless pursuit of adorable new canine combinations.
Conron has been distancing himself from the labradoodle for years. A Psychology Today post from 2014 cites an interview with Conron in which he decries “backyard breeders” that have “jumped on the bandwagon” he started. The breeder makes the same laments in a 2016 blog post, writing of the “mania” that followed labradoodles’ rise to prominence.
“New breeds began to flood the market: groodles, spoodles, caboodles and snoodles,” he said.
The breeder said he coined ‘Labradoodle’ in the 1980s while searching for the perfect guide dog for a woman who wrote him from Hawaii, saying she needed an animal that did not shed given her husband’s allergies.
A breeding manager at the time for the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia, Conron initially thought of giving her a poodle, because of the breed’s minimal shedding. But more than 30 poodle tryouts later, the ABC reported, Conron decided the dog simply was not cut out to assist a blind person.
It took him three years from the woman’s letter to concoct a solution: A hybrid that would combine the Labrador’s knack for guide-dog skills – an “affable, controllable nature,” he said – with the poodle’s convenient curls. Nine weeks later, he had three puppies, according to the ABC.
One of the pups, named Sultan, was set to go to Hawaii. But the other two languished unwanted with Conron, the breeder recalled, until he got the idea to rebrand them, from a “crossbreed” to a new kind of non-allergenic dog with the quirky name “labradoodle.”
“Can you get onto the media and tell them that we’ve bred a special breed?” Conron recalled telling public-relations staff at the Royal Guide Dogs Association in his interview with the ABC.
The ploy worked. Calls poured in asking after a “wonder dog,” Conron said.
The labradoodle set off an intense interest in so-called “designer dogs,” which started to fetch prices beyond those of their purebred parents and over the decades have attracted the attention of famous figures such as Miley Cyrus and former president Barack Obama.
The hype over hybrids has set off some squabbling in the dog world, as purebred enthusiast breeders accused their designer dog counterparts of chasing profits rather than canine perfection.