Since the labradoodle boom in the early aughts, the popularity of the adorable curly-haired dog has spread. Celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Lance Bass, Tiger Woods, and Henry Winkler count themselves among the multitude of labradoodle owners. But the creator of the breed admits he is not a fan. "I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster," Wally Conron recently said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's podcast, "Sum of All Parts."
Conron created the dog breed in 1989 while he was working at the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia. Conron had a good reason for creating the dog, as it was originally intended to be a hypoallergenic guide dog for a woman in Hawaii with a special request. "I bred the labradoodle for a blind lady whose husband was allergic to dog hair," Conron said. "Why people are breeding them today, I haven't got a clue."
Since poodles don't shed, Condon knew the breed would be a good choice. However, he ran into difficulty. "Over the period of three years, I tried 33 standard poodles, but not one was successful," he told the podcast. He then decided to mate a male poodle named Harley with a female Labrador named Brandy. The result was "a dog with the working ability of the Labrador and the coat of the poodle," he said.
Condon regrets the mash up. "I realized what I had done within a matter of days," he said. "I went to our big boss at the time and I said to him, 'Look, I've created a monster. We need to do something about it to control it.'" Instead, the breed was given a cutesy name in order to help it sell. The labradoodle is cited as inspiration for the crossbreeding trend that has resulted in dogs such as shih poos and puggles.
It turns out, crossbreeding can increase a dog's risk of congenital disease. "I find that the biggest majority are either crazy or have a hereditary problem," he said. Many poodle crossbreeds have epilepsy and Addison's disease, in addition to problems with their eyes, hips, and elbows. However, the Australian Labradoodle Association of America, says they are "generally considered healthy dogs" despite having some problems.
Labradoodles are also a staple in puppy mills, where commercial dog breeders care about producing designer dogs with little concern for the dogs' health. "I released the reason for these unethical, ruthless people to breed these dogs and sell them for big bucks – that's my big regret," Conron said. An estimated 2.11 million puppies are sold through puppy mills each and every year. In comparison, three million dogs are killed in shelters because they can't find homes. There are around 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S., most of which aren't regulated.
The dogs are crazy-cute and hard not to love, but Conron's confession is a reminder that sometimes we don't think about the health or source of our pets as much as we should. It's important to think of the health and well-being of your animal just as much as you think about the softness of their curls.
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