Doodles are everywhere. They’re impossibly cute and lovable and one the most popular “designer dogs” in the world today. They’re fluffy, intelligent, happy dogs that don’t shed and are frequently hypoallergenic.
Today, the doodle breeds have exploded in popularity, spawning the Goldendoodle Bernedoodle, Sheepadoodle, Irish Doodle, Dalmadoodle, Saint Berdoodle, Boxerdoodle and the Bassetoodle (ok, that’s really a Toodle), to name a few.
But not everyone is happy about it.
Wally Conron created the first Labradoodle in Australia in 1989. While he was proud of his creation at the time, he was unprepared for the demand, triggering a slew of “unethical, ruthless people” who bred for profit over health.
“I opened a Pandora’s Box and released a Frankenstein monster,” the 90-year-old told Fiona Pepper of Australia’s RN radio program, Sum of All Parts, this month.
The History of the Labradoodle
As the puppy-breeding manager at the Guide Dogs Victoria, Conran bred Labradors to become guide dogs for the blind. But in the mid-1980s, he received a letter from a woman in Hawaii who wanted a guide dog, but her husband was allergic to dogs. She asked the organization to come up with a hypoallergenic dog that she could use as a guide dog.
Conron was given the challenge to find an alternative dog breed that could be trained as a guide dog but wouldn’t trigger allergic reactions. He thought it would be easy: he could just use a Standard Poodle because Poodles were bred originally as working dogs.
Yet, over a period of three years, Conron bred 33 Standard Poodles, and not one of them was successful. They each had a variety of problems, from coat issues to hip conditions and temperament problems. While they were good working dogs, they didn’t make the cut as guide dogs.
Conron’s boss, John Gosling, told him that he was running out of time, and he had to figure out an alternative. That’s when he decided to cross a healthy standard poodle with their best Labrador Retriever. Luckily, Gosling, who is currently an advisor at Guide Dogs Victoria, had a healthy standard poodle named Harley. In 1989, Conron brought their best Labrador, Brandy, to mate with Harley. That afternoon, Brandy got pregnant.
Nine weeks later, Brandy had a small litter of three puppies. Conron sent off samples of hair and saliva to Hawaii, but only one puppy proved to be hypoallergenic. They named the first Labradoodle guide dog Sultan.
Sultan proved to be a talented guide dog, and after he was trained, he went to live with the woman in Hawaii. But that left two puppies.
Although Guide Dogs Victoria had a long waiting list of people wanting guide dogs, not one of those people wanted a mutt. That’s when Conron went to their publicity manager and asked that she put out a statement that they had created a new hypoallergenic guide dog called the Labradoodle.
Conron says that it was a gimmick — but it worked. All of a sudden, everybody wanted a Labradoodle.
I’ve Created a Monster
While Conron had intended the crossbreed to be used as a guide dog for people who were allergic, he was unprepared for the kind of popularity that his creation would see. He got calls from all over the world from people who wanted a Labradoodle.
He wanted to control the breeding process. So, Guide Dogs Victoria tried to patent the name Labradoodle, but they were unsuccessful.
Suddenly, breeders who weren’t concerned with the health of their dogs were breeding Labradoodles and charging astronomical fees.
“I realized what I’d done in a matter of days. I’d created a monster,” he told Pepper on the podcast.”
During his time at Guide Dogs Victoria, Conron bred 31 Labradoodles who went on to become successful guide dogs. But his focus was much different from the public’s. He was never concerned with the dog’s appearance. He bred his dogs to become hypoallergenic guide dogs.
Yet, now he says he finds “the biggest majority are either crazy or have a hereditary problem.” He does, however, see some “damn nice Labradoodle, but they are few and far between.”
We get it: Labradoodles and all the other oodles are super cute and when bred correctly, can be amazing dogs. But the key is they must be bred the right way. When looking to welcome one into your new home, it is imperative to find the right breeder – one who cares about the health and well-being of the dog over money and looks.