Is it wrong to remodel nature? The first man to breed a Labradoodle says it is his life’s regret. Others point out that all dogs are wildly different to their wolf ancestors.
‘I made Labradoodles and spawned a monster’
Is it wrong to remodel nature? The first man to breed a Labradoodle says it is his life's regret. Others point out that all dogs are wildly different to their wolf ancestors.
Throughout history, inventors have regretted their creations: the atomic bomb, the AK47, and now the Labradoodle.
"I opened a Pandora's box and released a Frankenstein's monster," says Wally Conron.
The Labradoodle was born in 1989, when a Hawaiian woman wrote to Conron asking for a guide dog for her husband, who was allergic to fur.
After three years of careful calculations, Conron came up with the idea of "a dog with the working ability of the Labrador and the coat of the Poodle".
The dogs, with their wavy fur and wide brown eyes, won thousands of hearts. Today, polls regularly declare them the public's favourite dogs, and they are credited with spawning a trend for "designer" dogs.
For Conron, this can only be a bad thing.
"People are just breeding for the money," he warns. "Unscrupulous breeders are crossing poodles with inappropriate dogs simply so they can say they were the first to do it."
The Labradoodle is a popular family pet thanks to its docile Labrador genes. But they are not without their problems.
"I find that the majority are either crazy, or have a hereditary problem," explains Conron. Labradoodles are prone to health problems such as epilepsy.
But other experts have cast doubt on his comments.
The Labradoodle Association insists that members of the cross-breed are "generally considered healthy dogs", unlike many pedigree breeds. As a result of generations of in-breeding, pedigree dogs are more likely to inherit faulty genes from both parents, or to have extreme, unhealthy physical characteristics.
For example, large dogs, such as German Shepherds, often suffern hip dysplasia as their bones struggle to support their enormous weight.
Some say the problem goes beyond individual breeds. For journalist William Saletan, all dogs are the result of a cruel human experiment that turned wild and magnificent wolves into shadows of their former selves.
"In the course of engineering dogs to look, feel, and act as we wanted, we ruined millions of them."
In his old age, Wally Conron is clear about his regrets. But as the number of schnoodles, goldendoodles and sheepadoodles continues to rise, it seems that few are listening to his desperate pleas.
Is it wrong to remodel nature?
Yes: The trend for "designer dogs" has led the cruel mass-production of unhealthy puppies to be sold on to people who want a fashion accessory rather than a loving pet.
No: Labradoodles have many brilliant qualities, from their docile nature to their hypoallergenic coat. They have brought joy to millions - it is wrong to regret their existence.
Or... A Labradoodle is no more unnatural than a Labrador or a terrier. All dog owners, no matter the breed, are complicit in remodelling nature. We should have left wolves alone.