‘I created Labradoodles and spawned a monster’

Labradorable: Most Labradoodles are hypoallergenic, which means they don’t shed their fur. © Getty

Are Labradoodles really a “Frankenstein’s monster”? That’s what their creator, 90-year-old Wally Conron, says. He believes the “unhealthy” dogs set a dangerous trend.

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 90-year-old 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 copy-cat, “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.”

A cross between two of the world’s most intelligent breeds (second only to the border collie), 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 generally prone to epilepsy, food allergies and Addison’s disease, which means their bodies cannot regulate stress.

But other experts have cast doubt on his comments.

According to the Labradoodle Association, 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 (like the German Shepherd) often suffer hip dysplasia as their bones struggle to support their enormous weight.

The King Charles spaniel, one of the most popular dog breeds, is also very sickly. Half of the dogs will have developed a serious heart condition by the age of five, and 70% will be in severe pain from a neurological disorder that damages their spinal cord.

So, is it fair to call Labradoodles a “Frankenstein’s monster”?

Labradon’t

It certainly is, say some. 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. Up to two thirds of these dogs suffer from chronic pain and spend their lives struggling for air. It’s obscenely cruel.

Don’t be so sure, respond others. From bulldogs that can barely breathe to cancer-plagued Basset Hounds, pedigree dogs are far more likely to be unhealthy because of their tiny gene pool. Of course poorly-matched breeds shouldn’t be bred together, but a wider gene pool makes for healthier, happier dogs. We should have more cross-bred creations like the Labradoodle, not fewer.

You Decide

  1. Would you like to own a Labradoodle?
  2. Should pedigree dogs be banned?

Activities

  1. Research a breed of dog. List its characteristics and any health problems it may be likely to suffer.
  2. Write a speech to persuade your audience not to buy Labradoodles.

Some People Say...

“Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in Resurrection shall have a little golden tail.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546), German Professor of Theology

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Labradoodles are a cross between a Labrador retriever and a Poodle. The cross-breed was first created by Wally Conron in Australia, as a guide dog for people allergic to fur. As Labradors and Poodles are thought to be the fourth and second-most intelligent dogs, Labradoodles too are very clever. Since their creation in 1989, they have become one of the most popular cross-breeds.
What do we not know?
How many Labradoodles there are in the world. It is even hard to pin down exactly what they look like. Labradoodles can weigh anywhere between 30 to 65 pounds, and their fur — which comes in a range of colours — can be wavy, curly, straight or wiry.

Word Watch

Frankenstein’s monster
In Mary Shelley’s novel, Victor Frankenstein creates a living monster from the dismembered body parts of corpses.
Poodle
Poodles generally do not shed their fur, so they are good pets for people with fur allergies.
Border collie
A dog developed in the Scottish borders to herd sheep.
Docile
Calm, obedient.
Addison’s disease
When your adrenal glands produce too little cortisol. Symptoms include pain, weakness and weight loss.
Pedigree
Pure-bred.
Hip dysplasia
When one’s hip socket doesn’t fit properly.
Neurological disorder
Canine syringomyelia: when the brain is too big for the skull.
Pandora’s box
In Greek mythology, Pandora is given a box by the gods containing all the evils in the world and told not to open it. She, of course, does.

Subjects

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