Cockapoos. Yorkipoos. Labradoodles. Goldendoodles. Aussiedoodles. Bernadoodles.
These “designer dogs” are everywhere, thanks to the “hypoallergenic” label they get and the adorable puppy photos featuring roly-poly balls of curly fluff.
One of the appeals of these crossbreeds is the fact that they shed very little, thanks to the poodle influence. If you’ve ever owned a dog that did shed, you can quickly understand the appeal of a dog that doesn’t leave drifts of hair along baseboards or those inevitable stray hairs that always seem to find their way into your morning coffee.
But some of the appeal is false advertising: No breed is truly hypoallergenic, as the American Kennel Club points out. However, it also points out that some breeds seem to trigger fewer allergic reactions than others.
The poodle is one of those breeds — and that trait is what triggered the now-infamous cross that became known as the “labradoodle.”
It started in 1989 when Wally Conron with Guide Dogs Victoria needed a dog that would fit in a family where the husband was allergic to dogs, according to an interview with ABC Media. The man’s wife, who was blind, needed a guide dog, but obviously the standard Labrador pup wouldn’t do.
This woman had a unique request: A guide dog that wouldn’t set her husband’s allergies off.
The solution seemed straightforward to Conron, who knew the standard poodle should fit the bill. But over several years, 33 standard poodles were trained and none of them became successful guide dogs, succumbing to eye, hip or temperamental problems.
So, Conron decided to try a new cross, hoping to highlight the working ability of the Labrador and the coat of the poodle to help people who needed a service dog but dealt with allergies.
Breeders are very particular when it comes to bloodlines and crossbreeding, so Wally was hard-pressed to find a standard poodle stud with no hereditary problems whose breeders would allow such a union.
Finally he found one, a white standard poodle with no known health issues in its history, and crossed it with one of the guide dog Labradors. Of the three resulting puppies, one did not set off the woman’s husband’s allergies, and so the labradoodle cross was created.
The problem became that people took a shine to the cross, and suddenly the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand. As more and more people searched for the new labradoodle, backyard breeders began to work to supply them — but without doing the rigorous background work necessary to create healthy, stable dogs.
The majority of the labradoodles that now exist are, as Conron noted, “either crazy or have a hereditary problem.” While the original reason for creating labradoodles was noble, Conron soon regretted starting the labradoodle craze that led to haphazard breeding practices.
“I opened a Pandora’s box and released a Frankenstein monster,” he said.
While the cross hasn’t been recognized as a registerable breed, the cross has become a popular staple in many households. There are some labradoodles that Conron admires, who came from conscientious breedings and have wonderful temperaments, but as is the case with all popular breeds or cross-breeds, it’s unscrupulous breeding that can cause lots of issues.
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