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“My life regret”: creator of the first labradoodle speaks out

Written by Science

When Australian dog breeder Wally Conron was approached by a lady who needed a guide dog with short hair, due to her husband’s allergies, he had no idea what box he was opening. This task led to the creation of the first ever labradoodle, named Sultan – a creation that Conron confessed was his “life regret”.

Within days of announcing the first ever labradoodle to the world, Conron realised what he had done. Speaking to ABC in Australia, he described the breed as “Frankenstein’s monster” and stated that “people are just breeding [them] for the money”. While a well done breed between two healthy dogs can result in a perfectly healthy hybrid, Conron (rightfully) worries that most breeders are not taking this care with their breeding, and it is resulting in labradoodles with genetic defects from both labradors and poodles – including elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia and eye diseases.

To make matters even worse for Conron, it is not clear whether he even achieved his original goal. The chair of Henry Ford Hospital’s department of public health sciences declared that there is “no scientific evidence that ‘hypoallergenic’ dogs (such as labradoodles) have less allergen”. This is because most allergic reactions to dogs come from ‘dander’, which the American Lung Association describes as “tiny, even microscopic, flecks of skin shed by cats, dogs, rodents, birds and other animals with fur or feathers”, rather than their hair.

Yet, the labradoodle persists as a very popular dog breed. In 2018, ITV revealed that they placed 14th in a survey of Britain’s favourite dogs – higher than a poodle, although the #1 spot was taken by the labrador. Labradoodles are often regarded as good candidates for “therapy dogs” – to provide comfort to people suffering from depression, although it’s easy to argue that there are many other breeds who can fill this role.

Nevertheless, if done properly  the labradoodle can lead a healthy life if the breeder does their job properly. If you are going to adopt a labradoodle from a breeder, ask to see certification that their parents were free from genetic health problems if you want to ensure you are not adopting “Frankenstein’s monster”.

Last modified: 10th October 2019

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