Australian dog breeder Wally Conron first crossed a Labrador retriever with a standard poodle, both purebreds, in 1988. He hoped to meet the unique needs of a blind woman in Hawaii by breeding a hypoallergenic service dog.
Thirty years after the birth of Sultan, the first labradoodle, the breed has become one of the world’s most popular. But the breed has been an overwhelming success for all the wrong reasons, according to their creator.
“I opened a Pandora’s box and released a Frankenstein monster,” Conron told the "Sum of All Parts" podcast. "I released the reason for these unethical, ruthless people to breed these dogs and sell them for big bucks. That’s my big regret.”
The labradoodle’s instant popularity gave rise to the practice of crossbreeding animals for huge profits. Designer dogs routinely fetch price tags well above those of their purebred parents. Labradoodle puppies from reputable sellers, for example, can easily cost over $2,500 before the cost of care and grooming come into play. Conron blames himself for the controversial sensation.
Upon its introduction to the public, the labradoodle became famous for its appearance and playfulness instead of its service potential. They are highly intelligent, feature non-shedding coats, and are available in a variety of colors and sizes. They became the first “designer dog” – a term used to describe any dog crossed between two purebred parents.
Labradoodles are known to suffer from degenerative hip and elbow diseases, epilepsy, and several other inherited conditions thanks to their crossbred lineage and the resulting small gene pool. Conron does appreciate that healthy and happy labradoodles can be wonderful companions just like he envisioned thirty years ago. However, he warned, “they are few and far between.”
Other designer dog breeds, including the puggle, goldendoodle and cockapoo, face similar hereditary health problems and breeding practice controversies despite their massive popularity as both companions and fashion statements.