Wally Conron Believes our Build-A-Dog Mentality Needs To Stop
By Erin Kirkpatrick
Did he create a Frankenstein?
In today’s world, we’ve grown accustomed to cross-pollinating our produce (i.e. grapples = grape-flavored apples and broccolini = broccoli+ rapini), customizing our purchases (i.e. Nike soles and Starbucks orders), and genetically perfecting animals.
In the case of dogs, we pick and choose appealing traits of certain breeds and pair them with characteristics of other breeds to create dogs that fulfill exact specifications. I liken it to those children’s book with three horizontal slices that allow you to create new characters by mixing and matching pages.
In the mix-and-match book, one has the opportunity to create a crocodile with a hippopotamus’s backside. In the case of crossbreeding dogs, however, one might be creating a designer dog with unpredictable characteristics and a slew of health concerns. The former is set in a fictional, imaginary world, while the latter is a reality we currently face.
Designer dogs are now readily available, and Poodles, a crowd-favorite in crossbreeding because of their non-shedding coat, are almost always involved in the mix – Schnoodle (Miniature Schnauzer/Poodle); Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle); Yorkiepoo (Yorkshire Terrier/Poodle): Poochon (Bichon Frise/Poodle); and Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever/Poodle).
Designer dogs are exempt from derogatory terms like “mutt” and “mongrel” because they are the product of deliberate crossbreeding. The exclusivity and sophistication of a new breed are marketing catnip to society’s elite. Jennifer Aniston, Elle Macpherson, and Jeremy Clarkson are among the celebrities that own and have owned Labradoodles.
What a time to be alive!
Now, would it surprise you to learn that the man credited with creating the Labradoodle regrets his creation AND never profited from it? It surprised me!
Credit: The Guardian via The Daily Mail / Donna Bailey
Let’s go back to 1980. Wally Conron was the Breeding Manager for the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia and responsible for providing visibly impaired people with suitable guide dogs. One day, he received a letter from a blind woman in Hawaii desperately seeking a guide dog that could accommodate her lack of vision and her husband’s allergies to animal hair.
Conron knew right off the bat to use the Standard Poodle to fend off allergies, but the tricky part was finding a dog that could fulfill the guide dog role. Conron searched for a breed he could combine with the Standard Poodle, a dog that doesn’t shed its hair and is thought to be hypoallergenic. He found his answer three years later and after 33 dogs in the standard guide dog, a Labrador.