Science

A Labradoodle Lover Defends Labradoodles’ Right to Exist

Just because their inventor calls them his “life’s regret” doesn’t mean everyone’s abandoned the pups.

A labradoodle sticks its tongue out.
Frankenstein’s monster?
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In 1989, a man named Wally Conron crossed a Labrador with a poodle. The resulting dogs were reportedly the world’s first-ever labradoodles, and the start of a modern-day designer dog craze. They are also now Conron’s “life’s regret.” “I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster,” Conron lamented on a recent episode of the Australian podcast Sum of All Parts, spiking a flurry of coverage about whether these adorable dogs should even be here at all.

It’s not the first time Conron has spoken disparagingly of his creation: “For every perfect one, you’re going to find a lot of crazy ones,” he said in 2014. Conron’s criticism lies chiefly with how demand for the pups has spiraled since he initially bred the first labradoodle, which he was creating as a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to Labs. Now he sees people breeding them just for the money, without paying attention to problems he thinks can be inherited from both of the initial breeds. Since labradoodles are a mixed breed, traits like shedding, allergens, and energy level can vary greatly from dog to dog, making selecting a puppy a little bit of a crap shoot and occasionally leading to disappointed customers.

Are labradoodles really something to be so ashamed of bringing onto this Earth? We spoke to Adina Pearson, the woman who runs a labradoodle community, where members share dog advice and photos, and a podcast, both called Doodle Kisses, to find out. Our conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Shannon Palus: So, are labradoodles bad dogs?

Adina Pearson: No, they are not bad dogs, unless poodles and Labs and golden retrievers are bad dogs.

Why does Conron think they are?

I can’t speak for him, but I think he sees what a fad dog the labradoodle became and I think he’s sorry he started a fad. Fads with dog breeds generally hurt the breed, because people who shouldn’t be breeding tend to latch on to the possibility of cashing in on a fad. Just recently, a new puppy owner in our forum realized her doodle shed—her breeder told her the dog wouldn’t shed, and here it was shedding and affecting her allergies. The breeder basically sold this woman a lie (whether due to her own ignorance or intentional deceit). That’s just not OK.

Wally Conron probably realizes this happens on the regular and feels bad that he sparked this idea of the labradoodle in the first place.

What is your reaction when you hear Conron’s comments against labradoodles?

I think “Frankenstein monster” is a little exaggerated.

I take it given the name of your website, Doodle Kisses, that you are pretty obsessed with labradoodles. Can you tell me some of the things that you like about them?

They look like teddy bears, depending on the variety. They’re cute, and they’re scruffy. They have that Disney-dog look. Because they are a mixed breed, we can’t generalize to all, but in general, they are energetic, people-loving, fun dogs. They need to exercise. If you expect a cute stuffed animal that will just lay there, don’t get a labradoodle. When I look at different breeds I could have in the future, I still come back to the labradoodle.

Within the community, I have my critiques. I think it’s easier to critique something you’re a part of than to be on the outside and say things you don’t even know a whole lot about.

So even though this guy invented the labradoodle, he isn’t part of the community?

I think it’s different to invent the iPhone. You’ve invented it, now it’s this thing that exists. Whereas a labradoodle—he mixed two breeds. The labradoodles out here are not part of his invention, he didn’t create them. They didn’t all propagate from his breeding program. I don’t think he needs to take that much responsibility. He can breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s like someone writing the first novel, and then being like—

Oh no, now there’s really bad novels out there, and it’s all my fault. I do think that the doodle trend has gone crazy. So many people are breeding random things with poodles.

What’s the wildest poodle mix that you’ve seen?

Most of them. Anytime you’re getting a heavy, big-boned dog mixed with the petite bone structure of the poodle doesn’t make sense. Like a newfypoo. It’s like, here’s another way to teddy-bear a dog up.

In one of your emails, you noted that you were going to record this conversation. I get the sense that there might be a little bit of paranoia in the labradoodle community?

I think more for me, because I’m leading a big social network, I’ve got the podcast, I don’t want to throw shade at breeders. But I also want to be honest. It’s not a pure breed. There’s pros and cons. If you look at most quality breeders, and I’m talking across the board regardless of a breed or the mix that they’re breeding, they always have a warning about their dogs.

The lab is a high-energy dog; the poodle is a high-energy dog. You may end up with a kangaroo-doodle. It doesn’t make them monsters. It just means they’re not for everybody.

For folks who are interested in the labradoodle but are wary of puppy mills and bad breeders, what advice do you have?

We have a really great article on our website: You want to make sure the parent dogs are tested for the common conditions in the lab and the poodle. That’s the minimum.

When did you first get obsessed with labradoodles?

I was thinking about getting a boxer. My husband, who was my boyfriend then, suggested, Hey, check out the labradoodle. I’m like, OK, sure, whatever. And I was hooked. I saw Bocker the labradoodle, who was famous back then. He was in Tommy Hilfiger ads. I’m like—I want a Bocker. I researched the heck out of it. I had this file on my computer comparing breeders. I got my puppy and it was love at first sight. He was a weird combo of very mellow, and then he would turn into jaws.

I feel like all puppies are harder than you expect them to be.

The perfect puppy is going to be harder than you expect.