FoxNews.com reports today that Wally Conran, the man who in 1988 crossed a Labrador Retriever with a Poodle to fulfill a blind woman’s request for a service dog that didn’t shed, regrets creating the new breed, Labradoodle.
Conran, now 81, was Royal Institute of the Blind when he received a request from a Hawaiian woman for a dog that her allergic husband could tolerate.
That decision has since spawned the designer dog trend.
In other words, mutts are chic, selling for around $1,000 a puppy.
Let’s be honest: When God first put the dog on the earth, it didn’t have a breed standard. It was a dog, and every dog since has bred with other dogs, and some dogs ended up being good working dogs and some ended up being companions, and it’s up for grabs if it happened by nature or nurture. It was only a hundred years or so ago that people started recognizing specific breeds. (Which is when all the problems started, if you listen to at least one dog expert I know. But that’s another column.)
The problem isn’t so much crossing the breeds, it’s the marketing of the outcome. People now think they need to have a purebred dog and look down their noses at mongrels or mutts. But the reality is that a purebred dog can be a royal pain in the behind, while a regular old mutt could be the companion of a lifetime. You just never know.
So Mr. Conran shouldn’t feel badly about creating the Labradoodle. It’s a great dog. And if he didn’t do it, someone else would have.
But it is sad – and creepy – that we’ve become a society that breeds our pets to match our lifestyles. There’s a fine line between crossing breeds to meet a real need – a blind person allergic to dogs, for example – and crossing breeds to meet some elitist mindset. I’m not sure where the line is, but I’m pretty sure Conran didn’t cross it. It was those who came after him, with dollar signs in their eyes, that did.