Wally Conron sparked something of an animal revolution in the 1980s when he bred a Labrador with a poodle, creating the labradoodle. Now, Conron said he regrets creating the breed that has become one of the most popular in the United States.
The New York Post uncovered an interview with Conron where he expresses guilt over creating the fluffy breed. The dogs became so popular that the breed grew unhealthy and unscrupulous breeders valued money over the wellbeing of their dogs, Conron lamented.
“I opened a Pandora’s box, that’s what I did,” Conron said. “So many people are just breeding for the money. So many of these dogs have physical problems, and a lot of them are just crazy.”
As the report noted, Conron started out with good intentions, trying to breed a dog that could be a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to most dogs. The breed was meant to be hypoallergenic, but as it grew in popularity, the breeders found that their genetic makeup was unpredictable and many were not hypoallergenic.
Conron’s tale of woe is recounted in a new book, Designer Dogs: An Exposé Inside the Criminal Underworld of Crossbreeding, by Madeline Bernstein. As the New York Post noted, the book explores the underside of the breeding industry that feeds designer dogs to the public while often creating genetic defects that plague the health of the animals.
As a report in Scientific American found, the overbreeding to create cute and smaller dogs has ravaged their immune systems. For example, the trait that gives Dalmatians spots also leaves them vulnerable for urinary diseases. To remove the disease trait, the breed would no longer have its trademark spots.
Rigid standards set by organizations have contributed to this trend, the report noted.
“Over time the American Kennel Club (AKC) and other such organizations have set standards defining what each variety should look like,” the report noted.
“To foster the desired appearance, breeders often turn to line breeding—a type of inbreeding that mates direct relatives, such as grandmother and grandson. When a male dog wins numerous championships, for instance, he is often bred widely—a practice known as popular sire syndrome (pdf)—and his genes, healthy or not, then are spread like wildfire throughout the breed.”
Labradoodles were originally bred to be guide dogs that wouldn't trigger allergies. pic.twitter.com/XGOQX49Af6— Quite Interesting (@qikipedia) March 16, 2018
Experts have called on breeders to put the health of their animals first, even if that means moving away from more desired characteristics that can lead to deformities and higher disease risks.