Whose bright idea was that?

Labradoodle:

If Wally Conron had known what was going to become of the labradoodle, he wouldn’t have bred the dog in the first place. It was 22 years ago and Conron, now 81, was working as the breeding and puppy-walking manager for the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia when his boss set him a tough task. A blind woman from Hawaii had written asking if it they could provide a guide dog that would not shed hair, because her husband was allergic to it. “I said, ‘Oh yes, this will be a piece of cake. The standard poodle is a working dog, it doesn’t shed hair, it’ll be great.’ I tried 33 in the course of three years and they all failed. They just didn’t make a guide dog. Meanwhile, the woman in Hawaii was getting older and the boss was getting on my back.”

Conron decided there was one possibility left – take his best labrador bitch and mate it with a standard poodle. They created three crossbreed puppies that needed to be boarded out to be trained and socialized, but nobody would take them – everyone wanted a purebred. And that’s when Conron came up with the name labradoodle. “I went to our PR team and said, ‘Go to the press and tell them we’ve invented a new dog, the labradoodle.’ It was a gimmick, and it went worldwide. No one wanted a crossbreed, but the following day we had hundreds of calls from people wanting these master dogs.”

The labradoodle proved to be a brilliant dog for the blind, and the woman in Hawaii was happy. Job done. So what was the problem? Ah, says Conron, it’s how the dog has been used and abused, and sold under false pretenses. “This is what gets up my nose, if you’ll pardon the expression. When the pups were five months old, we sent clippings and saliva over to Hawaii to be tested with this woman’s husband. Of the three pups, he was not allergic to one of them. In the next litter I had there were 10 pups, but only three had non-allergenic coats. Now, people are breeding these dogs and selling them as non-allergenic, and they’re not even testing them.”

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