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The Man Who Created The Labradoodle Calls It His 'Life's Regret'

Ryan Ford

Wally Conron had all the best of intentions when he first started breeding Labrador retrievers with poodles.

He was the first to do it, and in the 30 years since then, labradoodles have become popular pets. But now, Wally says he has nothing but regrets.

Wally started breeding labradoodles by request.

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He had received a letter from a blind woman in Hawaii who needed a guide dog that wouldn't set off her husband's allergies.

He thought at first that a standard poodle would suffice, but they don't have the temperament for guide dog duty. It took three years, but Wally finally decided to cross a Labrador with a poodle, and so, in 1989, the first labradoodles were born.

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Of course, nothing was certain at first.

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"It was great, but I still had worries," he told Australia's ABC. "Were they non-allergic? Were they going to be suitable?"

It turns out, one of them was well matched, and after growing up and getting some training, a labradoodle named Sultan went to Hawaii to live as the woman's guide dog.

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That left two other dogs in the litter, suitable as guide dogs, non-allergenic, and needing homes.

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The name "labradoodle" became a marketing gimmick. "Nobody wanted a crossbreed but everybody wanted a labradoodle," Wally said. "Same dog, different name."

It worked, with inquiries about this new breed coming in from around the globe.

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Although Wally was the first to cross the two breeds, he was obviously not the only person who could do it.

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It doesn't take a genius. "I realized what I had done within a matter of days," he said.

Soon, breeders who had little regard for dogs' health were pumping out labradoodles. "I realized the reason for these unethical, ruthless people was to breed these dogs and sell them for big bucks," he said.

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Health problems run amok.

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"I opened a Pandora's box and released a Frankenstein's monster," Wally said. "When I'm out and I see these labradoodles I can't help myself, I go over them in my mind. I look at it thinking, does it have hip dysplasia, has it got elbow problems, any other problems I can see? I find that the biggest majority are either crazy or have a hereditary problem. I do see some damn nice labradoodles, but they're few and far between."

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Wally goes out of his way to not recommend the breed.

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As The Guardian reported, Wally feels so strongly about his creation that he wrote Barack Obama and advised him against adopting one when he was considering getting his family a pet.

It's unclear whether Obama took his advice, but he did end up settling on a Portuguese water dog.

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However, many people swear by their labradoodles.

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And some veterinarians say they're perfectly good dogs. John Whitehall, a British vet, told the BBC that labradoodles are "happy, healthy dogs. I don't think they're particularly crazy, they do seem to make good family pets, I don't think I've ever met one that was vicious or injured a family member."

h/t: ABC, [The Guardian], BBC

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