Published May 02, 2010
THE man who bred the first labradoodle - and in the process made the mutt a desirable accessory - says it's the great regret of his life.
The coveted accessory has pushed out other breeds in terms of desirability.
Wally Conran, 81, coined the term labradoodle in 1988, when he was the manager of the puppy program at the Royal Institute of the Blind.
He received a letter from a woman in Hawaii who needed a seeing eye dog, but her husband had allergies. She wanted a dog that would not shed hair.
Mr Conran crossed two popular pedigree dogs: a labrador from breeding stock at the institute and a poodle owned by his boss to create the labradoodle.
The puppies were supposed to have the best traits of both dogs: the affable, controllable nature of the labrador, and the curly, non-shedding coat of the poodle.
"But now when people ask me, `Did you breed the first one', I have to say, `Yes, I did, but it's not something I'm proud of'," Mr Conran said.
"I wish I could turn the clock back."
The labradoodle is now recognized as the first of the so-called "designer dogs", selling for more than $1000 a puppy. In essence, it is a mutt, or mongrel, yet it has raced ahead of pedigrees in terms of price and desirability.
Some pet shops report mongrels outselling pure-breds three to one, despite the high price of both.
As a result, labradoodles and their cutely named cousins -- spoodles, schnoodles, cavoodles, moodles, groodles and roodles -- are being pumped out across the nation, to meet demand
"I'm not at all proud of my involvement in it," Conran said. "But the genie's out of the bottle, and you can't put it back."
His dismay isn't shared by breeders of the curly cross-breeds, who say they are merely meeting demand for a family-oriented, non-shedding dog of compact size, and happy temperament.
Nicolette Gallagos, of Australian Labradoodle Association, said: "Labradoodles are family-oriented dogs. They are perfect for families that want a dog that is good with children."
The association has set a breed standard for itself, and hopes the dog will soon be recognized as a breed by the Australian National Kennel Council.
The process may take 20 years. It has been so long since a new breed has been added to the Kennel Council's register that nobody can remember when it last happened.
Once recognized, the labradoodles will be able to enter shows, and win prizes.
The rise in popularity of the mutts angers pedigree breeders, who complain that cross-breeders are exploiting the fad for money, and forcing pedigree bitches to give birth to dozens of cross-bred pups every year.