In the late 1980s, a Hawaiian couple asked Australian dog breeder Wally Conron to invent them a new kind of dog to fit their special needs. The wife had vision problems, and the husband was allergic to most kinds of dogs. Conron's solution was to cross a Labrador retriever and a standard poodle. The plan worked — the dog was adorable and didn't set off the husband's allergies — but Conron's actions set off a chain of events he regrets to this day.
"I've done a lot of damage."
He's credited as the instigator of the "designer dog craze" — a trend that has catalyzed the creation of reckless puppy mills built to satisfy the public's demand for exotic dogs. "I've done a lot of damage," Conron told The Associated Press. "I've created a lot of problems." As celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Tiger Woods adopted Labradoodles, puppy mills hastily bred more of the dogs, which often have severe health problems. "Instead of breeding out the problems, they're breeding them in," Conron said. "For every perfect one, you're going to find a lot of crazy ones."
Not everyone agrees that Conron's creations are "Frankensteins," as he calls them. Thirty years after Conron's first Labradoodle, mixed breeds are for the first time eligible in this weekend's Westminster Kennel Club show.