In 1989, Wally Conron, puppy breeding manager for the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia, was asked by a woman in Hawaii for a guide dog that didn't trigger her husband's allergies. He surmised that by crossing a Labrador, the breed the association trained as guide dogs, and a poodle, whose coat is known to be less irritating to allergy sufferers, he could accommodate their needs.
He bred the dogs, and when the puppies were five months old, he shipped saliva and hair samples from the puppies to the couple in Hawaii. The husband had no reaction to one of the four puppies. The experiment was repeated and out of ten puppies, three did not irritate the man's allergies.
Conron gave one of the puppies to the guide dog association to train, but they refused, as they only wanted to work with purebreds. He also couldn't find foster homes for the other puppies he expected to be trained as guide dogs. People only wanted purebred dogs. Conron then went to his public relations firm and told them to announce that they had created a new purebred dog - the Labradoodle. A new fad, and easy source of money for puppy mills and backyard breeders, was born. Designer dogs.
Before you knew it, every combination began to appear...Morkies (Maltese and Yorkies), Chiweenies (Chihuahuas and Dachshund), Puggles (Pugs and Poodles), Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever and Poodles), and the list goes on.
Prior to the designer dog craze, breeding two different breeds of dogs together, created mutts. They were dumped at the shelter, given away, or sold for a significantly reduced price. Only dogs with pedigrees and "papers" from the American Kennel Association, were considered "worthy" to bring a good price. Wally Conron, inadvertently changed that.
Mr. Conron also quickly found out that since Labradoodles were hybrid, the resulting puppies did not have consistently predictable characteristics. Although all Labradoodles have some common traits, their appearance, working-ability, and behavioral characteristics remain somewhat unpredictable. Even in the nature of their coat is not consistent. Labradoodles' coats can vary from wiry to soft, and they may be curly, wavy, or straight. Straight-coated Labradoodles are said to have "hair" coats, wavy-coated dogs have "fleece" coats, and curly-coated dogs have "wool" coats. And no doodle, no matter what the breeder claims, are guaranteed to be hypo-allergenic.
When asked about his part in the creation of the designer dog, Conron commented, "I opened a Pandora's box, that's what I did. I released a Frankenstein. 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......Today I am internationally credited as the first person to breed the Labradoodle. People ask me 'Aren't you proud of yourself?' I tell them 'No! Not in the slightest.' I've done so much harm to pure breeding and made so many charlatans quite rich. I wonder, in my retirement, whether we bred a designer dog—or a disaster!"
As expected, puppy mill owners and backyard breeders have cashed in without a care for the health of the animal. When not breeding doodles, they are breeding smaller mixed breeds. The smaller they can breed them, the more money they can make. So, they breed the runts, the weakest of the litter, to get smaller and smaller micro-breeds.
The sad thing is, people are so gullible and the public has fallen for it. We allow ourselves to be cheated out of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars for mixed breed dogs. They aren't spayed or neutered, and many aren't even vaccinated, but it doesn't matter to us. Meanwhile millions of other dogs die in shelters that could have given just as much love as the one you purchased.
If you are looking for a particular designer/hybrid/mixed breed dog, log-on to Petfinder There, you can check legitimate shelters and rescues (not breeders pretending to be rescues) and you don't have to limit yourself to your area. I helped facilitate getting a doodle from Tennessee to a new family in New England this year. There is an amazing transport system of volunteers that move adoptable animals (including "designer dogs") from Southern to Northern states every weekend.
There are many other options than supporting unscrupulous breeders, and it behooves us, and benefits the animals to try to find alternatives. As long as we buy, breeders will breed, and bad breeders will breed badly. We are encouraging unhealthy practices and results.
It's time we admit that a designer dog is a mutt, and mutts are just as special and wonderful as purebred dogs. There is no shame in finding your "designer dog" at the shelter. Just like the breeders, give the breed any name you want. Next time someone asks, you can declare that you have a cocka-weinie if you want, just be sure your money went to save a life, not create it.