Wally Conran first crossed a poodle with a Labrador in 1988 to create a seeing eye dog for a blind woman with allergies. Why he didn’t just obtain a poodle to train for this purpose, I have no clue (a lot of reputable breeders probably would have just donated a puppy for this type of purpose, even).
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.
Um, poodles are plenty affable and controllable just by their own bad selves. However, I digress.
“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’,” 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 AU$1000 (US$927) 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-breeds 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.”
What I find fascinating that people who wouldn’t buy a purebred will pay top dollar for a crossbred with no genetic testing and no record of dedicated breeding. At my dog park, I have repeatedly heard of the designer dog’s superiority to ‘purebreds’, even though the people extolling the virtues of their crossbred dogs fail to mention any research into the health of the dog’s ancestry, what purpose the dogs’ parents were bred for, why the breeder was breeding dogs to begin with.
While people have associated owning purebred dogs with snobbery for time out of mind, there is a different kind of pretentiousness associated with owning a designer dog. It seems to be somehow connected with the rejection of the values and status symbols of the wealthy. Purebreds are like the inbred members of European royalty – pedigreed, to be sure, but without strength or character. Mongrels are genetic unknowns, a crap shoot. But the deliberately bred designer dog is a proud symbol of the bourgeois lifestyle. We can afford to pay purebred prices, but we want a dog that’s MORE than a purebred dog. Something bigger! Better!
What’s funny is that these people just bought into the same kind of thinking that causes purebreds to be popular. They bought into the idea of a recognizable type of dog deliberately bred for specific characteristics. They paid hundreds or thousands of dollars for it. They may even have “papers” from some online “kennel club” for it.
They just have the dubious distinction of owning a dog that isn’t purebred. The owners of ‘SPCA specials’ can claim the same, only they’ve paid quite a bit less and gotten spaying and neutering thrown in for free.
Do I think that crossbred dogs are necessarily a bad thing? No, but that’s a post for next time. Stay tuned…