Labradoodles are Nobody’s Frankenstein Monster!

Why was such a fuss made this week about The BBC news podcast of an interview last week with a man named Wally, decrying a crossbred dog he experimented with decades ago?  The mainstream media (the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc) grabbed onto the interview as though there was merit to his claim of personal remorse and guilt over having “created” the Labradoodle. In actual fact, he was decades from being the first person to cross Poodles with other breeds and making himself the center of some mea culpa struck me as absurd. These newspaper articles (The New York Times even picked out their article as one of their “top 11 reads for the week”) gave credence to Wally’s alarming pronouncements about the horrors of the Labradoodles that continue to be bred —- when they are as varied and delightful as any other cross-bred dogs. Or any dogs, for that matter!

The take-away from Wally’s hysterical-sounding pronouncement against the Labradoodle in this repeated interview was that he had single-handedly opened a “Pandora’s box,” and that this combination of dog breeds results in terrible dogs. He has made this claim before in other interviews over the years, always putting himself center stage as the progenitor of this cross-bred idea. Both presumptions are simply untrue!

Wally referred to the results of this cross-breeding as a “Frankenstein monster” he had unleashed (sic) on the world by mating a Labrador with a Poodle when he worked in the breeding division of the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia and was trying to come up with a possible guide dog for a dog-allergic blind man in Hawaii.

I am baffled why the mainstream press picked this up and ran with it as though it was ‘science” — without actually giving the claims much thought, as far as I can see. I was sent links to the articles by a number of people, so I’ve decided to go on the record as calling the whole thing self-important Stuff & Nonsense!

Wally’s laments are based on two fundamental fallacies: his imagined personal importance, since he is not actually the “inventor” of the cross-breeding-with-Poodles concept. He was claiming to have been the first one to experiment in 1989 with crossing another breed with a poodle, but thirty years earlier, around 1960, the Cockapoo emerged, the first well-known and popular crossbred dog. It was the convergence of a Cocker Spaniel and a Poodle (using “poo” not “oodle” in the name). That cross-breeding has continued through the decades, resulting in many very nice pooches. In fact, knowing that my friend Louie had gotten such a terrific little Cockapoo a few years back, I recently recommended one to my chiropractor because of his description of the sort of puppy he wanted — and he now has two. Twenty years before the Labradoodle came along there was the Goldendoodle, first bred by Monica Dickens in 1969 with the popularity growing in the 1990’s to this day. So Wally did not invent the wheel on that concept.

There continue to be many other small purebred dogs being crossed with Poodles, which is all about the desirability of a non-shedding (and therefore more hypo-allergenic) dog since Poodles have continuously growing hair, not fur that sheds. Some people refer to them disparagingly as “designer dogs,” but I will leave for another day the discussion of why some people have a passionate belief that this cross-breeding is somehow immoral or “unscrupulous.”

As far as the “monstrosity” of Labradoodles, that is truly absurd. Labradoodles are lovely dogs (as are most dogs, from where I sit!) but they are not “one” kind of dog. They come in every imaginable color, size, coat-type, head shape, and personality. Since there is no predictability in the outcome of physicality or temperament in this cross-breeding — even among all the puppies in a litter — how can Wally possibly be decrying them? I have zero patience or respect for anyone who would apply the phrase “Frankenstein monster” to any group of them.

All dogs are fundamentally good. Check out #WeRateDogs if you have any doubts. Oh, one last suggestion: consider adopting a dog before buying one, or if you choose not to do that, then please volunteer or otherwise support your local animal shelter (which is always looking for a few good homes for an awful lot of dogs in need).

–Tracie Hotchner
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