Though crosses between the Labrador and the Poodle have existed for around 100 years, it wasn’t until the 1980’s that the term “Labradoodle” was coined by Wally Conron. Mr Conran was looking to create a pooch that would be an efficient guide dog for an allergy sufferer. Since Poodles are as hypoallergenic as dogs get, he decided to cross one with an intelligent Labrador, and voila, the Labradoodle was born!
Today, Labradoodles are the most popular designer dogs in the world, and one of the most popular dogs, period. They aren’t, however, recognised by the Kennel Club as an official dog breed, and with good reason! Because the Labradoodle is a cross, it is difficult to ascertain what it will look like or even act like, and there simply isn’t enough consistency across the board to create a breed standard.
But luckily, the two parent breeds are very well-known! So, let’s take a look at what makes a Labradoodle.
The Labrador Retriever
Labradors were first bred in the early 1800’s to accompany fishermen on their boats. They wouldn’t hesitate to jump into the freezing Canadian waters to retrieve nets - or fish - that fell overboard. Today, Labradors are best known as family pets, though they are also used as guide dogs for the blind or disabled, search and rescue dogs, or therapy dogs. This versatility is explained by their high intelligence and eagerness to please. Labradors are easy to train and are happy to do just about anything, as long as it involves humans (and possibly food, as well).
Poodles were originally bred in Europe as a hunting and retrieving dog. Despite their fancy looks, they are actually very athletic dogs who love nothing more than running outdoors and taking a swim in the lake! Just like the Labrador, the Poodle is extremely intelligent and easy to train. Poodles come in three sizes: Standard, Miniature, and Toy. Their coat, unlike the Labrador’s, grows continuously, meaning that they are low-shedding and therefore a better choice for allergy sufferers. They will, however, require a trip to the groomer’s every 6 to 8 weeks to keep the coat trimmed, clean and free of mats and tangles.
Physical characteristics of the Labradoodle
There’s a lot of variety when it comes to Labradoodles.
Depending on what kind of Poodle is involved in the cross, you could have a dog that weighs as little as 7 kgs or as much as 30 kgs! This is why it’s so important to find a good breeder who’s willing to share all the information about your dog’s parents before you take your puppy home.
In general, Labradoodle sizes are as follows:
Standard: 21 - 24 inches in height, 50 - 65 lbs in weight.
Miniature: 17 - 20 inches in height, 30 - 45 lbs in weight.
Toy: 14 - 16 inches in height, 15 - 25 lbs in weight.
Labradoodle appearance and coat
There is no breed standard for this dog, since it isn’t a breed in its own right. In general, however, Labradoodles have a broad head, more similar to the Labrador’s than the Poodle’s, and well-defined eyebrows.
Labradoodles can come in a variety of colours, including black, cream, apricot, and chocolate - in essence, any colour that the parent breeds can be!
As you might’ve guessed, there’s a lot of variety when it comes to the type of coat as well. While Labradoodles are widely known as a good pet for people who suffer from allergies, this is not necessarily the case, and will entirely depend on what type of coat your puppy inherits. There are three main coat types that can come up when you cross a Labrador with a Poodle:
Hair coat: Straight (much like the Labrador’s - this coat type sheds the most).
Fleece coat: Wavy
Wool coat: Curly (much like the Poodle’s - this coat type is best suited for owners who are allergic to dogs).
Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how a puppy will turn out until it’s born - that’s the deal with cross breeds! So if you’re looking for an allergy friendly dog, make sure you meet your puppy before choosing to take them home, and discuss your needs with the breeder before you do!
Labradoodle grooming and shedding
Labradoodles are a high maintenance dog when it comes to grooming, no matter what type of coat you end up with.
If your dog’s coat resembles that of a Labrador’s, then expect A LOT of shedding. Though the coat is relatively short, you should be brushing it at least weekly to keep it clean, shiny, and free of knots and tangles. During seasonal shedding in the spring and fall, you should be brushing the coat every single day.
If your dog’s coat resembles that of a Poodle’s, then there are good chances that your dog won’t shed. Instead, their coat will grow continuously, which means a trim every few weeks will be necessary if you don’t want your Doodle looking like a sheep. This means regular trips to the groomer, which in turn means a significant financial investment!
This is where the Doodle shines. While you can never predict with complete certainty what a cross breed’s personality will be like, Labradoodles often turn out friendly, affectionate, intelligent, and playful. They are good with kids, making them great family dogs, and are generally sociable with other pets. While Labradoodles make good watch dogs, they do not make efficient guard dogs, because they are so amiable, even with strangers.
Their independent streak will depend on who they take from most: their Poodle parent or their Lab parent.
Doodles are very intelligent and eager to please, so they can be taught just about anything. But, like any highly intelligent and active dog, they need an owner who’s up for the task. An untrained Labradoodle can become a boisterous pet, and too much of a handful for the first time dog owner.
Training must start early and be taken very seriously, with a special emphasis on teaching the dog to focus on you and to control their impulses. Because Labradoodles are so people-oriented, you’ll only get good results if you use positive reinforcement. The use of negative punishment or reinforcement techniques can be detrimental to the training process.
Labradoodle exercise requirements
Labradoodles are very active and energetic dogs, who require plenty of physical and mental stimulation. Without it, they can become easily bored and frustrated, which can lead to a variety of behavioural problems, including destruction of furniture and selective hearing!
A happy adult Labradoodle is out and about for at least 2 hours a day. This should of course include lots of off-lead time where the dog can really run and exert all their energy. Training, intelligence games, and enrichment activities should also be included in the dog’s routine. An intelligent and lively dog needs a proper outlet!
Like any man-made breed or cross, Labradoodles can suffer from a variety of genetically passed-on health issues.
Common health problems
If you have a Standard sized Labradoodle, your dog is likely to deal with hip and elbow dysplasia later in life, like many large dog breeds. The best way to avoid this is to make sure your dog gets the right nutrition and exercise throughout their life. Of course, finding a reputable breeder who is careful about their dogs’ health goes a long way in making sure that your dog is healthy, as well. Progressive retinal atrophy is also a common ailment in Doodles, so you should discuss this with the breeder before you pay for a Labradoodle puppy.
It is recommended that owners purchase F1 generation Labradoodles. This means that your dog is truly half Poodle and half Labrador, and not a mix of two Labradoodles. This widens the gene pool, making the probability of your dog inheriting genetic health problems lower, and also making their temperament more predictable.
Depending on your Doodle’s size, their average life expectancy could be anywhere from 12 to 15 years.
So, what do you think? Does the Labradoodle sound like the perfect pooch for you?