Labradoodle: A Fascinating Guide To The Controversial Labrador Poodle Mix

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chocolate labradoodle puppy

Welcome To Your Complete Guide To The Labradoodle Dog.

A Labrador Poodle Mix That Has Taken The World By Storm.

This incredibly popular designer dog breed is known for its gorgeous curls and loving personality. And also for generating quite a bit of controversy!

In this guide, we’ll talk about what makes “Doodles” so popular.

We’ll look at the history of the hybrid and its expected traits and behaviors. And take a look at why some folks think that the Labradoodle should be consigned to the history books!

You’ll find an important section on potential health problems that may be passed on from either the Labrador parent or the Poodle side of the family.

We’ll explain how to avoid these problems and find the happiest, healthiest, friendliest puppy

And we’ll help you to decide whether a Labradoodle is the right breed mix for your family.

What is a Labradoodle?

A standard Labradoodle is a first generation hybrid dog that is created by breeding a purebred Poodle with a purebred Labrador Retriever.

Labradoodles are sometimes described as separate American or Australian types.

American Labradoodles being the term most often used for first generation or F1 crosses.

While Australian Labradoodles is a term often used for dogs that are being bred Labradoodle to Labradoodle. Effectively attempting to create a new breed.

Australian Labradoodles also have some spaniel influences in their blood.

Both types originally resulted from the breeding of a standard Poodle with a Labrador Retriever, but the Australian type is infused with American Cocker Spaniel, English Cocker Spaniel, and Irish Water Spaniel.

This can impact how long, curly, or shaggy their coat appears in comparison with a standard Labradoodle.

Where did the Labradoodle come from?

Mixed breed dogs are both controversial and growing in popularity today. Each year more variations spring up and there are now first crosses being deliberately bred from a wide variety of pedigree dog mixes.

particolor labradoodleBut it was the Labradoodle that kicked off this entire trend. And that trend started in Australia in the 1980s.

It began as part of an attempt to create a low shedding guide dog for those people who were both visually impaired and sensitive to the allergens in dog hair.

Wally Conron was the breeding manager for the Royal Guide Dogs Association Of Australia, and he set up a breeding program to try to create a line of hypoallergenic or low shedding guide dogs.

According to Stanley Coren who later interviewed Conron, all 33 puppies failed the guide dog training program.

chocolate labradoodle puppyToday, the Royal Guide Dogs Association no longer incorporates doodles into its breeding program, though some other Guide Dog Associations do. You can follow this link to read about Jonnie, the first Labradoodle guide dog to graduate in Western Australia

In the intervening years Wally Conron has made it clear that he deeply regrets being involved in the start of the Labradoodle’s rise to fame and popularity.

And it’s fair to say that his views on what are often dismissed as ‘designer dogs’ are shared by many pure breed enthusiasts.

We’ll have a look at some of the rationale behind those feelings in a moment.

The Labradoodle parent breeds

The “Lab” half of a Labradoodle is none other than the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador was developed in Newfoundland, Canada, You can check out our guide to the origins of the Labrador Retriever for more information.

The Labrador Retriever was added as a member of the sporting group to the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) registry in 1917.

Although modern Labs still make excellent hunting partners, they are most commonly purchased as family pets and as service dogs.

The “Doodle” half of a Labradoodle, the Standard Poodle,  was not the fancy, seemingly pampered pooch that many of us think of when we hear the word ‘Poodle’ today.

Poodles actually had their start in Germany, where highly intelligent dogs were being bred to be excellent waterfowl retrievers.

Although modern Poodles are not as often associated with hunting work anymore, they are found in many a show ring and home setting.

Given their origin and history, it may seem a bit curious that the AKC formally recognized the Poodle as a member of the non-sporting group in 1887.

While combining two hunting breeds sounds like a recipe for a superb, well-mannered, hunting dog, the Labradoodle is actually sought after as a low-shedding pet or as a intelligent and loving service dog.

Labradoodle temperament

Labradoodles are known for their highly energetic but easy-going natures.

However, each Labradoodle is a unique individual with his or her own quirks and mannerisms, some of which may be passed from their parents.

Therefore, knowing whether or not a Labradoodle puppy will show more of a Lab or Poodle personality is kind of a toss-up.

First-generation Doodle temperaments are especially hard to predict, but it seems that later generations act more like Labradors.

However, breeding later Doodle generations back with Poodles to maintain the Poodle coat can result in more Poodle-like temperament.

So, let’s talk about Poodle and Lab temperaments!

Poodle temperament

Poodles aren’t quite as outgoing as Labs. This can make them easier to manage when young.

A Poodle is less likely to try and go home with a total stranger at the dog park for example! Or to want to play endlessly with other dogs, than some young Labs

Some people associate Poodles with being snappy. Snappiness in toy breeds is often due to lack of socialization in dogs that are often picked up and carried. A way of life that some of the smaller (lap) poodle varieties may be subjected to.

However, while a well bred poodle of any size may not be as ‘in your face’ friendly as a Lab, he or she should never show signs of aggression or nervousness.

In addition, socializing your Doodle (or any dog, for that matter) from a young age will help to prevent fearfulness and unpleasant behavior toward people and pets later in life.

Like Labs, Poodles are active dogs who enjoy lots of physical and mentally stimulating activity.

They like having a job and interacting with their owners, which is part of the reason why they are such contenders in the show ring!

Labrador temperament

On the other side of the coin, Labrador Retriever temperament  is generally happy-go-lucky.

They are dogs who are content with anyone as long as they are being lathered with attention.

These playful pups are also pretty tolerant of other dogs in the household.

They are also dogs that need company

Labradors don’t do well in isolation and can become very destructive if they’re left alone for extended periods of time. (you can get help with chewing or destructive behavior here)

These are energetic dogs who love to go for walks, runs, bike rides, and swims.

They will thrive in an active household or in a job that lets them use their energy (and their powerful nose!) to please their master.

Your Labradoodle puppy could realistically inherit a temperament that reflects either one of these parents. So make sure you like the personality of both your Labradoodle’s parents, and know that they could have one that is similar to either, or a bit of each!

How big do Labradoodles get?

Due to his parent breeds’ size, the Labradoodle is bound to be a medium- to large-sized dog.

Labradors vary less in height than Standard Poodles, with a recommended height of about 22 to 24 inches at the shoulder.

A Standard Labradoodle full grown may reach anything from 15 to 24 inches tall but is more likely to come in at the top end of that spectrum.

When it comes to weight, an adult male Labradoodle may make anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds.

Females tend to weigh in at around ten pounds less than males.

Labradoodle colors

Standard Labradoodles are commonly solid-colored, such as a typical brown Labradoodle or a beautiful apricot Labradoodle.

However, Standard Poodles are sometimes particolored (white patches on a dark background) A bicolored Labradoodle may be referred to as a Parti Labradoodle.

Dominant Labrador genes may result in a chocolate Labradoodle, black Labradoodle, or a yellow mini Labradoodle.

Dominant Poodle genes may result in a Labradoodle with a solid or bicolored coat in the following shades:

  • Apricot
  • Black
  • Blue
  • Brown
  • Cream
  • Gray
  • Red
  • Silver
  • Silver Beige
  • White

If you’re looking for a golden Labradoodle, then you may wish also with to look at a Goldendoodle  or a Goldador

Labradoodle coat and shedding

A Labradoodle may inherit its Labrador parent’s short double-coat, its Poodle parent’s long and thick curly or wavy coat, or it may have a combined “fleecey” coat of sorts.

One major contributing factor to a Labradoodle’s coat is whether or not it is a first-generation (also called ‘F1’), second generation (also called F1b), or third generation (also called F1b.b or F2b, F3b, etc.) mix.

We’ll talk about the difference that this makes in the following section.

F1 Labradoodles vs. F1b Labradoodles vs. F1b.b

Labradoodles are famed for their soft and curly, low-shedding coat, also referred to as “fleece” by some breeders.

However, not every Labradoodle will exhibit the fleece – in fact, whether or not a Doodle is a first generation or later cross can greatly impact its fur coat.

The first-generation cross (F1) results from the initial breeding of a Labrador Retriever to a Poodle.

According to the breeders at Deer Creek Labradoodles, the first generation is the least likely to have a fleece coat and most likely will still shed like a Lab.

According to the breeders at Apple Creek Doodles, the first generation is most likely to have a somewhat shaggy coat that requires grooming, although minimal, due to the coarseness of the fur.

The second-generation cross (F1b) results from breeding a first-generation Labradoodle with a Poodle.

This combination seems to consistently produce litters with the fleecey, low-shedding coat, thanks to the influx of Poodle genes. They will need to be groomed like a Poodle, which we’ll talk about in the grooming and shedding section of this article.

Crossing an F1b Labradoodle with a Poodle produces the F1b.b or F2b cross (future generations might then be referred to as F3b, F4b, and so on).

This combinations seems to produce pups with the most Poodle-like coats and Labrador-type personalities, making them highly sought after by the general public. They also require the same type of grooming that a Poodle would.

You can breed two F1b or F1b.b. Labradoodles together and get Labradoodle puppies, but breeders recommend that you back-cross the resulting puppies every few generations to maintain the desired low-shedding Poodle-type coat.

Are Labradoodles hypoallergenic?

It’s a commonly held belief that all Labradoodles are hypoallergenic (non-shedding) or low-shedding.

But based on the information regarding the difference in hair coat between various generations of Doodles, this definitely is not the case.

Studies have shown that no dog is truly 100% hypoallergenic. The allergen to which some people are sensitive, can be found in every home where there is a dog. Regardless of breed.

Every dog, regardless of how low-shedding its coat may be, still produces some dander.

Furthermore, different people are allergic to some types of dander but not others, thus making a dog “hypoallergenic” for some but allergenic to others.

You can read more about the facts and myths regarding non-shedding dogs in this article about hypoallergenic dogs.

If you’re looking for a dog that’s less likely to trigger allergies to doggie dander, then you may have good luck with an F1b or later generation Labradoodle.

Just know that your particular allergies can still be triggered by a dog that seems to be hypoallergenic for someone else.

Grooming a Labradoodle

Now for the tricky part. Let’s talk fur.

You’ll definitely need to put more effort in a Labradoodle’s coat than you would with a pure bred Lab. Regardless of his generation.

As we mentioned in the previous section, even F1 Doodles that have a course “Lab-type” coat require at least weekly brushing.

Second and later generations of Labradoodles will need daily brushing if their curls are kept longer.

We recommend taking any dog with a Poodle-type coat to the groomer once per month for a clip

labradoodle with clipped coatThis doesn’t mean that your Doodle needs to be shaved down every time he goes to the groomer, but keeping his curls in check regularly will help to prevent him from having to be shaved completely bald due to severe matting later on!

We’ll talk about matting a bit more in the health section as it can be a very real problem for these dogs

Labradoodle health

There are two main considerations when it comes to the health (and temperament) of any puppy.

  • Inherited problems
  • Conditions in which the puppy is raised

That’s because the health of any puppy is dependent not only on the genes he or she inherits from his parents, but also on the quality of his nutrition and healthcare when small.

Inherited health problems in Labradoodles

Most of our purebred dog breeds are predisposed to certain health conditions. That’s because breeding dogs within small gene pools leads to the appearance of recessive diseases.

These are diseases that can only harm the individual dog if he or she carries inherits two faulty genes – one from each parent. With recessive diseases, if either parent passes a healthy gene to the puppy, the faulty gene is switched off and remains harmless.

These faulty genes are more likely to remain ‘masked’ or hidden in larger and more diverse populations. Which is why mongrels are often genetically more healthy than purebred dogs.

A first cross like a Labradoodle may, genetically speaking, be an improvement on either of the parent breeds. But it’s important to remember that if both parent breeds are susceptible to the same condition, the risk to the puppies may be just as great as the risk to a purebred puppy of either parent breed.

Diseases that occur in both Labrador Retrievers and in Standard Poodles are therefore a risk to your Labradoodle puppy. These diseases include

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • PRA (progressive blindness)

There are others conditions to consider, such as autoimmune thyroiditis and sebaceous adenitis (diseases common in Poodles)

And a study published in 2012 showed that Labradoodles in the UK at least had a higher prevalence of Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia than Labradors.

A thorough eye exam of parents before breeding is therefore essential. And both the Labrador and the Poodle parent of your puppy should have good hip and elbow scores.

Remember too that new diseases appear over time so it is always worth checking out the latest tests with each parent breed before you buy a puppy

You can and should ask for copies of certificates to prove that the relevant tests have taken place, and that the dogs have passed with flying colors.

Responsible breeders will be happy to provide this documentation and will ensure that their parent dogs are in the best possible health before breeding.

Which brings us to the conditions in which your puppy is raised

Labradoodle breeders and breeding conditions

Wally Conron’s main concern about the trend for which he felt responsible, was that it would lead to thousands of puppies being born in poor conditions or abandoned in shelters. Let’s look at those breeding conditions first

It is vital when buying any puppy, that you find a responsible breeder. And it is true that when a new hybrid breed first becomes popular, there are often unscrupulous breeders who jump on the bandwagon.

Unscrupulous breeders are only interested in money and may not bother with health testing or proper veterinary care for their breeding stock and puppies.

However, there are two things to consider here. The first is that there are unscrupulous breeders of purebred dogs too. Lots of them, and it is vital to avoid unscrupulous breeders and of course puppy mills, and pet stores as sources of puppies, whatever breed or type of dog you want.

You can use the puppy search procedure set out on The Happy Puppy Site to avoid these problems and to help you find the best pup for your family. This selection process is important for both mixed and purebred puppies

If you care for dogs as much as we do, you’ll also be concerned by the idea that breeding hybrid dogs leads to abandoned puppies in shelters.

We have good news for you on that score.

The main reason that dogs are abandoned in shelters is due to behavioral issues (do check out our in-depth mixed breed guide for more information on this topic), not because they are mongrels or cross breeds.

And the most common breed types to be abandoned do not include Doodles. Despite their well established popularity.

Added to which, not only do Labradoodle puppies usually have good temperaments, they are also highly intelligent and easy to train.

If you follow the guides in our training section, you should be able to raise a well-mannered dog that will never see the inside of a shelter, and there is plenty of support for you in our forum too.

Other potential health issues

Both Labs and Poodles have a tendency to become overweight pretty easily.

You’ll want to ensure that you feed a healthy diet and can give a Doodle plenty of exercise in order to keep him fit.

Obesity does not lend itself to good hip and joint health!

All the guides to food and exercise on this website can be applied to a Labradoodle, and you can get help here or in our forum if your dog’s waistline starts to expand!

Sometimes, the Labradoodle coat can be a problem for owners that lack the time or inclination for thorough grooming.

Just as with Poodles, lack of grooming can occasionally become a health issue, with matted fur getting out of hand and covering the dogs eyes and bottom. This can escalate as the owner becomes embarrassed to seek help

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you. If you don’t have the time or inclination for DIY grooming plan ahead and make sure you have your Doodle attend a groomer at regular intervals

Labradoodle health summary

There are benefits to a wider gene pool, but you cannot assume your Labradoodle puppy will be healthier than a Labrador or a Poodle, just because he is a cross breed

You still need to make sure that his parents have been tested for conditions known to afflict the parents.

To learn more about the diseases and health conditions that commonly affect Labrador Retrievers, refer to our health article on Labrador Retrievers.

To learn more about the diseases and health conditions that commonly affect Poodles of all sizes, refer to our article on Standard Poodles.

And don’t be shy – ask to see those certificates and don’t buy a puppy without them

Labradoodle exercise requirements

Because both Labs and Poodles are prone to hip dysplasia, it’s very important that you not let a Labradoodle get overweight or lazy.

Plenty of physical activity will keep their joints moving and flexible, plus the mental stimulation (and time spent with their owner) will keep a Doodle both physically and mentally “fit”.

If you’re not prepared to handle a high-energy dog, then you may want to pass on a Labradoodle, as they come from two working breeds that can go-go-go all day!

You’ll need to take a Doodle on a couple of long walks daily, with a trip to the dog park or other excursion that will let him stretch his legs and PLAY!

These are definitely not lazy “sleep all day” dogs!

They will also need some room for self-exercise, and some games of fetch – put those retrieving instincts to work while you have fun together!

How long do Labradoodles live?

In theory, you might expect a mixed breed dog to have a similar life expectancy to one or both of its parent breeds.

But several studies have shown that mixed breed dogs have a greater life expectancy than most pure breeds. So it is possible that your Doodle will live longer than either of their parents.

Labs have a life expectancy of 12 years, and Poodles have a life expectancy of 10-18 years, with smaller Poodles outliving larger ones. So a with luck your Labradoodle will be with you for the next 12 years or more

Why do some people hate Labradoodles?

It’s probably unfair to say that people hate Labradoodles. It’s more the case that some people hate the very idea of mixed breed dogs. So the anger is mainly aimed at breeders rather than the dogs themselves

The rationale behind these arguments is often emotive and muddled. But there are some valid concerns among them

Wally Conron’s concern that the craze for designer dogs would lead to greater numbers of dogs being abandoned was one such valid concern but his fears don’t seem to have been realized.

In fact in March 2017 the ASPCA announced a significant decrease in shelter intake for dogs.

Another valid concern is that people will breed dogs just for the money. Which in turn may impact on dog welfare.

Fortunately, with the growing popularity of Labradoodles, and the growing public awareness of the need for health checks when buying puppies, there is now a corresponding increase in responsible Labradoodle breeders

These are breeders with several decades of experience who are actively health testing their breeding stock and raising their puppies with care

Where can I buy Labradoodle puppies?

You probably won’t have a problem finding a Labradoodle breeder, given the extreme popularity of this designer breed!

To find the right breeder however, you do need to dig a little.

Make sure you know how to spot and avoid puppy mills.

You can also make use of the Labradoodle Clubs and Associations that have now been formed in various parts of the world

These are usually set up by people that care about their dogs and want to see breeders meet good standards. Most of these clubs have a set of rules or breeders guidelines which include health checks.

These rules are not usually policed, and more than AKC guidelines are policed.  So the onus is on you, the puppy buyer, to check those certificates.

Here are some of those Clubs

It’s worth noting that the Australian Labradoodle Club of America has it’s heart set on getting the Australian Labradoodle recognized as a breed.

Raising concerns that this will subject the hybrid to the same problems (of diminishing gene pools) that affect our pure bred dogs

So, how much is a Labradoodle?

If you’ll be purchasing a Labradoodle pup from a breeder, then you can expect to pay something along the lines of the following, give or take a few hundred dollars:

About $1,000 for an F1 Doodle
About $1,500 for a parti or highly sought after apricot Doodle
About $2,500 for a low-shedding F1b.b or later Doodle
About $3,000 for an Australian Doodle

The exact amount that you pay may also vary based on the parent stock, how much they are worth to the breeder, and the number of puppies available.

The price charge by breeders is often a source of contention when people debate the issue of designer dogs.  With some people feeling that a hybrid should cost less than a purebred dog.

However, it’s worth remember that it costs a lot of money to raise a healthy litter of puppies and health test are expensive

Labradoodle adoption and rescue

If you’d like to adopt or rescue a Labradoodle instead of purchasing one from a breeder, there are many Labradoodle rescues that offer retired show and breeding stock for adoption.

This means that while you may not get a puppy, you will get a lovely mature dog who is ready for a new life spent relaxing with you and your family!

Here are a just a few Labradoodle rescues to get you started:

Many Labrador and Poodle breed rescues with have Labradoodles in from time to time. And you can also find doodle rescues on Facebook

Labradoodles - The Controversial Labrador Poodle MixIs A Labradoodle Right For My Family?

While you may have your heart set on a Labradoodle for your next pet or working partner, you’ll need to consider a few things before you start the purchasing process.

Particularly when it comes to

  • Space and exercise
  • Grooming

Labradoodles are highly energetic breeds that do best in an equally energetic and interactive home.

Also due to their energy levels and large size, you won’t be able to keep a Labradoodle in a small apartment or a house that doesn’t have much room to bounce around. A fenced in yard would be perfect for one of these guys.

Labradoodles are unfortunately high maintenance when it comes to grooming.

You must be prepared to groom your dog, possibly every day, or clip the coat very close at regular intervals. If you are not prepared to do this, you need to be able to afford to pay a groomer to clip your dog every four weeks or so

Remember that although some Labradoodles will shed less than a Lab, others will not. If you are sensitive to dog allergens you may react to a Labradoodle.

It’s important to consider that a Labradoodle may have more of a Poodle temperament than a Labrador temperament. Some Doodles may have the Labrador’s friendly and outgoing personality, while inherit the Poodle’s more shy and cautious nature.

The final result is likely to be something of a surprise, but overall, most Labradoodle owners report that their dogs are happy, friendly and fun.

If you have the space for a big, bouncy, hairy dog, and are not worried about rude comments from the ‘down with designer dogs’ brigade, the chances are you’ll not regret choosing a Labradoodle. 

References and further reading

Additional health and history information provided by Pippa Mattinson

  • Oliver J, Gould D. Survey of Opthalmic Abnormalities In The Labradoodle. The Veterinary Record 2012
  • Patronek et al. Risk factors for relinquishment of dogs to an animal shelter. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 1996
  • A Guide Dog With A Difference. Association For The Blind Of WA 2010
  • Vredegoor et al. Can F1 levels of hair in different dog breeds – lack of evidence to describe any dog as hypoallergenic. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology 2012
  • O’Neill et al. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal 2013
 
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