“What kind of dog is that?” “Oh, it’s a Labradoodle.” “Oh my gosh, it’s soooo cute!” There’s almost no surer way to capture the attention of passerby at your local Farmer’s Market than with your adorable doodle dog. Though there are many varieties of so-called “designer breeds,” the Labradoodle is the original and remains the most recognizable.
If you’ve heard of a Labradoodle, you likely know that it’s a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle, and combines the best of both breeds — the temperament of a Lab, with the non-shedding coat of a Poodle. But there’s actually much more to the story.
Labradoodle Breed Snapshot
|Weight:||15 lbs – 100+ lbs|
|Life Expectancy:||12-15 years|
|Group:||Designer (aka Hybrid) Breed|
|Temperament:||Lovable, friendly, goofy, playful, social|
|Good With Kids?||Yes|
|Good With Other Pets?||Typically, yes|
|Best Suited As:||Companion dogs|
For any hybrid breed, genetics mean that many trait combinations can be passed from one generation to the next. And because of the differences between Labradors and Poodles, and within each breed itself, Labradoodles come in a myriad of varieties. This unpredictability makes them a gamble if you’re looking for a dog with specific characteristics, such as one that would make a good guide dog or one that is hypoallergenic.
In this article, we’ll discuss those varieties in physical characteristics and personality & temperament, as well as the history of the breed, proper Labradoodle care, potential health issues, and what makes this breed such an enduringly popular and lovable pet! Read on to learn more:
The Labradoodle’s history doesn’t go back very far, but it’s fraught with intrigue and controversy. The first Labradoodle, named “Sultan,” was bred in 1989 by Wally Conron. Sultan was bred specifically as a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dogs (she wanted one that they could both spend time around).
Conron decided to try out a new crossbreed with the temperament of a Labrador and the non-shedding coat of a Poodle. Of the first litter, Sultan was selected as the ideal candidate and ended up being a wonderful guide dog for the woman.
However, the rest of the litter needed homes, and unfortunately, very few people in the guide dog community were interested in this new “crossbreed” — that is, until Conron got the idea to market them with the catchy name “Labradoodle.” After that, not only did the initial litter of Labradoodle puppies become coveted, but people from around the world started noticing this new hybrid breed.
Conron went on to regret his decision to breed the Labradoodle. He discovered that the breed was not ideally suited to its original intended purpose, as the Poodle temperament didn’t make for good guide dogs, and only a small percentage were actually hypoallergenic.
But perhaps even more importantly, he lamented the breeding practices that the “Labradoodle” trend inspired.
The popularity of the Labradoodle started a booming trend of designer dog breeds, which has created several problems. Conron’s intention was to responsibly breed a hybrid dog with a set of desired traits for a purpose, but the public demand it inspired gave rise to an epidemic of irresponsible breeding practices that have, in many ways, harmed the dogs.
Out of a desire to turn a profit, unscrupulous breeders haven’t bred for the most desirable traits or considered the health implications that are emerging in these new hybrids. Many designer dogs, including Labradoodles, are prone to health issues, and rather than exhibiting the best of both parent breed traits, some, unfortunately, exhibit the worst of both. So rather than getting a docile, friendly, non-shedder, an unfortunately high number of Labradoodles end up being high-strung dogs with difficult to manage coats.
The news for Labradoodles isn’t all bad though. There are several breeders and organizations dedicated to preserving the integrity of the Labradoodle breed and who are working actively to ensure a healthy future for this highly coveted breed.
Types of Labradoodles
There are two main types of Labradoodles: American Labradoodles and Australian Labradoodles.
American Labradoodles contain only the genetic material of Labradors and Poodles unless otherwise specified. They can be bred from white, chocolate, or black Labs, and miniature, medium, or standard Poodles. American Labradoodles are sub-categorized based on their filial generations and genetic makeup.
- F1 Labradoodles are the first generation of pups from a breed standard Labrador parent and a breed standard Poodle parent.
- F1-B Labradoodles are the puppies of an F1 Labradoodle bred with a breed standard Poodle. Because they have 25% Labrador DNA and 75% Poodle DNA, they are the least likely to shed.
- F2 Labradoodles are second-generation Labradoodles bred by two F1 Labradoodle Parents.
There are also F3 Labradoodles and Multi-Generation Labradoodles.
Australian Labradoodles are another breed of Labradoodles that also contain Cocker Spaniel DNA. According to the Australian Labradoodle Association of America, “An Australian Labradoodle can be created by 1) crossing a Poodle to another Australian Labradoodle, 2) a Cockapoo to a Labradoodle, or 3) a Labradoodle to a Cocker Spaniel and the like, resulting in the three-breed combination.”
The exact mix of genetic material is less defined than the American Labradoodle, but the addition of Cocker Spaniel DNA means that Australian Labradoodles tend to be slightly smaller and less likely to shed than their American counterparts. Their breed characteristics also seem to be more stable than the American Labradoodle, regardless of the specific genetic cross they are bred from.
The physical characteristics of Labradoodles vary widely depending on what kinds of dogs have been crossed in their breeding history.
Labradoodles can be small, medium, or large depending on the size of their parents, particularly their Poodle parent. They range in height from 14-24 inches and in weight from 15 lbs to over 100 lbs. Miniature Labradoodles range from 15-30 lbs, Medium Labradoodles range from 30-45 lbs, and Standard Labradoodles range from 45-100 lbs or more.
The variety of sizes that Labradoodles come in is one reason why it’s important to work with a breeder who has detailed records, so you know how big your puppy could get once fully grown.
Labradoodle coats also vary widely in texture and shedding level. Depending on inherited traits, they can be coarse and wiry like an Irish Wolfhound, curly like a Poodle, or soft and fluffy like a Spaniel. And despite their reputation as a non-shedding breed, as many as 75% of Labradoodles shed. The combination of Labrador shedding with Poodle fur that grows quickly can make some of these dogs difficult to groom.
Labradoodles come in over 10 different color varieties, with both solid colors and patches. The two most common color varieties are black and cream, but white, gray, chocolate, caramel, and red are also possible, as are patches of white or brown.
Personality & Temperament
Personality is the reason you’ll want to buy a Labradoodle. They are, by and large, very sweet, loving dogs. They can have somewhat goofy personalities, but are very loyal and rarely aggressive, which makes them great family dogs and companion animals.
They also tend to be great with kids, as they don’t have any hunting or herding backgrounds. The only thing to watch out for with small children is their size. Some Labradoodles are very large and gangly, and may accidentally knock a child over if they get too excited. Ideally, Labradoodles should be trained out of these kinds of habits at an early age before they become too big.
Though incredibly social and friendly, Labradoodles are also protective and can possess commanding barks. As such, they can make good guard dogs. Most of them probably wouldn’t actually attack an intruder unless trained to do so, but their bark may be enough to ward off any would-be miscreants.
Similar to physical characteristics, the personality and temperament of Labradoodles can vary – for example, poodle DNA can make them somewhat high-strung. Their creator even considers many Labradoodles to be a little “crazy.” Most of the time, this “craziness” is just quirkiness, but it can manifest as a dog that barks a lot, has destructive chewing habits, or is difficult to train. For the most part though, even if they are a little screwy, Labradoodles are incredibly sweet dogs who are eager to please.
Diet and Nutrition
You may pay a small fortune to purchase a Labradoodle, but their food need not have a price tag to match. Most Labradoodles will do fine on any high-quality dog food, but it doesn’t have to be top of the line. You can identify high-quality dog food by looking for an AAFCO nutritional adequacy statement that indicates that the food is “complete and balanced.”
This means it has all of the nutrients your dog needs in the proper ratios. Also look for varieties that are named for a single protein and carbohydrate source, e.g. “Chicken and Rice,” or “Beef and Potato.” Avoid the words “entree,” “flavor” and “with” (e.g. dog food with chicken”), as these all denote lower quantities of whole food ingredients.
Either wet or dry food is fine, but the crunchy texture of dry kibble can help prevent dental disease. For large Labradoodles, dry food will also be more economical.
If your Labradoodle puppy had a parent that was a standard-size Poodle, or has two large Labradoodle parents, be sure to feed them puppy food meant for large dogs to prevent bone and joint issues (like Hip Dysplasia) as they grow.
Lastly, be sure to avoid overfeeding your Labradoodle so they don’t become overweight. Obesity is linked to shorter lifespans and joint and hip issues.
Grooming is one of the biggest considerations when purchasing a Labradoodle. If you’re looking for a hypoallergenic dog, you may want to look elsewhere. In fact, as many as 75% of American Labradoodles shed, with many shedding a lot.
On top of the constant shedding which requires near daily sweeping and vacuuming (depending on the size of your Labradoodle), their hair grows rapidly and tends to mat.
Even if you do manage to get a non-shedding doodle, they still require frequent grooming. Labradoodles should be brushed daily and taken to a groomer every 4-8 weeks to maintain a healthy coat.
Living Space and Exercise
Labradoodles are typically high-energy dogs. They need daily exercise in the form of multiple walks, or better yet, runs. They do best in homes with backyards. If you have a Labradoodle and live in an apartment or townhouse, frequent trips to the dog park are advisable.
Because Labradoodles are very active, they also tend to be very busy dogs, and many have the tendency to chew. If left alone for long periods of time without toys and treats to keep them busy, they may turn your furniture into their next chew toy.
There’s a fair amount of controversy when it comes to the health of Labradoodles. The most important thing to know is that they are generally healthy dogs, but can be prone to serious (albeit non-life-threatening) genetic problems as a result of their breeding history.
There are two factors that complicate a full analysis of Labradoodle health. Firstly, there is the nature of them being a hybrid breed. Hybrids have the potential to develop any of the problems of their parent breeds. So for a Labradoodle, this can include knee, hip, eye, and elbow issues from their Labrador parent, and epilepsy, ear problems, or blood disorders from their Poodle parent. However, of these conditions, joint issues like Hip and Elbow Dysplasia and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) are the only two that Labradoodles are more likely than their parents to inherit.
Hip/Elbow Dysplasia: A condition that occurs when joints develop abnormally, causing excessive wearing of joint cartilage and degenerative arthritis.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative eye disease that affects the cell tissue of the retina and leads to eventual blindness.
The second thing that complicates Labradoodle health is breeding practices. There’s some concern among breeders and animal advocates that the designer dog trend has created health issues for hybrid breeds, mainly due to overbreeding and inbreeding. When sketchy breeders continue breeding a dog with health issues, those problems are passed on to later generations. Many backyard breeders or puppy mills don’t take these precautions as they’re more concerned about their bottom line than the health of the dogs.
This is why it’s important to work with a reputable breeder who performs genetic screenings, is honest about potential health issues, and offers a health guarantee on their puppies. Although some health issues are common to Labradoodles, working with a responsible breeder can help decrease those risks.
Finding a Labradoodle Puppy
You may have to do some research to find a good American Labradoodle breeder in your area, but The American Kennel Club has some great tips for finding a responsible dog breeder, as does VCA Animal Hospitals, to use as a base guideline.
If you’re looking for an Australian Labradoodle, the Australian Labradoodle Association of America has a list of member breeders to help you find a reputable breeder in your area.
Labradoodle Frequently Asked Questions
Do Labradoodles make good family dogs?
Yes, Labradoodles make excellent family dogs. They’re friendly, social, and active, and work great with lots of people around. They are, however, sometimes a little odd personality wise and can be big and clumsy. As with any dog, keep an eye on them around small children to avoid any accidents.
Are Labradoodles hypoallergenic?
Yes and No. About 25% of Labradoodles are non-shedding. If you want a hypoallergenic Labradoodle, look for an Australian Labradoodle or an F1-B cross American Labradoodle (Labradoodle bred with a Poodle), as these are the varieties least likely to shed.
Are Labradoodles smart?
Yes, both Labradors and Poodles are smart and easily trainable, so Labradoodles tend to be smart and trainable as well. However, be sure to start training them early, or they can quickly become unruly and destructive due to their high chew drive.
Are Labradoodles aggressive?
Typically no, but they can be if not adequately socialized. They can also have intimidating barks, even if they don’t actually display aggressive behavior.
- The Labradoodle is largely popular because of its name. When it was originally marketed as a “crossbreed,” it didn’t sell, but once it was rebranded the “Labradoodle,” people were suddenly interested.
- When the Obama’s moved into the White House, they considered getting a Labradoodle before ultimately settling on a Portuguese Water Dog. Sasha and Malia made the final decision between the two types of dogs.
- Though commonly thought to be hypo-allergenic, only about 25% of F1 (filial generation 1) Labradoodles are non-shedding.