Exceptionally smart, exceedingly frolicsome and with a never-ending supply of love and affection to give, the Labradoodle ticks most of the boxes when it comes to choosing the perfect family pet. Owing to the mix of breeds from which the Labradoodle originates (most commonly the Labrador Retriever and Poodle), it isn’t always possible to predict a Labradoodle’s finer traits until it reaches full maturity. Its levels of energy, intelligence and loyalty can vary considerably and those contemplating adopting a Labradoodle puppy generally have to accept that they will not know exactly what they are getting until one or two years down the line – a fact that many Labradoodle lovers will insist is ‘all part of the fun’.
Standard: 21-24 inches (53-61 cm)
Medium: 17-20 inches (43-51 cm)
Average: 14-16 inches (36-41 cm)
Standard: 50-60 lbs (23-27 kg)
Medium: 30-40 lbs (14-20 kg)
Average: 15-25 lbs (7-11 kg)
Average Litter Size: 8
Life Expectancy: Up to 14 years
Good with Children: Yes
Kennel Club Classification: N/A – the Labradoodle is a crossbreed and is not currently recognised by the Kennel Club as a breed in its own right
Due to the variety of genetic origins of the Labradoodle, they can be almost any colour, with the most common being chocolate, red, chalk, apricot, black, cream and silver.
Contrary to common belief, not all Labradoodles are low-shedders like Poodles. Their coats can be either straight and smooth (simply named ‘hair’), wavy (known as ‘fleece’) or curly (also called ‘wool’). As such, the grooming needs of a Labradoodle will depend on the type of coat it has and how much it sheds. Generally, a minimum of twice weekly brushing is recommended to keep a Labradoodle’s coat in good condition. Regular ear cleaning and claw clipping should also be undertaken to ensure that your Labradoodle remains in great shape.
Labradoodles can be prone to certain health conditions that are inherent in the Labrador Retriever and/or Poodle. These include such issues as hip and/or elbow dysplasia, Addison’s disease, hypothyroidism and certain eye conditions including cataracts, multifocal retinal dystrophy and progressive retinal atrophy.
Labradoodles are fun-loving, affectionate dogs with a real passion for life. They get along well with adults, children and other pets alike and are very sociable, making them ideal family pets. Given their cross-breeding, a Labradoodle’s temperament can vary from boisterous and adventurous, like the Labrador Retriever, to more quiet and reserved, like the Poodle – but they all tend to share the same smartness, friendliness and playfulness inherent in both of these breeds.
Due to their high intelligence level and their eagerness to please, Labradoodles are, as a rule, relatively easy to train. Whilst consistency and firmness will be required, as with any breed, only a gentle hand is generally necessary to achieve great results with the Labradoodle. As when training any breed, the Labradoodle should see its owner in the role of pack leader and you should therefore strive to be a strong, competent and consistent mentor, who your Labradoodle will feel secure and confident in following. Positive reinforcement in the form of praise and treats is a must, and correction, though rarely necessary, should never be given harshly.
Labradoodles are extremely energetic and as such require a minimum of 30-60 minutes of exercise each day. Thanks to their high intelligence levels, they also ideally need some form of daily mental stimulation to prevent them from becoming bored and potentially destructive. Labradoodles are highly sociable dogs and typically enjoy playing interactive games with their owners. In addition, most Labradoodles love to swim, so a day by a river or at the seaside would most probably be your Labradoodle’s idea of heaven.
The Labradoodle originates from Victoria, Australia. The first ever litter of Labradoodle puppies was facilitated in the late 1980s by Wally Conron, a vet at the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia, in an attempt to produce a guide dog for a visually impaired lady in Hawaii whose husband was allergic to dogs. Originally, Labradoodles were created by cross-breeding purebred Labrador Retrievers and Poodles with the objective of producing a breed that retained the mental characteristics of a Labrador Retriever and the low-shedding qualities of a Poodle, thus creating a hypoallergenic guide dog for visually impaired people who had allergies. To begin with, Mr Conron’s Labradoodle breeding programme sparked a great deal of controversy, with many purebred breeders taking legal and criminal action in an effort to prevent the continuance of what they considered to be a threat to their own breeding.
Unfortunately, due to the unpredictability of genetics, the characteristics of a Labradoodle can vary widely and they are therefore not always suitable to be trained as guide dogs. This inconsistency was increased further when breeders began to crossbreed Labradoodles with other Labradoodles, resulting in F2 hybrids. These F2 hybrids are more likely to develop inherent health conditions than their F1 hybrid counterparts due to the limited size of the gene pool.
Irrespective of this, the popularity of the Labradoodle has risen gradually over the years. Thanks to their excellent trainability and affectionate dispositions, they have captured the hearts and minds of many throughout the world. Today, the Labradoodle is known to hold quite a variety of roles. Some are used as assistance dogs, which have included seizure alert dogs, therapy dogs, remedial dogs and dogs for the physically and/or mentally disabled, as well as guide dogs. They also tend to fare well in various canine sports including agility and, of course, make wonderful family pets and faithful companions.
The Kennel Club brands the Labradoodle as just one example of what it calls ‘designer dogs’, and warns on its website of the potential for exacerbating pre-existing health conditions of each breed by cross-breeding them without careful selection criteria being adhered to. However, it seems clear that the beloved Labradoodle won’t be going anywhere any time soon and its future genetics remain in the hands of Labradoodle breeders worldwide.
Guide dog Sultan was one of the puppies of Conron’s very first Labradoodle litter and was matched with the Hawaiian lady who initially enquired about the possibility of a hypoallergenic guide dog. Sultan worked with her for 10 years following his qualification.