The Labradoodle: A Complete Breed Overview

Labradoodle - Complete Breed Overview

The Labradoodle, a hybrid dog created by mixing the Labrador Retriever with a Poodle, is a very popular dog used in many capacities. Owning a Labradoodle may require work, but the joy these dogs bring make it a worthwhile adventure.

Labradoodles have been around for more than two decades and continue to be acknowledged as wonderful additions to the canine world. What started as a simple experiment more than 25 years ago resulted in a dog that is renowned and loved worldwide. Labradoodles are intelligent, loyal, playful, and hard-working dogs that have proven invaluable in various roles.

  • Hunting dogs
  • Show dogs
  • Family pets
  • Service dogs

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about this beautiful and well-loved dog known as the Labradoodle.

Origin and Background

A Brief History

An Australian breeder named Wally Conron created the Labradoodle. Wally’s work was training guide dogs. In 1988, the Australian Guide Dog Association and Wally got a request from a blind woman who was looking for a hypoallergenic dog for her husband, who had dog allergies. Wally knew that the Labrador Retriever would be one part of the dog because of its ability as a guide dog.

The next step was finding a non-shedding dog, which is where the Standard Poodle comes in. After much experimenting with the pups, they finally found a Labradoodle puppy that did the job. Wally did receive a lot of flack from other breeders because they felt Wally was muddying the breed pool just to develop a mixed breed dog. However, once word spread on what a wonderful dog the Labradoodle was, the dog became very much in demand. From that point forward, the Labradoodle’s popularity has risen and continues to rise every year.

Overview of Generations

What started as simple breeding between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle evolved into a more complex breeding program that involved generational breeding. Breeders were able to choose the Labradoodle size they wanted by mating the Labrador Retriever with a specific size Poodle: Toy, Miniature or Standard.

The breeders were also able to produce Labradoodles possessing specific traits by using multi-generational breeding. For a Labradoodle dog to be considered a multi-generational Labradoodle, it must have been born from five consecutive breedings, and its parents must each be an F3 generation or higher. Here are some common Labradoodle terms regarding the dog’s bloodline.

  • F1 generational Labradoodle is one whose parents are a purebred Labrador Retriever and a purebred Poodle. The F1 pups will be 50% Labrador Retriever and 50% Poodles.
  • F1b generational Labradoodle is the result of an F1 Labradoodle bred with a purebred Poodle. The F1b puppies are 75% Poodle and 25% Labrador Retriever.
  • F2 generational Labradoodle is the result of the breeding for two F1 Labradoodles. Puppies from this litter may not have similar traits.
  • F2b generational Labradoodle is the result of breeding an F2 Labradoodle with a Poodle or breeding an F1 with an F1b Labradoodle.
  • F3 generational Labradoodle can be the result of breeding two F2 Labradoodles or an F3 with a Poodle.
  • F3b generational Labradoodle is the result of breeding an F2 Labradoodle with an F2b Labradoodle.

Typically, any breeding that goes beyond the F2 generational breeding is considered an F3 or a multi-generational Labradoodle. The main purpose of multi-generational breeding is to bring out certain traits and characteristics, such as coat color, coat patterns, temperament, and size.

Physical Characteristics

Labrador Retriever and Poodle Mix (and other breeds for Australian Labradoodle)

When we see or hear the term Labradoodle what comes to mind is the mixture of a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle. Regardless of what type of generation they are, it’s still the mating between a Lab and a Poodle. This particular type of Labradoodle has picked up the unofficial name ‘American Labradoodle’. It sounds pretty simple and straightforward because it is.

However, the American Labradoodle is not the only Labradoodle in existence. There is also the Australian Labradoodle. Although these two are often confused and considered one and the same, they are actually two different breeds. The Australian Labradoodle is a mixture of a Labrador Retriever and a Curly Coated Retriever or an Irish Water Spaniel.

Because the kennel clubs around the world do not acknowledge the Labradoodle as an actual registerable breed, breeders are able to mix and match Labrador Retrievers with something other than just a Poodle. The reason for doing this is to improve the hypoallergenic tendencies of the Doodle’s coat. Depending on which particular dog is bred with the Lab, the puppies typically have coats that are less likely to produce excess dander or shed less hair.

Many people with dog allergies mistakenly believe their allergies come from the hair or fur. The allergens generally come from the dog’s dander. While no dog is completely 100% hypoallergenic, Labradoodles come very close to that because of the small amount of dander they possess and drop.

Size Differences

Labradoodle Sizes And Weights

Labradoodles come in various sizes and weights. The size and weight of each dog will depend on the breeding stock. Labradoodles generally come in four sizes or varieties. Since Labrador Retrievers are generally all the same size, the type of Labradoodle the dog is depends on what type or size Poodle is used in the breeding.

  • Petite or Micro Labradoodle – Depending on the breeder, these may be called, Micro, Petite or Toy Labradoodles. They’re the result of mixing the Lab with a Toy Poodle. Their height at the shoulder ranges from 10 to 13 inches, and their weight ranges from 8 to 15 pounds.
  • Miniature or Mini Labradoodle – This the mixture of a Lab and a miniature Poodle. The Mini Labradoodle’s height at the shoulders is 14 to 16 inches, and their weight ranges from 15 to 25 pounds.
  • Medium Labradoodle – The Medium Labradoodle’s height at the shoulders is 17 to 20 inches, and their weight ranges from 30 to 45 pounds.
  • Standard Labradoodle – This is the mixture of a Lab and a Standard Poodle. Their height at the shoulders is 21 to 24 inches, and their weight ranges from 45 to 75 pounds.

An experienced breeder can generally predict the size the puppies should be as adults. It’s not an exact science, but they can generally make some safe predictions based on history, and the parents and grandparents. Buyers who want a tiny Labradoodle generally choose reputable breeders who have litters that came from a Toy Poodle parent. Alternately, someone looking for a larger Labradoodle will generally seek a breeder who deals with Standard Poodle parents.

We have an entire article dedicated to Labradoodle sizes, here.

Coat Traits and Differences

Labradoodles generally come in three coat types or varieties: Wool, Hair, and Fleece. The coat trait is one of the main things considered when choosing which type of Labradoodle the buyer wants. The type of Poodle used in the breeding usually determines the type of coat.

  • Wool coats – Wool coats, which may be extremely curly yet rougher in texture, come from the Poodle heritage. They’re very similar to what you typically see in a Poodle. Wool coats are very soft and usually have tight curls. They are the least likely to produce excess dander or shed, but they also require regular grooming to avoid matting.
  • Hair coats – Hair coats have the texture you would find on a Labrador Retriever’s coat. While they may be wavy or straight, they’re more often straight. The hair may curl when it’s wet, but the rest of the time it’s so straight you might not even think it’s a Labradoodle at first glance. This coat is more prone to shedding but requires little maintenance. A simple brushing here and there and they’re good to go.
  • Fleece coats – The perfect coat in-between the straight hair and wool coat, the fleece coat is probably one of the most popular of the three. Fleece coats, which combine the curliness of the Poodle’s coat with the softness of the Labrador Retriever, are soft and may be kinked, wavy, or flowing. Fleece-coated Labradoodles are often more expensive than those with rougher or straighter coats. The disadvantage of the fleece coats is that they require the most care and maintenance.

The Labradoodle’s coat may come in one of the three types, but there is a lot more variety in the possible colors of the coat. Some of the most commonly seen coat colors in Labradoodles are:

  • Apricot
  • Chalk
  • Cream
  • Black
  • Gold
  • Red
  • Chocolate
  • Silver
  • Coffee
  • Blue
  • Gray
  • White

We have an entire article dedicated to Labradoodle coats, here.

Personality and Temperament

Friendly

If you were to use a 5-star rating system to rank the Labradoodle’s friendliness, this dog would very definitely receive 5 stars! They are as friendly towards other animals as they are to people. Dogs with a less-than-friendly personality may cause problems or feel intimidated by the Labradoodle’s desire to run up to them and say “hello”. Their friendliness is the main reason that, despite making good service dogs, they do not make guard dogs or attack dogs. Friendliness is a big part of their outgoing personality.

Good with Kids

Labradoodles are very good with kids. Although they are good with people of all ages, their love of playing makes them very affectionate and loving with children. Labradoodles are similar to children in that they are always ready to play, whether it’s chasing a ball, running around in the yard, or just bouncing throughout the house. Larger Labradoodle’s may knock down and hurt a young child, but it surely is not their intent. They just are carried away while having fun with kids. Good training can eliminate a lot of the running around and jumping, but the Labradoodle does have a very high play drive. Having them socialize with children at a young age can also help, as well.

Good with Other Dogs

The Labradoodle’s friendly personality and ability to get along with everyone and everything makes them a great second dog. They do not have a jealous bone in their body towards other dogs and only want to play with them. Owners can easily take their Labradoodles to a dog park without worrying about trouble unless the other dog starts it. They really don’t favor one dog or another, either. They show the same friendliness and enthusiasm towards every new dog or animal they meet. Socializing with other dogs and animals at a young age also has them grow up to enjoy other dogs.

Social with Humans

Labradoodles socialize with humans in the same way they do other animals. They’re friendly and loving. If the Labradoodle is inside the home when a stranger comes, the dog might bark to inform its owner that someone is there, but generally will not pose a threat to the stranger. In fact, it’s often been said that a Labradoodle would prefer to make friends with a stranger than alert the owner that a stranger has arrived. Labradoodles have the Lab’s friendly and mellow personality as well as the Poodle’s intelligence. When combined, this makes for a very sociable and happy-go-lucky dog.

Eager to Please

One of the Labradoodle’s best qualities is its eagerness to please its owner. This is also often the result of Labradoodle’s parents’ personalities. This is just one of several reasons why the Labradoodle is such an easy dog to train. They have the easygoing personality of the Lab and the intelligence of the Poodle. Whether the owner is playing catch, asking the dog to retrieve something out of the water or doing obedience training, the dog strives to please its owner at all times.

Loyal

Loyalty is yet another of the Labradoodle’s top qualities. Whether it is the dog’s intelligence, friendliness, affectionate personality, or a combination of all three, the Labradoodle is a very loyal dog. Its loyalty is one of the things that make it such an extraordinary service dog. Their loyalty is also what makes them such good family dogs. All Labradoodles want is to love their family.

Intelligent

Labradoodles are extremely intelligent dogs. When people hear of all the great qualities Labradoodles possess, intelligence is the adjective that’s usually at the top of the list. When you consider the fact that the Poodle is ranked at the top of the pack for its intelligence, with the Labrador Retriever not far behind, it is not hard to understand or believe that Labradoodles are extremely intelligent dogs. Some Labradoodles tend to want to be in control. This is not due to lack of intelligence but rather high intelligence combined with a playful personality. Labradoodle’s high intelligence makes them sought-after service dogs worldwide.

Active

Labradoodle Temperament TraitsLabradoodles are an extremely energetic and active dog breed. They require regular exercise on a daily basis. They don’t need to be going all day long but should have at least 30 minutes of solid exercise or walking each day. Failure to give Labradoodles adequate exercise can result in the dog becoming bored and destructive. Although not every Labradoodle is going to have the same energy level, it would be hard to find a Labradoodle with low energy. They have a good energy drive. If you’re playing catch or taking them swimming, they’re not going to be the first one ready to call it quits. This energy level comes from both the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle.

Playful

Other than intelligent, playful is probably the most appropriate word used to describe the Labradoodle’s personality. They love playing, whether it’s with adults, children or other animals. They have an extremely high play drive. Labradoodles are always up for a game of fetch, a game of tag or a good swim in the lake.

Their constant desire to play may seem overwhelming to owners at times, but allowing them sufficient playtime can use up a lot of the energy this dog possesses. The Labradoodle’s love of playing may be difficult and intimidating for young children, but this is easily remedied with consistent obedience training.

Generally, Love the Water

Do Labradoodles Like To Swim?

When asked for a list of dogs that love water the most, professional veterinarians listed the Labrador Retriever at No. 1. Labrador Retrievers were bred for hunting and retrieving in the water. Prior to the 1990s, Poodles were bred for duck hunting, upland bird hunting, and fowl hunting, so it’s not a surprise that Labradoodles came in at No. 8 on the list of dogs loving the water.

Miniature Poodles were also used for truffle hunting. Many rank the Standard Poodle as the 4th-best truffle-hunting dog. They do not need to be hunting to enjoy the water because they also love going for a good swim or playing catch in the water.

When Left Alone

Like most dogs, Labradoodles do not like being alone. They are loving, loyal and affectionate dogs that love being with “their people”. Each dog is different, and each one is going to respond differently when left alone. Labradoodles who suffer from separation anxiety should not be left alone unless necessary. This is another example of the importance of obedience training at a young age. The Labradoodle should be left alone for short periods in the beginning just to get him or her used to it.

A dog who knows that jumping on doors or chewing up things other than toys is inappropriate behavior is going to behave better when left alone. Labradoodles who are crate trained also deal better with being alone because they have “their space”. Crate training and obedience training at a very young age can make a big difference in how your Labradoodle behaves when left alone.

We have an entire article dedicated to Labradoodle temperament traits, here.

Care and Maintenance

Owning and taking care of any dog is a big responsibility, and the Labradoodle is no exception. Despite being a relatively low-maintenance dog, the Labradoodle does need basic care and maintenance.

  • Food – Your Labradoodle should be fed a regular diet of high-quality dog food. The amount of food the dog receives should be consistent with the amounts recommended on the dog food bag. The dog should be fed at the same time of day, and should always have access to clean water. Treats should be given to the dog occasionally but should be healthy treats.
  • Exercise – All dogs need regular exercise, but it’s even more important with Labradoodles because they are such active dogs.
  • Grooming – The Labradoodle should be groomed regularly from the time it’s a small puppy. The earlier the dog begins part of the grooming process, the better he or she will adapt to grooming. Grooming should include brushing/combing coat, bathing, clipping nails and cleaning ears. Professional grooming is recommended every 6-8 weeks to keep their coats in good condition.
  • Training – The need for basic obedience training cannot be emphasized enough. The well-trained Labradoodle is a happy Labradoodle
  • Vet Care – Your Labradoodle should always be up to date on vaccinations and should have an annual checkup by the vet. If there is a health issue, early diagnosis improves the chances of treating it correctly.

Low-to-No Shed Coats

The Labradoodle is a popular dog for many reasons, but their main attraction is their low-to-no shed coats. While experts claim that there is no such thing as a dog that does not shed (which we completely agree with), the Labradoodle comes as close to that as you can get. All the Labradoodle coats are considered hypoallergenic. However, the Wool coat is the one that produces the least amount of excess dander and sheds the least.

Grooming Needs

brown labradoodle puppyAlthough Labradoodles do not require a lot of maintenance, grooming is probably the maintenance Labradoodles require the most. Their coats should be brushed at least three times a week to avoid matting. If there are snarls and knots, you may want to use a dematting comb and gently cut off the snarls.

Although their coats are said to be water-repellent, they can still get muddy if they are playing and rolling around in the rain or mud. The dog’s coat should be washed occasionally with a good-quality shampoo and conditioner that is alcohol- and soap-free. A bath once a month should be sufficient. Avoid blow-drying their coat with hot air because it can dry out their skin and accidentally burn them. If the coat develops split ends or starts frizzing, the dog may need a trim. You can choose to do it yourself or have it professionally done.

Because your Labradoodle may be prone to ear infections, it’s important to make sure the ears are kept clean and dry. It’s important that you gently clean the ears at a young age so the dog becomes accustomed to this type of care. Your vet can recommend a good ear cleaning solution. Clipping the nails regularly will prevent them from breaking off and will also look neater and healthier.

We have an entire article dedicated to grooming your Labradoodle, here.

Highly Active and Needs Exercise

Labradoodles are highly active dogs and, as such, require sufficient exercise. Labradoodles can live in apartments but will thrive better in a place with a large yard where they can run freely. Whether it’s playing outdoor games or taking them for walks, it should be done regularly. The dog should have at least a 30-minute walk each day. Dogs are often categorized as naughty or destructive when they chew up or destroy things. In many cases, this is just the result of a bored dog that is not getting the right amount of exercise.

Mental Stimulation

It’s not completely understood why Labradoodles need mental stimulation. It could be because they’re extremely intelligent, or it could be because they’re energetic and require lots of exercise. Whatever the reason, Labradoodles definitely do need mental stimulation. The more mentally stimulated your Labradoodle is, the happier he or she is going to be. Here are a few ways to keep your Labradoodle mentally stimulated.

  • Basic instinct – Bred as hunting and retrieving dogs, Labradoodles can be mentally stimulated by implementing these basic instincts into their play. This can be done by throwing the ball for him to retrieve of allowing him to fetch toys repeatedly.
  • Reward-based training – Giving your Labradoodle a treat each time he performs the task asked of him will keep him stimulated and eager to please you.
  • Swimming – Labradoodles generally love the water and love swimming. Allowing the dog to retrieve things out of the water will be a mental treat for him.
  • Puzzles – Labradoodles love having their intelligence put to the test. Give your dog a treat- or food-filled puzzle and let him work for his food. Labradoodles love the challenge and mental stimulation.

Read more on mental stimulation and learn how to keep your Labradoodle’s mind sharp, here.

Food, Supplements, and Treats

It’s been said that your dog is only as healthy as the food he is fed, and this is true. It’s important not just for the dog’s growth but also overall well-being that your dog receives high-quality dog food based on its size and breed. For instance, you would not feed a Toy Poodle dog food that is made for large breed adult dogs. Feed your dog a good dog food that’s high in protein. Many dogs suffer from allergies, and these allergies are the result of the dog food they’re eating. If possible, try to avoid dog foods with these ingredients.

  • Corn, Wheat or Soy
  • Meat-by-products
  • Meat meals
  • Ethoxyquin
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Food colors, dyes
  • Artificial flavors
  • BHA
  • Cellulose
  • Rendered Fats

Although it may be hard to find dog food without one of the first three ingredients (corn, wheat or soy; meat-by-products or meat meals), these should not be the first ingredients listed on the dog food.

Your vet may recommend giving your Labradoodle certain supplements based on the dog’s age, health, and activity level. They often recommend joint supplements because of the Labradoodle’s susceptibility to joint issues. You can give your Labradoodle treats, but they should be treats, and not part of his or her regular diet. Try to give healthy treats that are made in the U.S.A. and made with as many natural ingredients as possible. Many Labradoodle owners make their dog homemade treats.

Health and Wellness

The best way to ensure that your Labradoodle lives a long and healthy life is by providing the dog with healthy living. Again, this goes back to the basic care and maintenance listed above.

  • Healthy eating
  • Regular grooming
  • Plenty of exercise
  • Basic obedience training
  • Regular checkups with a vet

Common health issues

As is the case with all dogs, the Labradoodles are prone to some common health issues.

  • Allergies – Labradoodles may have adverse reactions to outside substances, which can result in itching or biting feet.
  • Ear infections – This is a common infection in Labradoodles which can be reduced with proper cleaning and care.
  • Joint problems – The hips, knees and elbows are most commonly affected.
  • Epilepsy – These result in seizures caused by a neurological condition.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – This health issue can cause the eyesight to degrade.
  • Von Willebrand’s Disease – This disease keeps the blood from clotting properly.
  • Sebaceous Adenitis – This condition can affect the dog’s skin and hair follicles.

We cover Labradoodle health in much greater detail in this article on common health issues.

Overall, A Very Healthy Breed

Don’t let the health issues outlined above scare you off. Every dog has some health issues and conditions in which they are prone to develop. Other than the health issues mentioned above, the Labradoodle is an overall very healthy breed of dog. Some of the health issues are hereditary, which is why it’s important to know as much as possible about the parents and grandparents of the dog you’re getting.

Reputable breeders put their Labradoodles through screening tests to determine if they have health issues. X-rays can determine if the dog has joint issues, such as dysplasia. There is also DNA testing that can check for diseases like degenerative myelopathy or Von Willebrand’s disease. Keep in mind that even if your Labradoodle does develop a health issue, many of them are very treatable.

Tips for Working With A Breeder

When buying a Labradoodle, one of the most important things is to get the dog from a reputable breeder. There are a lot of puppy mills around that consist of unscrupulous breeders just trying to make a buck. Here are some things to watch out for when buying your Labradoodle.

  • The breeder asks to meet you someplace other than his place of business.
  • The breeder has several breeds of dogs for sale and not just Labradoodles.
  • The breeder claims he does not have the parents on site.
  • You do see the parents, and they display undesirable traits, such as extreme shyness or aggression.

Once you have your Labradoodle, and the dog came from a reputable breeder, you should have fairly easy sailing. However, there are some things to watch out for as the dog grows. Labradoodles enjoy eating and will eat just about anything they’re offered. Being overweight can be bad for their health, so monitor their food intake and make sure the dog gets sufficient exercise.

My Experience Working With Our Labradoodle Breeder

Parent History – How important is it?

Knowing the parent’s history can be very important when choosing your Labradoodle puppy. They say that how a dog acts as an adult dog is 50% DNA and 50% training. While you, the owner, are responsible for the training part, you have nothing to do with the DNA part unless you are the breeder. When buying a puppy, ask to see the parents if possible. If it is not possible to see both, try to see at least one of them. How the parents or relatives act can say a lot about the type of dog the puppy will grow up to be.

Hope That’s Enough!

I hope that this article has provided you with all the information you need on the Labradoodle dog. Whether you are considering a Labradoodle for a working animal or a family pet, it won’t take long for you to see why this dog breed is so popular and why it can be such the perfect choice for a dog. There are just not enough good things that can be said about the Labradoodle.

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