Pet Road Test: Labradoodle
Temperament: Affectionate, full of personality and gentle with children. An active breed.
Child compatibility: Good with young families. Obedience train early.
Grooming: Depends on how much the breed sheds. Some will shed a little, some more often. Those that don’t shed require regular clipping.
Activity level: Will cope with a run in the backyard with the kids as long as it gets a walk every few days. However a daily walk is recommended.
Aggression: Should show no aggression at all towards people or other dogs.
Owner satisfaction: The vast majority we spoke to are very happy with their dogs.
Trainability: Intelligent dogs which benefit from obedience training. Best not to allow them to get bored. Bored dogs can be destructive.
Availability: Waiting lists up to a year may apply. Many owners request specifically what sort of dog they would like. Many dogs are bought sight unseen.
Health & Lifespan: Around 12 years. Skin problems are the most common reported condition.
Noise: May bark occasionally but not excessively.
Indoors potential: Breeders recommend they be an ‘indoors dog’. Though many owners have successfully kept them outdoors. Some are heavy shedders, which can stick to furniture.
Ideal for: Best suited for families singles, or active, older couples.
Popularity: Probably the most popular of all the cross breeds.
Turn-ons: Friendliness and size. Trainable and good with the kids
Turn-offs: May get a bit too excited occasionally.
Interesting facts: Originally bred as a guide dog.
Labradoodles were first popularised in Australia during the early 1980s when the Australian Guide Dogs Association set out to create a guide dog that would be safe for allergy sufferers. Breeders experimented with Labrador/ Poodle crosses, on the premise that the poodle’s wool-like, non-shedding coat was thought to be hypoallergenic. The program achieved only minimal success and although it continues, is done so on a very small scale.
However, this interesting crossbreed was found to have plenty of other pleasant attributes and soon caught the attention of the wider community. Demand for the ‘shaggy dog’ grew.
Nowadays the Labradoodle is regarded as one of the most popular of the crossbreeds. There are many breeders, some who are trying to produce 100% hypoallergenic dogs, whilst others aim to produce the perfect companion dog.
A hypoallergenic dog is said to not cause allergies in humans who are sensitive to dogs. Although there are cases of certain Labradoodles being hypoallergenic to some people, the very same dogs may cause allergic reactions to other people. A Poodle’s hair is often believed to be preferable over other dog fur for allergy sufferers, however hair is not the only cause of allergies. Body fluids such as saliva, tears and urine, plus dead skin cells, called ‘scurf’ can all contribute to make an allergy sufferer’s life miserable.
A wool-like coat that doesn’t shed may be a godsend for some allergy sufferers, though not all. And not all Labradoodle coats are non-shedding. Variation in appearance and coat type between litter mates of Labrador/ Poodle matings can be broad, some coats will shed, others may not. Backcrossing, i.e. breeding a Labradoodle with a Poodle can reduce the variation in litters, but this does not necessarily mean that all are hypoallergenic. Non-shedding Labradoodles may still cause allergies.
Remember, it depends on what exactly the person may be allergic to, and they may very well be sensitive to more than one allergen. Or they may become sensitive to an allergen over time if constantly exposed. If you are an allergy sufferer hoping to find that perfect dog, expose yourself to the prospective animal for as long and as often as possible before you make your selection.
Why makes the Labradoodle so special?
Breeders of the Labradoodle have set out to create a dog that displays the best attributes of the Labrador and Poodle, whilst hoping to eliminate undesirable health and temperament issues. Called ‘hybrid vigour’, this mating of two different breeds (hybridising) reduces the likelihood of the offspring exhibiting genetic problems that are common to each of the individual breeds, making the offspring more ‘vigorous’ or healthy.
The Labrador and poodle can both suffer from heritable disorders, but, importantly the main problems each may suffer are not common to both of the breeds. Poodles come in three sizes, standard, miniature and toy. Whilst larger breeds such as the Labrador and Standard Poodle are known to suffer hip and elbow displasia, these are not common conditions in the miniature and toy poodle, which is more likely to suffer from slipping kneecaps and possibly hip degeneration. And it is these poodles that make for an ideal match with the Labrador. To further improve the likelihood of creating a healthy dog, responsible breeders must check that their breeding stock is free of genetic diseases.
As far as temperament goes, the Labrador Retriever is a much loved and ever-faithful companion. They are friendly and loving dogs (especially of their food), which, combined with their intelligence, contributes to them being easily trained. Poodles in particular are regarded as one of the most intelligent of dog breeds. Although known to become neurotic if over-pampered, this trait can be tempered with the more calm nature of the Labrador, making the Labradoodle an intelligent, friendly, human (and probably food) orientated individual.
Despite the benefits of hybrid vigour, Labradoodles aren’t ‘superdogs’. Skin problems have been reported as the most common issue, with reports suggesting that many Labradoodles have had skin problems varying from minor to serious.
Everyone loves the ubiquitous ‘shaggy dog’. And the labradoodle fits the bill. Looking nothing like a Poodle or a Labrador, the Labradoodle has a look unto itself. The coat may be short and coarse through to long and curly, and any variation in between. The degree of shedding will also vary. Ultimately, the coat type will dictate the level of maintenance, some will cope with a weekly brush, others will require more frequent brushing and regular clipping. Colours range from golds, black, cream and chocolate. Most Labradoodles are around the same size as a cattle dog.
There is often a waiting list for Labradoodle puppies. It is best to interview a few breeders to get the best service. Ask if the puppies are first cross or are beyond second generation. In order to ‘fix a type’ (create a more consistent appearance), breeders may choose to backcross their breeding stock, joining a Labradoodle with a Poodle (such as the example of trying to create a more consistently hypoallergenic dog). This may be fine for you if you are trying to get an ‘allergy free’ dog or are looking for a particular type, however, beyond the first cross, the benefits of hybrid vigour gradually diminish. That may not concern you, but it is best to ask so that you are fully aware of what you are getting. You can be specific in asking what you want from the breeder as far as coat type, colour and likely size is concerned. However this can lengthen the waiting period for up to a year. Many owners buy their dogs sight unseen from breeders. Be sure you are confident of the quality of the breeder. Get referrals from previous owners and ask lots of questions.
A number of breeders of Labradoodles have formed an Association which is trying to establish the type as a recognised breed. They are now working to create a new ‘purebreed’ that has a particular coat type that doesn’t shed hair. Remember this doesn’t automatically mean it will be hypoallergenic.
Endeavouring to create a new ‘breed’ which conforms to a recognised criteria may only put the Labradoodle in the same situation as many other purebreds who’s closed gene pool has created dogs which, in observing a ‘standard’, may do so at the detriment of their health, temperament and suitability as a pet.
Ideally suited for young families, the labradoodle loves humans and gets on very well with kids. They can be a little boisterous during the first 18 months, but obedience training can help curb their occasional over- enthusiasm. Labradoodles love exercise, are great ‘conversation starters’ when out on walks and are really just a good all-round pet for all concerned.
We filmed this segment in Sydney with many happy owners. There are many breeders so do your homework before choosing one. Get references and seek recommendations.
Phone: 1300 728 022 (NSW only) or (02) 9834 3022
Fax: (02) 9834 3872
Phone: (03) 9788 2500
Fax: (03) 9788 2599
Phone: (02) 6241 4404 – Fax: (02) 6241 1129.
Phone: (08) 9455 1188
Fax: (08) 9455 1190
Phone: (08) 8349 4797
Canine Control Council of Queensland
Phone: (07) 3252 2661
Fax: (07) 3252 3864
Tasmanian Canine Association
Phone: (03) 6272 9443
Fax: (03) 6273 0844
Phone: (08) 8984 3570
Fax: (08) 8984 3409