Labradoodles came onto the scene in the late 1980s, and have become a household favorite, outpacing even the Labrador as a favorite breed. The labradoodle has the distinction of being the first recorded pairing of a purebred poodle with another purebred breed.
What is a Labradoodle? A Labradoodle is a cross between a purebred Poodle and a purebred Labrador retriever. It was first conceived in Australia by Wally Conron. The following article is on the evolution of the Labradoodle and is a fascinating story.
What Are Labradoodles Known For?
In the 1980s, Wally Conron was working for the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia when an unusual request came from Hawaii for a guide dog that was also hypoallergenic. Patricia Blum was a sight-impaired resident of Hawaii whose husband had a severe allergy to dogs. She needed a guide dog whose ability to be a guide dog was also a breed that didn’t make her husband sneeze.
Wally took three years and went through 33 poodles before he finally realized there was no poodle, although hypoallergenic, that had the temperament to be a guide dog. If only labradors, the preferred guide dog breed, had a hypoallergenic coat.
It was then that Wally got the idea of crossing a poodle with a labrador. The Association had plenty of female labrador retrievers, and by a stroke of luck, Wally’s boss John Gosling had a male standard poodle, Harley, that could be used in the creation of the new hybrid.
Harley was crossed with a labrador retriever named Brandy, and nine weeks later, they had a litter of three pups… The first known recorded Labradoodles. Now to see if they had the personality of the Labrador and the fur qualities of the Poodle. The puppies, named Simon, Sheik, and Sultan, had hair and saliva samples sent off to Hawaii for testing.
Sultan was the only puppy that had both the temperament and the hypoallergenic properties needed, and so was trained up as a guide dog. He was shipped off to the new owners, and Sultan became the first Labrador guide dog ever.
The Board of Agriculture regulations at this time required animals (including service animals) to be in quarantine for four months to prevent the possible spread of disease.
Patricia Blum became an activist and lobbied to remove this restriction on service animals.
Poodle crossbreeds have been around for decades, but this event merits notice for being the first purposeful poodle mix recorded.
Wally had two puppies left that would be perfect as guide dogs, but nobody wanted a crossbreed. The PR department dubbed them “Labradoodles” and advertised them as a new breed being offered. The labrador retriever was the most popular breed, and the Poodle was the smartest, so what’s not to love?
It takes several generations of careful breeding to come up with puppies that consistently have the desired traits. Genetic traits are random when crossing two breeds, and you can’t predict which of the parent’s characteristics will manifest and each puppy of a litter.
Breeders can tell after a few weeks what your puppy’s coat will be like (fleece, wool, or hair), “fleece” being the least shedding and “hair” the most shedding. Consider this if you have allergies.
Aptitude takes a bit more focused scrutiny. The Volhard Puppy Aptitude Testing technique is offered by some breeders to aid in matching a family to their prospective new member. The test covers the following traits:
- Social Attraction
- Social Dominance
- Elevation Dominance
- Touch Sensitivity
- Sound Sensitivity
- Sight Sensitivity
Using this testing technique can determine from one end of the scale whether a dog will be an alpha pack leader and aggressive to people, or at the other end of the range will be fearful and need special handling.
The rise of this breed’s popularity also brought with it a bunch of unscrupulous puppy mills out to make a quick buck. Irresponsibly breeding labradors has produced, in some instances, puppies with bad temperaments and health problems.
In recent years steps have been taken to eliminate this problem through breeder referral programs and published standards. These steps promote multi-generational breeding and help to stabilize the occurrence of desirable good qualities in the litter.
Research on the buyer’s end is invaluable in locating a reputable breeder that deals in multi-generational stock. Given the expense of purchasing a Labradoodle, you would be well served tracking down a puppy with good ancestry stock and fewer health issues.
Are Labradoodles Good With Children?
Labradoodles are highly intelligent, easy to train, and generally good around children due to their playful nature and high tolerance. Small children, however, can be unintentionally injured by their exuberance and size if the puppy has not been raised to show restraint.
They also bond quickly with a family and are eager to please. Where some breeds may be aloof and standoff, the Labradoodle lives for affection and attention. They are high energy and require the chance to blow off steam regularly. For this reason, they don’t do very well in apartments.
How Big Do Labradoodles Get?
Labradoodles come in three basic sizes: standard, medium, and miniature.
- A standard Labradoodle will stand between 20 to 24 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh between 50 and 65 pounds.
- A medium Labradoodle will be from 17 in 22 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh about 30 to 45 pounds.
- Miniature Labradoodles are usually 14 to 17 inches tall at the shoulder and weigh from 15 to 25 pounds.
Their size can vary smaller or larger, of course, and these are only general size classifications to give you an idea of what to expect.
How Long Do Labradoodles Live?
Labradoodles live between 13 and 15 years, on average. There are outliers and exceptions to this range. However, compared to many canine breeds, Labradoodles tend to have a longer life expectancy—particularly when it comes to larger dogs. Also, the fact that poodles and Labrador retrievers are both generally healthy dogs means that the hybrid labradoodle is less likely to face specific genetic weaknesses originating with either parental breed.
The Labradoodles Personality
Boundless energy, fun-loving, gentle, and loyal; all of these things describe the Labradoodle. They love everybody and are devoted to their families.
Since they are so easy-going in nature, they really don’t make a good guard dog. They are more likely to make friends with someone breaking into your house. They were bred to be non-aggressive and eager to please.
Labradoodles are very smart, so smart that they may try to get away with stuff that you wouldn’t approve of. Labradoodles like to be in charge so you have to be the one in control. They aren’t particularly stubborn but they will test your limits. A firm hand and training will see to it that your dog is socially acceptable.
It would be wise to get to know the puppy before moving him into your home and see if it’s a good match. Some breeders will make arrangements to let the family interact with the puppy before making any long term commitments.
What do Labradoodles Eat?
Your new puppy is going to go through some anxiety when introduced to your home for the first time. It is usually best to continue the diet that the breeder was feeding your puppy at the time you first picked them up and brought them home. It is one less thing for your pet to be stressed over in his new surroundings.
Puppy obesity can occur if the food bowl is left filled and the puppy is allowed to eat whenever it chooses, especially if it’s in competition with other puppies. An overweight puppy will be inclined to be an overweight dog resulting in possible joint issues and diabetes.
Be sure to feed your Labradoodle puppy an amount appropriate for its weight and at a predetermined time two to four times a day.
“Proprietary” dog foods (prepackaged or canned and recommended by your vet) are more than sufficient to provide proper nutrients for your dog. Whenever a deficiency disease is diagnosed it’s usually the result of an unbalanced homemade diet. An all-meat diet, for instance, is very low in calcium but high in phosphorus. The result of this is the demineralization of bones and in turn, inhibits the development of a good skeleton. A home-brewed diet might be sufficient but it is very hard to ensure the proper nutrients are in proper balance. Therefore, is recommended the puppies be fed proprietary pet food formulated to meet its nutritional needs.
Good puppy food will have Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) for brain development and a calcium to phosphorus ratio of 1.2 calcium to 1 part phosphorus (1.2:1)
It almost goes without saying, that Labradoodles will eat just about anything. It is unusual to find a Labradoodle that is a picky eater. The responsibility, therefore, falls to you to monitor their nutrient intake and provide them with a diet the insures optimal health and longevity.
You can usually go with the recommendations on the label of the food you buy, but use this as a starting point and not as a strict regimen. Observe your Labradoodle’s physical condition and adjust his intake accordingly. You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs but not see them. I double-check the label recommendations with this calorie calculator.
Labradoodle Health Issues
Okay, I am not saying that your labradoodle will have these problems, but merely listing some of the issues this breed commonly deals with inherits. Your breeder will probably make sure that none of these problems will manifest over the years provided you vet them properly.
Poodles and Labradors both have floppy ears that cover the ear canal and trap moisture inside. This is a breeding ground for bacteria and can cause ear infections unless ear cleaning is included in your grooming rituals. It is natural to assume that these same problems would be passed down to the offspring of the two.
Keep a close watch on your Labradoodles ear health, looking for waxy discharge or foul odor. An ear cleaning kit can be found at your local pet store or veterinarian.
Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Labradoodles are prone to joint issues like Dysplasia in the hip and elbow. Dysplasia is a genetic disorder and can lead to arthritis problems later on. Hip Dysplasia is when there is a slight flaring of the joint socket, and the ball of the joint doesn’t fit snugly, allowing excess movement in the joint that causes lameness and pain. Elbow Dysplasia is a malformed and weak elbow joint. Since these conditions are both genetic, check a puppy’s parents for a history of this defect.
Von Willebrand’s Disease
Quite simply put, this is a doggy version of hemophilia. It is a disorder where normal blood clotting does not occur, and the blood platelets do not clot properly. The result is bruising and bleeding but does not always happen at the site of an injury. There may be blood found in the urine or stool, or the dog may have a sudden nose bleed.
One of the tests used to diagnose Von Willebrand’s disease is for the doctor to make a small nick in the dog’s gum and measure the ability to clot normally. This procedure is called the buccal mucosal bleeding time test.
This disorder can be treated with medications, before any surgery, with transfusions of blood platelets or clotting agents.
Yes, Labradoodles can inherit epilepsy, a neurological condition resulting in seizures, staggering, falling, rigid limbs, and passing out. If any of these symptoms occur with your pet, get your vet to check it out. This disorder is treatable with proper diagnosis and medication.
Labradoodles can be especially prone to allergies from three different sources; food allergies, contact allergies, and topical allergies. Contact allergies can result from the chemicals found in shampoos and flea powders, or even from the weeds and grass your dog rolls in.
Food allergies tend to be easier to diagnose. The diet is easy to control by restricting the foods your labradoodle is sensitive to. Your puppy is always going to find something to get into that he’s not supposed to, so you’ll have to keep a close eye on him.
Symptoms of allergies can be skin problems, scratching, and excessive licking of feet. Your veterinarian can diagnose and prescribe medication to handle most allergies your dog might encounter.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Lastly, Labradoodles can be prone to progressive retinal atrophy, a degeneration of the retinal portion of the eye, usually occurring in both eyes at the same time. PRA is the term used in adult dogs, while in puppies, it’s referred to as retinal Dysplasia (remember that word?)
This disease leads to blindness over time, so it should be diagnosed early. Symptoms are difficulty seeing at night or low light conditions. Your veterinarian will need to perform an exam of your labradoodle size and test for dilation of the pupils and changes in the optic nerve.
This disease is inherited, and there is no known treatment for it. The progression of PRA can be slowed using vitamin supplements and antioxidants.
Any breeder worth his salt should be able to run DNA tests and make sure that doesn’t these inherited abnormalities are passed on to your puppy. Any of the breeding stock they own the display, these genetic defects should be removed from the breeding pool.
Labradoodles love to be around people and hate to be alone. They have far too much energy to be kept in an apartment without regular exercising and would do best in a home with a large yard. They’re eager to please their family members and are easy to train, but intelligent enough to challenge you in just about every situation. Just remember, always let them know who’s in charge.