Dog Health & More
It's not surprising that the Labradoodle has gained such popularity so quickly. Originally developed to be hypoallergenic guide dogs, the first planned crosses of Poodles and Labrador Retrievers were arranged by the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia. The result was a smart and sociable dog who not only possessed a nature appropriate for guide dogs but also had a low-shedding coat. While the hybrid is not yet achieving consistent results in coat or temperament, she is a wildly popular and affectionate dog.
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Enjoying strong popularity in short order, this "designer" hybrid became well known quickly. Bred to be a hypoallergenic service dog, the Labradoodle went on to prove that she could also be a versatile family and therapy dog as well.
A Labradoodle is happiest when she's with the people she loves, and she'll shower her family with affection and devotion. With the energy of the Labrador Retriever and the work ethic of both the Lab and the Poodle, she's a joy. Thanks to the efforts of a handful of people, the Labradoodle may soon end up as one of the most popular breeds around.
A Labradoodle approaches life head-on at breakneck speed, and she approaches every new friend with the same enthusiasm. With training, however, you can teach your Labradoodle proper doggy etiquette. A Labradoodle is generally easy to train, since she's intelligent and eager to please. She usually does well with other dogs and pets in the household, and she is generally good with children--but she can be exuberant and may unintentionally injure a young child through sheer boisterousness. Overall, however, she makes an excellent pet for a first-time dog owner.
She can be calm and quiet while curled up on your feet, but she's also ready to jump up and play a game of fetch with only a moment's notice. She's not an ideal guard dog; although she will alert bark, she's more likely to invite an intruder in for tea on the good china.
While most aspects of Labradoodles are wonderful, many of the dogs are nowhere near what the Royal Guide Dogs Association of Australia intended, nor what the Association would consider using for a guide dog. The biggest problem with Labradoodles at this time is that there isn't enough consistency in offspring, no matter whether Poodles are bred to Labs or Labradoodles are bred to Labradoodles.
Among purebreds, there are certain characteristics that all of the dogs have in common, even accounting for individual personalities. (For example, you know that a Border Collie is going to herd something, anything.) But so far, even with multigenerational Labradoodles, that consistency is lacking. The hybrid's popularity has unfortunately added to the problem, because it has encouraged some careless or unethical breeding, particularly from irresponsible breeders who are not familiar with sound breeding practices.
Some Labradoodles are more like Poodles: smart, reserved, and quiet with a fine, high-maintenance coat that needs to be trimmed regularly. Poodles are excellent watchdogs, and some (but not all) Labradoodles are as well. Other Labradoodles are more like Labs: rowdy, slow to mature, and prone to shed as often as they breathe.
The coat is where one of this hybrid's greatest discrepancies turns up. The Labradoodle was meant to be nonshedding (like the Poodle), but it's still common to have more than one coat type, as well as variation in puppy sizes, within one litter. Some people with allergies have had to give up their Labradoodles because of the shedding, which is what they were trying to avoid in the first place.
Others end up taking care of a finely-textured Poodle coat, though they had bypassed a purebred Poodle to begin with because they didn't want to have to consistently trim, comb, and take care of that fine coat, with its tendency to mat and tangle.
If you're allergic to dogs, you'll still most likely be allergic to Labradoodles, or any of the Doodle mixes. Most people who have allergic reactions aren't allergic to the coat so much as to the dander, the bits of skin that come off the dog with the shed hair. The less shedding, the less dander that you can react to; but it's really an individual situation, particularly with the Labradoodle, where there's a variety of coat types. If this is a foremost concern for you, make sure your breeder understands that so she can help pick out the puppy who is least likely to shed.
Sadly, the hybrid's rapid popularity has already caused Labradoodles to show up in puppy mills and among irresponsible breeders. Puppy mills tend to sell sickly puppies with iffy temperaments. Irresponsible breeders hopping on the designer-dog bandwagon usually don't produce good puppies because they think breeding is just about simply finding two dogs of the same breed, when it's far more complicated than that.
Efforts have begun to curb this disturbing trend; several organizations now offer breeder referrals and are striving to promote multigenerational breeding. Just be aware that if you're going to pay the high purchase price of a Labradoodle (which is typically more than you'd pay for either a Poodle or a Lab), you want to do some research to get the best-bred dog possible.