The first known use of the term “Labradoodle” was by Sir Donald Campbell to describe his Labrador/Poodle cross dog in his 1955 book, “Into the Water Barrier”. However, the Labradoodle became better known in 1988, when Australian breeder Wally Conron crossed the Labrador Retriever and Standard Poodle at Guide Dogs Victoria.
Conron’s aim was to combine the low-shedding coat of the Poodle with the gentleness and trainability of the Labrador, and to provide a guide dog suitable for people with allergies to fur and dander. He’d received a request from a vision impaired woman in Hawaii for a guide dog that did not aggravate her husband’s allergy to dog hair. Originally he planned to train a Standard Poodle, but hair and saliva samples of thirty-three different poodles sent to the woman’s husband all caused an allergic reaction. A Labradoodle litter was bred, and the husband did not have an allergic reaction to one of the puppies from the litter. This puppy, Sultan, was successfully trained by Guide Dogs Victoria, and became the first Labradoodle Guide dog.
Although Guide Dogs Victoria no longer breed Labradoodles, they are bred by other guide and assistance dog organizations in Australia and elsewhere. The Association for the Blind of Western Australia have introduced Labradoodles into their training program, and their first, Jonnie, graduated in November 2010. Labradoodles are now widely used around the world as guide, assistance, and therapy dogs as well as being popular family dog.
Appearance and temperament
Labradoodles’ hair can be anywhere from wiry to soft, and may be straight, wavy, or curly.
Like most Labrador Retrievers and Poodles, Labradoodles are generally friendly, energetic and good with families and children (although as with any dog the temperament may vary between individuals). Labradoodles often display an affinity for water and strong swimming ability from their parent breeds.
Like their parent breeds, both of which are amongst the world’s most intelligent dog breeds,Labradoodles are very intelligent and quite trainable, often seeking commands and finding pleasure in learning.
Types of Labradoodles
There is no consensus as to whether breeders should aim to have Labradoodles recognized as a breed. Some breeders prefer to restrict breeding to early generation dogs (i.e. bred from a Poodle and Labrador rather than from two Labradoodles) to maximize genetic diversity, to avoid the inherited health problems that have plagued some dog breeds.
Others are breeding Labradoodle to Labradoodle over successive generations, and trying to establish a new dog breed. These dogs are usually referred to as Multigenerational (Multigen) or Australian Labradoodles.
Australian Labradoodles also differ from early generation and Multigenerational Labradoodles in that they may also have other breeds in their ancestry. English and American Cocker Spaniel/Poodle crosses (i.e. Cockapoos), Two Irish Water Spaniels and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers were used in some Australian Labradoodle lines. The Curly Coated Retriever were used too, but these lines did not work out and they were discontinued.
Labradoodle coats are divided into three categories: wool (with tight curls, and similar in appearance to that of a Poodle, but with a softer texture); fleece (soft and free-flowing, with a kinked or wavy appearance); or hair (which can be curly, straight or wavy, but is more similar in texture to a Labrador’s coat). Labradoodles coat colors include chocolate, cafe, parchment, cream, gold, apricot, red, black, silver, chalk, parti colours, (i.e. generally, any color a Poodle can have). They can be different sizes, depending on the size of poodle used (i.e. toy, miniature or standard).
Labradoodles can suffer from problems common to their parent breeds. Poodles and Labrador Retrievers can suffer from hip dysplasia, and should have specialist radiography to check for this problem before breeding. The parent breeds can also suffer from a number of eye disorders, and an examination by a qualified veterinary eye specialist should be performed. Though with a properly breed Multi-Generation Labradoodle should not show these problems very often.
A significant number of Mutigenerational and Australian Labradoodles have also been found to suffer from Addison’s Disease. The Australian Labradoodle Association of America is currently conducting a study to try and determine how widespread the problem has become.
The Labradoodle in Popular Culture
- A. R. Gurney‘s 1995 off-Broadway play Sylvia was about a Labradoodle, played by Sarah Jessica Parker
- In 2005 the Oxford English Dictionary first listed the word “Labradoodle”
- Australian actor Bryan Brown played a Labradoodle in the 2008 movie, “Dean Spanley“.
- Barack Obama announced in January 2009 that his family had narrowed down their choice for “first dog” to either a Labradoodle or a Portuguese Water Dog (PWD). (They were subsequently given a PWD puppy, who they named “Bo“, by the late Senator Edward Kennedy).
- In an interview given to The Australian in April 2010, Wally Conron said he regretted breeding labradoodles, as he believes their popularity has negatively affected the demand for pedigree dog breeds, and led to the introduction of other “designer” dog types.