Sir Donald Campbell was the first to use of the term “Labradoodle” to describe his Labrador/Poodle cross dog in his 1955 book, “Into the Water Barrier”. The Labradoodle became better known in 1988, when Austalian breeder Wally Conron crossed the Labrador Retriever with the Standard Poodle. Conron’s goal was to combine the low-shedding coat of the Poodle with the gentleness and trainability of the Labrador, in order to provide a guide dog suitable for people with fur and dander allergies. This endeavor was in response to a request from a vision impaired woman in Hawaii for a service dog that did not aggravate her allergy to dog hair. The 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 service and therapy dogs as well as being popular family dogs.
[title size=”2″]Appearance and temperament[/title]
The Labradoodle as a dog breed is still developing and early generation puppies do not have consistently predictable characteristics. Labradoodles’ hair can be anywhere from wiry to soft, and may be straight, wavy, or curly. Some early generation Labradoodles shed, although the coat usually sheds less and has less dog odor than that of a Lab. Like most Labrador Retrievers and Poodles, Labradoodles are generally friendly, energetic and good with families and children. Some Labradoodles like the water and have strong swimming ability from their parent breeds. Labradoodles are very intelligent, quite trainable, and enjoy learning.
[title size=”2″]Types of Labradoodles[/title]
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, and 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 these breeds were no longer used.
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 colors, (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 on breeding dogs.
Labradoodles have been known to suffer from progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), an inherited disease causing blindness, which occurs in both Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. It is recommended that Australian Labradoodles be DNA tested for PRA before being bred.
One study has found that UK Labradoodles have a higher incidence (4.6%) of multifocal retinal dysplasia (MRA) compared to Labrador Retrievers. Cataract is common as well (3.7%) but prevalence is comparable to that of Labradors.
There is evidence of some occurrence of Addison’s disease in the Australian Labradoodle. The Australian Labradoodle Association of America is currently conducting a study to try to determine how widespread the problem has become.