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Vidar Skauen, Animal Photography
Eva Maria Kramer, Animal Photography
The Labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Miniature or Standard Poodle. Like both of his parent breeds, he’s intelligent, friendly, and at least moderately active. He has a shaggy or curly coat that requires maintenance.
A man named Wally Conron was the first person to deliberately breed Labradoodles. He was head breeder for the Australian Guide Dog Association in 1989.
Opening your heart and home to a crossbreed is like opening a beautifully wrapped package on your birthday: you never know what you're going to get. It’s often assumed that a crossbreed will combine the best of two or more breeds, but genetics doesn’t always work that way. The way genes express themselves is not always subject to a breeder’s control, even less so when two different breeds are crossed. That’s something to keep in mind before you lay down lots of money for a dog that you have been assured will be hypoallergenic or healthier than a purebred.
At their best, Labradoodles are intelligent, friendly, and affectionate. They come in three sizes: miniature (weighing 15 to 30 pounds), medium (30 to 45 pounds), and standard (45 to more than 100 pounds). Because they are a crossbreed their traits are not fixed, so there is no guarantee that the Labradoodle puppy you purchase will fall into the desired weight range.
Labradoodles have a moderate activity level. Larger Labradoodles may be more active than their smaller kin. They need a good walk or active playtime each day, and, if you’re interested (and the dog's overall health is good enough), they are athletic enough to participate in such dog sports as agility, flyball, obedience, and rally. They can also be excellent therapy dogs.
Both of the breeds used to create Labradoodles tend to be smart and learn quickly. If you begin socialization and training early and use positive reinforcement techniques such as praise, play, and food rewards, you will be rewarded with a wonderful companion.
Poodles have a reputation for being hypoallergenic, meaning that they can supposedly be tolerated by people who have allergies to dogs. Because they have the Poodle in their heritage, Labradoodles are sometimes promoted as being hypoallergenic. But allergies are not caused by a particular dog coat type but by dander, the dead skin cells that are shed by all dogs (and people). Some people with mild allergies react less severely to particular dogs, but no reputable breeder will guarantee that her dogs are hypoallergenic.
If you are interested in a Labradoodle, start your search at your local shelter or on Petfinder.com. This type of cross-breed is often available for adoption. If you choose to buy one, however, select a breeder who has done the health testing to ensure that her puppies won’t carry the genetic diseases common to both breeds. If you are going to pay several hundred dollars (or even $1,000 or more) for a dog, you should get your money’s worth. Buying from a breeder who is smart and caring enough to do health certifications -- even for a cross-breed -- is the best way to do that. And while there are no guarantees in life, it’s also a good way to minimize the possibility of big veterinary bills.
People have been crossing dogs for millennia in the attempt to achieve a certain look, temperament, or working ability. That’s how many well-known purebreds (including the Affenpinscher, Australian Shepherd, Black Russian Terrier, Brussels Griffon, Doberman Pinscher, German Wirehaired Pointer, and Leonberger) originally got their start.
But crossing two breeds over and over does not a breed make. A breed is a group of animals related by descent from common ancestors and visibly similar in most characteristics. To achieve consistency in appearance, size, and temperament, breeders must select the puppies with the traits they want and breed them over several generations for the traits to become set.
Crossbreeds such as the Labradoodle have become popular over the past ten or twenty years as people seek out dogs that are different from the everyday Yorkie or Poodle or that they think will have certain appealing characteristics. For instance, it’s often claimed (falsely, by the way) that cross-breeds are hypoallergenic or have fewer health problems or will carry the best traits of each breed.
Unfortunately, genes aren’t quite that malleable. Genetic traits sort out randomly in each dog, so without selecting for certain characteristics over many generations, there’s no guarantee you’ll get the best of each breed. And no matter what his breed or mix, an individual dog may be more or less allergenic or intelligent or healthy.
Whatever his breed, cross or mix, love your dog for what he is: a unique, special and loving companion.
A Labradoodle’s temperament depends on several things including the temperaments of his parents (especially the mother), the amount of socialization he receives, and the genes he inherits. In general, though, Labradoodles are friendly dogs who are devoted to their families. A well-bred Labradoodle shouldn't be shy or aggressive to either people or other animals. Say no thanks if a puppy or its parents won’t let you approach them, shy away, or growl.
Ideally, a Labradoodle is likely to be smart and highly trainable, thanks to the Poodle’s intelligence and the Lab’s love of working with people. If you train a Labradoodle with positive reinforcement techniques, showing him what you like by rewarding him with praise, play and treats, he’s likely to learn quickly and happily.
Start training your puppy the day you bring him home. Even at eight weeks old, he is capable of soaking up everything you can teach him. Don’t wait until he is 6 months old to begin training or you will have a more headstrong dog to deal with. If possible, get him into puppy kindergarten class by the time he is 10 to 12 weeks old, and socialize, socialize, socialize. However, be aware that many puppy training classes require certain vaccines (like kennel cough) to be up to date, and many veterinarians recommend limited exposure to other dogs and public places until puppy vaccines (including rabies, distemper and parvovirus) have been completed. In lieu of formal training, you can begin training your puppy at home and socializing him among family and friends until puppy vaccines are completed.
Talk to the breeder, describe exactly what you’re looking for in a dog, and ask for assistance in selecting a puppy. Breeders see the puppies daily and can make uncannily accurate recommendations once they know about your lifestyle and personality. Whatever you want from a Labradoodle, look for one whose parents have nice personalities and who has been well socialized from early puppyhood.
All dogs, whether purebreds, crossbreeds, or mixes, have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as all people have the potential to inherit a particular disease. Run, don’t walk, from any breeder who does not offer a health guarantee on puppies, who tells you that the mixed breed is 100 percent healthy and has no known problems, or who tells you that her puppies are isolated from the main part of the household for health reasons. A reputable breeder will be honest and open about health problems in the mixed breed and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Labradoodles may be susceptible to the health problems of Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, or Miniature Poodles, but there’s also a chance that the genetic diversity introduced by mixing breeds may lower the chances of developing certain inherited diseases. The very nature of genetic variation makes this difficult to predict for a mixed breed dog. Please refer to the breed guides on Labrador Retrievers, Standard Poodles, and Miniature Poodles for an overview of some of the inherited diseases reported in these breeds.
Not all inherited conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for genetic defects and deemed healthy for breeding. At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of the puppy’s parents have the appropriate certifications from health registries like the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, Canine Eye Registry Foundation, etc.
Don't fall for a bad breeder's lies. If the breeder tells you tests aren't necessary because they've never had problems in her lines, the dogs have been "vet checked," or offers any other excuses for skimping on the genetic testing of their dogs, walk away immediately.
Careful breeders screen their breeding dogs for genetic disease and breed only the healthiest and best-looking specimens, but sometimes Mother Nature has other ideas. A puppy may develop one of these diseases despite good breeding practices. Advances in veterinary medicine mean that in most cases the dogs can still live a good life. If you’re getting a puppy, ask the breeder about the ages of the dogs in her lines and what are the most common causes of death.
Remember that after you’ve taken a new puppy into your home, you have the power to protect him from one of the most common health problems: obesity. Keeping a Labradoodle at an appropriate weight is one of the easiest ways to extend his life. Make the most of diet and exercise to help ensure a healthier dog for life.
Labradoodles can have different types of fur. Some look like shaggy retrievers, others resemble a Poodle with loose curls. Many fall somewhere in between. They are not low-maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming. Plan to brush the Labradoodle at least every other day using a slicker brush, and have him clipped every 8 to 12 weeks.
Ear infections can be a problem in Labradoodles. Be sure to keep the ears dry and clean, especially after the dog has had a bath or gone swimming.
The rest is basic care. Trim his nails every week or two, and brush his teeth regularly -- daily if possible -- with a vet-approved pet toothpaste for overall good health and fresh breath.
Whether you want to go with a breeder or get your dog from a shelter or rescue, here are some things to keep in mind.
Finding a quality breeder is a great way to find the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out as many problems as possible. He or she is more interested in placing pups in the right homes than making big bucks.
Reputable breeders will welcome your questions about temperament, health clearances, and what the dogs are like to live with. They will come right back at you with questions of their own about what you’re looking for in a dog and what kind of life you plan to provide. A good breeder can tell you about the history of the cross-breed, and discuss what health problems affect them and the steps that were taken to avoid them. A breeder should want to be a resource for you throughout your dog’s life.
Avoid breeders who only seem interested in how quickly they can unload a puppy on you and whether your credit card will clear. You should also bear in mind that buying a puppy from websites that offer to ship your dog to you immediately can be a risky venture, as it leaves you no recourse if what you get isn’t exactly what you expected. Put at least as much effort into researching your puppy as you would into choosing a new car or expensive appliance. It will save you money in the long run.
Lots of reputable breeders have websites, so how can you tell who’s good and who’s not? Red flags include over availability, multiple litters on the premises, a choice of any puppy, and the ability to pay online with a credit card. Those things are convenient, but they are almost never associated with reputable breeders.
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the crossbreed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
And before you decide to buy a puppy, consider whether an adult Labradoodle might better suit your needs and lifestyle. Puppies are loads of fun, but they require a lot of time and effort. An adult Labradoodle may already have some training and will probably be less active, destructive, and demanding than a puppy.
With an adult, you know more about what you’re getting in terms of personality and health and you can find adults through breeders or shelters. If you are interested in acquiring an older dog through breeders, ask them about purchasing a retired show dog or if they know of an adult dog who needs a new home. If you want to adopt a dog, read the advice below on how to do that.
Labradoodle puppies are adorable, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. But there’s no need to pay big bucks for a Labradoodle. There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
1. Use the Web
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Labradoodle in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Labradoodles available across the country). AnimalShelter can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Labradoodle. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
3. Talk to Rescue Groups
Most people who love Labradoodles love all Labradoodles. That’s why enthusiasts have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The Australian Labradoodle Association of America's rescue network can help you find a perfect family companion. Search online for Labradoodle rescues in your area. Poodle rescues and Labrador rescues are also good resources for this crossbreed.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Labradoodle home for a trial to see what the experience is like.
4. Key Questions to Ask
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a pup. These include:
What is his energy level?
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
What is his personality like?
What is his age?
Is he housetrained?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Labradoodle, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter, or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, a breeder purchase or a rescue, take your Labradoodle to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues.
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