The Labradoodle is a hybrid, also known as a cross-breed, mixed breed or just plain mutt. Opening your heart and home to a hybrid dog is like opening a beautifully wrapped package on your birthday: you never know what’s going to be inside. It’s often assumed that a hybrid will combine the best of two or more breeds, but genetics doesn’t always work that way. The way genes combine and express themselves is not always subject to a breeder’s control, even less so when two different breeds are crossed. Here’s what you need to know if you’re considering adopting a Labradoodle.
Is the Labradoodle the Right Dog for You?
The Labradoodle is a cross between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle, usually a Standard or Miniature Poodle. At their best, they 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 cross breed, 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, 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 are 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 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 caused not by a particular dog coat type but by dander, the dead skin cells that are shed by all dogs (and people, for that matter). Some people with mild allergies react less severely to particular dogs, but no reputable breeder will guarantee that her dogs are hypoallergenic.
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. In addition, trim his nails at least monthly—more frequently if necessary—and brush his teeth as often as possible, especially if he’s on the small side. Small dogs are especially prone to periodontal disease.
Labradoodles are companion dogs. They love being with people and need to live in the house, never outdoors.
Labradoodle puppies are adorable, and it’s one of the reasons they are so popular. Cute puppies sell, and that makes the Labradoodle a favorite of puppy mills and greedy, irresponsible breeders. But there’s no need to pay big bucks for a Labradoodle. You can often find a wonderful example of this hybrid dog at your local shelter or through adoption organizations.
If you do 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 Labrador Retrievers and Poodles. And while there are no guarantees in life, it’s also a good way to minimize the possibility of big veterinary bills in the future.
Variations of the Labradoodle
Labradoodles can have different types of fur. Some look like shaggy retrievers, others resemble a Poodle with loose curls and some 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 eight to 12 weeks.
5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Labradoodle Puppy
- Finding a good breeder is more important than finding the right puppy. A good breeder will match you with the right puppy, and will without question have done all the health certifications necessary to screen out health problems as much as possible. Start your search for a breeder on the website of the Australian Labradoodle Club of America.
- Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health problems in Labradoodles aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an adult dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Labradoodles can live 10 to 15 years, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
- Puppy or adult, take your Labradoodle to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems, as well as tips on dealing with tear staining.
- Don’t ever, ever, ever buy a puppy from a pet store. You’re more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to housetrain puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
- Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Health Issues Common to Labradoodles
All hybrid dogs have the potential to develop genetic health problems, just as purebred dogs can and 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 Labradoodle 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 Labradoodle and the incidence with which they occur in her lines.
Labradoodles may develop health conditions common to both Labrador Retrievers and Poodles, especially if you aren’t cautious about whom you buy from. They include hip and elbow dysplasia, an eye disease called progressive retinal atrophy, and von Willebrand’s disease, a bleeding disorder.
At a minimum, ask the breeder to show evidence that both of a puppy’s parents have hip and elbow certifications from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, a DNA test for progressive retinal atrophy, and certification from the Canine Eye Registry Foundation that the eyes are healthy. A plus would be a DNA test for von Willebrand’s disease. If you are purchasing a small or medium-size Labradoodle, the parents should have OFA patella (knee) clearances.
Do not purchase a puppy from a breeder who cannot provide you with written documentation that the parents were cleared of health problems that affect the breed. Having the dogs "vet checked" is not a substitute for genetic health testing.
|Condition ||Risk Profile ||Cost to Diagnose and Treat |
|Hip Dysplasia |
|Medium ||$1,500-$6,000 |
|Elbow Dysplasia ||Medium ||$1,500-$4,000 |
|Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance |
Pet Insurance for Labradoodles
Pet insurance for Labradoodles costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Labradoodles are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.
Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Labradoodles are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Labradoodle is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.