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A labradoodle is a dog typically bred from one labrador retriever parent, and one standard poodle parent. However, many often now simply produce more puppies by breeding together two labradoodle parents. The goal behind crossing the two breeds was to produce a dog that shed less, and provoked fewer allergies. This has not been entirely successful.
This breed is a relatively new crossbreed that originated in Australia. Wally Conran is credited as being the first to purposefully produce the crossbreed in 1988, though no doubt the occasional labrador/poodle romance occurred before this time. One of the labradoodle puppies from the initial mix was considered hypoallergenic. However, since that time, some labradoodles still shed or are a problem for those with allergies to dog hair, dander or dog saliva.
The dogs became almost instantly popular in Australia in the 1990s, with many dogs being named labradoodles that were not in fact strictly so. Problems also arose because the breed is large, and people adopted the puppies not realizing the dog would be too big to handle. The first version of these dogs can be over 2 feet (0.60 m) at shoulder height.
Unfortunately, many of the first specimens of the breed were euthanized because they have proven to be quite intelligent dogs that are often stubborn. When trained, they can make excellent guide dogs. However, some of the early dogs were returned to breeders as impossible to train. Actually, most breeders claim that early training would have prevented these dogs’ deaths, but by the time they were returned, efforts to retrain the dogs were not successful.
Also, breeders often had the dogs returned because owners mistakenly believed the dogs would not promote allergies. In fact many of the dogs turned out to not be hypoallergenic as hoped, thus the breed did not always give satisfaction to new owners.
This breed also shows great variance in appearance. Some have curly coats and others have long cuts, more likely to shed. Dogs may be varicolored, brown, black, yellow or white. Facial shape varies as well. Some dogs have the longer snout of the labrador, while the labradoodle bred with a smaller poodle may have a more round “teddy-bear” face shape.
To combat size issues, some labradoodle crosses are now the result of miniature poodle and labrador parents. Size still remains somewhat unpredictable, but smaller types may be bred to other small dogs to keep the breed size small. As well, results of two slightly less shedding labradoodle parents tend to result in puppies that give people fewer allergies.
While Australia experienced a labradoodle boom in the 1990s, the US has now caught up, with crosses being offered in 2005. Since that time, they have become popular dogs, particularly when trained as guide dogs, or for those with minor dog allergies. Some purists are concerned about US labradoodle crosses because they may not be the mix of labrador/poodle that breed standards in Australia now require.
Further, Australian breeders are concerned that the boom in the US will lead to the same results as were first experienced in Australia. Those who don’t know enough about the dog's size and temperament, as well as their potential for causing allergies, may abandon dogs at shelters where many may be euthanized.