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All About Labradoodles

The labradoodle is one of the most popular of the so-called designer dogs. A mix between a Labrador Retriever and a Poodle, the labradoodle is essentially a mixed breed dog of known parentage. While there is nothing wrong with mixed breeds, the fact that people often pay more for a mixed breed whose parents have had fewer health tests and screenings and come with fewer guarantees than a purebred Labrador from a good breeder is a true shame.

Origins of the Labradoodle

The original labradoodle began with Wally Conron, breeding manager at the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia. He was trying to create a hypoallergenic dog for a blind woman with a husband who was allergic to dogs. It took many tries before he was successful ad he now regrets the creation of the labradoodle.

Unfortunately many breeders of labradoodles claim they are hypoallergenic and his attempt to create a hypoallergenic dog for this woman made it very clear to him that the majority of labradoodles are not hypoallergenic and that the type of coat they end up with is extremely variable. The guide school would run multiple tests, including tests on hair and saliva samples, on an individual dog before declaring it truly hypoallergenic. The majority of labradoodles were not and did not meet the required standard.

Because they became so popular, many people began breeding labradoodles in order to make money. As Conron noted, they skipped the all-important health tests and screenings that responsible breeders of purebred Labrador Retrievers and Poodles did as a part of their normal practice. This led to labradoodles with numerous health issues including hip and elbow dysplasia, hereditary cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy, retinal dysplasia, and sebaceous adenitis. These diseases also occur in purebred Labs and Poodles, however breeders test for them and do their best to eliminate them from their breeding stock using health testing and screening. The average breeder of labradoodles does not.

If You Are Thinking of Getting One

Ask yourself why you want a Labradoodle. If it is the outgoing, amiable personality that you are looking for a purebred Labrador or Poodle can provide this in spades. If it hunting ability, both the purebred Lab and Poodle are natural retrievers and proven field dogs. Although many don’t realize it, the poodle started as a gun dog and is still used for that purpose in many places. If it’s a hypoallergenic coat, get a purebred Poodle. You’re guaranteed the coat rather than playing the odds like you would with a labradoodle. You don’t have to keep it in a funny hair cut if you don’t wish too although the haircut actually evolved as a way to avoid weighing the dog down when swimming but keeping the extremities and core body organs warm. Keep him in a short pet trim if that is your preference.

If you still feel the labradoodle is the right breed for you, then research breeders carefully. Look for one that does hip and elbow x-ray clearances through the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and can prove it by showing you the certificates. They should be having their dogs’ eyes examined on an annual basis by a veterinary ophthalmologist and again should be able to provide proof of clearance. Unfortunately, there are no tests yet for sebaceous adenitis. However, a good breeder provides a written health guarantee that clearly outlines what happens if your pet develops a genetic disease, like sebaceous adenitis. That health guarantee should be for at least two years. Run, don’t walk, away from any breeder who says that health testing and health guarantees are not necessary.

Photo credit: Louis Courtney/Flickr