The Labradoodle breed emerged in 1989, when Australian breeder Wally Conron deliberately crossed the Labrador Retriever and Standard Poodle, for an organization called Guide Dogs Victoria. The objective was to combine the best characteristics of both breeds, i.e., the low-shedding coat of the Poodle with the gentleness and trainability of the Labrador. He wished to harness those abilities of Labradors that make them a great guide, assistance, and therapy dogs. Another objective was for this new breed to inherit the poodles low shedding fur quality, which makes them suitable for people with allergies.
These objectives were achieved, and many Labradoodles have taken up the duties of a guide, assistance, and therapy dogs. Guide Dogs Victoria continue to breed them, and they have become increasingly popular as family dogs as well. However, the breed is still at its developing stages, and has not yet come into its own. All puppies do not have similar characteristics. The desired traits may be passed on to some puppies, but many others may display inconsistent unpredictable features and behavioral characteristics.
Presently, Labradoodles are bred in many different sizes, depending on which they can be anything between 14 to 25 inches at the wither, and may weigh between 15 to 65 lbs. The size of the Poodle may be the deciding factor here. While there is no standard that applies as yet, their coats are commonly categorized into wool (with soft tight curls, closer to a poodles coat); 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). Their coats have solid colors ranging from cream, light beige, golden, caramel, chocolate, red, black, blue to silver, i.e., any color that a poodle is seen in. While it is desired for Labradoodles to have low shedding fur, some have coats that shed, though they are likely to shed lesser and have less dog odor than a Labrador Retriever.
Both Labrador Retrievers and Poodles are dog breeds with superior intelligence, which is a quality Labradoodles proudly inherit. They also display qualities of affinity to water and the strong swimming ability that both parent breeds possess. Sensitivity and gentleness, that is distinct to Labradors, is also seen in them. Most are generally friendly, energetic, and very affectionate, traits that make them great with children and an indispensable part of a family. They are obedient and train very well, and their intelligence enables them to learn verbal or sign language commands too. They make very good guide dogs, who become the eyes of their blind or visually impaired owners. They take their job of leading and guiding the owner around very seriously. They also do well in roles of assistance dogs, where they aid their owner with several tasks. Their loving and gentle personality makes them perfect therapy dogs, where they provide affection and comfort to people in hospitals, retirement homes, nursing homes, schools, people with learning difficulties, and stressful situations such as disaster areas.
Just as Labradoodles inherit the best characteristics of their parent breeds, they may also suffer from health problems common to both breeds. These ailments include hip dysplasia, and can be avoided if a specialist radiography checks the dogs prior to 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. A disease found to affect a number of Australian Labradoodles is Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA), an inherited disease that causes blindness. It can be avoided through DNA testing for PRA before breeding.
These dogs are hypoallergenic, which means that they cause reduced allergy symptoms in some people. The source of a dog allergy is usually a protein contained in their saliva and urine, that sticks to the animal's dead, dried flakes of skin (dander). This allergy-causing dander then sticks to the fur, and gets released into the air when the fur is shed. Thus, the problem is curtailed when dogs such as Labradoodles shed minimal fur.
Though they are a breed yet to be established, most Labradoodles embody the best of Poodles and Labs. In addition, their hypoallergenic coat makes them ideal pets for people with allergies.