Breed Beginnings: Goldendoodle and Labradoodle

by Lisa Arbuckle

The Goldendoodle and Labradoodle breeds are fast becoming two of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and in Europe. Those who have had the pleasure of owning one of these dogs are quick to detail their virtues and are fierce advocates of the breed. With good reason. When bred properly, Goldendoodles and Labradoodles are incredibly smart, trainable and make ideal family dogs. Their personalities can be best described as the mixing of the cleverness of a Poodle with the silly, playfulness of the Golden Retriever or the loyal, steadfastness of the Labrador.

The health of the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle breeds are also a benefit of the breed. If a breeder is careful and considers the genetic aspects of both the Poodle and the Golden Retriever or Labrador Retriever in breeding, crossing the two can produce puppies that are healthier than either of the parents. This careful breeding has also increased the lifespan of the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle. At a lifespan of approximately 12-15 years, these two Doodle breeds have the potential to live 20-30% longer than their parents. This fact is especially relevant for service and therapy dog trainers and their recipients. A person in need of this type of long-term assistance seeks to keep their service animal for as long as possible for both the love of and attachment to the dog, and the expense of acquiring a replacement.

The coat of a Doodle is another reason these dogs are so popular. Doodles have beautiful coats of diverse texture and color that can be groomed or styled in a multitude of ways. Whether you prefer your Doodle to wear the pristine cuts of the Poodle, embody the shagginess of a Sheepdog, or sport the playful puppy cut of something in-between, the opportunities are endless for creating different looks for your Doodle companion.

In spite of all of the admirable qualities of the Golden and Labradoodle, there is much negative input coming from purebred enthusiasts who are fighting to keep the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle from being recognized as a legitimate breed by the American, Canadian and European Kennel clubs. They claim that these new breeds do not have a breed standard. They also proclaim, on social media and in web articles, that Doodles are just mutts and that those who adopt them have been “tricked” into believing that Doodles are as superior a pet as their pure-bred breed of choice. While their argument may be correct regarding many accidental or backyard mixed breeds, they are not correct in regard to the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle breeds.

To fully grasp the reasons why these canine elitists are wrong about the Goldendoodle and Labradoodle, a simple fact must be acknowledged: ALL dog breeds are a mix of at least two other dog breeds. All of them. All dog breeds started much the same way the Doodle breeds have started and, after breed standards were established, all were eventually recognized by Kennel Clubs because of their popularity.

The Poodle breed enthusiasts are some of the most outspoken on the subject of Doodles, claiming that the mere existence of the Doodle breeds is somehow dirtying the gene pool of the Poodle. The truth is quite the opposite. When a Poodle is bred with another breed, such as a Golden Retriever, it creates an entirely separate breed. Today, scientists are working with canine DNA to determine the family trees of each breed. For example, we know that the Poodle is believed to be a combination of three breeds, the Barabet, the French Water Dog, and the Hungarian Water Hound. Their love of water is likely how they got the name “poodle” as it is a variation of the German word ‘Pudel’ which means “one who plays in water”.

The Labrador Retriever got its start in Newfoundland and is a cross between a Newfoundland and a smaller unnamed water dog, which created the breed called the St. John’s Water Dog or Lesser Newfoundland. That breed was brought to England in the 1830’s and used for hunting. They didn’t get their current name, however, until the Earl and Duke of Malmesbury began breeding them in the mid 1800s. They used them for retrieving game in and out of water and called them their “Labrador Dogs”. The name ‘Labrador’ stuck and Malmesbury’s Labrador Retrievers became recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1903.

The Golden Retriever breed was developed in the Scottish Highlands, at the estate of Sir Dudley Majoribanks, later known as Lord Tweedmouth, in the late 1800’s. Highlanders were in need of a hunting dog that could retrieve well in water and on land. Tweedmouth first bred the Tweed Water Spaniel with a yellow-colored Retriever. Those four pups were then used in further breeding with lines including the Irish Setter, Bloodhound, St. John’s Water Dog, and black Retrievers to finally become the Golden Retriever. The English Kennel Club recognized the Golden Retriever as a breed in 1911.

Labradoodle and Goldendoodle breeders today, are simply following in the footsteps of other famous breeders in creating the two “Doodle” breeds. In comparison, the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle breeds appear to be more genetically compatible than many other breed combinations currently recognized by the English and American Kennel Associations.

The Goldendoodle is a combination of a purebred Golden Retriever and a purebred Standard Poodle. Both dogs are in the top 5 most intelligent breeds. Both dogs have a soft pallet that hunters prefer for bird hunting dogs. Both dogs love the water. Both dogs have excellent temperaments, are very sociable and are wonderful family dogs. There are many factors that contribute to the dog’s ultimate temperament but breeding the Poodle and Golden Retriever together significantly reduces the chance of having an ill-tempered or aggressive dog. This, and the Goldendoodle’s high level of trainability and intelligence is why the Goldendoodle is often used as a service or therapy dog.

The Poodle and Golden Retriever combination is also a benefit from a health standpoint. Each breed, separately, has a list of health issues that may occur, as does every purebred dog. By breeding a Poodle and a Golden Retriever that have been thoroughly examined, tested, and have been passed as not carrying these genetic health defects, you are potentially creating a breed that may be healthier than its parents. In fact, the only genetic or health issues that are common to both breeds and would be more difficult to avoid, is cancer and gastric dilation. Two health risks that are common in most dog breeds.

Another big benefit in breeding the two is that while the poodle is non-shedding or very light shedding, the Golden Retriever is a medium to heavy shedder. This is the biggest complaint of those who own, or have owned, a Golden Retriever. Their coats are a beautiful color and texture, but the shedding is a drawback.  When bred with the Poodle, the resulting coat is even more beautiful in texture and the variety of color. It sheds significantly less, with little or no pet dander. This benefit is amplified even more when the Goldendoodle is then bred to another Poodle, creating what is called an F1b Goldendoodle.

The Labradoodle is a combination of a purebred Labrador Retriever and purebred Standard Poodle. Both dogs are in the top 10 most intelligent dog breeds and the top 10 most popular dog breeds. The Labrador Retriever claimed the #1 spot in popularity in 2018.  Labradoodles are very similar in trait and benefits as the Goldendoodle and are also used for Therapy and Guide dog work. While the Goldendoodle has never met a person they didn’t like, the Labradoodle is better for those who prefer a dog who will also notify you of an intruder or be more protective of his or her owner. This is one of the reasons that Labradoodles are most often used as guide dogs. Labradoodles are just as intelligent, sociable and good tempered as the Goldendoodle with a bit more of “the protector” built into the genes.

The breeding of the Poodle and Labrador Retriever must be carefully done. Because of the coat differences and the genetic markers for color, the outcome of a breeding that has not been properly genetically matched, can result in coats that are not ideal for the breed. Coloring is also important for adhering to what is becoming the breed standard. You can read more about this in the article “Doodle Coats and Colors” on the Doodle Companions website.

From a health standpoint, breeding a genetically tested and evaluated Labrador Retriever and Poodle in excellent health can result in a healthier Labradoodle breed with improved longevity. Indeed, with the assistance of genetic testing and careful breeding, the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle breeds can be just as genetically superior as any other breed and, in some cases, more so.

As with any breed, there are disreputable breeders who breed for profit, rather than the betterment of the breed. They do not genetically test for common health issues that will be passed to the pups, nor do they attempt to match coat and color standards to ensure presentation quality. This type of breeding is unacceptable and will only weaken opportunities for the breed to excel. It is up to the individual to do their research in order to get a healthy and intelligent Labradoodle or Goldendoodle pup.

When breeders are breeding responsibly, the resulting pups will become some of the healthiest, most beautiful, highly intelligent, and good-natured dogs you will ever find.

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