What's a Labradoodle—Designer Dog or Just Another Mutt?

Updated February 9, 2004

The Labradoodle, Yorkipoo, cockapoo, and schnoodle are the latest designer hybrid dogs to hit the catwalk.

Just as people meticulously customize a cup of coffee to suit their mood—a lowfat, decaf, mocha latte with chocolate sprinkles is particularly good—people are designing their pets to match their lifestyle.

The most popular breed of designer dog is the Labradoodle—originally a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle. The mix reputedly combines the intelligence, aloof nature, the delicate frame, and the low-allergy, and non-shedding traits of the poodle with the boisterous exuberance, lovability, and loyalty of a lab.

Humans began domesticating dogs about 14,000 years ago. Breeds emerged as dogs were selected for various traits like the ability to guard and hunt. Like the many breeds that have emerged since, the evolving Labradoodle also has a purpose: to provide an allergy friendly companion, especially to people with special needs.

Labradoodles originated in Australia in the 1970s when the Guide Dogs Victoria, in Kew, Australia, received a request for a low allergy guide dog. But their Labradoodle breeding program was largely abandoned because it produced inconsistent results. The breed also arose independently on the farm of Don Evans, who ran a mixed dog farm in Northern Victoria, Australia.

Trouble With Pure Breeds

"Don Evans loved his dogs but he bred everything and anything," said Beverley Manners, a former German shepherd breeder for 30 years, licensed dog show judge, and currently the president of the Hawaii-based International Labradoodle Association, Inc. "If a bitch was in season and a male was interested, well, he just said, 'why not.' Don had bred poodles and labs together and had several second and third generation Labradoodles—that's where I got my original stock."

Labradoodle fever escalated when the Guide Dogs Victoria opened their doors and the general public spied the charismatic, wide-eyed, wavy-haired pooches. Many contacted Manners to locate Labradoodle breeders.

Manners was also intrigued with the Labradoodle—especially in light of rising allergy and asthma problems—and with the prospect idea of developing a new hybrid, free from the health issues facing the pure breeds.

"I was increasingly disheartened with breeding German shepherds," said Manners. "These dogs, like other pure breeds of the show world had been bred for looks, and health was largely ignored. German shepherds, for example, are plagued with 89 inherited disorders."

Top winning dogs are often highly inbred—siblings are interbred, and fathers are mated with daughters. The result is a tiny gene pool that is saturated with bad traits.

Manners began with dogs from Don Evans' farm and has been breeding the doodles at Rutland Manor Labradoodle Breeding and Research Center, near Melbourne, for the last 15 years—carefully archiving genetic and health records for all the dogs. The center's goal is to refine the breed to predetermine coat, color, size, and temperament of the puppies.

Continued on Next Page >>


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