The ever-popular Labradoodle is immensely trainable and, unlike many other dogs, a good fit for first-time dog owners. On the larger side, these pups can take up some space—but are great with kids and will adapt to their family’s lifestyle. The standard version, which is a Lab bred with a standard-sized poodle, can grow to be about 24 inches tall and weigh up to 75 pounds. (If you’re searching for a dog on the smaller size, it’s possible to also find mini Labradoodles, a hybrid of a Labrador retriever and a miniature poodle.)
“There’s never a dull moment. They have huge personalities,” says Mike Martinez, a Labradoodle breeder and owner of Chicago Area Labradors & Labradoodles.
Labradoodles are healthy dogs and need exercise, though the amount of running, playing, or swimming might depend on their makeup of Labrador and poodle genes. But regardless of the genetic breakdown, you’ll need to get used to trips to the groomer. These pups are hairy.
Like many Labradoodle characteristics, your dog’s appearance will depend on the generation you’re looking for. To illustrate: Martinez breeds F1 (half Labrador, half poodle), F1b (75 percent poodle, 25 percent Lab), and F2 (87 percent poodle, 13 percent Lab) Labradoodles.
The half-Lab F1s will have longer, wavier hair and will still shed, Martinez says. The F1bs and F2s will have more poodle-esque hair that’s tighter, curlier, and generally won’t shed. They’ll often look like little teddy bears as puppies.
Labradoodles are often thought of as hypoallergenic—even though no dog is truly an allergen-free animal—but generally the F1b and F2 generations are considered better options for some allergy sufferers. Martinez recommends people with allergies spend time with their puppy before they adopt. His customers are required to.
“Everybody has different severity of allergies,” he says. “Some people are more sensitive than others.”
Standard Labradoodles will weigh between 50 and 75 pounds, with the female dogs smaller than their male friends. They’ll come in around 20–25 inches tall, Martinez says.
As for colors, Labradoodles run the gamut. You’ll find them in black, white, cream, red, chocolate, or a mix of those colors. Taking after their poodle brethren, these fluffy boys and girls need to be brushed frequently, too.
Martinez loves the dogs he breeds—he owns 10 himself—and was especially effusive about how Labradoodles act around people, families, and children, even kids who might not know exactly how to pet or interact with dogs
“They love people,” he says. “They’re amazing with any age range.”
Labradoodles are also known to happily co-exist with their feline friends, too. But not only can these pups live with cats—Martinez says several of his puppies have gone on to become therapy dogs, meaning they’re calm and affectionate enough to visit schools, hospitals, and rehabilitation centers to offer psychological and physiological support to patients and people in need. Some Labradoodles go on to become service dogs, as the breed creator originally intended.
But don’t confuse them for docile dogs. They still have big personalities—Martinez describes a typical day with his dogs as entertaining—but mischievous behavior can be counteracted with training, which Labradoodles quickly pick up on.
Genesis Service Dogs, which breeds Labradoodles to help children and adults with special needs, says the dogs will mature slower than their Labrador retriever brethren, so they’ll be puppyish for about a year and a half. Then they’ll become even more affectionate toward their humans.
They’re mostly quiet, keeping barking to a minimum, but Labradoodles’ energy level can vary based on their generation, Martinez says. The dogs with more Labrador genes (F1s) will be more energetic than the ones with more poodle in their blood.
Labradoodles will often reflect the energy levels of their owner, Martinez says, but they’re still descendants of sporting dogs who like having something to do. Whether that means long walks together or playing games in the yard, a Labradoodle will be happiest with any activity he can do with you.
Labradoodles are flexible when it comes to where they live. While the standard Labradoodles are bigger, they can still reside in an apartment, though generally Martinez admits smaller dogs, potentially miniature Labradoodles, are better suited for living in smaller homes.
Labradoodles certainly won’t turn down a house with a nice big yard, though. Martinez lets his group of pups spend plenty of time outside, where they’ll be just as likely to lay down for a spell than run around on the doggie playground equipment.
Labradoodles are generally happy to live with other dogs, but are also OK when they’re left alone for long stretches. They do need exercise, though. If Martinez sends a puppy home with someone who works all day, he advises them to invest in a dog walker so their doodle is able to stretch his legs during the hours he’s left alone.
But if you have the time and like to explore, a Labradoodle could be the perfect hiking partner. And since poodles are considered water dogs, some Labradoodles like to swim, too.
This breed is good for all ages, Martinez says, but Labradoodle owners will still need to put the work in with training and to meet their activity needs. He subscribes to the oft-used mantra: There aren’t any bad dogs, just bad owners.
It’s important to start training your Labradoodle puppy as soon as you bring him home. Labradoodles are considered smart dogs and will pick up what you’re teaching very quickly. Martinez says they may even understand some commands within the first day.
Even better? Labradoodles are smart enough that daily training doesn’t take too long. Martinez recommends three or four sessions of 10 minutes each day to accommodate the dogs’ short attention spans, which is like that of “a young child,” he says.
They’re so easy to train and quick to learn that even first-time dog owners can fare well, Martinez says. But if you don’t have the time or know-how to train, obedience school is the answer. Once he’s learned to recognize the basics, your doodle will start making those classic head tilts when you mention their favorite words (walk, car, treat).
According to Martinez, early socialization—both with other dogs and people—is important for Labradoodle puppies. Martinez says he lets the puppies he breeds spend their early days with his adult dogs to get them used to other dogs at a young age. If your vet says it’s safe, you may want to have your new Labradoodle puppy meet other humans and dogs in their first few weeks in their new home.
When it comes to exercise, three to four walks a day will suffice (which is why you might need a dog walker). Otherwise, swimming, hiking, or some playtime in the yard or at the park will help your dog immensely. Labradoodles do enjoy their activity, but Martinez says they’ll spend just as much time lounging around to relax.
Grooming is another integral part of caring for your Labradoodle, but it’s probably best to outsource it. These fluffy boys and girls need regular trims. Martinez sends his dogs to the goomer for a haircut every six weeks, regardless of whether they’re F1s, F1bs, or F2s.
Here’s another reason Labradoodles are good for first-time dog owners: They’re a relatively healthy breed over their 10–14 years of life. But being the ideal combination of Labs and poodles also means Labradoodles can be susceptible to the health problems of both their parent breeds.
“That’s a prerequisite,” Martinez says.
If the breeder you’re considering doesn’t do that testing or says it isn’t needed, find someone else.
Martinez notes that Labrador retrievers are happy to eat just about anything and everything. While your Labradoodle will likely be a bit pickier, be sure to keep any weight gain in check since they may have a tendency to overeat if they’re allowed to.
Australian Wally Conron is credited as the modern-day creator of the Labradoodle, breeding the first one in the late 1980s. He was trying to create a guide dog that would also be hypoallergenic, by breeding a Labrador retriever and a standard poodle.
Clearly, his efforts were successful. The breed exploded in popularity, and since it is the combination of the American Kennel Club’s No. 1 (Lab) and No. 6 (poodle) most popular breeds, it’s no wonder. People seek out the Labradoodle for its trifecta of cute looks, friendly demeanor, and minimal shedding.
While the Labradoodle is the seemingly ideal dog for people with allergies, Conron has said he regrets his creation. Because of the intense demand for these "designer dogs," Conron has expressed concern over the bad actors who breed Labradoodles in puppy mills—and the inexperienced and sometimes misinformed breeders who fail to prevent genetic problems from being passed on to new generations.