A breed that has recently experienced extreme growth in popularity, the Labrador Retriever and Poodle hybrid, otherwise known as the Labradoodle, is known for intelligence and sociability. These dogs were originally bred to act as service dogs, but they have proven to be excellent family or therapy dogs, too.
Because crossbreeds are not always predictable (genetics are not as easy to manipulate through breeding as we might like to think!), this breed of dog has a variety of possible traits, but common traits of the Labradoodle include intelligence, friendliness, and an incredibly affectionate temperament. They can range in size anywhere from 20 to 100 pounds, but most have a characteristic coat that is shaggy or curly and requires some grooming. Though they are energetic dogs that require at least some activity, they are also relatively easy to train, and they usually do well in households with other pets, children or both. They can be excitable, though, so they may unintentionally knock small children over in their excitement.
Most Labradoodles, like their Labrador Retriever parents, are loyal dogs who are very eager to please. This is a great help in training, because they respond so well to praise and affection. This combined with their undying loyalty and gentleness makes them excellent therapy dogs.
Since they are such vibrant personalities, Labradoodles require moderate activity every day to be healthy and happy. A daily walk or active playtime is usually enough, though they are athletic enough for sports like agility. Their ease of training makes them an excellent choice for first-time dog owners, but by the same token, their friendliness means that they make terrible guard dogs. A Labradoodle is more likely to shower a burglar with kisses than she is to scare them away. Her temperament also invites a potential for conflict with less friendly dogs– while other breeds will approach new dogs with caution and respect, a Labradoodle may rush up to play without considering whether or not the other dog will like them.
The major problem with the Labradoodle as a breed is an extreme lack of consistency, which is common in crossbreeds. Every time you mix two different breeds, you are playing the genetic lottery, and the results may differ vastly each time. This is the case even with breeding multi-generational Labradoodles. Some of these dogs wind up looking and acting a lot more like Poodles, with quiet, reserved personalities and very fine coats that require a lot of maintenance. Others are almost exactly like Labradors: eternally puppyish, prone to shedding, and friendly to a fault.
This is particularly problematic, because the coat is one of the most varied aspects of the Labradoodle. Though these dogs are sometimes touted as hypo-allergenic, there is little evidence that they are less likely to affect people with a dog allergy. This misconception is most likely because they share genetics with Poodles, which have a reputation for being hypo-allergenic dogs. One litter can contain a wide variety of coat types, and sometimes pet owners will be forced to give up their Labradoodles because their excessive shedding is horrible for allergies.