The History of the Labradoodle
The Labradoodle is a unique dog with a fascinating history beginning in the late 1980s (1988 or 1989...no definitive date has been established). The Labradoodle began with an inquiry from a visually-impaired woman in Hawaii who wanted a guide dog that wouldn’t cause her husband’s allergies to flare. She chose Australia due to the quarantine rules. (The island of Australia has very strict quarantine laws, moreso than those in Hawaii. Therefore, dogs exported to Hawaii could go home with no quarantine.)
In response to the woman’s request, roughly thirty Poodle hair and saliva samples were sent to Hawaii to test for allergy friendliness over a two year period of time. Unfortunately, none of those original samples proved successful. Following the failure of these samples, a man named Wally Conren suggested crossing a Labrador Retriever with a Standard Poodle to the manager of the Australian Guide Dog Association. Approval was granted and his first litter produced three puppies. Wally gave the resulting cross the name still in use today - Labradoodle. Hair and saliva samples from the three puppies were sent to Hawaii for testing once again. And this time, the samples from a puppy named Sultan were successful!
After the success of the first mating, Mr. Conren bred Labradoodle to Labradoodle and called the subsequent offspring “Double Doodles.” Next, he crossed the Double Doodles and called the offspring “Tri Doodles.” These were the precursor to what we call today the Australian Multi-Generational (or Multi-Gen) Labradoodles.
When Wally Conren retired, a veterinarian named Kate Schoeffel (Kate’s Family Pets) from Condoblin New South Wales, Australia, who had been in touch with him, started her own breeding program mating Miniature Poodles with Labrador Retrievers. Her success was such that she is still breeding her Miniature first generation Labradoodles today.
A couple of years after Mr. Conren’s initial success, a man who bred puppies for pet shops started to breed these rather handsome Labradoodles. And with what we would today call 20/20 hindsight, he bred the Labradoodle back to a Poodle and Labradoodle to Labradoodle. Unfortunately, he wasn’t good at record keeping since his primary goal was breeding family pets. He didn’t recognize the non-shedding and hypoallergenic potential of these dogs. He did, however, continue breeding his first- and second-generation Labradoodles for a few years before retiring.
The Australian Guide Dog Association was having very little success as well. They, too, didn’t recognize the mutated gene which develops the allergy=friendly Labradoodle of today.
However, even with the limited success the few original pioneering breeders had at the time, interest in the Labradoodle was strong enough for a few visionaries to start breeding them with an intentional plan in mind. Within a few short years, other breeders followed, and what they developed is the Australian Multi-Generational Labradoodle we recognize today.
The primary draw to the Labradoodle is the low- and non-shedding coats. People quickly discovered, however, that they possess a wonderful disposition. The Labradoodle’s future was set.
Australian Multi-Gen Labradoodle breeder Judy Hickey of Snug Harbor Labradoodles provides her characterization of the dogs, “There’s an intuitiveness to the Australian Multi Gen Labradoodles. They have a very human-like nature and if you look at either Tegan Park or Rutland Manor websites, they call them 'clown-like.' And that was sort of a depiction until I had them myself. Then I discovered they are very funny! They have a childlike playfulness about them.” These dogs became so adaptable that their intelligence and resolve attracted people and trainers who wanted dogs for sports, guidance, and therapy.
Labradoodle and Goldendoodle breeder Michael Waggenbach, of Sunshine Acres, adds this comment about Labradoodles, “They’re a dog that is not fearful of change and is not going to be afraid to step across a street with a person behind them. Those are strengths of the Labradoodle. The other strength of the Labradoodle is it’s a very strong dog, physically strong.."
Because of their growing popularity, the crossing of a Labrador Retriever and Poodle without regard to genetics, bloodline, or temperament began. These breeders called their puppies Labradoodles with the resulting puppies having unpredictable physical and temperament characteristics. Because of this random breeding, the need to develop a standard initiated the formation of two Breeding and Research Centers for Labradoodles in Australia:
In 1989, Rutland Manor Labradoodle Breeding and Research Center organized in Darnum, Victoria. Their sires and dams were health-tested Labrador Retrievers, Poodles, and 3rd generation Labradoodles. Tegan Park Breeding and Research Centre in Seaspray, Victoria was established at this time as well. They also carefully controlled their breeding program using only the finest genetically healthy dogs.
In 1998, Tegan Park introduced the "Miniature" Labradoodle to the public. When a Miniature and Standard Labradoodle are crossed, the medium-sized Labradoodle is the result. Today three sizes are currently recognized; the miniatures at 14 - 17 inches tall, mediums at 18 - 21 inches, and the standard at 23 - 26 inches.
Very early generation Labradoodles had a wide variety of coat types. Some curlier-coated puppies matured into a low-allergy coat while others started as low-allergy but by 8 months of age had shed into one that was not. In addition, some puppies grew up looking like Golden Retrievers with a thinner coat while others took on the look of a Labrador Retriever. Both Rutland Manor and Tegan Park bred away the shedding coat and as a result, shedding coats are generally rare in Australian Multi-Generational Labradoodles. Today, Australian Multi-Gen Labradoodles are bred for either fleece or wool curly coat.
The Australian Labradoodle Association (ALA) and the International Labradoodle Association (ILA) are the two primary breeding registry organizations upholding the breeding standards of the Labradoodle breed. There is also the Australian Labradoodle Club of America (ACLA) whose focus is solely the Australian Multi-Generational Labradoodle.
In addition to the multi-generational Labradoodle breeding, there is the F1 and F1B breeding style, which is also an acceptable form of breeding recognized by the ALA and the ILA. These are also wonderful family pets.