With a cute name and curly coat, doodle dogs seem to be incredibly popular with pet owners. They're favorites for people with allergies because they often promise little or no shedding. They are said to be good-natured, smart and sweet family dogs. What a perfect breed!
Although, technically doodles aren't a breed.
Doodle dogs are mixes between poodles and other breeds. Labradoodles and goldendoodles are the most well known of the doodle dogs, but there are oodles of others from schnoodles to whoodles. The first doodle was a Labradoodle bred by Wally Conron while he was working as puppy breeding manager for the Royal Guide Dog Association of Australia in the 1980s.
Conron was struggling to find a guide dog for a blind woman whose husband was allergic to dog hair. He tried nearly three dozen poodles before coming up with the idea to cross a poodle with a Labrador retriever, hoping the positive traits that make Labs great service dogs would combine with the non-shedding characteristics of a poodle.
Conron was successful, but he soon realized that no one was interested in the crossbred dogs because they weren't purebreds. That's when he told his public relations team to go to the press and tell them that they had invented a new dog. He called it a Labradoodle.
"It was a gimmick, and it went worldwide," Conron told dog expert Stanley Coren, Ph.D. of Psychology Today. "It worked — during the weeks that followed, our switchboard was inundated with calls from potential dog fostering homes, other guide-dog centers, vision-impaired people and people allergic to dog hair who wanted to know more about this 'wonder dog.'"
Many people who are interested in doodles seem to gravitate toward the breed for their non-shedding reputation or their affable personalities. The hope is that the dogs would bring the best of both breeds into their offspring. But as with all genetics, there are no guarantees, says Kathryn Lord, a postdoctoral associate in the Karlsson Lab at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, where members are immersed in studying dog genetics and behavior.
"It's hard to make generalizations with any breed, but it's especially hard with mixes," Lord tells MNN. "When you mix breeds, you get unpredictable results."
So although we make generalizations about certain breeds — like golden retrievers are friendly, German shepherds are protective and border collies are workaholics — there are always exceptions. Dogs of the same breed might look similar, but there are plenty of cranky goldens, inattentive German shepherds and lazy border collies.
Conron discovered this fairly quickly as he started breeding more Labradoodles. He discovered their personalities and working ability varied from dog to dog. Even their coats were different, ranging from curly to wavy to straight, with some shedding more than others.
Later, Conron said that creating Labradoodles was his life's regret.
"I opened a Pandora box and released a Frankenstein monster," he said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s podcast "Sum of All Parts." "Why people are breeding them today, I haven't got a clue."
From schnoodles to whoodles
They might be known as designer dogs that can fetch an impressive $2,500 or more, but there's no fancy pedigree and doodles aren't recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC).
This isn't the first time poodle mixes have been popular. Cockapoos (cocker spaniel), Yorkipoos (Yorkshire terrier) and Peekapoos (Pekingese) are toy poodle mixes that people got excited about long before the doodle craze.
This time around, there are all sorts of interesting mixes. Do a search online and you'll find schnoodles (schnauzers), sheepadoodles (Old English sheepdog) and whoodles (soft-coated wheaten terrier). Poodles have been mixed with beagles, pugs, Australian shepherds, corgis and even Saint Bernards.
Whoodles are a mix between poodles and soft-coated wheaten terriers. (Photo: Dave Lauretti [CC BY 2.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
No doubt they are all very cute. But do your research before assuming they all have the low- or no-shedding traits of their poodle genes. And remember, a dog's personality can always be a roll of the dice, no matter what DNA he's packing and which breeds are in his lineage.
"It is important to educate yourself before diving into Doodle land," writes licensed veterinary technician Natasha Feduik in PetMD. "Be sure to research the specific breeds, and how they are compatible with your desires. Hopefully, you will appreciate your dog's individuality and uniqueness, no matter what type of Doodle he or she may be."
'Fabulous mix and a fabulous dog'
When a poodle and Old English sheepdog are bred, the result is a sheepadoodle. (Photo: Ironlion27 [CC BY-SA 4.0]/Wikimedia Commons)
Although the various doodles aren't officially recognized as true breeds right now, that doesn't mean that won't change someday, says Lord.
"Most breeds started as mixes with other breeds," she points out.
Whether doodle dogs will ever become a recognized breed depends on the goals of the people breeding them, she says. It depends on whether there are determined, reputable breeders who want to work toward developing specific characteristics and qualities to create recognized traits.
But plenty of doodle fans don't seem to mind that the mixed-breed dogs don't have papers.
"A lot of people don't want a poodle, because it's the pedigree with a pedicure," Wendy Diamond, an animal rescue advocate and founder/editor of Animal Fair magazine, tells Reuters. "People who are into poodles are into arts, wine and culture. But when you cross that with a Labrador — and guys who are into Labradors are into sports — you get a fabulous mix and a fabulous dog."
Editor's note: This story has been updated with new information since it was published in February 2019.