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The popular Labradoodle—a mixed breed of Labrador Retriever and Standard Poodle—is beloved for her minimal shedding and affectionate nature. The smart, playful pups are excellent family dogs, but pet parents must be devoted to supplying their four-legged friends with the proper training, a moderate amount of daily exercise, a regular grooming schedule, and plenty of love.
Caring for a Labradoodle
Labradoodles have long, curly coats that require an extensive grooming routine to keep their tresses from becoming unruly, which can lead to uncomfortable mats and knots. While the breed is often referred to as “hypoallergenic,” no dog is truly allergen-free, though Labradoodles are known for their minimal shedding.
These teddy-bear-face beauties can weigh between 50-75 pounds and can be about 25 inches tall full-grown. They can thrive in homes of all sizes—as long as they’re given the right amount of daily exercise. Labradoodles are extremely friendly and loyal, making them wonderful family dogs. They are also easy to train and ideal for first-time pet parents seeking a companion with a big personality.
Labradoodle Health Issues
Because Labradoodles are a mix of Labrador Retriever and Standard Poodle, they are prone to the common health conditions of both breeds, including congenital eye issues, hip dysplasia, and heart disease, says Jamie Whittenburg, DVM.
While pet insurance can help pet parents manage the costs of dealing with these health issues, these conditions can also be prevented by Labradoodle breeders thoroughly screening their breeding stock. “This should include genetic testing, eye exams, OFA or PennHip testing, and echocardiograms,” Whittenburg says.
Congenital Eye Issues
These conditions can emerge in the form of progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and glaucoma. PRA is an inherited disorder that causes the deterioration of the retina, a light-sensitive layer of cells in the eye, which can gradually lead to blindness, says Rhea Morgan, DVM, for Veterinary Information Network’s Veterinary Partner. It isn’t a painful condition, but warning signs can include night blindness (for example, your pup might be clumsy in the dark or refuse to go outside in dim light). While there is no treatment for PRA, it can take months or years for the disease to fully impair a dog’s eyesight.
Cataracts are common in dogs, Labradoodles included, and cause clouding in the eyes that can eventually lead to vision loss, according to Wendy Brooks, DVM, for Veterinary Partner. If you notice your Labradoodle’s lenses have a cloudy or opaque appearance or that your buddy’s vision has become more limited, consult a veterinarian. There are no medical therapies currently available to reduce or “cure” cataracts; surgery is the only option. Untreated cataracts are painful and can lead to blindness.
Hip dysplasia is a common condition suffered by large- and giant-breed dogs. This condition happens as your Labradoodle puppy grows and the hips develop abnormally. Discomfort is often displayed by pups via reduced activity and/or difficulty rising or lying down or going up stairs.
There are many options for treating hip dysplasia—from nutrition supplements to anti-inflammatory medications to surgery—but it’s vital to consult your vet to find the best one for your Labradoodle.
Heart disease is a common issue for many dog breeds, including Labradoodles, and can be caused by underlying conditions such as heart valve degeneration, irregular heart rate and rhythm (arrhythmia), and dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM).
The Morris Animal Foundation, which funds canine heart disease studies, urges pet parents to look for signs, such as:
Fainting or collapse
Behavior changes (loss of appetite, reluctance to engage, etc.)
If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your vet so they can perform screenings such as chest x-rays, blood tests, and an echocardiogram (an ultrasound of the heart and nearby blood vessels) to assess the issue. The condition can be serious if left untreated, but thankfully there are many treatment options available, such as diet therapy and medication.
What To Feed a Labradoodle
To live a long and happy life, Labradoodles must consume the proper amount of high-quality dog food and have access to fresh water. A balanced diet will help your pup maintain a healthy weight and avoid health conditions such as heart disease and hip dysplasia.
If a pet parent is willing and able to cook for their dog, Whittenburg suggests a fresh, homemade diet that has been formulated by a board-certified veterinary nutritionist. “It is essential to prepare the diet exactly as formulated, as it is very dangerous to stray from the diet as nutritional imbalances are likely to occur,” Whittenburg says. “If [pet parents] are unable or unwilling to cook for their pet, I suggest a World Small Animal Veterinary Association–complaint food, such as Purina ProPlan, Hill’s Science Diet, and Royal Canin. Boutique brand and grain-free foods should be avoided.”
When choosing a food, pet parents should look for options approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO).
How To Feed a Labradoodle
It’s very important that your pup eats a complete and balanced diet. That includes servings of food in the right amount that provides more than 40 nutrients that pets require in their respective life stages, including proteins, fats, carbs, and vitamins, minerals, and independent amino acids, according to the Pet Food Institute.
How Much Should You Feed a Labradoodle?
While there is no one-size-fits-all way to feed a Labradoodle and a consultation with your vet is recommended, Whittenburg says Labradoodle puppies under 6 months old should generally be fed a minimum of three times a day and adult dogs should be fed twice a day.
“Though adults can technically be fed once a day, this can lead to anxiety and hyperfixation on meals. It is better for the dog’s metabolism and mental health to be fed every 12 hours,” she says. “More frequent feeding can also help guard against serious health issues, such as gastric dilatation-volvulus (GDV), as the dog will consume a smaller amount of food and likely eat more slowly.”
Nutritional Tips for Labradoodles
You should avoid feeding your pup table scraps, which may be high in calories or fat—and they can even be dangerous. Treats should make up only 10% of your dog’s calorie intake and never replace a diet.
Unless recommended by a veterinarian, dogs fed a complete and balanced commercial food diet should not need any nutritional supplements. That’s why it’s so important to pick a food that’s catered to your Labradoodle’s life stage, whether she’s a puppy, adult, or senior.
However, Labradoodles that are fed a homemade diet may require supplements to ensure they are getting all the vitamins and minerals necessary to thrive, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, glucosamine, and a variety of antioxidants.
Behavior and Training Tips for Labradoodles
Labradoodle Personality and Temperament
The high-energy, attention-seeking, intelligent Labradoodle requires frequent exercise, interaction, and play. “Labradoodles do best in homes with active [pet parents who] have time to devote to the dog, as well as [families] with adolescents to older children,” says Whittenburg.
The jolly Labradoodle’s amicable and playful qualities make them a prime companion for any household, including those with young children, feline friends, and other dogs. While every Labradoodle is different, proper socialization is a must for helping your dog become a well-behaved companion.
“Labradoodles tend to do great with other animals and younger children if introduced slowly and properly,” Christos Philippou, a dog trainer at Del K9 Academy. “Rushed introductions can lead to issues, so work with a trainer if you have any questions to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.”
Labradoodles adore company and relish time spent with their humans, but hate being left alone for long periods of time. These dogs are not known to be excessive barkers, but the right amount of training and exercise is required to ensure they learn to behave appropriately.
“They are incredible family dogs but certainly need a dedicated [pet parent] to work on their physical and mental needs,” says Philippou.
Because Labradoodles are a hybrid of two highly intelligent breeds, they are eager to please and highly trainable, according to Philippou. They can be taught to excel at everything from basic tricks like sit, stay, and roll over to running agility courses.
Always use positive-reinforcement techniques, like using treats to reward good behaviors, during training. It’s also important to train Labradoodle puppies at a very young age to ensure they develop good habits that will last throughout their lifetime and minimize mischievous behavior. Due to their gentle and sharp-witted nature, Labradoodles can even be trained to become service dogs.
Fun Activities for Labradoodles
Walking or running
Labradoodle Grooming Guide
No Labradoodle is alike in size or personality—and they have varying coats to match. “Some have tight curls while some have loose, flowing locks of hair,” says Katlin Primrose, CAPG, CSP, a groomer and veterinary technician in Calgary, Canada. While the breed is favored for having low-shedding levels, the dogs’ coats require a high-maintenance care routine that involves regular brushing and visits to a professional groomer.
While Labradoodles don’t require a regular bathing routine, they may require a splash in the shower or tub if they get wet or dirty from romps outside. In that case, [pet parents] should use a hypoallergenic, soothing oat-based dog shampoo,” says Paola Cuevas, MZV and behavioral specialist.
To avoid painful tangles and matting, particularly around friction points such as the ears, bum, and between the legs, Primrose urges Labradoodle parents to brush their dogs twice a week.
“Pay special attention to friction areas,” she says. “Ensure you’re getting down to the skin, but don’t go over the same spot more than twice, as you may cause brush burn. If there is too much matting, it becomes painful, and it will force [a groomer] to shave your dog down to the skin.”
Philippou recommends brushing your Labradoodle daily to prevent knots and mats and making an appointment with a professional groomer every 2-3 months to ensure the dog’s coat isn’t becoming overgrown.
Keep your pup’s bangs (or fringe) trimmed to ensure their fluffy locks don’t obstruct their vision. Because Labradoodles are prone to congenital eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy and glaucoma, pet parents should also keep an eye on respective symptoms, such as impaired night vision and cloudy lenses.
Ear infections can be an issue for Labradoodles, so it’s important to keep a close eye on your pet’s ear hygiene and clean their ears regularly, particularly during and after bath time and if your pup goes for a swim. “Making sure to keep them clean and dry is the best way to prevent these problems,” Cuevas says.
Considerations for Pet Parents
Whether you love taking long strolls or hiking in the wilds, your Labradoodle will make the perfect (leashed!) adventure partner. These dogs are very loving and affectionate, but pet parents should be prepared to give them at least 1 hour of exercise daily. That could include one or two walks or a game of fetch in the yard or dog park. If the breed receives the proper amount of physical and mental stimulation, they can live in homes of all sizes, though one with a yard is preferred.
Labradoodle puppies must also be trained at a young age to minimize their mischievous tendencies and enable them to withstand long and consistent grooming sessions (a must for the breed).
How big do Labradoodles get?
Labradoodles are medium- to large-sized dogs, weighing 50-75 pounds and standing about 24 inches tall. There are also Mini Labradoodles, which are Labs mixed with Miniature Poodles. These dogs are smaller, at about 16-20 inches tall and around 30 pounds.
How much do Labradoodles cost?
Depending on a wide variety of factors—including the source, generation (the percentage of Poodle-to-Lab ratio varies), and age of the dog—the cost of a Labradoodle puppy can range roughly $400-$4,000. Pet parents should also consider the price of Labradoodle care, including grooming, training, and food, before bringing a puppy home.
How long do Labradoodles live?
The typical lifespan of a Labradoodle is about 12-15 years. But for the pups to live long, healthy, and happy lives, you must be dedicated to supplying the best care, including a nutritious and balanced diet, plenty of time and attention, and daily exercise.
What’s the difference between Goldendoodles vs. Labradoodles?
Goldendoodles and Labradoodles are two of the most popular doodle breeds. While they can look similar, the Goldendoodle is a cross between a Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle, while Labradoodles have a Labrador Retriever and a Standard Poodle as parents. Goldendoodles are also known to be slightly less energetic than the Labradoodle, though both require regular physical activity.
Are Labradoodles hypoallergenic?
Blessed with a minimal-shedding coat, Labradoodles are often referred to as “hypoallergenic,” but no breeds are 100% free of allergens. Because the dogs lose less hair, they are considered a preferred breed for people with allergies, though there is no guarantee having a Labradoodle will prevent symptoms such as sneezing, watery eyes, and respiratory issues.
The amount of sensitivity to a dog’s allergens varies from person to person, so spend time with the breed to see how your allergies react before bringing home a Labradoodle puppy.
Featured Image: iStock/EvgeniiAnd
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