What's the Deal With Doodle Dogs?

Goldendoodle with its tongue out sitting on a bed

Brooke Cagle / Unsplash

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.

History of Doodle Dogs

A cross between a poodle and another dog breed, the first doodles were likely cockapoos. Cocker spaniels and poodles were two of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S. in the 1940s, so the intentional mating of the two was to be expected. The first record of cockapoos dates to the 1950s. Soon, Yorkipoos (Yorkshire terrier) and Peekapoos (Pekingese) became popular.

Several decades later, Wally Conron 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.

There is some debate regarding the origin of the term Labradoodle. Donald Campbell is said to have used the term to describe his own dog — a Labrador poodle mix — in his 1955 book, “Into the Water Barrier.”

Doodle Mixes

A schnoodle is a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle.
A schnoodle is a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle.

Edwin Butter / Shutterstock

Doodle dogs are a mix of a popular breed such as a golden retriever and a poodle (goldendoodle). These breeds are crossed in an effort to get the best qualities of each animal in one dog. 

In addition to goldendoodles, Labradoodles (Labrador retrievers), sheepadoodles (Old English sheepdog), and schnoodles (schnauzers) are all popular mixes.  Poodles — standard, miniature, or toy — have also been mixed with beagles, pugs, Australian shepherds, corgis, soft-coated wheaten terriers, and Saint Bernards to create doodle dogs.

Doodles are extremely popular pets, but these designer dogs aren't recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC). While they are all quite cute, it’s important to remember that a dog's personality can always be a roll of the dice, no matter what it’s DNA or lineage.

Are All Doodle Dogs Hypoallergenic?

One of the most favored traits of doodle mixes is their low-shedding coats, which are thought to make the dogs hypoallergenic. While dogs with non- or low-shedding coats — like Labradoodles — are often classified as hypoallergenic, studies have shown that these dogs can sometimes exhibit a higher level of the allergen found in dog dander than shedding dogs. 

Do your research before assuming that all doodle dogs have the low- or non-shedding traits of their poodle genes. For those individuals who require a non-shedding dog due to allergies, no dog is truly nonallergenic.

Doodles as Guide Dogs

The first doodle — the Labradoodle — was created with the intention of making a low-shed guide dog for a person who was blind. Since that first cross, doodle dogs have continued to be desirable as service dogs. 

Service and guide dogs need to be highly trainable and non-aggressive toward their owners and strangers. Goldendoodles and Labradoodles score particularly well for these traits and are frequently trained as service animals. These dogs are often paired with people with physical and neurocognitive disabilities.

Not All Doodles Are Alike

miniature golden doodle puppy with a tennis ball in its mouth
Goldendoodles are mixes between poodles and golden retrievers.

Spiderplay / Getty Images

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 says. "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 learned 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.

Will Doodles Become a Breed?

A whoodle dog sitting in the passenger seat of a car
Whoodles are a mix between poodles and soft-coated wheaten terriers. Dave Lauretti / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

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 hybrid dogs are not an officially recognized breed. These popular dogs are a highly coveted family pet.