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Should You Consider a Less Popular Breed?

Should You Consider a Less Popular Breed?

Doodle Dogs and Beyond

In my work as a dog trainer, I encounter a lot of Doodles. Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, Aussiedoodles, Schnoodles, Sheepadoodles and Bernedoodles — not to speak of Mini Goldendoodles, F1b Mini Goldendoodles, and so on. They come in all sizes and colors, with the characteristic soft, wavy hair and an always happy-go-lucky temperament. Doodles are a popular choice for a low-maintenance, super-cute, laid-back family dog. But are they really as easy-going as we think they are?

Before we start, let me just say that I personally adore Doodles. I love their spirit, their energy, their drive, their goofiness, the way that they flop around with limbs just a little bit too long to look coordinated. I love the way they play together and how hard they try to do well in training. If someone dropped a Doodle puppy on my doorstep, I would not say no.

Doodles, however, have gotten a bit of a bad reputation in many purebred-dog circles. It is claimed that by intentionally producing mixed-breed dogs, the purpose of the breeds is destroyed. I don’t agree with that — give me all the Doodles! Every breed originally was developed for some kind of purpose. Most of them were created to work for us, and some of them to just be cute. The times of dogs working tirelessly for us, however, are over, and the majority of Poodles probably do not go duck-hunting on a weekly basis anymore. My own Border Collies have never once herded sheep. Not a lot of pet Rhodesian Ridgebacks go on lion hunting safaris to Africa. The meaning of “purpose-bred” has changed.

Doodles as Family Dogs

Nowadays, many dogs are bred for purposes that are not the original one anymore. We breed slender, ultra-fast, tight-turning mixes for flyball and disc dog. And we also breed a lot of dogs to be — family dogs. In my eyes, that is not a problem at all. We are doing exactly what our ancestors did when they paired the working dogs they liked most to have offspring that would be of good working quality. If breeders are now developing family dog breeds that are cute, easy-going, have a good temperament and of course are healthy, then we are simply adapting the purpose we are breeding for.

A Doodle is any kind of mixed-breed dog that has a Poodle in their ancestors. The suffix “-doodle” is added to any breed that is crossed with a Poodle. A Labrador crossed with a Poodle is a Labradoodle. A Boxer crossed with a Poodle is a Boxerdoodle. A Schnauzer crossed with a Poodle is a Schnoodle, and so on. Doodles are not recognized with the AKC as a dog breed. There is no set breed standard for any Doodle cross.

Over the last two decades, the demand for Doodles has regulated the breeding — more and more dog owners have been looking for Poodle crosses, so breeders produced more and more. The common denominator between all Doodles is the Poodle in their pedigree. We should not think of Poodles as intricately groomed show dogs that cannot do much more than prance around the ring with an elaborate hairdo. Instead, Poodles themselves were actually originally developed to — you guessed it — work. Poodles are water-retrievers. They were bred to tirelessly assist in bringing ducks to their owners. Their webbed feet, curly coat and athletic stamina equip them perfectly for swimming. They are keen problem solvers and very smart in figuring out solutions. Poodles — whether Standard, Miniature or Toy — are no couch potatoes.

Doodle Traits and Characteristics

Let’s look at the Doodle’s other parent! Typical Doodles are a cross of a Poodle with, for example, a Labrador Retriever, Golden Retriever or Australian Shepherd. What do the later ones have in common? Apart from the fact that they, too, are once again working dogs — many of the Doodle parents are known for their very strong food drive. Combining the highly intelligent Poodle with a highly food-driven dog will give you the perfect food-detection machine. The counter-surfing habits of some Doodles are incredible. They will find every crumb of food in your house unless it is locked away behind several doors and gates.

Poodles themselves are quite sensitive dogs that are not too difficult to train. They usually really care about their owner’s opinion and try to get things right. They want to do well and do not have much of their “own agenda” in training (i.e. — not too many tempting external reinforcers). Crossing a Poodle with a dog who is a bit less worried about doing things right — and more concerned about making things fun for himself, like an Aussie — can result in a high-drive, high-strung, very intelligent dog who knows what he wants, and how to get it. Your Doodle will find tasks for himself if he is bored, and you probably won’t like it.

Because of the great variety of different Poodle crosses, it is impossible to accurately predict your Doodle’s size, temperament and looks. However, you need to know that a Doodle is not just a funny, goofy teddybear dog! We tend to be easily swayed by looks. Doodles just look goofy and adorable. All that fluff, all the curls, the hair on top of their head that’s going up and down with every step makes it hard to take them very seriously. They look funny and make us go “awww”. It is very important to not confuse this appearance with the temperament that lies underneath.

If I was to make a statistic about which dog breeds I see the most often for which issue, Doodles and their energy would take the absolute #1 position. Most of them are buzzing with exuberance and passion for life and will tackle everything they encounter with the same high spirits. If you think about, this makes total sense — your Doodle is a combination of working breeds (if you have not read this post about working dogs, you really should). And as such, will show you the vigor and zest that these breeds put into every task (whether that is a task you gave him, or a task he picked himself).

Doodle Coats and Grooming

The two main factors that draw people to Doodles is their low-shedding, often hypoallergenic coat as well as their goofy and adorable looks and personality. When it comes to a Doodle’s coat, you need to know that it is impossible to predict how exactly it will end up. Being a mixed-breed, there is a lot of variety among Doodles, even from the same litter! If you have severe allergies you need to spend time around Doodles before deciding whether or not they will be the right fit for you and your family. Many Doodles get rehomed because their owners believed that they would not have an allergic reaction towards them, only to find out that this was not the case. If you want a Doodle because you do not like dog hair in your home, you are good to go: Doodles are indeed very popular because they shed very little or not at all.

Your Doodle can behave like a puppy for a very, very long time. Typical puppy behaviors such as strong desire to chew, high excitement when meeting any new person or dog and a generally slightly shorter attention span can be seen far into adulthood. I have met 5 year old Doodles that were indistinguishable in their behavior from a 1 year old. For busy families that need a dog to grow up quickly and settle into an easy routine, Doodles are not the right choice. They will keep on surprising you with their ideas and inventiveness. I met a Doodle who at 2 years old just suddenly ate the owner’s iPhone (he had never before shown any kind of interest in that – but I guess it just looked extra tasty that day!). Doodles won’t leave the puppy stage behind them and suddenly become a serious, laid-back adult dog who sleeps the day away, can be taken anywhere without a leash and will never jump up on your visitors again. In fact, they will probably never become quite serious!

Training and Exercise Needs

Your Doodle will need training. It cannot be stressed enough that no breed – Doodles included – will train itself. I get interviewed about dog questions by different news outlets every now and then, and a question that always comes up is “What is a low maintenance dog breed?” It always ticks me off a little bit – at the end of the day all dogs want nothing more than to connect with us, have fun, explore, play and live life to the fullest. If the very first question that is asked is “Which dog breed needs the least amount of time?” then maybe a dog is not the right addition.

(The rule “If you wouldn’t do it in a friendship or relationship, don’t do it with a dog” applies. Would you ask someone on a first date “What is the minimum time I need to spend with you to maintain the relationship? Because you see, I have plenty of other things going on so want to make sure to get a low-maintenance partner with low time requirements”?)

With that said, Doodles definitely are not a low-maintenance breed. They will require training, and maybe quite a lot of it. They will need you to show them how to channel all that energy and put it to good use instead of mischief. Doodles are prone to barking quite a bit, being mouthy, humping, counter-surfing, jumping up on everybody and everything when not shown how you want them to behave. Some can be prone to barrier frustration or reactivity. They will need positively enforced but consistent boundaries. Remember, they are a high-drive cross of working breeds, as as such: They will not train themselves.

They are not the right addition for a busy lifestyle in which you don’t have time to dedicate to working with them patiently and consistently. (Need ideas for training? Check out our classes!)

Looking at their heritage, it only makes sense that Doodles can have quite a bit of prey drive. They love motion and feel compelled to follow it. They can be prolific chasers – of cats, of lizards, balls, hands, feet… Doodles can be highly excited by anything that moves and difficult to bring down again from their “high”. This is especially tricky in families with small children. Few things move as wonderfully erratically, make such great squeaky noises and jump as exquisitely when tackled as little children, from a Doodle’s eye. You might have to invest quite some time into teaching your Doodle to not react to children’s motion. Some Doodles cannot be around children that are romping for the first one or two years of their lives – the stimulation is just too much.

Can Doodle be great family dogs? Absolutely! But only if the family is committed to exercising, socializing and training their Doodle, as well as providing daily enrichment for him.

Is a Doodle Right for You?

In my work as a dog trainer I have been called to more Doodle homes than I can count. Usually these are larger Poodle crosses that a family acquired for their children. They are cute and fluffy puppies – until they are not. I usually meet the Doodles that are 5-10 months old and have become large and somewhat unruly. Nearly all adolescent Doodle owners struggle with leash pulling, intense jumping up and mouthing. Nobody should underestimate the energy level of these dogs as well as their exuberance and extreme tendency to chew.

Doodles are not the born, easy-going family dogs that they are made out to be. There is no such thing as a “beginner family Doodle”. (Just as there is no “beginner family German Shepherd” or “family Malinois”). Remember: they are a cross of working breeds. Their ancestors’ energy and work ethic is still strong in the Doodle genetics.

If your family is busy – parents are working stressful jobs, kids have multiple hobbies already – do not get a Doodle. Chances are that you will not be able to provide the amount of interaction and training that he will need, and you will become frustrated with his behavior. As you read above, Doodles are high-maintenance, high-energy dogs. They can and will become destructive if they are bored.

How do you know if you should not get a Doodle? Their exuberance can easily become hyper-arousal and reactivity if not addressed early in their life in training. You should not get a Doodle if you don’t have at least 2 hours to devote to your dog’s exercise and training – and that is 2 hours every day. You don’t like to go outside when it’s cold or rainy? Don’t get a Doodle. You don’t want to potentially puppy-proof your home for years and teach your dog that he cannot chew your shoes over and over? Don’t get a Doodle. You enjoy to Netflix and chill for three whole days on a long weekend? No Poodle mix for you. Do you have 12 hour workdays and just want to watch TV and eat a pizza at night? A Doodle is not for you. And if you do not want to brush your dog several times a week and invest into monthly visits at a professional groomer … these dogs aren’t for you!

Many Doodle owners are surprised at how badly their dogs mat unless brushed regularly or kept in a short cut. These also are the only two options you have for keeping your Doodle from matting: very consistent brushing and giving him a short haircut. While the low-shedding qualities of Doodles’ coat are one of the big factors why many owners decide for a Doodle, they come with a draw-back: the coat is not low-maintenance. You will probably end up spending an equal amount of time brushing and taking your Doodle to the groomer that an owner of a double-coated dog might spend vacuuming their home. Doodles actually have a very bad reputation with many groomers, because they are often only brought in when they are badly matted. Do not join the ranks for the Doodle owners who wait until their dog’s coat is one solid, gross mess. As soon as you get a Doodle puppy you should make a monthly appointment with a groomer in your area.

Doodle Breeds Compared

Let’s look in detail at the different types of Doodles you can find, as well as some of their characteristics!

Some Doodle breeds are more popular than others. Here are the most common and loved Doodle breeds in North America:

Breed Size Traits
Mini Goldendoodle 10-20 lbs Gentle, affectionate, intelligent
Miniature Poodle Mix 10-20 lbs Hypoallergenic, energetic, loyal
Cavapoo (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel x Poodle) 10-25 lbs Calm, cuddly, adaptable
Maltipoo (Maltese x Poodle) 5-15 lbs Hypoallergenic, playful, charming
Shih-Poo (Shih Tzu x Poodle) 10-15 lbs Sociable, loving, low-shedding

Many dog owners prefer small dogs under 30 lbs. They are easier to take along, fit in better in apartments and are good companions for other small dogs that already live in the family.

On the other side, if you’re a large-dog person, maybe you live by yourself in a remote area and want a big dog next to you, or you already have a large dog and are looking for a Doodle playmate. Some of our favorite large Poodle mixes are:

Breed Size Traits
Standard Goldendoodle 50-90 lbs Friendly, active, smart
Bernedoodle (Bernese Mountain Dog x Poodle) 50-90 lbs Gentle, loyal, hypoallergenic
Newfypoo (Newfoundland x Poodle) 70-150 lbs Calm, patient, affectionate
Giant Schnauzer Poodle 60-100 lbs Protective, confident, energetic

Did you read this and think “A wild, smart, goofy-looking dog who is never serious, always up for fun and learning and exploring sounds right up my alley”? Great – a Doodle might be a perfect fit for you. By investing time and energy into training and bonding with them, you will have a wonderful companion by your side.

If a Doodle sounds too much after this post – then he probably doesn’t fit your life right now

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