About the Breed: First bred in Australia in the 1980’s, Labradoodles are hybrid mixes of Poodles and Labrador Retrievers. The intention of the cross breeding was to obtain a less allergic guide dog. Labrador Retrievers are a preferred breed for service dog training due to their intelligence and unflappable temperament. However, they are one of the most shedding breeds, and the shedding coat can trigger allergic reactions or asthma in sensitive humans. In order to provide guide dogs for such persons and their families, the Labrador was crossed with the Standard Poodle, a breed with a nearly “non-shedding” coat.
The cross breed became very popular, not just for the original guide dog work, but other service work and as pets for persons with allergies or those looking for the combination of friendly temperament, intelligence and willingness to be trained. They original Labradoodles were quite large. Nowadays there are three sizes, miniatures are 14-17 inches tall at the shoulder, mediums are 18-21 inches, and standards are 23-26 inches.
Coat Type: Labradoodles come in a variety of coat types. Most are curly or wavy with varying amounts of wooly undercoat. Occasionally we see a flat coat that looks very much like a Golden Retriever. There is a range of colors, from creamy white to chocolate brown and red. The darker colors often fade to a more dilute version when the adult coat comes in.
Coat Maintenance: Flat coats are easy care, but tend to shed. Wooly coats can be much less shedding, but require more maintenance. The amount of brushing and combing required in maintaining a mat-free coat depends upon coat length, thickness of undercoat, curliness and shedding, all of which can vary within the hybrid breed. Thick, curly coats, the more Poodle-y, are the most challenging to maintain. Curly hair with undercoat mats very easily as the curly hairs twist within the porous, fine undercoat. Most thick or curly coats need weekly or bi-weekly brushing and combing to keep ahead of tangling. Combing is especially important, as these thick coats can easily hide matting of the undercoat. It is not uncommon to have a doodle arrive for grooming with the top one inch nicely fluffed out, but find lots of small mats in the deeper coat. The pet parent may not recognize that the matting exists or underestimate the extent of the tangling under the surface.
One of the unfortunate things that has happened in gaining popularity for the doodle breeds, the Labradoodle and the Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle cross), is that they have often been marketed as needing little grooming. This perception of little or no maintenance is misleading. Whenever there is a combination coat that contains both soft and firm hairs, the likelihood of tangling greatly increases. Curly coat also tangles. Left on its own, Poodle coat will form “dreadlocks”, as the curly hairs wrap around themselves. The Labradoodle puppy coat is usually soft and fairly easy to care for, but this situation changes as the harsher adult coat starts to come in at around nine months of age. Most professional pet groomers would characterize the doodle coats as being among the most high-maintenance.
|This medium sized Labradoodle has a loose wavy coat in an|
informal, shaggy style.
Pet Styling Options: The Labradoodle is often pictured with a full, fluffy coat and a full face with longish ears and beard. Pet parents commonly want this shaggy, informal look. This look is easy to accomplish using snap-on guard combs that fit over a full sized clipper blade. There are many lengths to choose from, depending on how much hair the pet parent is eager to maintain. This option is only possible, however, when the coat can be completely combed through. Any snags will cause the comb attachment to catch and either make a hole or not go through the coat. It is not uncommon for Labradoodle owners to start out with a commitment to a full coat only to amend their expectations as the reality of the maintenance requirements settles in. Sometimes the change of coat when the adult coat comes in creates such a matting crisis that the pet is clipped close. Owners may discover that this is not so undesirable, as the clipped coat is low maintenance. There are many gradients between a full, untrimmed coat and the shaved down “military” coat.
Professional Services: Perhaps the biggest challenge to maintaining an attractive Labradoodle is the difference in perceptions between pet parents and professional groomers. There is a build-in conflict between what owners want and what pet stylists consider realistic to accomplish in a salon setting with a time limit. The most successful relationships are when pet parents appreciate the extent of the work involved in grooming their doodle and bring the dog in regularly and select a length of coat that they can maintain between visits. Most doodles do well with a 4-6 week interval between visiting the groomer.
Grooming Toolbox: Tools are a personal preference. These are our recommendations.
Chris Christensen 16mm T-Brush. This unique brush works well with the doodle coat and is not harsh on the skin.
Large Poodle Comb on a wood handle. You do not need a fine comb. A wide spaced comb actually works better and there is less pulling on the dog.
Knotty Brush. We discovered this tool and consider it the closest thing to a magic wand for detangling that we’ve ever used.
Slicker Brush. Slickers are good for lifting debris or small bits of hair out of a coat, but if used as the main brush, they can cause coat damage and lead to greater matting problems. Select a slicker that has pins with polished tips, cheap slickers are really rough on the hair.
Leave-in Conditioner Spray – There are many available. Look for something that has a silicone detangler (an ingredient ending in –cone), and an anti-static (ingredient containing –onium) for best results. Spray lightly as you brush and comb. Managing static electricity is a key to reducing tangling of the coat. If you bathe at home, always condition thoroughly after the shampoo. Conditioning shampoos, (2-in1) are usually not sufficient for a doodle coat. They need a separate rinse through conditioner. Always, follow a bath with a thorough combing.
The brushes and comb listed above can be found at my shopping cart, www.shop.bbird.biz. I’ve been selling selected tools to my groomer friends for over a decade.
Let us hear about your Labradoodle or Goldendoodle and your experiences with grooming .