HISTORY OF THE DOODLE

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History of the Doodle (Spoiler: It's Not What You Think!) 

 

 

Doodles are a general class of cross-bred dogs, where one of the breeds in the mix is a Poodle. Poodles are popular for functional crosses for companion dogs because they have non-shedding coat traits that they can pass on to their offspring, even when crossed with shedding breeds. While not all Poodle crosses are non-shedding or even low-shedding, an understanding of the genetics allows a knowledgeable breeder to work within the non-shedding framework and create non-shedding dogs over successive generations (this is known as a multigenerational Doodle, or a "multigen"). 

Most people think the first Doodle was developed by a man named Wally Conron. This is far from accurate. 

Poodles have been around since the 15th or 16th century. It’s silly to think Poodles haven’t been crossed with other dogs since then, but let’s look at some of the more organized efforts to do so. 

Read on for some surprising information!

If you are reading this on mobile, click on each of the photos below to see the captions.

The Pudelpointer

The first “Doodle” that I can identify is a breed called the Pudelpointer. The Pudelpointer was developed in Germany as a hunting dog in the 19th century. They are a cross between Poodles and English Pointers. They were imported into the United States in 1956. 

The Barbet

The next Doodle we may want to look at is the Barbet. The Barbet is an ancient breed that predates even the Poodle. It first appears in history in the 14th century, but it is thought they may have originated as early as the 8th century. The earlier Barbet population is said to be derived from a mix of the Bichon, Briard, and Newfoundland. You may be asking, if the Barbet predates poodles, then how can it be a doodle? Good question!  

 

Even though the Poodle isn’t listed as an early foundation breed for the Barbet, in some places in Europe the Poodle and Barbet were considered the same breed for almost 100 years. [1] 


World Wars I and II were hard on many animals and breeds, and the Barbet was no exception and the breed became almost extinct. The breed was revived by breeding to Poodles and non-pedigreed dogs, hence the reason they can be considered one of the earlier doodle breeds. 

Interestingly, the AKC description of the Barbet compares it to a doodle.  

 

And, as old as the Barbet breed is, the breed wasn’t recognized by AKC until 2020. 

Early Doos and Poos

There are credible reports of Cockapoos (Cocker Spaniel and Poodle crosses), Labradoodles, and Goldendoodles being bred as early as the 1950s and 1960s. 

 

  • Cockapoos were the first popular cross breed in the United States with their popularity starting int he 1960s.

  • Monica Dickens (the great-granddaughter of classical author Charles Dickens) bred Goldendoodles in the 1960s to provide guide dogs for people with allergies.

  • A Labradoodle was first mentioned in written literature in 1955 in a book about speedboat records titled “Into the Water Barrier” by Donald Campbell as an incidental mention on page 125. There's also a photo of the lovely Labradoodle, Maxie, in the frontispiece of the book.  [2] 

Labradoodles and the hidden truth behind the Wally Conron story

First, I think it’s important to point out why Mr Conron bred a Labradoodle. In the 1980s, his employer, Royal Guide Dogs (Victoria, Australia) was looking for a service dog for a client with an allergy. They had Mr Contron try to use several Poodles (33 to be exact) as a guide dog for that client and all 33 of the dogs failed out of the service program. So to capture the coat traits of the Poodle that  make it allergy friendly, his supervisor had him breed a Poodle to a Labrador Retriever to, in his words, create "a dog with the working ability of the Labrador and the coat of the Poodle." That breeding produced three puppies, one of which (Sultan), became a service dog. 

 

The media portrays Mr Conron as regretting having bred this Labradoodle litter that garnered so much attention and created a whole new market. That Mr Conron had some regret is true as far as I can tell, but the reason for his regret was NOT that the Labradoodle was a bad mix—on the contrary, it was very successful and Mr Conron’s boss at the time still supports his having done it and thinks it was a great breeding.  

 

Mr Conron’s boss, Mr Gosling, was quoted in the New York Times as saying “It’s actually turned out to be, in my opinion, something quite fantastic.” In fact, after Sultan retired from his career as a service dog, Mr Gosling adopted him and when Sultan died Gosling buried Sultan in his backyard alongside the dog’s father. 

 

What Mr. Conron says he regrets is that  too many unscrupulous breeders jumped on the bandwagon and started breeding these kinds of dogs. 

 

I totally agree with him. That happens with EVERY breed that becomes popular. 

But the unethical breeders are neither the fault of Mr Conron nor of the Labradoodle. There have always been unethical breeders and we can’t fault the good breeders or the dogs themselves for this. 


Mr. Conron wasn’t even the first to use the portmanteau “Labradoodle.” That word appears in print the first time (as far as I can tell) in 1955 in Campbells's book "Into the Water Barrier" about speedboat records.

So I'm confused about the importance given to Mr Conron's oft misquoted and out-of-context opinion about the Labradoodle. It wasn't his idea as his employer had him make the cross, he certainly wasn't the first, and he definitely did not invent the concept, nor even the name, of the Labradoodle or any other Poodle cross. 

The Labradoodle in the United States

In the 1990s, breeders in Australia continued with the  Labradoodle cross and introduced other breeds to the cross in the effort to create a dog with a more consistent temperament, structure, and coat. The Australian Labradoodle (also known as the Australian Cobberdog) was developed, mostly from a cross of Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels. 

 

The Poodle and Labrador Retriever cross (Labradoodles) were also bred. 

There are now two Australian Labradoodle breed clubs in the United States: Australian Labradoodle Association of America (ALAA), established in 2004, and Worldwide Australian Labradoodle Association (WALA), established 2018. 

 

One of the earlier Labradoodle breeders in the United States was a 4H leader, Judy Hahn. Ms Hahn had a friend in Australia who bred Australian Labradoodles and she decided to try to develop an American line of the breed. These organizations provide policies and ethics for their breeders, 

 

Ms Hahn was the 4H leader for Amy Lane, who became a Golden Retriever breeder. Ms Hahn and Ms Lane remained friends after 4H, and in the early 1990s, Ms Hahn asked Ms Lane to help market her Labradoodles. 

The Goldendoodle

While Monica Dickens was one of the earlier Goldendoodle breeders, It was Ms Lane who helped popularize the breed in current times. 

In 1990s, a stray pony wandered into Ms Lane’s yard and killed her Golden Retriever stud dog. Without a mature stud dog for her program, Ms Lane was unsure of how to keep her program alive and started looking for stud dogs to use outside of her program. Since she saw the quality of the dogs produced in Ms Hahn’s program over the years, she decided to take a risk and try to use a Poodle stud for her program, making her one of the first known Goldendoodle breeding programs. 

 

Over the years, customers have told Ms Lane that they had a Poodle and Golden Retriever puppy as a child, typically from an accidental breeding, so we know the first Goldendoodle was produced well before the 1990s, but we don’t know of any earlier programs that focused on the breed (if you know of one, please let me know and I’ll add them to this!).

 

During the first decade of her Goldendoodle breeding program, Ms Lane had numerous potential customers tell her they love the Goldendoodle, but didn’t want such a large dog. So she decided to try to breed a smaller version. She crossed a Golden Retriever with a Miniature Poodle in 2001, and in January 2002 had the first known “miniature” Goldendoodle litter, producing puppies that matured to the 30-45 lb range. (What was called a “mini” back then is now known as a “medium” and now there are four size varieties recognized by GANA.)

 

In the mid 2000s, Ms Lane attended an Australian Labradoodle Association of America (ALAA) Roundtable conference. She was impressed by the camaraderie, professional association, and dog registry of the ALAA and wanted something like this for Goldendoodles. At the next year’s conference, she began talking to other breeders about it and started to form an informal group. 

 

Along with some other breeding colleagues, including April Cliber, she worked for a year to form the Goldendoodle Association of North America (GANA). The association was formed as a non-profit organization, developed a database for all dogs bred and produced, established policies, a code of ethics, for breeders, standards for pre-breeding health testing, standards for registration, and engaged a Registrar to manage it all. 

 

To this day, I am unaware of any other breed club that not only requires pre-breeding health clearances for all breeding dogs, but requires proof for registration and membership. 

 

For the first decade or so, GANA had a small number of members. There were a few reasons for this. Goldendoodles were a new breed. There wasn’t really social media at the time, so it was hard to breeders to know who else was out there working with the same goals. GANA also had very stringent requirements, and no entry level options. Only the highest level of health testing was accepted for breeding dogs.

 

In the 2000s, GANA held a conference in Nashville, TN, at which Rhonda Hovan was a speaker. Ms Hovan made a number of suggestions that GANA took to heart to help improve the breed as well as to help increase GANA membership. Those suggestions included the opening of entry-level memberships for breeders who wanted to work toward the higher levels of GANA pre-breeding health clearances as well as a mentorship program.

 

In 2017, GANA membership decided it was time to develop a breed standard, which is a codified ideal for the structure of the dog that breeders can use. A breed standard assists breeders in making breeding decisions and gives a metric against which they can assess the dogs they produce. GANA has also added an extensive educational program and library for its breeders, hosts an annual breeder education and professional conference, continually upgrades its registration database, facilitates breeder networking, represents the breed to external canine organizations. GANA has tens of thousands of dogs in its database and has greatly expanded its membership and has members in most US states as well as in Canada, and Europe. 

Bearded Retriever

In 2017, a new crossbreed project was initiated by Alicia Hobson. This project, now called the Bearded Retriever Club of America (BRCA), developed a medium and large size, lower shedding Poodle crossbreed for companion dogs called the Bearded Retriever.  The club has established a breed standard and is in the process of establishing its database. Bearded Retrievers are comprised of Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers as foundation breeds. 

Other Doodle crosses

The Poodle cross has been so popular over the years that they have been crossed with almost every other breed imaginable. Some crosses have been more successful than others.

Here are some of the more notable successes not yet mentioned

  • Bernedoodle (Poodle and Bernese Mountain Dog)

  • Cavapoo (Poodle and Cavalier Kind Charles Spaniel)

  • Schnoodle (Poodle and Schnauzer)

  • Yorkipoo (Poodle and Yorkshire Terrier)

  • Shih Poo (Poodle and Shih Tsu)

  • Sheepadoodle (Poodle and Old English Sheepdog)

  • Whoodle (Poodle and Wheaton Terrier)

  • Westiepoo (Poodle and West Highland Terrier)

  • Maltipoo (Poodle and Maltese)

  • Havapoo (Poodle and Havanese)

  • Pyredoodle  (Poodle and Great Pyrenees)

Doodle to Doodle crosses

Since a number of Doodle breeds have been well established, that has given us breeders a deeper knowledge of what to expect in terms of temperament, structure, and potential health issues. Breeders have started crossing one Doodle breed to another in the effort to continually improve the puppies they are producing. 

This type of cross allows breeders to achieve the infusion of one or more additional foundation breed genetics into their lines without having to go back to the drawing board and start from scratch. 

One of the more common Doodle to Doodle crosses is a Labradoodle crossed to a Goldendoodle, often called a "Double Doodle."

Golden Mountain Doodle / Golden Mountain Dog

We have recently embarked on breeding one such cross by breeding Goldendoodles to Bernedoodles. This cross, known as the Golden Mountain Doodle or the Golden Mountain Dog, allows us to achieve breeding goals much more quickly, as well as to increase the genetic diversity on our program. 

So there you have it!

The Doodle has a long and proud history. Despite some "Doodle haters" out there who have an irrational dislike for Poodle crosses, Doodles have been around for hundreds of years and as the most popular dog type today, are here to stay. 

References

1.  Cuvier, Georges (1827). The Animal Kingdom Arranged in Conformity with Its Organization. London: William Clowes and Sons. ISBN 978-1108049580.

2. Campbell, Donald. Into the Water Barrier. Odhams Press Limited, Long Acre, London. 1955