Labradoodle study reveals dogs are actually mostly poodle

It’s what some owners may already have suspected of their bouncing, curly-coated pets, but now research has confirmed it: Australian labradoodles are light on the lab and heavy on the poodle.The distinctive name was coined by Australian Wally Conron in 1989, who bred a labrador with a poodle to create a guide dog suitable for people with allergies or asthma.While the resulting puppy, Sultan, was not the first such mix, Conron’s efforts led to a nascent new breed: the Australian labradoodle.Conron himself later voiced regret , saying: “I opened a Pandora’s box and releaseda Frankenstein’s monster,” noting that unethical breeders were producing crosses with health problems.

Now researchers have looked into the genetics of the Australian labradoodle, revealing that the dogs are mostly poodle.

“We were surprised to see that it was really quite dramatic,” said Dr Elaine Ostrander, a co-author of the research from the National Human Genome Research Institute in the US.

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In recent years there has been a boom in crosses between different breeds, leading to a plethora of Seussian-sounding dogs, from schnoodles (a cross between a schnauzer and poodle) to morkies (a cross between a maltese and yorkshire terrier).

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Ostrander and colleagues sought to unpick how new breeds are developed by looking at the Australian labradoodle.Writing in the journal Plos Genetics, the team report how they compared the DNA sequence at more than 150,000 random positions in the genomes of Australian labradoodles with the same positions in the genomes of Labrador retrievers and standard, miniature and toy poodles.They also looked at these positions in English cocker spaniels, American cocker spaniels and Irish water spaniels, as well as first-generation crosses between labradors and standard poodles.

The results reveal that, as expected, the offspring of labradors and standard poodles were genetically a 50:50 mix of the parent breeds.

But while there was high genetic diversity among Australian labradoodles, the team say a very different picture emerged.

“We found some things that we expected, for instance that smaller poodles have in fact contributed to the history of the Australian labradoodle,” said Ostrander. English cocker spaniels and American cocker spaniels also made small contributions in some dogs.“The thing that we didn’t expect to such a degree was that the Australian labradoodle retains a huge amount of poodle genome and doesn’t retain a lot of the Labrador retriever genome,” she said.

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Ostrander said the results could be explained by understanding the development of the breed. Rather than simply breeding together the offspring of a Labrador and a standard poodle, new pure breeds are added into the mix over the generations to keep the dogs healthy and develop consistent traits.

“People have been doing planned and deliberate crosses with the idea of having it eventually recognised on a registry as an established breed,” said Ostrander, adding the Australian labradoodles in the study were at least four generations away from the initial Labrador-poodle cross.

But the team’s work suggests that more poodles than Labradors have been introduced along the way.

That, said Ostrander, is probably because of the desire for the poodle coat, which has a low level of allergenicity.

Should owners of Australian labradoodles simply have bought a poodle?

“We actually asked ourselves that question,” said Ostrander. But, she said, behaviour also matters.

“Labrador retrievers are a great family dog, they are a terrific dog to have around kids. Poodles have a reputation for being a little bit standoffish and being aloof but they are very smart dogs,” she said. “That combination is really good.”

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