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Why Doodles Are Not The Family Dogs You Think They Are

Training Philosophy

Why Doodles Are Not The Family Dogs You Think They Are

In my work as a dog trainer, I encounter a lot of Doodles. Goldendoodles, Labradoodles, Aussiedoodles and Bernerdoodles. 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?

golden doodle

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.

A Breed That’s Not A Breed?

One of the common complaints of the anti-Doodle people is that Doodles are “not a real breed”, and as such should not be bred. I do not really agree with that.

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. 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.

Elo – The European Doodle

In Europe there has actually been a movement to create a new “companion and family dog” breed since 1987, the Elo. Breeders combine the Eurasier, Old English Sheepdog and Chow Chow to a friendly and easy-going medium-sized dog. Good temperament is the #1 goal of the breeding efforts. The result is a somewhat Spitz-looking dog, though the appearance can differ quite a bit and is always second to their disposition.

The Elo, while not recognized by the FCI, has become a popular family and companion dog. Some of my own friends back in Germany have them and love them. They are the European Doodle – while not looking at all like a Doodle – bred for a similar purpose.

Live And Let Live

dog eye in flowers

No Doodle is trying to undermine or take away from pure-bred dogs. Doodles won’t replace any breed, they are just an addition to the already vast gene pool. There is a lot of Doodle-hate out there that I find very unnecessary. As long as health-tested parents are bred and the puppies placed in loving homes, everyone should doodle as much as they want. As long as they are aware that …

Under That Goofy Face Lies A High-Strung Dog

doodle active in nature

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).

Poodles Are NOT Just Show Dogs

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.

And What About The 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.

Doodles Have Prey Drive

dog fetch at beach

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.

Your Doodle WILL Need Training

doodle tricks training

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. 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!.)

dog in water

Yes, they do have a low- or non-shedding coat. But the greatly reduced shedding is pretty much the only thing that’s guaranteed to be low-maintenance about a Doodle (and the coat will still need to be brushed and trimmed).

At the end of the day, grooming requirements alone should not be a deciding factor when searching for the right dog breed. It might well be that the owner of the Saint Bernard next door spends 15 minutes every day brushing and vacuuming his dog’s thick coat – while you, the Doodle owner, spend the whole afternoon talking your dog to a training class, walking him, and tidying up all the things he tried to take apart while you were gone at work. The low shedding needs to be put in relation to the additional work your Doodle might (and will require) in other areas of life.

Because:

Your Doodle Might Not Grow Up … For A Long Time

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.

goldendoodle

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 will not 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!

Still Want A Doodle? Go For It!

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.

dog and owner in fall forest

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

Whenever you are looking for a puppy, of course make sure that he comes from health-tested parents and knowledgable breeders.

Here’s to all the Doodles!

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