Goldendoodle

Stuart Fitzgerald
Dr Stuart Fitzgerald (MVB MANZCVS, University College Dublin)
 
Photo of adult Goldendoodle

The Goldendoodle is a hybrid enjoying a surge in popularity. First bred in a systematic manner in the 1990s, it is a cross between pedigree Golden Retriever and Poodle parents. Because the Poodle comes in three clearly defined sizes – Toy, Miniature and Standard, the Goldendoodle, similarly, can range from a small to large dog. It is almost invariably gregarious, cheerful, and good-natured, and is an ideal choice for anyone that has other pets or that is looking for a dog that the kids can hang out of without fear of retaliation. Most are reasonably energetic, and the Golden Retriever within demands space – a large garden is a must to keep the Goldendoodle in good shape, both physically and mentally.

This was a “breed” created for companionship, though it has been used with great success as a therapy, assistance and sniffer dog. It needs almost constant contact with its people, and should never be forced to live outside or to spend long periods alone. Bored or upset Goldendoodles have a remarkable talent for destructive behaviours, with chewing – and swallowing – clothing and shoes chief amongst them. Because of their sociable and outgoing nature, they do not make good guard dogs, and aggression is incredibly rare in this “designer” dog.

The intelligence inherited from both parent breeds makes this a very easy dog to train, and the Goldendoodle is also adept at competitive activities. It is a strong swimmer – something that can make up a portion of the daily exercise requirement. Its coat is variable, depending on the parent from which it inherits this characteristic, but does require regular grooming. There are a number of health issues that can likewise be inherited. As for any other pedigree or hybrid dog, it pays to do your research before selecting a pup, as the Goldendoodle’s popularity has attracted unscrupulous breeders more interested in producing as many puppies as possible than in maintaining or improving their lines. On average, a Goldendoodle can be expected to have a lifespan of 12–13 years, though some individuals will reach 15 years or more.

About & History

The Goldendoodle was first bred, at least as a recognised hybrid, in the United States in the 1990s. Its creation was said to have been inspired by the popularity of the Labradoodle, which was being widely used as an assistance dog even at that time. In common with other -doodle breeds, breeders hoped that the use of the Poodle in the mix would reduce or eliminate shedding, in the mistaken belief that this would render the offspring hypoallergenic. In reality, no dog is hypoallergenic, but the Goldendoodle’s low level of hair loss remains an attraction for many owners.

Most Goldendoodles exemplify all the best traits of both parent breeds, particularly in terms of temperament, but because the majority are first-generation crosses between pedigrees, both temperament and appearance can vary a lot between individuals, even siblings. As its popularity grows, it is likely that we will see more multigenerational breeding, which will yield more consistent and predictable results.

Appearance

Goldendoodle Large Photo

Depending on which parent the Goldendoodle most resembles, it may have a straight or curled coat, with a wavy form sometimes seen as an intermediary. If left unclipped, the coat can grow to be quite long in Goldendoodles, often over 15 cm, though most owners choose to have them shorn regularly for ease of maintenance. These different coat types are often all present within a single litter, as first-generation crosses are never uniform. There is a wide variety of coat colours seen in the breed, including:

  • Cream
  • Gold
  • Apricot
  • Red
  • Chocolate
  • Brown
  • Black
  • Grey

Parti-coloured dogs, with patches of darker markings over a light background, are also fairly common. Body shape, too, can vary between siblings, either reflecting the stocky, strong build of the Retriever or the refined, slender look of the Poodle parent. Size, at least, is more predictable, with Goldendoodle offspring falling somewhere between their parents in height and weight. Most are the result of Standard Poodle crosses, and so are around 58–63 cm (23–25 in) in height at the withers, and weigh around 27–32 kg (59–70 lb). However, there is a growing demand for smaller dogs, with the result that the Miniature Poodle is often being used in matings to produce Miniature Goldendoodles – designer dogs, indeed!

Character & Temperament

Almost without exception, Goldendoodles are happy, easy-going dogs without a trace of nervousness or aggression. They live to socialise, and are at their happiest when walking in a public space in which they can meet and greet all and sundry. They are naturally gentle, and very trustworthy with children and small pets, as they lack a hunting instinct. Constant company and positive relationships bring all these traits to the fore, but the Goldendoodle has no tolerance for isolation, and will become withdrawn and depressed if neglected.

This is a dog that should constantly be at its owner’s side, and should never be expected to amuse itself for long periods. Like the Golden Retriever, it has a penchant for destruction when under-stimulated, and will often end up swallowing what it chews to hide the evidence. I have surgically removed more foreign objects than I care to remember from Goldendoodles’ stomachs, and owners should be aware of this risk when leaving items within their dog’s reach.

Trainability

Photo of Goldendoodle puppy

Goldendoodles are extremely malleable, being intelligent and eager to please. Basic obedience training should begin as early as possible, as pups of even 8 weeks of age are capable of learning simple commands. They are very sensitive to their owner’s emotions, so should always be coached in a positive and encouraging atmosphere – they do not respond well to criticism or raised voices.

In my experience, house training can be a slower process in some Goldendoodles, so crate training can be very helpful. Introducing a puppy to a spacious indoor cage in which to sleep provides a comforting refuge, and somewhere the pup will want to keep clean and dry at night.

Health

Though cross-breeding can introduce hybrid vigour, thus improving the health of the offspring, Goldendoodles are at risk of developing some of the problems seen in their parent breeds.

  • Atopic Dermatitis – Allergic skin disease is common in many breeds, including the Goldendoodle. The offending allergens are generally either inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and cause a hypersensitivity reaction that manifests in the skin. Itching, redness, and malodour of the paws, ears, and perineum are classic signs of atopic dermatitis, but confirming the diagnosis requires a careful work-up. Though atopy is rarely curable, there is a wide range of treatments available that can alleviate the symptoms.
  • Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture – The cruciate ligament is largely responsible for stabilising the knee joint during its hinged motion, and it takes a great deal of strain during exercise. Degeneration and rupture of the cranial portion of the ligament are very common causes of hindlimb lameness in Goldendoodles.
  • Epilepsy – Usually manifests for the first time between six months and five years of age, either as grand mal convulsive seizures or petit mal episodes involving muscular tics or behavioural abnormalities. Many epileptics do not require treatment; the frequency and severity of the seizures determines the appropriate approach.
  • Hip Dysplasia – Another cause of hindlimb lameness, usually first noticed in young dogs as the hip joints fail to develop normally. As the condition is inherited, all breeding animals should have their hips radiographically scored, and those showing signs of dysplastic changes removed from the breeding pool.
  • Patellar Luxation – In some Goldendoodles, slight anatomic abnormalities can cause the patella (or kneecap) to slip out of position during exercise. This is generally seen as an intermittent lameness, where the dog is temporarily unable to bear weight on one hindlimb. Feeling around the knee joint while flexing and extending the leg may allow the examiner to appreciate a “pop” as the patella moves. Surgical treatment generally gives good results.
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy – Signs of night blindness, progressing to pronounced loss of vision in middle-aged Goldendoodles are often attributable to degeneration of retinal nerve cells – a common problem in many pedigrees and hybrids.
  • von Willebrand’s Disease – A clotting disorder caused by poor platelet function that results in heavy bleeding, even from minor injuries.

Exercise and Activity Levels

Goldendoodles are moderately energetic dogs, needing around one hour of exercise daily. They often inherit the Golden Retriever’s love of water, so swimming is an ideal activity when possible, preferably in pursuit of a toy that they can retrieve and return to the owner. They enjoy having an outdoor space to call their own, and though they can adapt to an indoor lifestyle, ideally should have access to a garden.

Grooming

While the Goldendoodle can have several different coat types, all of these require some maintenance. Owners should be prepared to brush their dog at least twice weekly, and the length of the hair in most individuals necessitates regular clipping. Depending on the dog’s lifestyle and environment, most need to be washed around once every six to eight weeks. As part of the grooming routine, the nails should be checked and clipped when appropriate, and daily tooth brushing is a great habit to establish with any dog from a young age.

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