Half the battle of having a well-behaved dog is finding the right type of dog for you and your family. As trainers who provide professional dog training in Los Angeles (and now San Diego!), we cannot stress the importance of knowing your breeds and doing your research!
Figuring out what you want from your dog is important: do you want a dog who is silly and has lots of personality? Are you an outdoor adventure family who likes to hike and want a dog who's up for the physical challenge? Do you have young kids looking for a canine companion? Some people like dogs who are independent, and others would prefer a dog who follows them everywhere around the house.
Every breed of dog was engineered for a different purpose! There are working dogs, sporting breeds, toys, herding dogs, terriers, and so on and it matters which group your dog (or soon-to-be dog) belongs to. If you hate physical exercise and you bring home a husky, you might have a few problems.
For that reason, we’ve created a semi-regular series featuring posts on specific dog breeds and mixes. We talk about what certain dogs were/are bred for, what they are good at, and different ideas on how to achieve success when training them.
This month belongs to the "doodle" family:
Labradoodles and Goldendoodles!
Labradoodles and Goldendoodles are officially (according to me) taking over the world. A significant percentage of our Los Angeles and San Diego dog training clients are 'doodle clients. We see these dogs everywhere we go! A Labradoodle is a crossbred dog created by crossing the Labrador Retriever and the Standard, Miniature, or Toy Poodle, and similarly, a Goldendoodle is a cross-breed obtained by breeding a Golden Retriever with a Poodle.
Because the Labradoodle and Goldendoodle are hybrids, puppies do not have consistent characteristics—they come in all sizes and colors and their breed is not recognized by any kennel club—but I don't think that bothers them too much! Goldendoodles and Labradoodles are usually very affectionate with people and other pets. They are human-oriented dogs, and tend to be great pets for an active family. Most 'doodle dogs are friendly and happy-go-lucky, but they are also very athletic dogs that definitely require exercise.
Like any dog, training your goldenoodle or labradoodle can be a bit of a challenge for anyone who has never formally trained a dog before, so the key is to start early and ask for help if you need it!
Goldendoodle and Labradoodle Dog Socialization
As with any dog, socializing them from a young age is vital to set yourself and your goldendoodle or labradoodle up for the best possible relationship. Socialization refers to meeting and interacting with other dogs and people. It's equally important to expose them to different sights, sounds, smells, textures, and experiences from an early age.
As we suggest in our Los Angeles puppy training classes, a general benchmark is to socialize your puppy with 100 new people between the age of 0 to 8 weeks and 100 additional people from 8 to 12 weeks. Introduce them to: older people, children, people with disabilities, men, women, people wearing hats, people wearing backpacks, people on skateboards, people on bikes! Having a puppy meet a diverse group of people from different walks of life exposes that puppy to different ways of being touched, being held, different types of movement, different smells, etc.
You might be thinking: how am I supposed to introduce people to my puppy when he or she is under 8 weeks old? This is where you need to do your research when selecting a breeder or shelter. Make sure that whoever is raising your puppy during that initial development period is well versed in socialization techniques and is purposefully exposing them to different people, sights, smells, sounds, and experiences! It will make all of the difference.
Other things you want to expose your puppy to from a young age include anything that will be part of your puppy's daily life. Being left home alone is a big one! No matter what thing you are teaching your puppy to be comfortable with, this type of early exposure helps to curb fear and anxiety which can manifest itself into lots of problems down the road. Do the work in the beginning, and you'll be happier and better off down the road!
Goldendoodle and Labradoodle Exercise and Enrichment
When you cross the very energetic sport group breed of the Labrador or Golden Retriever with the intelligence of the Poodle, what do you get? A very intelligent dog who needs to be regularly (and invigoratingly!) active—hiking, running, biking, swimming, you name it—these dogs are built to be athletic! They also tend to enjoy tons of mental enrichment like puzzle toys and working for their diet. Feeding these dogs out of stuffed chew toys instead of a bowl is an easy way to give them some mental and physical stimulation.
Goldendoodle and Labradoodle dogs won't do well in a home where they are left alone a lot of the time and only get out of the house twice a week. If you or your family can only commit the time to play ball in the backyard and take a couple of relaxing walks a week around the neighborhood with your dog, I would strongly urge you to consider adopting an older Goldendoodle or Labradoodle dog or looking into a different breed/mix. Goldendoodles and Labradoodles need to be be given constructive outlets for all of their energy, and a minimum amount of activity is just not enough for the first five to six years of their life.
Goldendoodle and Labradoodle Dog Training
If you're looking to make a Goldendoodle or Labradoodle puppy or dog your next companion, plan to implement dog training, along with enrichment and exercise, into your daily routine. Goldendoodle or Labradoodle dogs need structure, consistency, and a clear communication system. Having them offer behaviors in order to 'earn' their daily rewards can be very helpful for both the dog and owner! An example of this would be to have them 'sit' and 'wait' before inviting them to eat their food or working on their filled puzzle toy.
If there's one thing I cannot stress enough: don't wait to start your training program with your new Goldendoodle or Labradoodle puppy or dog! Don't wait until there's a problem, until there's anxiety or another issue. Goldendoodles and Labradoodles tend to become frustrated easily, and many times that frustration can manifest into some pretty destructive behaviors. Giving these dogs a schedule and boundaries from the day you bring them home is very important. If this is something you don't have lots of previous experience with, make it easy: hire a trainer and do it before you bring the puppy home. It's worth it!
Training a Labradoodle or a Goldendoodle can be very challenging but also a lot of fun! I love these dogs—they are easily one of the silliest, smartest, and most fun dog breeds I've worked with. If your Goldendoodle or Labradoodle puppy or dog gets all of the consistency and activity he or she needs, they will be a delightful addition to a family. They aren't for everyone, but if you enjoy being outside and want a buddy to bring along on all your adventures, then a 'doodle dog might be just the perfect, silly, muppet-like friend you've been searching for.