Labradoodle temperament is usually friendly, intelligent, loyal, and playful.
But as a mixed breed, their character can draw on elements of either Labrador or Poodle temperament more strongly than the other.
Or it can be a real mixed bag of traits from each breed!
Which means their personality is harder to predict than that of a purebred dog.
Understanding Labradoodle Temperament
Temperament is a word to describe a dog’s personality, or disposition.
Some temperament traits are instinctive, which means they are genetic and inheritable. For example the retrieving instinct in gundogs, and a high prey drive in terriers and sighthounds.
Other traits can be shaped by us – how well we socialize our dogs as puppies changes how confident they are as adults, for example.
And some things about temperament are just a mystery – part of the unknowable magic that makes every dog a unique individual.
Unpacking Labradoodle temperament
There are some things we can easily predict about Labradoodle temperament, because they are true of all dogs.
- They’re going to form a close social bonds with the human family (they’re affectionate!)
- They do more of things which make their life better, and abandon doing things which have no reward (they’re trainable!)
- And they’re going to enjoy exercise, and seek out different kinds of mental and physical enrichment (they’re energetic!)
But it’s also true that all pedigree dogs tend to have especially pronounced traits, which are particularly characteristic of their breed.
And mixed breed dogs like Labradoodles can inherit a mix of qualities from both of their parents.
So let’s take a look at what we know about Labrador Retriever and Poodle personality, and all the different variables which can shape Labradoodle temperament.
Labrador Retriever Temperament
Labradors are the world’s most famous gundog breed. They were bred to help hunters retrieve shot waterfowl.
It’s why these dogs love to swim and never tire of games of fetch.
These are also high-energy, outgoing dogs with plenty of affection for everyone. Which is why they have transitioned so successfully to being one of the most popular pet dogs too.
They’re known to be gentle and tolerant, which makes them good with children and a suitable choice for homes with other pets.
Generally considered confident, some Labs can be fearful, particularly if not properly socialized from a young age.
They are rarely aggressive towards people or other dogs, though any dog has the potential to bite if they feel threatened.
Their intellect is unquestionable and is combined with a willingness to learn that makes them easy to train.
Does Coat Color Change Labrador Temperament?
Labrador Retrievers traditionally come in 3 colors: chocolate, black and yellow.
You may have heard that black Labs are the smartest, and that chocolate Labs are particularly naughty.
While there may be some truth to this, it’s not because coat pigment by itself can change a dog’s personality.
In fact it comes down to breeding choices.
Black Labs were traditionally favored as working dogs, so breeders used to pursue breeding lines which had black coats, and especially trainable.
Pairing both of these qualities was simply never the same kind of priority for chocolate Labs. But of course, they are still very clever!
English vs American Lab Temperament
Labradoodle temperament can also be influenced by whether their Labrador parent was an English, or American Lab.
These subsets of the Labrador breed are defined by more than just the country they were born in.
English Labs are bred for the show ring. Besides matching the breed standard flawlessly, breeders also look for calm, quiet, relaxed personalities. Dogs which can patiently spend hours hanging around waiting for their moment in the spotlight.
American Labs are bred for field trials and hunting. To perform well, they need to be more intelligent, responsive, and energetic when compared with their English cousins.
Therefore, Labradoodles from English Lab lines are also more likely to be placid, and Labradoodles from American Lab lines are more likely to be bouncy.
Now let’s move on to the qualities Labradoodles can inherit from their Poodle parent.
You may be surprised to know that these Standard Poodles were also originally bred to retrieve waterfowl!
So these are also energetic dogs who enjoy interacting and working along a human handler. They’re extremely intelligent too – some people think even more so than the Labrador!
Compared to Labradors, Poodles have reputation for being standoffish though. It doesn’t apply to their human family, just people they haven’t met yet.
But it creates a significant unpredictable area in Labradoodle personality. Will your puppy grow up naturally socially outgoing like a Lab, or more inclined to be reserved like a Poodle? How important is it to you?
Standard vs Miniature Poodles
Labradoodle temperament is also shaped by whether their Poodle parent was Standard, or Miniature sized.
Though originally bred to work, Miniature Poodles have also been selectively bred as companion dogs for a considerable period.
They tend to be more playful and mischievous than Standard Poodles. They might also be more uncomfortable with being left alone, and prone to separation anxiety.
Miniature Labradoodles might also inherit these traits.
A Labradoodle can grow up to remind you very strongly of one parent, or have a temperament which sits somewhere between them both.
It’s even possible for puppies in the same litter to have very different personalities!
Since Labs and Poodles were both originally bred as working retrievers, it’s safe to say that your Labradoodle is likely to:
- Enjoy fetching things and carry items around in their mouth.
- Be highly motivated to take part in training games.
- Be highly focussed and attentive towards they human “partner”
- Love playing in water!
Other traits, like how confident they are around new people, how lively, and how anxious they feel about being left alone are harder to predict. But there are steps you can take to make sure they don’t catch you off guard.
1. Meet their parents
Every Labradoodle puppy is a product of their parents, and every Lab and Poodle is an individual who may or may not closely represent the blueprint for their breed.
For example, some American Labs are super chilled, and some Poodles are surprise social butterflies.
Insist on meeting a puppy’s parents, and you’ll get an idea for the temperament they’re likely to inherit.
All puppies need to be carefully socialized as puppies. Socialization teaches them positive associations with places, people and things, so that they react to them confidently in future.
Socializing your Labradoodle puppy can make the difference between a dog who is merely indifferent to new people if they take after the Poodle, and a dog who is frightened of strangers, and reacts to them by barking, growling or snapping.
3. Get training
Training is your most powerful tool to shape how your Labradoodle behaves.
You can encourage a dog to have a calm disposition by rewarding calm.
And you can teach a puppy from a young age that being left alone for short periods is ok, so that they’re less likely to experience separation anxiety.
4. Consider an Australian Labradoodle
In the 1990s, breeders in Australia began an initiative to turn Labradoodles into a pedigree of their own, with reliable, predictable qualities.
Australian Labradoodles aren’t first generation crosses any more. They are the puppies of other Australian Labradoodles
Generally Australian Labradoodles are smart, sociable, friendly, gentle, loyal, playful, and affectionate.
So as you can, every Labradoodles temperament is a cocktail of different elements.
The good news about this mixed breed is that regardless of which parent they take after, it’s likely they will inherit plenty of traits that make them good family pets.
As long as you’re able to devote enough time and attention to them, the Labradoodle will be a wonderful addition to your family.
When you call a breeder for the first time, ask lots of questions about their puppies’ heritage, parents, and the environment they’re being raised in.
The more you find out, the better prepared you’ll be to make a decision about their puppies, and potentially raise one into your perfect companion!
References and Further Reading
Foyer, P., et al., “Behaviour and experiences of dogs during the first year of life predict the outcome in a later temperament test,” Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 2014.
Duffy DL, et al., “Breed differences in canine aggression,” Applied Animal Behaviour Science Volume 114, Issues 3–4, 2008.
Lofgren SE, et al., “Management and personality in Labrador Retriever dogs,” Applied Animal Behavior Science, 2014.
Ruiz Fadel, F., et al., “Differences in Trait Impulsivity Indicate Diversification of Dog Breeds into Working and Show Lines,” Scientific Reports, 2016.