Over the past few decades, Poodle hybrids have become increasingly popular. The name “Goldendoodle” was first used in the United States in the early 1990s, several years after Wally Conron coined the term “Labradoodle” for its Australian cousin. The Labradoodle was developed as a guide dog for vision-impaired people who themselves or whose family members suffered from dog allergies. As the Labradoodle’s popularity rose astronomically among service and companion dog owners in the late 1980s and 1990s, other dog fanciers decided to cross Golden Retrievers with Standard Poodles, to see if the gentle nature and cheerfulness of the Golden and the coat and intelligence of the Poodle would produce a combination as popular as that of the Labradoodle.
First-generation (F1) Goldendoodles are the hybrid offspring of a Golden Retriever bred to a Standard Poodle. These Goldendoodles may or may not be allergy-friendly, and their coats can shed a little or a lot. First-generation littermates rarely share consistent traits. They tend to be either more like a Golden or more like a Poodle in terms of temperament, coat, size, shedding propensities and hypo-allergenicity. However, they do have what is called “hybrid vigor,” which makes them generally healthier than either of their parents or other purebred dogs of either ancestral breed. Hybrid vigor is what people refer to when they say that mutts are usually healthier than purebred dogs. First-generation Goldendoodles are not good choices for people with allergies or other sensitivities to dogs. They really are true mutts, even though both parents theoretically come from pure but unrelated lines.
First-generation backcross (F1B) Goldendoodles come from first-generation Goldendoodles bred to purebred Poodles. This cross increases the chance that the offspring will have more of the desirable Poodle-like traits, including low-to-no-shedding coats that cause fewer flare-ups in people with allergies. Multi-generational Goldendoodles come from breeding Goldendoodles to Goldendoodles. It is these dogs that are being used to improve and standardize the temperament, type and coat of this up-and-coming “breed.” Multi-generational Goldendoodles have the most consistent characteristics. They are the best bet for people with allergies. Unfortunately, most Goldendoodles in the United States are still first-generation dogs that have a Standard Poodle and a Golden Retriever as parents. Multi-generational Goldendoodles remain relatively rare.
The dog-loving public was immediately enamored with the Goldendoodle. Its popularity grew to epic proportions in the 1990s and beyond, as so-called "designer dogs" became the latest fad. However, unlike most fads, the appeal of the Goldendoodle hasn’t faded. The American love-affair with Goldendoodles prompted the creation of “mini-Goldendoodles” from crosses of female Golden Retrievers to male Miniature or Toy Poodles. The first reported Miniature Goldendoodle litter arrived in January 2002, attracting a great deal of attention. As word spread, more people jumped on the bandwagon to breed small Goldendoodles that were perfect for apartment and city living.
At this time, Goldendoodles are not recognized as a distinct breed by the American Kennel Club (AKC), the United Kennel Club (UKC), the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) or any other widely-recognized all-breed purebred dog registry. However, Goldendoodle aficionados are making concerted efforts to standardize their type and temperament so that eventually they will be fully accepted by purebred dog registries. The Goldendoodle Association of North America (GANA) claims to be the only organization dedicated to creating and maintaining a reliable registry for the Goldendoodle. Its stated mission is to promote and guide the development of the Goldendoodle to achieve a consistent standard for the “breed” in terms of coat, type, health and temperament. These efforts are opposed by the American parent clubs of the Golden Retriever and Poodle, which view Goldendoodles and similar hybrids as genetic gambles that create expensive designer mutts bred primarily to deceive the buying public into thinking that there is something “better” about them than their purebred predecessors. The debate over whether the Goldendoodle should or should not be considered an independent breed will no doubt continue for many years.
The American Kennel Club has developed a program that allows mixed-breed dogs, and purebred dogs of breeds that are not yet recognized by the AKC, to be “registered” and to participate in AKC-sanctioned Rally, Obedience, Agility and Coursing events, and also to obtain their Canine Good Citizen title. Dogs enrolled in this “AKC Canine Partners” program must be spayed or neutered. Goldendoodles of any generation can participate in AKC Canine Partners events. Wolf-hybrids are excluded.
As hybrid crosses like the Goldendoodle develop richer genetic variation, they will become healthier and more likely to live longer than either of their parental lines. Today, the average life expectancy of a Goldendoodle is 10 to 14 years. They probably are predisposed to the same diseases as the Golden Retriever and Standard Poodle. These include skin disorders such as ichthyosis (any of several generalized skin disorders marked by dryness, roughness and scaling), eye disorders such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), von Willebrand's disease, elbow dysplasia, hip dysplasia and patellar luxation. Goldendoodles have a tendency to gain weight with age, so owners should monitor their food intake. Overweight dogs have a higher incidence of orthopedic problems. Goldendoodles should be kept active and trim for as long as possible to promote joint and heart health and a long, happy life.