Do I want a doodle or a poodle?
It is no secret that in the past decade, doodles have exploded onto the scene with ever-increasing popularity. It is easy to see why—generally considered family-friendly dogs, doodles are also low-shedding and come in a variety of different sizes, colors, etc.
But without poodles, there would be no doodles. All doodles are an intentional cross with a poodle. The general goal is to produce offspring with a lower-shedding coat (thanks to the poodle genetics) while still retaining some of the endearing breed characteristics of the non-poodle parent.
There are so many different doodle breeds out there from the well-known goldendoodles, cavapoos, and bernedoodles to more obscure options such as newfypoos or springerdoodles. Many families feel overwhelmed by all these options. They simply want a low-shedding, easy to train breed and are not sure which breed best fits the bill.
But what if that answer is as simple as a purebred poodle?
Once considered a frou-frou dog only owned by a likeminded snobby owner, as doodles have become more popular, the poodle breed has also seen a resurgence. Many people began to step back from the doodle craze and ask themselves, “if I want a low-shedding, family-friendly companion, why not simply consider a poodle?” Well, we are certainly glad you asked! And we are here to tell you that yes, poodles are making a comeback and for good reason!
As rescuers, trainers, and breeders of both poodles and doodles we have a lot of experience with these breeds and are generally unbiased as we see the benefits to both poodles and doodles! Please keep in mind that when it comes to understanding dog breeds, we make a lot of generalizations. These generalizations are true of many or maybe even most dogs of a breed, but we are also aware that each individual pup has their own unique personality. Training, early socialization, etc. also affect each dog’s behavior regardless of breed.
Despite their fancy haircuts, poodles were actually originally bred for a sporting purpose. There is some debate as to their country of origin (most likely Germany or France). But we can all agree that they were bred to be water retrievers (similar to a Labrador or Golden Retriever): their purpose was to follow their owner’s command to retrieve waterfowl on a hunt. Believe it or not, the well-known “frou-frou” hair cut of the poodle was actually developed for practical purposes to insulate their chests in cold temperatures, but also reduce drag in the water on their hindquarters.
Following a master’s commands despite the excitement of a hunt requires a focused, biddable dog and the poodle is no exception. His trainability soon earned him a spot as a circus performer! Poodles were frequently spotted in French circuses performing a variety of clever tricks to amuse the audience. It was during this time in France that the standard poodle was bred down to the smaller sizes we are familiar with today: the miniature and toy varieties.
Poodles of all sizes are primarily kept as companions today, but breed history still matters. If you have ever owned a poodle you can likely see bits of that historical water retriever and/or circus performer bouncing around in your living room!
Today, the poodle is still known for being incredibly intelligent and easy to train. In general they are not a delicate, snobby dog. Most have high prey drives and are just as willing as any other dog to tear through the mud chasing after a squirrel. They are typically fairly energetic, athletic, and playful dogs. They enjoy fetch and other forms of play—most have a goofy side, but can also really focus and perform complex tasks when needed.
Many poodle owners describe their dogs as having a good “on/off switch,” and we certainly agree. These are dogs that need exercise and mental stimulation, but as long as their needs are met, they are quite well-mannered and settled indoors.
This is a sensitive breed. Their sensitivity is what makes them so delightfully easy to train. Most are sensitive to being scolded. They are also very in tune with their owner’s emotions. The downside is that some poodles can be on the more nervous side: they can be shy with strangers or startle easily. As dog trainer, Michele Walton, aptly states, poodles are often “politely reserved.” This is certainly not the case with all poodles as many are quite friendly and make good therapy dogs. However, as compared to some other breeds such as the Golden Retriever, the poodle is a bit less outgoing on the whole. While poodles may be reserved, this breed is generally not considered aggressive toward strangers (or anyone else for that matter). Poodles are most often quite gentle.
Did you know that poodles are part of the "fab 4"-- a title given to the group of four dog breeds most commonly seen as successful service dogs? The other three are Labs, Golden Retrievers, and Collies. When considering the HUNDREDS of dog breeds out there, it's pretty special to be in the top four for ability to work with/for humans!
Now let’s consider the doodle!
We often have people ask “what is the bernedoodle temperament like?” “Do sheepadoodles shed?” So many of the answers to these various questions have to do with the generation of the doodle. Let’s consider the bernedoodle as an example. A first generation cross is half Bernese Mountain Dog and half Standard Poodle. In this case you are likely to see some traits of the standard poodle as described above, but also see some traits of the Bernese Mountain Dog. To know how a bernedoodle may differ from other types of doodles, we need to simply look at the history and traits of the Bernese Mountain Dog.
Bernese Mountain Dogs are a member of the working class of dogs. Working dogs were typically bred for a physical job like guarding the homestead. As a result, they are typically more brawn than brains. The Bernese Mountain Dog was a working dog bred in the Swiss Alps. They were considered an all-around helper for the farmer helping to protect the home, pull carts up steep inclines, or in some cases even herd sheep. Berners today are considered affectionate, kind-hearted, but also goofy and quite stubborn. They have more of a “What’s in it for me?” approach to training and may be quite insensitive to their owner’s moods, tone of voice, etc. as compared to your average poodle. A first generation bernedoodle may take on breed characteristics of either their Bernese Mountain Dog parent and/or their Standard Poodle parent. If you are purchasing your dog from a breeder who cares about temperament, you should be getting a well-balanced pup who is quite tolerant and family-friendly like both of his parents’ breeds, but he/she may be a bit more stubborn to train than your typical poodle, but may also be less sensitive and more outgoing.
Now if we get into further generations of doodles, the poodle traits may begin to be more and more apparent. There is no one size fits all approach here as genetics are complicated and which personality characteristics a puppy inherits from each of his parents’ is anybody’s guess. Often an F1 bernedoodle will be bred back to a poodle to achieve even lower shedding offspring: this popular cross is known as an F1b bernedoodle. As you may have gathered, an F1b is 75% poodle, 25% other breed (in our case, Bernese Mountain Dog). An F1b will have more of the wonderful non-shedding coat qualities of the poodle, but will also most likely retain more personality traits of the poodle as well as other physical characteristics such as a thin, fine-boned body type, so this is something to consider if you are deeply attached to the Berner personality and blocky body type. Still the 25% Bernese Mountain Dog will likely add some spice to the poodle in the form of being a total goofball (for better and for worse!).
We as breeders usually caution buyers to really ask questions of your breeder to understand the generation and lines of whatever puppy you are getting. Many breeders will cross an F1b back to a poodle again resulting in an F1bb generation, and we have even heard of F1bbb doodles! This cross would be a whopping 94% poodle and only 6% other breed. At this point, we feel that the purpose of the doodle has been defeated and that a buyer might as well adopt a purebred poodle as very few if any traits of the other breed will be apparent in such a cross.
Other crosses past the 3rd generation are typically called “multigenerational.” This term can cover a wide range of specific generations so be sure to ask questions of your breeder to understand the approximate percentage of each breed represented in your puppy. Again, there is no clear-cut answer as to how the genetic chips will fall and even bernedoodles of the same generation or litter may differ from one other in physical and personality traits, drawing more from one breed than the other and vice versa. In fact this is one of the main disadvantages of the doodle breed: antagonists argue there is too little consistency in traits to be considered a “real” breed. However, while we don’t have a crystal ball for understanding everything about genetics, logic would certainly suggest that the higher the percentage of the represented breed, the more likely traits from that breed will be represented in the offspring.
We want to be clear: an F1bbb bernedoodle (or other mostly-poodle-doodle) may certainly be a wonderful dog and devoted family pet, we simply seek to educate buyers so they can make an informed decision when it comes to understanding the doodle generations and the poodle personality/characteristics and how these are related.
If you have read this article up to this point and have gotten a little lost in the various doodle breeds mentioned and generation labels, and find yourself saying, “hold on, all I want here is a dog with a family friendly reputation who doesn’t shed!”
Well, you might just want a poodle!
Reasons to choose a poodle instead of a doodle:
Consistent Genetics/Ultra Low Shedding: Poodles are guaranteed to be non-shedding. Genetics are complicated and simply crossing a high-shedding dog to a poodle does not equal a non-shedding dog. In particular, first and second generation doodles are still prone to shedding. Breeders who have a good understanding of genetics and who are breeding later generations of doodles are able to consistently produce low-shedding dogs, but if no shedding is your main factor in considering a doodle, your safest option is a poodle who has historically been bred for its non-shedding coat for centuries.
You want a trainable, family-friendly breed who is quite versatile when it comes to being a popular breed for therapy work, service work, or just a phenomenal pet!
You love a thinner, fine-boned body type that is light on its feet. Standard poodles are athletic and make excellent running companions.
Reasons to choose a doodle instead of a poodle:
Wavy coats: You don’t mind a little shedding in exchange for a looser/wavy coat that is easy to maintain. Your wavy-coated doodle will still need to be groomed (roughly every 6-8 weeks), but the coat requires less brushing and is less prone to matting than the curlier coat of the poodle. Not all doodles have wavy coats—some can be just as curly as a poodle, so make sure to discuss your coat preference with your breeder.
You have a love affair with a specific breed: We often hear a story similar to the following: “I grew up with Golden Retrievers, and I love them, but I just can’t do all that hair!” If you have a special affection for the traits of a certain breed, but for allergy or personal reasons prefer a lower-shedding dog, than the doodle may be for you! Just make sure you are finding a goldendoodle (as in the case of our above example) that still has at least 25% or greater Golden Retriever parentage to ensure you see some of those unique Golden Retriever traits.
You want a breed for a specific purpose beyond companionship. Some people need a dog to perform a job and not just act as a family pet. For example, they may need a dog to guard livestock, protect the home, or to herd sheep but for allergy (or other) reasons still want or need a lower shedding alternative. In this case, an owner might consider the poodle cross of his preferred working breed such as an aussiedoodle—a cross between the well-known herding breed, the Australian Shepherd and poodle. We have a word of caution here: while an aussiedoodle will likely have more herding tendencies than a purebred poodle, there is no guarantee that he/she won’t inherit more of the poodle tendencies and turn out to be a lousy sheep herder. As mentioned previously, there is no clear-cut way to determine how the genetic chips will fall and how much of your dog’s personality will be inherited from one parent versus another. If you truly need a dog to serve a purpose such as herding or protecting, you would want to stick to purebred parents from working lines.
What about looks?
Most importantly, do not choose a poodle or specific breed of doodle based on size or color alone! Poodles come in a huge variety of colors. Many people do not realize that the incredible diversity found in size, color, and coat pattern in the doodle world is equally present in the poodle breed! You want tri-color markings like a Bernese Mountain Dog/bernedoodle, you can get a tri-color poodle! You have fallen in love with the deep red and white markings of a Blenheim cavalier/cavapoo—look no further than a red abstract poodle! The list goes on: sable, phantom, parti, various shades of browns, reds, and black/silver are all found in the poodle breed and all sorts of combinations of the above!
On a similar note, poodles have a great diversity when it comes to size: from 2 pounds to 90+ pounds and everything in between! Poodles have traditionally been divided into toy, miniature, and standard poodles. For some a miniature (usually less than 20 lbs) poodle feels too small and a standard poodle (usually over 40 lbs) feels too big. But guess what! A medium size exists: the moyen poodle. The moyen poodle is typically 20-35 pounds and still possesses the delightful poodle traits as detailed above.
Finally and MOST importantly, hair cuts matter! Did you know that poodles don't naturally come with their unique hairstyle? It's your choice as an owner if you want your poodle in a traditional poodle cut. If you opt to allow their facial hair to grow longer, you will be asked "what kind of doodle is that?" on a regular basis!
Let's play a game!
Scroll down to the end of this article for the answers!
In conclusion, poodles have a lot of different looks. Because of the variety found in the poodle, doodles of all types also come in these same range of sizes and colors. We strongly encourage any owner to do breed research ahead of time and choose the breed that best fits their lifestyle based on temperament rather than choosing based on color or size alone.
Perhaps you have read our article and have decided the poodle is for you. Or perhaps you are more convinced than ever that a doodle is for you. We leave you with a final note of caution: if our description of the poodle at the beginning of this article does not appeal to you, you should not get a doodle at all as most doodles have a good bit of poodle temperament in them! If you want an independent dog who does not want or need much from his owners, neither poodles nor doodles are right for you. Poodles and doodles are known to be highly in tune and devoted to their owners. The positive of this is that they are usually remarkably easy to train, the downside is that they are not the kind of dog to be kept as a yard ornament and do need mental and physical stimulation to be at their best.
If you are ready for a dog who requires a high level of interaction from his/her humans, then get ready to do your research on the huge variety of doodles crosses available, and maybe just maybe start your search with the original low-shedding companion: the poodle!
Answers: Photo 1- Lucy the Goldendoodle
Photo 2- Banjo the Poodle
Photo 3- Willow the Poodle
**We have provided the generation in the photo caption when possible. Most of the doodles pictures are rescues, so in some cases the exact generation is unknown.