Labradoodles are a famed cross breed of “designer dog” that has become popular in recent years. It was bred to be a hypoallergenic companion dog and combined two working dog breeds: the Labrador and the Poodle. But does this hunting Laheritage make them good hunting dogs? The likelihood is that because the Labradoodle has two parent breeds bred for decades to be excellent retrieving dogs, most should be great at hunting. However, each dog is unique, so you can never be certain!
To better understand why the Labradoodle could make a great hunting companion, we must examine the hunting heritage of its parents.
The Labrador Retriever
Labradors are retrieving dogs by name and by nature. They were introduced to the UK in the 1800s and became perfect hunting companions for retrieving downed game. In addition, Labradors are adept in the water, particularly as they have “soft mouths” (bite inhibition) used to carry shot animals gently. These qualities, together with their intelligence and shining personalities, make the Labrador an excellent hunting dog and one of the most popular dog breeds worldwide.
Poodles come in many sizes, but the original (or standard) Poodle was bred as early as the 17th century in Germany as a hunting companion to retrieve water game. The Poodle’s curly coat and signature show cut corroborate this, as the specific patches of hair and the insulating nature of the curls kept the Poodle warm in the water while allowing it to move unimpeded through it. Poodles excel when competing in hunting trials, and the trials have proven the breed’s intelligence and athleticism. Poodles are also very even-tempered and sweet, enjoying all aspects of spending time with their owners.
When considering its parents’ skills in hunting, it’s easy to say that the Labradoodle should have an excellent hunting pedigree. While this could be true in some cases, remember that the Labradoodle was not bred for hunting. Labradoodles began life coined under the name as early as the 1950s in the US, but in the 1980s, Australian breeders in Victoria popularized the hybrid and trained the dogs for service work. Initially, these hybrids were bred for their sweet natures and hypoallergenic coats, not for their inherited hunting prowess.
As time has passed, most Labradoodles are bred for their coat and temperaments, making them a popular choice for a family pet or a service dog. However, some have gone on to become hunting companions; the issue is that many Labradoodles have lost their innate skills as hunting companions due to multi-generational breeding.
The Australian Labradoodle Association of America (ALAA) states that all of their puppies are bred multi-generationally, meaning only Aussie Labradoodles are bred together to produce puppies with assured and stable temperaments. Because the standard is for a mild-mannered, fun-loving dog, their hunting drive could be diminished.
Training a Labradoodle to Hunt
With all of the above said, you may dismiss the Labradoodle as a worthy hunting dog. However, many make great hunters! Labradoodles have many traits that translate well into hunting and retrieving, including their willingness to please and intelligence.
1. Obedience Training
Because the Labradoodle is considered an “easy” dog to train, you can shape them into a hunting companion in many ways. However, obedience is the most crucial part of training for any hunting dog, so implementing a training routine as early as possible with your Labradoodle is vital.
At around 8 weeks old, you should begin obedience training and teaching the most basic tricks to see how well your Labradoodle responds. Because of the varied traits a mixed breed can have, some doodles may hang off your every word while training, while others find more interesting things on the ground or elsewhere!
2. Gun Sensitivity Training
You should consider how sensitive your Labradoodle is to sounds. For example, hunting typically involves using a gun, and gunfire is loud! Training can be done to acclimate your doodle to gunfire, which means that they’ll eventually be comfortable enough to stay focused on their task rather than reacting to the noise, but some dogs will be too sensitive to acclimate fully.
3. Hunting and Retrieving Training
Using decoys and beginning hunting training at around 6 months old is another way to test how receptive your Labradoodle will be to hunting. By combining the use of a trigger such as a duck caller, a false game item, and training signals, you can train your Labradoodle to retrieve in the water and on land.
The trick with training is consistency and obedience, so trying out the various hunting and retrieving training techniques can help you see whether you have a natural-born hunter on your hands. Remember, not every Labradoodle will be up for the task, but their intelligence and love of people give them a good chance of being excellent hunting companions.
What Makes a Good Hunting Dog?
There are some traits that working hunting dogs must have, irrespective of their breed. Because hunting requires a specific skill set, certain traits have been bred into hunting breeds over hundreds of years. Regardless of the breed, all dogs used for hunting will need the following traits to be successful:
The Labradoodle has a seemingly perfect pedigree for hunting. Because both its parent breeds were bred for retrieving (the Labrador Retriever and the Poodle), it stands to reason that the Labradoodle will follow in their footsteps and be a retrieving machine. However, Labradoodles were bred for companionship and their hypoallergenic coats, not for hunting. This can mean that some traits that make dogs good hunters have been phased out or diminished in the crossbreed, and it can be challenging to pin down reliable characteristics due to their mixed nature. But, with training and determination, the Labradoodle has the energy and intelligence to be an effective and loyal hunting dog.
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