Characteristics of Labrador Retriever Mixed Breeds

The Labrador retriever appeals to just about everyone. Classified as a sporting dog by the American Kennel Club, Labs grow to 24.5 inches for males and 23.5 inches for females. Built for roughhousing, swimming, and, of course, retrieving, Labs range in weight from 55 to 80 pounds. They come in three beautiful colors: black, chocolate, and yellow.

Labradoodle Puppy Relaxing on Park Bench
Characteristics of Labrador Retriever Mixed Breeds
credit: Purple Collar Pet Photography/Moment/GettyImages

Cheerful, sweet, loving, and friendly, the Labrador retriever has been America's favorite dog for 27 years in a row. They're devoted to their family, intelligent, and great with children. They make excellent companions and are even used as guide dogs for the blind. Purebred Labs have now become one of the most popular breeds to mate with other breeds to create hybrids or designer dogs.

Designer dogs

Designer dogs are a purposeful mix of two or more purebred dogs. The idea behind deliberately mixing breeds is to wind up with pups that have inherited the best qualities of each parent without some of their bad qualities. Sometimes this is exactly what happens. Other times, not so much.

Labrador retriever mixes

It stands to reason that the most popular purebred dog in the U.S. would also be popular to use to create a new "breed." Who wouldn't want to capture some of the Lab's wonderful traits in a hypoallergenic, mellower, or smaller dog? Today, you can find almost as many Lab mixes as there are other breeds to mix Labs with.

Crossbred Labs include afadors (Lab-Afghan hounds), spanadors (Lab-Cocker spaniels), dalmadors (Lab-Dalmatians), and even labrahuahuas (Lab-Chihuahuas). Some of these designer dogs are produced by introducing the parents and letting things happen naturally. Others, like the labrahuahua, require artificial insemination and delivery via Caesarean section because of the difference in size between the parents.

The labradoodle

Labradoodles are probably the most popular Lab mix. They originated in 1989 when an Australian dog breeder bred a Lab with a poodle in an effort to come up with a hypoallergenic guide dog. Labradoodles come in a dozen different colors including black, white, apricot, caramel, and chocolate. They can also be "parti" colored, or 50 percent or more white, plus another solid color.

The labradoodle coat usually resemble poodle hair rather than Lab fur, which is what makes them less likely to trigger allergies in people who are allergic to dog dander. The hair is usually of medium length and curly or wavy. It can also be just plain shaggy. Shaggy coats tend to mat easily and act like Velcro, capturing bits of any bush the dog happens to walk by.

As Labs are usually bred to standard-sized poodles, labradoodles are usually big dogs. Labs are smart and poodles are smarter, so chances are good that your labradoodle will be an A student when it comes to training. Labs and poodles are both pretty high energy, so a labradoodle may not be the best choice if you live in an apartment.

The cavador

Cavadors are a mix of a Labrador retriever and a cavalier King Charles spaniel. The cavalier is a popular toy breed standing just 12 to 13 inches high and weighing 13 to 18 pounds. Their big, round, soulful eyes give them the look of an adorable puppy no matter their age.

Cavaliers usually come in four colors or color combinations. Ruby is a solid red; Blenheim is a combination of white and chestnut. Black and tan cavaliers are black with tan markings, and tricolors have black and tan markings on a white background.

Cavaliers are known to be very sweet, patient, and affectionate. They also tend to adapt to their owner's lifestyle. They can be busy and active, or mellow little couch potatoes. The cavador is usually a medium-sized dog and frequently has the long floppy ears that are its spaniel heritage.

The labmaraner

One of the more beautiful Labrador retriever mixed breeds is the labmaraner, a cross between a Lab and a Weimaraner. Like Labs, Weimaraners are big, smooth-coated, sporting group dogs. Unlike Labs, they come in one color: a gorgeous silvery gray. They have stunning eye colors like amber and blue-gray.

Weimaraners and Labradors share similar high energy levels, temperaments, and lifespans of 10 to 12 or 13 years. Weimaraners can make good family dogs, but they're not usually as dependent and friendly as Labs. Like other Lab mixes, labmaraners are likely to come with both Labrador traits and Weimaraner traits.

Like Labs, purebred Weimaraners have their share of health issues, which may eventually show up in your labmaraner or not. In addition to joint issues, Weimaraners can be prone to gastric torsion (a twisted intestine) and skin tumors.

The feist lab mix

Feist dogs are a scruffy mixed breed, usually of various terriers. Feists are thought to have their roots in Great Britain and were originally used for hunting. They look similar to Jack Russell terriers. Like Jack Russells, they're small, relentlessly energetic, talkative, and feisty.

When you mix a Labrador Retriever with any terrier, you're likely to get an extremely lively dog that's small to medium in size. They can be almost any color or combination of colors you can imagine. You'd better have an active lifestyle to keep a feist-Lab mix happy.

These dogs are smart, outgoing, and athletic. They excel at agility, but their Lab genes could give them joint issues. On the other hand, they usually live longer than purebred Labs simply because they're smaller.

What about other Lab mixes?

The best way to tell what breed characteristics your Lab mix will have is to familiarize yourself with Labs and the other parent dog. Meet your Lab mix's parents, if that's possible.

While the parents' appearance and demeanor may give you some insight into how your pup will turn out, sometimes Lab mixes don't look or act like either parent. In fact, even litter mates can have very different personalities and looks.

In general, you should wind up with a dog that has at least some of the lovable Lab's traits. And you may be able to dodge some of the Labrador retriever's health issues.

Why not just a Lab?

With all of their wonderful qualities, one might wonder, why not just get a Lab? First, Labs do have their downside. They're high energy and need a lot of exercise to stay out of trouble. They also shed quite a bit and come with some significant health risks.

Some of the more common health issues found in Labs are joint, heart, and ear problems. They are also prone to obesity as they age. Cross-breeding them can lower the risk of developing some of these challenging and expensive problems.

Other reasons people are attracted to Lab mixes is that some of them, like the labradoodle, can be hypoallergenic. Other mixes are Lab-like but smaller and better suited to apartment living. Sometimes, but not always, a Lab mix will be less expensive than a purebred lab. The more exotic Lab mixes appeal to people who just want something different.

Choosing your Lab mix

Since you can't fully predict how any mixed breed pup will turn out, you'll be a lot happier with the one you choose if you remain flexible and embrace your pup's individuality. Also, it's best to steer clear of a mix that includes a breed with characteristics you know you simply cannot stand.

Since you won't know the size of your dog, don't buy a bed, toys, and accessories for how big you think your Lab mix is going to be. Buy stuff that's just a little bit bigger than your pup's current size, and swap it out as he matures.

He'll feel cozier in a bed that's about his size and have more fun with toys he can actually pick up. Your local shelter will be happy to take the things he's outgrown as donations.