Guide Dogs maintain a large population of purebred dogs but have found that through careful selection against desired physical and temperamental traits, it can be possible to produce crossbreed puppies that are even more successful as guide dogs than their purebred parents.
Every dog is an individual and their temperament and behaviour will vary considerably - even within the same breed. However, each breed has general characteristics due to selective breeding, for lots of different reasons, over many generations.
A crossbreed, also known as a mixed breed, is a cross between known, purebred breeds. Crossbreeds typically have greater genetic diversity, but they still carry the genes of both parents. Careful selection of physically and mentally healthy parents is still required to produce healthy and happy dogs.
About Labrador retriever cross golden retrievers
As crossbreeds, their appearance varies greatly. They’re known to be large in size with good muscular definition, kind eyes and floppy ears. Their coat can vary in length and thickness and can be either yellow, white or black. However, we have known to have some amazing black and tan markings appear in the past!
Characteristics:Generally, Labrador retrievers are sociable and eager to please. They can be easily motivated by food rewards, which can make them easy to train using positive reinforcement as part of our training programmes. Golden retrievers share many desirable Labrador retriever traits. People tend to describe golden retrievers as intelligent, gentle, and enjoy problem-solving. Both breeds are often loyal companions and are well-recognised by the public.
% of this breed:Over 60% of our working guide dogs are Labrador retriever cross golden retrievers.
Golden retriever cross German shepherd
The golden retriever cross German shepherd was introduced with the aim of producing a dog with desirable traits from both breeds that may be suitable for a wider range of guide dog owners.
About golden retriever cross German shepherds
Appearance:The golden retriever cross German shepherd breed is very diverse. Most are known to have the V-shaped ‘floppy’ ears of a golden retriever, whereas others have ears similar to those of a German shepherd. Colours are also variable – some are black and tan, black, black and brindle, and others are yellow and golden.
Characteristics:By crossing the golden retriever and German shepherd, we hope to produce a dog with the intelligence and keenness to work often associated with a German shepherd, blended with the sociable and calm nature often associated with a golden retriever.
% of this breed:4% of our working guide dogs are golden retriever cross German shepherds.
Poodle cross Labrador retriever
It’s said that the poodle cross Labrador retriever, more commonly known as the 'Labradoodle', was first made popular in Australia over three decades ago when trying to breed a guide dog that didn’t aggravate allergies. Guide Dogs introduced the standard poodle to our breeding programme in an effort to produce dogs that may be more suitable for people with sight loss who also suffer from allergies or respiratory conditions.
About poodle cross Labrador retrievers
Appearance:The poodle cross Labrador retriever can be variable in appearance, some with tighter curls like a poodle, but others with a shaggier and wavier coat. Their colour can also vary from yellow, white, black, silver and brindle.
Characteristics:While no breed is truly hypoallergenic, we appreciate that for some people the pure standard poodle is more likely to meet this need. While some guide dog schools around the world have had success with the standard poodle purebreed, we’ve found that the poodle cross Labrador retriever is generally more temperamentally suited to the guiding role and suits a wider range of service users in comparison to the standard poodle.
% of this breed:2% of our working guide dog population are poodle cross Labrador retrievers.
Curly coated retriever cross Labrador retrievers
By crossing the curly coated retriever with a Labrador retriever, we’re able to combine some of the most desirable traits from both breeds.
About curly coated retriever cross Labrador retrievers
Appearance:The curly coated retriever cross Labrador retriever often has a unique and distinctive, tight, curly coat. Unlike the standard poodle, their coat doesn’t need clipping but still requires regular care and maintenance. Their coat is also low shedding which may provide a secondary benefit for people with allergies or respiratory conditions.
Characteristics:By crossing the curly coated retriever with a Labrador retriever, we’re able to produce a dog who is often taller than a Labrador retriever but shorter than a curly coated retriever. This cross breed typically has a temperament well suited to the guiding role.
% of this breed:Under 1% of our working guide dog population are curly coated retriever cross Labrador retrievers.
You may also be interested in...
Read dog care advice from our dog health and wellbeing experts.