Updated: Oct 17
At Jenna Lee Designer Doodles we receive many inquiries from people who are interesting in adopting “any kind of doodle”… but did you know that the various doodle breeds are each quite unique?
As breeders of Goldendoodles, Bernedoodles and Sheepadoodles we are well acquainted with each of these breeds and in this post, we hope to provide a brief commentary discussing the distinctions of each breed. As a bonus, you might learn a thing or two about a couple other doodle breeds as well!
First things first…what do all the doodles have in common? Give yourself a high five if you answered POODLE!
Indeed, Goldendoodles, Bernedoodles and Sheepadoodles share similar traits across the board based on the Poodles’ attributes. One of the ways to learn about what to expect from a particular breed is to look at their original purpose for being bred. While most dogs are now kept as family pets, each breed was originally bred for a specific purpose or job.
So, what makes the Standard Poodle unique?
Due to its most unusual hair styling, the Standard Poodle sometimes gets a bad rap for being a “frilly dog.” But what many don’t realize is that the Standard Poodle was originally bred as a retrieving dog (specifically for the water!). In fact, the sporting clip method of trimming the coat was originally used to facilitate swimming. So Standard Poodles are actually quite athletic, moderately active and extremely intelligent. Retrieving is a skill that requires dutiful obedience on the part of the dog, and the standard poodle is no exception.
Poodles often excel in obedience competitions and agility exercises. They are also incredibly people-oriented and sensitive. This means they are often easy to train, but also that they require a lot of affection to be at their happiest and reach their full potential. In other words, Poodles are not the type of dog that will be content alone in the backyard all day!
Based on the Poodle influence, you can assume that any doodle breed will have the following characteristic traits: 1) good trainability, 2) fairly active and 3) incredibly devoted to their people!
Now that we’ve examined the common denominator of the doodle family, let’s compare the DIFFERENCES between the doodles by looking at the “other” breeds. A Goldendoodle is a Golden Retriever crossed with a Poodle, a Bernedoodle is a Bernese Mountain Dog crossed with a Poodle, and a Sheepadoodle is and Old English Sheep Dog crossed with a Poodle.
Let’s take these one-by-one and who better to start with than one of America’s most lovable and recognizable breeds: the Golden Retriever!
The Golden Retriever: The Biddable Companion With A Heart of Gold
Golden Retrievers were bred to work closely with their owners in order to retrieve game on a hunt. They were originally bred in the early nineteenth century to be a versatile bird dog that could retrieve on land or in water. This job requires a high level of self-control, trainability and a willingness to please even in a highly stimulating setting.
The dog must wait patiently and only act on the owner’s command — this original purpose set the Golden Retriever up for success in obedience training as well. In fact, the three champion dogs at the first obedience training contest held by the American Kennel Club in 1977 were all golden retrievers! Fast forward to the 21st century, Golden Retrievers are the most common breed in the service dog industry.
You may frequently spot them serving as seeing-eye-dogs, seizure-detection dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals.
Combine this breed with the Standard Poodle and you have a moderately active, intelligent, sometimes silly, but VERY trainable dog (this would generally apply to other sport/retrieving doodles as well such as the labradoodle). The Goldendoodle is known for being gentle, laidback and very eager to please.
They go-with-the-flow quite easily and adapt to almost any family situation. At JLDD, we typically recommend the Goldendoodle for families who are adopting their first dog and/or are wanting an easy-to-train pup!
Another thing to consider is that both the Golden Retriever and the Standard Poodle are VERY loyal, devoted breeds (hence their trainability and eagerness to please). Your Goldendoodle will want to be by your side as often as possible. If you have a busy lifestyle and do not plan on taking your dog with you everywhere, you may consider a more independent breed.
The Bernese Mountain Dog: The Happy-Go-Lucky Goof Ball
Not so familiar to dog lovers on these shores is the Bernese Mountain Dog. Bernese Mountain Dogs are a working breed which were originally bred to pull carts in the Swiss Alps. In order to pull off this task, they needed a little less brains and a little more brawn!
Working breed dogs are typically known for being incredibly loyal, devoted and protective of their owners but not quite as high in intelligence/trainability as retrieving/sporting breeds. The Berner is no exception. Here is a goofy, clumsy, but oh so loving dog.
Combined with the poodle, the Bernedoodle’s personality is incredibly affectionate and also super goofy. They are loads of fun and have a charming sense of humor but can be more stubborn to train than their Goldendoodle counterparts (this would generally apply to other working dog doodles as well such as the Newfiedoodle).
In fact, don’t be surprised if your Bernedoodle approaches training with a "what's in it for me?" attitude. They are generally less familiar with the concept of personal space and are also prone to be clumsy which is often endearing but can be a challenge for families with younger kids susceptible to being easily knocked over.
Another thing to consider is that the Bernese Mountain Dog was bred to work in the Alps, so they tend to prefer cooler temperatures and have less heat tolerance than many other breeds. Adding the poodle helps increase their heat tolerance, but still something to consider if you live in a particularly hot/humid climate, you may find a different doodle to be a better fit for you.
The Old English Sheepdog: The Bubbly Playmate Who Might Outwit You
The Old English Sheepdog is a herding breed — one of the earliest sheepdogs originating from England. They were originally bred to help farmers drive cattle and sheep to the market. The job required a courageous, athletic dog that did not tire easily and could think on his feet (er…paws).
As a result, the Old English Sheepdog still needs a fair amount of physical and mental stimulation even as a family pet (this is generally true of other herding breed doodles as well, such as the Aussiedoodles and Bordoodles).
The Old English Sheepdog is also often considered an “independent thinker” and can be more on the stubborn side of the training spectrum. Many owners find a dog with a mild independent streak to be enjoyable and quite witty and humorous and the Old English Sheepdog is no exception.
When mixed with the Poodle’s traits, the Sheepadoodle is an exceptionally sweet, outgoing and intelligent canine. But he can be "a lot of dog" for busy families. Sheepadoodles love adventures and mental stimulation, so if you have a family ready for lots of activity, this could be the right breed for you!
Another thing to consider is that herding breeds often carry a strong instinct to chase and nip at fast-moving things. This is great if you are practicing frisbee tricks in the backyard but can be an obnoxious behavior for families with young kids. Kids obviously fall into the category of “fast-moving” so sometimes Sheepadoodles may nip at their ankles while kids are at play.
This behavior is not aggression, but it is sometimes frowned upon by families with young children. The good news is that many times, this herding tendency disappears once the Old English Sheepdog is bred to the Standard Poodle. But in some cases it still comes up, so we like to give families a fair warning that this is something to be aware of in any doodle breed of a herding background.
We believe temperament should be the number one priority in choosing your next dog/breed, but you might also be wondering where and how the individual doodle breeds stack up in categories such as coloration, coat type, size, health conditions and life expectancy. Let’s take a look!
Goldendoodle vs Bernedoodle vs Sheepadoodle Breed Specifics: Coloration
All three doodle breeds have a “classic coat coloring” most often associated with the breed (blonde/red for Goldendoodles, tri-color for Bernedoodles, and black parti for Sheepadoodles). However, the coloring can vary based on the poodle parent (poodles come in LOTS of colors so all these colors/patterns are possible in any of the doodle breeds).
We recommend deciding which doodle fits you best based on temperament rather than color… as you can find your preferred coloring/coat pattern in any of the doodle breeds. For example, we regularly produce blonde/red Bernedoodles and Tri-Color Goldendoodles — anything is possible!
We interrupt this article for a quick quiz: Can you determine whether the following pups from our JLDD Family are are a Goldendoodle, Bernedoodle or Sheepadoodle...? Answers are at the bottom of this article.
In conclusion, choose the doodle that best fits your lifestyle based on temperament and consider color as a secondary priority since you will likely be able to find a breeder who produces your preferred doodle in any of the aforementioned colors!
Goldendoodle vs Bernedoodle vs Sheepadoodle Breed Specifics: Coat Type
Golden Retrievers and Bernese Mountain Dogs are both VERY heavy shedders. Adding the Poodle helps to reduce the shedding, but the earlier generations and wavier-coated Goldendoodles and Bernedoodles may still shed some. Adding more Poodle generally equates to a curlier coat and less shedding as seen in a F1b or multigenerational doodle.
Despite looking like he would shed heavily, the Old English Sheepdog is actually a very light shedder! So, we find even in an F1, wavy-coated Sheepadoodle, the shedding is quite minimal.
Health Conditions & Life Expectancy Between Each Breed
One of the great things about doodles is “hybrid vigor.” This term refers to the tendency of a hybrid dog to have less health issues and generally be healthier with the addition of more genetic variety than a single-breed dog.
Overall, we find all three of these breeds to be quite healthy on average. The Standard Poodle is an overall healthy breed with a high life expectancy (12-15 years), so their genetics tend to help lessen the potential health issues that Goldens and Berners in particular are known for.
Most large breed dogs are known for joint issues. Unfortunately, these three breeds are no exception. Bernese Mountain Dogs in particular have a low life expectancy and are known for a number of health issues. If you are considering the standard size in any of these three doodle breeds, it is important to find a reputable breeder who does health testing and hip testing on the parent dogs to help reduce instances of joint and other genetic issues.
Life expectancy varies most greatly in the canine world based on size with smaller dogs tending to live longer on average than larger dogs. However, the doodles definitely have a higher life expectancy than their single breed parents. For example, Bernese Mountain Dogs have one of the lowest life expectancies in the canine world with some estimates as low as 6 years.
Thankfully, once bred to the Standard Poodle, the size is reduced a bit and health issues are mitigated so the life expectancy increases to around 12+ years. The same is true for Goldendoodles and Sheepadoodles. In the mini sizes, these breeds can be expected to live 14 years or more—so get ready to have a best friend for a long time.
Goldendoodle vs Bernedoodle vs Sheepadoodle Breed Specifics: Size
Any of these doodles can come in a variety of sizes. Although the Bernese Mountain dog is the largest breed, it takes more generations to successfully breed them down to a “mini size”. The Old English Sheepdogs is the next largest breed on average and the Golden Retriever – although the smallest of the three - is no toy and still considered a large dog.
However, as the smallest of these three, Goldens can successfully be bred down to a “mini size” relatively easily. Be sure to ask your breeder about both parent dogs’ sizes to gauge your pups’ estimated adult weight/height. The closer the two parents are in weight, the more reliable prediction you can make about your pup!
**Important Note: We started this article by discussing the Standard Poodle’s attributes. In order to breed any of these larger dog breeds down to a mini size, a miniature poodle is used. The miniature poodle and standard poodle have some similarities but are overall two different breeds.
The miniature/toy poodle was not bred for a sporting purpose, but rather came into existence once the standard poodle made its way into France where it was bred down to become a prized pet/companion of 18th-century European aristocracy.
Bred specifically for its small size and companionship, the Miniature Poodle tends to be more demanding of attention and can be more excitable and less laidback than their standard counterparts.
They are still oh-so-smart and affectionate but have a little more spunk as well! This is something to consider if you are wanting a smaller version of any of these doodles. For families with young children and/or wanting a more mellow dog, we recommend a larger medium or standard size doodle.
What is your family’s favorite doodle breed? Let us know and tell us why by emailing email@example.com!
Photo 1: Stella the Goldendoodle
Photo 2: Dudley the Bernedoodle
Photo 3: Finn the Goldendoodle