Can a labradoodle really be wire haired ??

dog sitting by the door

Solving the mystery of the wire coated doodles

Once in a while, the question pops up in grooming groups on Facebook –
“ I have this dog on the table that the owner claims are a Labradoodle, but the coat is short and wiry
Sure, they must have been fooled by the breeder?.”
And a load of suggestions pops up: – it is crossed with a terrier or a schnauzer!
– was clipped when it was too young and the coat is destroyed now!
-it’s not a doodle…. It’s a German wire haired pointer!
Lots of suggestions, but all are wrong 😘

A poodle crossed with a Labrador can produce wire-haired pups, believe it or not….
That’s the wonderful world of coat genetics.

But how can that be possible? 
Let’s start from scratch….

Before we start 

When we talk about genetics, there are some important words we must remember from our science lessons in high school:
Phenotype – that is how the dog looks
Genotype–     that is the genes the dog carries
Phenotype and genotype can be different depending on the genes the dog carries.

The phenotype won’t always tell you the genotype. A dog can carry recessive genes -not visible until it meets a similar gene. And several different genotypes can look the same, having the same phenotype. And the other way around.

Locus – that’s where the genes are located in the DNA chain
Alleles –   Alleles are different versions of a gene
The genotype is the combination of alleles a dog inherits from its parents at a particular genetic locus.

Dominant– only one set of the gene is necessary for the trait to be visible
Recessive – two sets of the gene must be present for the trait to be visible

Homozygote – the individual has 2 similar alleles of the trait – for example  LL
Heterozygote     the individual has2 different alleles of the trait – for example Ll

Now when we have refreshed our memory, lets dive into the science!

Some of the genes that are involved in coat types

Hair growth in dogs is controlled by a dog’s coat’s type, length, texture, and shedding genes and their different alleles. These genes determine the type, length, texture, and shedding. It’s a complex system and it would be a very long post if I went too detailed, so in this blog post, we will discuss some of the key genes involved in hair growth and their interactions with each other.

The main genes that affect the coat type are :

    RSPO2 gene that controls furnishing -no furnishing, a small amount of furnishing, plenty of furnishing
It is also involved in the control of the coat texture and the length of the coat on the body.
     FGF5 gene that controls the overall hair length – short hair or long hair
     KRT71 gene that controls the presence of curls in the coat  – straight coat, wavy coat or curly coat.

Both the furnishings gene and the curly gene are dominant, so you only need one copy to get a curly coat or a coat with furnishings. The long hair gene is recessive, so you need both copies to get long hair.

 For the purposes of giving a basic understanding, I will use F for the furnishing gene, L for the long hair gene and C for the curly hair gene. If the letter is noted as a capital is in Dominant and if it is a lowercase letter it is Recessive.

FF or Ff – the dog will have more or less furnishing
ff – no furnishings

LL or Ll – short hair
ll – long hair

CC or Cc – curly or wavy hair
cc – straight hair

KRT71 Gene/ Curl gene

Dogs with curly coats have hair that forms tight curls or waves that cover most of their body. 
Breeds with curls are for example Poodles, bichon frise
Breeds with waves are  for example Portuguese waterdog

There are different variants of this mutation that affect different breeds. 
Mode of Inheritance: Incomplete dominance

Alleles: c = No curl, C = Curl

  • Dogs with c/c genotype are expected to have a straight coat. They cannot transmit this curl variant to their offspring.
  • Dogs with C/c genotype are expected to have a wavy coat. They may transmit this curl variant to 50% of their offspring. A mating between two N/C dogs is expected to produce 50% puppies with wavy hair and 25% puppies with curly hair and 25% with straight hair.
  • Dogs with the C/C genotype is expected to have a curly coat. They will transmit this curl variant to all of their offspring.


Furnishing Gene /the RSPO2 gene

is responsible for the development of “furnishings” in dogs, which is facial hairs -eyebrows, moustache.
It also controls the wire texture of the coat and in some cases also the length of the coat on the body.

Phenotype: Dogs with furnishings have a long moustache and eyebrow hair- so a hairy face

It’s dominant.

Alleles:  f = No furnishings, F = Furnishings

  • Dogs with f/f genotype are expected to lack furnishings. They cannot transmit this furnishing variant to their offspring, and they will transmit the non-furnishing variant to all of their offspring.
    They have short-haired faces.
  • Dogs with the F/f genotype are expected to display furnishings but have a copy of the non-furnishing variant. They may transmit this furnishing variant to 50% of their offspring and the non-furnishing variant to 50% of their offspring.
  • Dogs with F/F genotype are expected to display furnishings. They will transmit this furnishing variant to all of their offspring, and they cannot transmit the non-furnishing variant to their offspring.


Its also responsible for not only the furnishing phenotype but also for determining the hair length of the entire body depending on the genetic background, suggesting an interaction between FGF5 and RSPO2 influencing the hair-length phenotype in dogs.

Lastly, there is the FGF5 gene. It controls coat length.
Five recessive mutations (variants) in the fibroblast growth factor-5 (FGF5) gene are associated with long hair phenotypes in dogs

The FGF5 gene is a gene that produces a protein called fibroblast growth factor 5 (FGF5) that regulates the hair growth cycle. 

Dogs with long coat lengths have hair longer than 5 cm that covers most of their body. This coat type is seen in breeds such as Maltese, Shih Tzu etc. The mutation on the FGF5 gene that causes long coat length is recessive, meaning that two copies of it are needed to produce this trait

There are different variants of this mutation that affect different breeds. For example, Akita, Eurasier, Samoyed, and Siberian Husky have one mutation. Another one occurs in Afghans. A third one causes long-haired French Bulldogs

Alleles: l = Short hair, L* = Long hair (five variants)

  • Dogs with l/l genotype are expected to have short hair. They cannot transmit any of these long hair variants to their offspring.
  • Dogs with l/L* genotype are expected to have short hair and are carriers of a long hair variant. They will transmit their long hair variant to 50% of their offspring. Mating between two carriers of a long hair variant is expected to produce 25% puppies with long hair,25% short haired that don’t carry the long hair gene and 50% short haired that carries the long hair gene.
  • Dogs with L*/L* genotype are expected to have long hair. They will transmit their long hair variant to all of their offspring.

Another gene is the W Locus

The W locus is another important gene that affects dog hair growth. This gene determines whether a dog will have a wire-haired coat or not. The W locus has two known alleles: W and w. Dogs with the WW or Ww genotype have wire-haired coats, while dogs with the ww genotype have smooth coats.


  • WW: Wire-haired Coat
  • Ww: Wire-haired Coat depending on other genes.
  • ww: Smooth Coat

There are also 2 non-shedding genotypes.

The non-shedding genotype caused by a mutation in the FGF5 gene affects hair growth and results in a non-functional protein that prevents shedding. This mutation affects the length and texture of a dog’s hair but does not affect the number of hair follicles.

On the other hand, the mutation of the MC5R gene affects the number of hair follicles and their growth cycle. This mutation results in a reduced number of hair follicles, which leads to a decreased ability to grow hair and, consequently, a reduced amount of shedding.

Therefore, while both mutations can result in a non-shedding phenotype, they are caused by different genetic variations and affect different aspects of hair growth and shedding.

 Both genes that affects shedding is recessive, meaning that two copies of it are needed to produce this trait
.Dogs with two copies of this mutation (i.e., the ss genotype) are non-shedding, while those with one copy (i.e., the Ss genotype) may still shed to some extent.
. Dogs with high shedding have a normal variant of this gene, while dogs with low shedding have a mutated variant of this gene. 

      s/s   non shedding
     S/s   low shedding
     S/S   normal shedding

The complex part of this 

     It’s important to note that all these genes do not work independently, but rather interact with each other to determine the final coat type.
For example, the presence of the curly coat KRT71 gene can affect the length and texture of the hair even if the dog has the short-haired FGF5 gene. Similarly, the presence of the furnishings FOXI3 gene can affect the growth pattern of the hair even if the dog has the short-haired FGF5 gene.

Some genes have additive effects, meaning that they work together to produce a combined effect. For example, the FGF5 gene and the RSPO2 gene both affect hair length, but they do so independently. A dog with two copies of both genes will have longer hair than a dog with one copy of each gene.

Dogs that carry both the RSPO2 and KRT71 mutations display “curly wire” hair that is similar in texture to wire hair but longer and curled or kinked rather than straight. Long-haired breeds carry the variant form of FGF5.
 Dogs carrying the FGF5 mutation, along with the RSPO2 insertion, have furnishings and long soft coats, rather than wiry ones. When dogs carry variants in both FGF5 and KRT71, the coat is long and curly.

Not surprisingly, coats must be of sufficient length to curl, and all curly-haired dogs are homozygous for the FGF5 mutation. Finally, if all three mutations are present, the phenotype is long and curly with furnishings.
. Examples of this type of breed include poodles and Portuguese water dogs.

Let’s look at a practical example of how the genes interact and the impact on the coat – the English cocker spaniel.
The interaction between the genes can create different genotypes even within the same breed.
One dog can have F/f for furnishing- so it has a bit of hair in the face and a bit longer hair on the body. Another one has F/F for furnishing -which gives it a hairy face and much more hair on the body-not just longer but thicker and the third one has f/f -so a smooth face and shorter slicker coat on the body and not a lot of furnishing on the legs.
This explains why we see the working lines with smooth bodies and quite short furnishing and the show lines with lots of hair on both the body and legs and in the face.


Combining the genes 

      If we combine all the genes, there are technically 7 different phenotypes that we can see.
I have added one example of each so that you get a better picture of it:

 (A) short hair – Basset  – no explanation needed 😊
 (B) wire hair  – Australian terrier ( straight wire coat with straight hair in the face and the same length on the legs . They tend to stay straight haired when we clip them )
(C) “curly-wire” hair – Airedale terrier  ( wire coat that has longer fluffier hair in the face/legs-you can also see that they have a tendency to go curly when we clip them )
(D) long hair – Golden retriever   ( long coat with short face )
(E) long, soft hair with furnishings  – Bearded Collie   ( long coat with hairy face )
(F) long, curly hair – Irish water spaniel  ( long curly hair with short face )
(G) long, curly hair with furnishings – Poodle ( long curly coat with hairy face )

Puppies inherit genes from both parents. They technically get 50% from mum and 50% from dad.
But it’s randomly distributed and all pups in the litter get different combinations.
This is why you can have 4 different looks of 4 different pups in a litter if you cross 2 breeds.

An example:

Poodles have two copies of the furnishing gene, having hairy faces (FF), while golden retrievers have none (ff). When they are crossed to produce “goldendoodles” the offspring will inherit one copy from each parent (Ff) and will have furnishing -aka hairy faces.

But if you cross 2 golden doodles with each other, you will technically have 25% with smooth faces as they inherit the genes for lack of furnishing from both parents.

Same if you cross a Poodle and a Labrador.
All pups will have hairy faces as the furnishing gene is dominant. They will have a chance of being wire haired in texture as the Labrador carries a gene for a thick strong guard hair and the poodle carries a gene for a long curly coat and when they get combined you can get a “wire-curly” coat.

This is why professional breeders of “Labradoodles” do gene testing on their dogs, to make sure that the dogs they use for breeding don’t carry the genes that can give wire haired or short haired pups.
They also test for shedding genes so that they can guarantee the claim that they are non shedding.

Another common comment we see in grooming groups is when people bring in a “cockerpoo” that looks like a cocker spaniel, and everyone says” -ohhhh they got tricked by the breeder “
But if you cross a cocker with a smooth face and shortish coat with a poodle – you get pups that have fluffy faces but carry the smooth face gene.
They get curly coats but can get a shorter coat gene from the cocker. Cross one of them with a cocker or a similar cross, and you will have “cocker-type” pups again.

How do I calculate the outcome when I cross 2 breeds?

    Do you remember Mendel? The guy that we read about in biology that created ” Mendel’s law of segregation”
He crossed sweat peas with different colours and did up what is called a Mendelian chart to illustrate the predicted outcome.
We must remember that this is based on statistics out of 100 offspring and dogs rarely have that in one litter….  But it will give us a statistical indication of what we can expect.

You do up a chart where you list one of the parents’ genes in the top row and then the other parent’s genes on the side row. This is also called a Punnett chart.
And then it’s just a case of adding each letter to each box below/to the side of the gene.

Here’s a Mendelian chart /Punnett chart for the cross between a dog with the genotype for furnishing and a long curly coat (ll CC FF) -a poodle for example
and a dog with the genotype for short smooth coat and no furnishing (LL cc ff) – a basset for example

They will all have the same genotype  lLCcFt – this means the phenotype will be
a  dog with short wavy wire hair and some hair in the face.

Let’s say that we mate 2 of the pups with each other and suddenly we have a chance of 27 different combinations ….

I have written the phenotype on some of them just to illustrate the differences you can see in the same litter






12.5      shorthaired with slightly wavy wire hair   and some facial hair      



6.3  longhaired wavy wire with some facial hair



6.3 shorthair curly wire hair with facial hair


















3.1   longhair wavy with fully hairy face




































1.6  longhair wavy with smooth face






1.6   long hair  straight with short face












1.6  shorthair with straight hair and smooth face

27 different combinations!  A lot of them will look roughly the same for the naked eye …. But can you see now why we can’t predict the outcome when we cross breeds?
We can guess but as there are so many factors that interfere, you can never look at a dog and say -it must be…..

Some final thoughts 

I guess your head is spinning now after all the technical terms and short codes and stuff…
So was mine while doing the research for this write up 😂

But, why did you make it so complicated one may ask? And so long 😱??

One of the reasons is that I want to show how complicated this is, there are so many factors that determine how the coat comes out in one individual.

    Remember the English cocker spaniel that I talked about earlier, the difference in the look between the working lines and the show lines is all down to the different genes and how they interact with each other.
This means that if you cross a working cocker with a poodle, you get one set up of genes into the mix, but if you instead use a show cocker, there will be another set of genes thrown into it. It is like you have crossed the poodle with 2 different breeds.
This is why poodle/cocker crosses can look anything from a cocker to a poodle and anything in between……

      Another reason is that I want to show that we can’t judge the genetic background of a dog based on an image…
There is no use in posting images in a group and saying- the owner rescued this dog, what breeds do you say are in it?
We can’t determine the genetic set up of a dog by looking at it. Remember that the interaction between the genes causes new combinations that can manifest in a completely different coat compared to the parents.
And the dog could be a mix of 3,4,7 or 10 different breeds and by this time it’s a can of alphabet soup with letters just randomly chosen to combine.

    And the last reason is that you shouldn’t base your grooming approach on the breed/breeds that are in the dog, your approach should be based on what coat type the dog in front of you has.
It doesn’t matter if the dog is a cross with a double-coated breed, if the dog in front of you looks like a poodle, then treat it like a poodle. If it looks like your average double-coated breed, then treat it like a double-coated breed.


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