The gentle, intelligent and family-friendly Labrador Retriever from Canada continues to be the most popular breed in the United States, according to AKC registration statistics. This versatile hunting breed comes in three colors – yellow, black and chocolate – and because of their desire to please their master they excel as guide dogs for the blind, as part of search-and-rescue teams or in narcotics detection with law enforcement.
Personality: Friendly and outgoing, Labs play well with others
Energy Level: Very Active; Labs are high-spirited and not afraid to show it
Good with Children: Yes
Good with other Dogs: With Supervision
Trainability: Eager To Please
Height: 22.5-24.5 inches (male), 21.5-23.5 inches (female)
Weight: 65-80 pounds (male), 55-70 pounds (female)
Life Expectancy: 10-12 years
Barking Level: Barks When Necessary
The Labrador Retriever, despite his name, did not come from Labrador, but from Newfoundland. The area was populated with small water dogs, who, when bred with Newfoundlands, produced a breed referred to as the St. John’s Water Dog, a prototype for the Lab of today.
Early in the 19th century, the Earl of Malmesbury reputedly saw one of the dogs of this type and had it imported; in 1830, the noted British sportsman Colonel Hawker referred to the Lab as “the best for any kind of shooting…generally black and no bigger than a Pointer, very fine in legs, with short, smooth hair…is extremely quick running, swimming, and fighting…and their sense of smell is hardly to be credited.”
Initially, the dogs were not known as Labradors until the Duke of Malmesbury admitted that he “always called [his] Labrador dogs.” However, the breed eventually died out in Newfoundland due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine law. Many Labs were interbred with other types of retrievers, but luckily, the breed prevailed and fanciers drew up a definitive standard. Accurate pedigrees of today’s Labs go back as far as 1878. The Lab was recognized as a distinct breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903.
The first registration of Labradors by the AKC was in 1917, and from the 1920s through the ’30s, there was a great influx of British dogs that formed the backbone of the breed in this country.
TRAINING & TEMPERAMENT
Basic obedience training is an essential part of responsible dog ownership. It helps to establish a bond between you and your Labrador and makes him/her a welcome part of the family and in the neighborhood. In urban areas, there are obedience training clubs that offers classes where you and your dog can learn the fundamentals of basic obedience training. These classes can range in scope from puppy socializing to advanced training for obedience competition. Early training and consistency are the keys to having a well-behaved dog. If you plan to hunt your Labrador, basic obedience training is essential.
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.
The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an “otter” tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its “kind,” friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.
NUTRITION AND FEEDING
Depending on the size of your dog as an adult you are going to want to feed them a formula that will cater to their unique digestive needs through the various phases of their life. Many dog food companies have breed-specific formulas for small, medium, large and giant breeds. The Labrador Retriever is a medium-sized breed and has a lifespan of 12 to 14 years.
What you feed your dog is an individual choice, but working with your veterinarian and/or breeder will be the best way to determine frequency of meals as a puppy and the best adult diet to increase his longevity. Clean, fresh water should be available at all times.
COAT AND GROOMING
Beyond regular weekly grooming an occasional bath will keep them clean and looking their best. Grooming can be a wonderful bonding experience for you and your pet. Their strong fast-growing nails should be trimmed regularly with a nail clipper or grinder to avoid overgrowth, splitting and cracking. Their ears should be checked regularly to avoid a buildup of wax and debris which can result in an infection. Teeth should be brushed regularly.
ENERGY AND EXERCISE
Labs are very friendly dogs—perhaps the friendliest of the pack. They are easy to get along with, and socialize well with other dogs and humans alike. Still, don’t confuse his laid-back personality for low energy. The Labrador Retriever is extremely active—he’s never met a backyard he didn’t like. Since Labs enjoy playing and swimming outside, owners frequently channel their high energy on hunting and fishing outings.
Like all breeds there may be some health issues, like hip and elbow dysplasia, eye disease, and exercise induced collapse. Some dogs may be faced with these health challenges in their lives, but the majority of Labrador Retrievers are healthy dogs. Veterinarian care is an important part of your responsibility in providing for your Labrador. You should have already selected a veterinarian and had your new puppy examined, and an immunization schedule set up. After the initial immunizations, protection against regional health threats and early detection of debilitating disease.
It is important to establish a relationship with a regular veterinarian in your area, so he or she can be contacted if an emergency arises. Working with a responsible breeder, those wishing to own a Labrador Retriever can gain the education they need to know about specific health concerns within the breed. Good breeders utilize genetic testing of their breeding stock to reduce the likelihood of disease in their puppies.