The Labrador Retriever belongs to the retriever hunting type family and happens to be the most loved breed. Popularly referred to as just Labs, many dog owners prefer the Labrador Retriever as the ideal pet due to their calm temperament, obedience and playful nature. They make great companions for children too due to their all-around affection, friendly demeanor, tremendous energy, gentle nature and the ability to get along with the young ones. Their intelligence and loyalty make them the most popular dog breed in many countries, including Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Despite being initially used for retrieving small downed waterfowl, they have been used do police and military work for detection and screening, aiding autistic people, assistance dogs for the disabled and blind people and in hospitals as therapy dogs. The Labrador Retriever can be both a companion dog and a useful working dog too.
They were originally used by local fishermen for hunting and as a draft, dog to fetch ropes, haul nets and catch fish in the 1700s. The fishermen’s helper retrieved fish that had escaped the nets and hooks from the North Atlantic and was called the St. John’s water dog back then. They returned home in the evening after work to spend the nights with the fishermen’s families. The name came from them the capital city of Newfoundland. They were renamed after the Labrador Sea later. This beautiful breed hails from an island known as Newfoundland, located off the northeastern Atlantic coast of Canada.
English athletes noticed their helpfulness and decent disposition and imported them to use them as hunting retrievers. The select English breeders have the credit of saving the breed which almost went extinct in the late 1800s. The breed disappeared in Newfoundland due to the stringent tax laws and government restrictions. No family was allowed to keep more than one dog, and higher taxes imposed on dog owners with female labs.
The Kennel Club recognized this breed in 1903 as a distinct breed, and the AKC did the same in 1917. The British Labs were then imported to the US in the 1920s and 1930s to establish them there. The breed’s popularity in the US grew rapidly after the 2nd World War, and since 1991, it holds the top spot for dog breeds registered with the AKC.
They have undergone a transformation over time to be where they are today.
1. Fisherman’s companion.
2. Field retriever.
3. Show dog.
4. Modern working dog and companion.
Today, the Labrador Retriever spend most of their days indoors with their masters as opposed to outdoors retrieving fish or performing hard labor. They are however also used as working dogs in some places.
• Weight – 55 to 80 pounds. Male: 29–36 kg, Female: 25–32 kg.
• Height – 1ft, 9” to 2ft tall at the shoulder. Male: 57–62 cm, Female: 55–60 cm.
• Muscular and athletic.
• Robust and powerful jaws.
• Medium-large sized.
• Broad head with pronounced eyebrows.
• Kind and expressive eyes.
• Short with fuller faces.
• Webbed toes.
• Short, dense and easy-care coat.
• The coat comes in three colors namely: black, yellow and chocolate.
Temperament, personality, and care
They are friendly, eager to please and stranger friendly, which makes them a suitable breed for new dog owners with little or no experience of being with dogs. Their agility and obedience are evident on how easily they win in such dog competitions. They are a very loyal breed and people-oriented. They love their owners and other animals as well. Labs live to serve their families with undivided devotion.
Labs are also very protective of their owners. As mentioned, they have a sweet nature which makes them suitable therapy dogs, especially in homes of the elderly. Their athletic build makes police and the hunters choose them as their preferred search and rescue dogs. Apart from the intense energy, they are also very courageous and possess sensitive nose.
Due to their high appetite, ensure they have regular exercising, limit treats and gives them a balanced diet. If Labs are hungry and can’t get food, they can resort to garbage and chewable toys which can be dangerous.
Being companion dogs, they need tender love and care. Do not leave them alone for too long as this may trigger destructive behavior on them. They are also very curious and exploratory which means spending too much time indoors may not be right for them.
Some people shy away from Labs because they think they are over-active. It is true that the puppies are hyperactive which is normal. As they grow up, though, most Labs slow down a bit. They remain fairly active during their lives, though.
• Labrador Retriever does not need frequent grooming to maintain upkeep. Minimize the number of stripping and trimming. Instead, perform a routine brushing.
• They require regular exercising to keep fit, especially if the dog owners happens to live in an apartment. Evening walks or trips to the dog park will do just fine. Ensure you have a large yard if you want a play session with them.
• They are mouthy, and chewers so invest in many sturdy toys. When you are not around, keep your Lab safe in the kennel to protect them from chewing stuff they should not.
• They can withstand both cold and hot weather in most places. This information is vital in case you are wondering whether they can survive where you live.
• They love to eat a lot and care should be taken to avoid giving them too much food than necessary. They become obese fast when overfed.
• Labs may not be the breed that just takes off but to keep them safe from getting into the wrong hands, updates their identification tags. The cards will be helpful in case they get lost. Microchips are a great addition.
• Labs are dependent on the breeder you choose in the sense that, some Labrador Retrievers are bred for competition testing and eventually end up being working dogs while others are bred to have the ideal movement, temperament, and appearance as companion dogs. Choose your breeder wisely.
They are very easy to train due to their obedient nature, intelligence and eagerness to please. There is no need to repeat commands when dealing with them. They will alert you if there is an intruder, which does not necessarily make them excellent watchdogs. The barking will be as a result of an unseen source or alarm barking and does not mean that they are unfriendly. In fact, many owners have reported that their Labrador Retriever greets a visitor warmly and even show them where to sit. Teach them good canine manners, and you will have the best dog companion.
Their super active nature means that they require at least 30 minutes of physical activity to meet their high energy demands and exuberance. Most people think that labs do not need training. Training will avoid destructive behavior like chewing up stuff and barking relentlessly.
Like any other breed, training works best when done in the early stages when they are still puppies. Do not rush them through the training process, though, with time they will be how you want them to be. Look for an obedience class near where you live and register. Puppy kindergarten will also teach them how to be comfortable around people and other pets on top of good canine manners. Apart from physical activity, also give them mental training for stimulation.
The average lifespan of a Labrador Retriever is 10-12 years, which is somewhat shorter than other large breeds. Due to their short lifespan, it is wise to make the most out of the time you spend with your Lab. Give your dog 2-3 cups of high-quality and nutritious dry food twice daily. Note that the amount of food is dependent on factors such as your dog’s metabolism, build, age and activity level. To keep them healthier, trim their nails monthly, brush their teeth twice a week and check out for ear infections, rashes, and sores. They do not fall sick very often but are still prone to some health conditions. Some of the diseases you should watch out for include:
• Elbow and Hip Dysplasia, both heritable.
• Cataracts – can lead to vision loss in severe cases.
• Acute Moist Dermatitis characterized by a red and inflamed skin.
• Myopathy – affects the Lab’s nervous system and muscles.
• Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) that causes extremely painful stiffening of the dog’s joints.
• Epilepsy – may lead to mild and severe seizures.
• Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) which is a congenital heart defect that can be detected by ultrasound.
According to the American Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever is currently America’s number one registered breed. It is not unusual to find them accompanying owners to malls and restaurants. Due to their beautiful nature, many people have resorted to breeding Labs. Some are greedy and are only interested in the money to meet the demand for puppies. They end up breeding many Lab puppies with no regard to health and temperament. To be safe, avoid buying puppies from puppy mills and pet stores. Instead, ask for a reputable breeder and let them show you a health clearance from both parents of your new puppy. You can get information about a legitimate breeder online, recommendations from friends and family or even from your local vet.