The Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever
An affable athlete, a strong and versatile dog


It doesn't take many trips to a dog park or beach to figure out out which dog breed is ranked most popular in North America today. Statistics from the American Kennel Club (AKC) for 2002 and 2003 show almost three times the number of Labrador Retriever registrations over the second-ranked breed, the Golden Retriever.

The high popularity of the Lab is due in large part to its great versatility combined with a typically easygoing, amiable temperament. In her 1964 book The Complete Labrador Retriever, Helen Warwick wrote, "The ideal Labrador temperament is one of a kindly, outgoing, adaptable nature, anxious to please and non-quarrelsome with man or beast." The statement
is as true today as it was then. Developed originally as a gun dog, the Labrador is now widely thought of as the ideal suburban family dog. Small children? The Lab will offer his back for standing practice. Little time for training? He may knock things over in his enthusiasm to see his people, but he will forgive, and forgive again.

The Labrador's precise history is a matter of debate. It is clear that dogs were imported to England from Newfoundland
beginning in the early 1800s, and that formal, controlled development of the "breed" occurred in Britain under the auspices
of hunting men who wanted a good, all-around, rugged and versatile retriever.
Whether or not the Lab is a diminutive derivation of the larger, hairier Newfoundland is open to debate. (Perhaps the Canine Genome Project will resolve this issue satisfactorily some day.) Early documents refer to a number of "water dogs" associated with the Newfoundland fishery, but names for the types were not used consistently and there exist few, if any, drawings. Sea captain and avid sportsman Peter Hawker wrote in 1816, "Every canine brute that is nearly as big as a jackass, and as hairy as a bear, is denominated a fine Newfoundland Dog. Very different, however, is both the proper Labrador and St. John's breed of these animals; at least many characteristic points are required to distinguish them."

Form follows function, and an ideal dog developed specifically to help rescue drowning sailors would be quite different from one developed to help hunters retrieve downed birds in a salt marsh. Certainly to maximize utility in what must have been an exceedingly harsh life, the early Newfoundlanders would have attempted to propagate certain distinctive, useful traits in their dogs. Yet in the seaports, all of those early dogs would have interbred relatively indiscriminately, so the types were probably all fairly closely related to begin with.

Whatever the original genetics, it appears to have been relatively easy for early breeders in Britain to "fix" the type for the Labrador Retriever (lending credibility to claims of Canadian origin, despite the fact that there were no kennel clubs in the colonies). Early descriptions consistently mention a sturdy, medium-sized dog, with an excellent nose and a keen love of water, typically all black, with a close, tight coat that could shed water, and an otter-like tail.

Kept primarily in private shooting kennels, the type was largely unknown to the general public until the end of the nineteenth century. While it was being developed, some breeders mated their "Labrador Dogs" with pointers or hounds; others carefully attended to "purity," periodically importing new stock directly from North America. In 1916,

The Labrador Retriever Club was formed in London and the first official breed standard was drafted. In the late 1920s some wealthy Americans, perhaps wishing to pattern themselves after the British gentry, began to import Labrador Retrievers from Britain. They had their own locally developed gun dog, the tough and rugged Chesapeake Bay Retriever, but presumably rarity connoted prestige just as fully then as it does now.

The Lab had re-crossed the Atlantic. The first AKC breed standard was identical to the British Kennel Club standard. Since then, however, the U.S. and British standards have diverged slightly. Most significantly, the AKC standard now allows for greater variation in size, 22.5-24.5 inches at the shoulder for males, whereas the British standard constrains height to 22-22.5 inches. (For females, subtract an inch from the U.S. and a half-inch from the U.K. numbers.) The difference leads to American-bred dogs being, on average, somewhat larger than their British counterparts. The U.K. standard specifies height alone, but the AKC standard specifies the approximate weight of working-condition dogs as 65-80 pounds (females 55-70 pounds). The three accepted coat colours are solid black, yellow or chocolate (or liver), with a small white patch permitted on the chest. Yellow can range from light cream to "red fox." Coat colour is genetically controlled by two genes. It is a shedding coat, a double coat, thick and profuse, with a certain amount of oil to bestow water repellency. If not bathed regularly, a Lab's coat will begin to smell "doggie" fairly quickly; regular swimming or bathing is advised. (This is often a non-issue, though, as it's typically difficult to keep these guys out of the water.)

One of the striking characteristics of the Labrador Retriever is the breed's incredible versatility. Not only are these dogs versatile in the hunting world-working equally happily with pheasants or ducks, in dry uplands or frigid salt marshes-but they are also commonly used in service as seeing-eye, assistance and therapy dogs. Their size, strength and easygoing disposition make them highly dependable partners in a wide range of activities. Their keen noses, intense ability to focus, and willingness to please also make them popular choices for drug sniffing, mine detection, arson investigation (searching for the presence of accelerants) and search and rescue. In the competitive world, Labs will apply themselves with drive and enthusiasm in obedience, tracking, agility and field trial work.

And, of course, Labs make great pets and companions. But the breed is not for everyone. A young Lab requires regular exercise and space to run around, and firm, positive education, or that otter-like tail will be sweeping everything off the coffee table and that big, muscular butt will be knocking over the lamps and plants (not to mention wobbly toddlers). Without proper training, a young Lab's sheer strength and enthusiasm can be overwhelming. Ignore him, banish him, forget him-he will still love you and forgive your inattention, and is unlikely ever to become aggressive or mean. However this makes it easy for an owner to neglect a dog's needs in the pressure to meet all the time demands of modern life. Even if he is mellow enough not to be pushy about it, don't go out and get a Lab unless you are prepared to meet the needs of a high-energy breed developed to plow through densely tangled vegetation, churn through icy water, search around diligently to find what he's looking for, and charge back and ask, "What's next?"

Some Labrador breeders tend to focus on working (or "field") abilities; others more on show (or "bench") potential. The lines can be quite distinct, and prospective buyers need to enquire as to the main objectives of any breeding program. Field dogs tend to be bred more for drive and working ability, bench dogs for looks. As with any breed, it is important to research breeders, ask lots of questions, and be prepared to walk away from even the cutest puppy.

Do Labs have "webbed feet"? Yes they do; all dogs have webbing between their toes. What Labs do have in particular, however, are big feet, which no doubt serve them well when paddling around in the water. One trait that many people seem to notice is that Labs sure love their food. They are ultimate foragers. If he once found a french fry somewhere, you might drive back two years later and have your dog surge out of the car to re-check the hot spot.

"Willingness to please" is often dependent on whether or not there is an opportune food source around. Knowing it's a no-no, many Labs happening upon a bonanza of illicit food will set to and inhale as much as possible before their humans can arrive on the scene to stop it. In his 1968 book On Retrievers, the renowned field trial trainer Charles Morgan described one of his three National Champions: "[She] was lazy, indifferent, a slow swimmer and not too fast a runner. About all that she did fast was eat." This may be somewhat of an exaggeration-no doubt we can all think of individuals of other breeds who worship just as fervently at the food bowl altar-but Labs can easily pack on way too much weight if their intake is not closely watched. The breed is also prone to hypothyroidism which, if left untreated, can lead to obesity. (Hypothyroidism is easily treatable.)

As with all breeds, owners should be careful to balance food intake with appropriate exercise, keep their dogs' weight down to a healthy level, and consult a veterinarian if there are any rapid or unexplained changes in weight. Some authors feel that the best Labs fail to compete well in dog shows simply because they are too laid back to compete with the "dash and flash" of certain other breeds. Be it so, this is what makes them excellent and reliable family dogs.

The Labrador Retriever is the ultimate natural, all-purpose utility dog: strong, active, agile and enthusiastic. Hungry, yes. But its popularity is well deserved. Versatile and amiable, this dog will push through any obstacle to do the right thing. All he needs is to be educated as to what that "right thing" is, and you'll have a wonderful companion.

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Comments (8)

I have an American Field Lab, She is a chocolate and is beautiful. She is almost 2 now and is the first big dog I've ever had. I am disabled and she is being trained to be a mobility dog for me. She is the best friend a Man could ever want. She knows when I'm not feeling well or in some kind of trouble. She is incredibly smart and has a beautiful smile. She loves the off leash park where she can play with other dogs and swim. She loves to swim. As you can tell I love her. Labs, to me, are the best.
Fri, 07/20/2012 - 21:20
how you will regard a helpful alcohol wife or husband

all of the reddish umbrellaposted 7 quite a few agoin reply to this

Ive endured an addict for evere,forever. The only thing you can do to get them to quit is to bake boundries with go with them. for, you won't ever buy them alchohol, And whenever they move on to follow get some, you may secure the group on the net. on condition that they name the police, individual reveal to the expert that possibly powerful alchoholic, along with due to the fact trying to assist them to. i would say the lovers in which don't try to become aid to the moment you ask, may not allow and soon you leave all of them ' offer.

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our own boyfriend is set in a rehabilitate straight away, and even living alongside an abuser are a few things i use alot of expertise during. these keep your torso, work, put,the almighty the list goes on, will do it but not?

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the fresh lifeposted 7 a lot of years agoin answer this

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the most important pink colored umbrellaposted 7 extended agoin reply to this

how the things that i have informed spencer all the time. every day is completely new. except junkies wont believe that way. this person kind of nearly always assumed enjoy became too much water within his fixation.

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an distinct lifeposted 7 extended time agoin answer this

awe-inspiring! that is tremendous that spencer is arising near as soon as again on writing to you. The spouse i do believe <a href=></a> should never give up on the alcohol in the event that there is certainly certainly risk otherwise traditional violance to a. my family strung in there mainly because it looks your lady were intimate with that will certainly i would personally see the sunshine by myself and as a consequence cigarettes serious craving. practical gifts confidence and as well as the whole lot works out. beings he is willing to go to therapy is a great choice typically informs me he realistically cares and take interest in as well as requires michael's unattractive whole life back once again being sober. more or less all very good. As day-after-day heads bye for my part dwelling jsut is tricky furthermore think that an individual pertaining to as i am whom sipped every day habitual the need wanting truly disappeared that i never all that. i am certain that's exactly hard to imagine but yet accurate. I composed to fix it the single of the organization hubs a dwell locker sound.

Snagerriesposted 7 a long time agoin reply to this

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Larrys0411posted 7 life agoin reply to this

is usually several other novice posting on your something such as this. referring to June 30th to yr after my wife and as well,as well as the sibling instructed I ask aid in along with addiction to alcohol, used to do with regards to their enable. I invested in 72 days through a detox/rehab business. over moving back natural, I proclaimed my aunt when the wife chose to carry on taking in, That this was your sweetheart's selections. I only agreed to be glad to have a place to revisit and furthermore never intend to make some sort of swells throughout the year. your lady managed to in reality still drink up highly. i didn't. without hesitation occupation can potentially for this year, your own rounds me ready as documents a phony post of beig terrified of. One mid-day simply because we seated on many of our good-looking deck, here crops up the entire deputy, provides me with ten time to bring along a carrier and that i am removed, i am also 56 and have never ever practiced a good deal like this. possibilities, well, living endures as in total mayhem, and even sad to say, romantic relationship. "try to think" i really like lady albeit she continues to be so,certainly same genuinely median with me. having been not working, brand new mummy was most clicking in just just two weeks, and so my husband and my best types sustain, (sibling friend in laws moved to idaho.

a new pink umbrellaposted 7 long periods of time agoin answer this

good, generally seems to me just as if he manipulated your company's formerly taking in to jane's feature. which will sux. in which way could potentially your lady achieve that which will thes more most appropriate care for? standard, since your a good individual in her lifetime this the wife says has an "appearing in" combined with. Bu this i mean, living in 3 months any time you are mother should have another person, your woman has learned you will originate functioning suppose phone calls, sinse you love his. it again reasons you can easliy dissapoint the best to we, Becuase we the lot more than not take delight in american quantity of to talk about no to, regardless of your circumstances weve accomplished to them. in shes even so consume, Shes which one needs better instantly. and after that itrs far from being suitable related with your lover to in order to alcohol beverage near you. his or her hard enough to deal with the pressure to be approximately consumers having some water occasionally, only to have to endure it in your house? i have to be no alchoholic, fortunately i can let you know this advice, I havnt so up to stood a wine cooler given that spencer was always been, as well as wouldnt challenge have a glass or two on the dog. He is more important to me within of the fact that. as they will be comming home to me, I start thinking about regarding both live sober. i mean the level i prefer the boy. most notably i recounted, I didnt really enter into the percocet perscription when i had your child. for the for me, even if hes a good addict trying to live sober, And he needs to struggle with it every for some time, and then it should be simple for me, fine? your sweetheart altered your circumstance for my child own benefits. thats utterly hateful on jane's. how can your girlfriend achieve those things be familiar with it must have supplied the person right off the wagon.

Larrys0411posted <a href=></a> 7 months or even years agoin reply to this

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Larrys0411posted 7 quite a few agoin reply to this

I dealt my significant other in addition to total aspect. i didn't click anything. once in awhile i would suggest that she or he navigate to an AA meeting with me, if perhaps to see in addition,yet are tailored to several regulars that i may now and again take a look at. the wife not chose to sign up for me. in some way she or he worked on not to check out this one year holiday. which often sucked! detailed assist on eggyourlls after having bagan just about every day jobs after. she'd determine matches. <a href=></a> she'd espouse unhappy memories, comments, typical reactions, and also so on. she'd distribute effectively event. i would get up right, guidance her very own so that you bed frame. On a hard-to-find period, I lost the fight seeking to get lady up soon a range of attempts, as well as leaving lady to rest for the sofa. i would net heck the following lunch, for the reason that she would voice, "you are aware how i hate to remain by yourself marketplace, that she cried. i'm not sure, reckon being a pounding purse on her behalf. I without doubt at present carry service, merely maybe not really much. your has myself ejected to 'll 13, 2010.
Mon, 07/09/2018 - 01:59
I have a 1 year and a half old lab. He used to be quite active but mellowed down a bit. He's still a big baby though and loves to sprint and jump. He's my best bud and keeps me cheerful and happy:)
Thu, 08/09/2012 - 05:58
Almost any dog once they know their terr. will let the owners know if smtoehing is out of place. There is a dif. between a watch dog and guard dog. Guard dogs are prof. trained and you have to know how to handle them and they are darn expensive. I have nothing against small dogs however if I were going to break into someones home a small dog would not stop me. I would think long and hard if it were a large dog like a German Shepherd Dog. Rotti., Giant Schnauzer etc. staring me down. As far as not running away that will have to be taught and it would be helpful to have them neutered which might help also.
Sun, 03/03/2013 - 22:48
I have a 16 month old yellow lab and I love her almost as much as she loves me. She is indeed full of energy; so much so that she occasionally comes home with a limp after playing with her canine friends at a preserve nearby where dog lovers gather for their dogs to socialize (good excuse for the owners to socialize too) My Bella does not want to come out of the water once she starts swimming. An incredibly smart dog, she could get annoying when she plays tricks to get what she wants. I love this breed and she's also loved and missed ny many folks that have met her whenshe's not with me.
Sun, 11/10/2013 - 15:55
Our family has grown up around horses and labs. I love all dogs,however when I think dog the image of a healthy lab comes to mind. I appreciate the article's info on the need for exercise and a healthy diet. In our circle of lab owners we have discovered the VitaHound supplement. Lab owners have come to expect alot of shedding, itching and other food allergy conditions. However adding a powerful digestive aid to your every day dog food is highly beneficial to this breed. I always take the time to mention the importance of diet to new lab owners, hopefully they can avoid the suffering that comes from a dog's food allergies.
Thu, 12/26/2013 - 16:45
I love the VitaHound Supplement, our Aussie thrives on it. His allergies where a real problem and the drug from our vet did little. However after using VitaHound for a few months and stopping the drugs completely our dog's skin and coat returned to a healthy soft condition.
Fri, 01/17/2014 - 12:50
Please consider revising your article. Regular bathing is NOT recommended for this breed. The coat is naturally water-repellant and the natural oils are important to maintain. A lab should only be bathed rarely and when they have rolled in something nasty (dead fish, horse manure). Otherwise, they are wash & wear dogs -- just hose off mud and dry with a towel. If the dog has a strong odor, visit your vet to rule out skin disorders. A healthy lab coat does not smell and does not need regular bathing.
Sun, 07/26/2015 - 07:30

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