About the Labrador Retriever
Disclaimer: I love dogs in general but the Labrador retriever is my breed of choice. So if some of this sounds a little bias it is because it is. I presently own a chocolate Labrador female and a male yellow Labrador.
The Labrador retriever is the most popular dog breed according to dog club registrations in the United State, Canada and United Kingdom for about two decades now (2011). Labrador retrievers are an incredible breed that can be trained to do almost anything. Originally bred to retrieve fishing nets around the east coast of Canada they have thick coats and web feet to help with these chores. Today Labradors or Labs are used for guide dogs, other assistance work, police work and function well in almost any dog sporting event. A most popular use of these dogs is for hunting and a newer breed of the Labrador has been developed in the US and is known as the American Field Lab. Labs are athletic, full of energy, protective while still being gentle around children making them a great family pet.
The Labrador retriever dogs come from Newfoundland an island off the coast of Canada. The Lab was bred from the St. John’s Water Dog a working breed of local origins. The St. John’s Water Dog was brought to England where it was used as a sporting or gun dog used mainly in bird hunting for retrieving. Due to taxation on dogs caused by sheep herders and rabies quarantine in England the breed gradually died out and the last two living specimens (two males) died in the 1980s making the breed extinct. Some of the Canadian Labradors still bear the distinctive white chest markings of the St. John’s Water dog showing the genetics of the breed still being passed through Lab breeding. The St. John’s Water Dog is also the ancestor of the Golden Retriever, Chesapeake Bay retriever, Flat Coated Retriever in addition to the Lab.
Labradors are larger dogs that will range from 60 to 90 pounds, maybe more if you don’t watch what they eat, for the males and a good 15 pounds less for females. There are two types of Labradors recognized by the American Kennel Club. The confirmation sometimes referred to as the “English” or “show” breed and the American Field Labrador. The English Labs are shorter and stockier with large broad heads while their Field Lab cousins are slim and taller being bred for hunting birds in the field and marshlands. The “English” standards are the recognized standards for the breed as far as the AKC is concerned and there is work being done to get the American Field Lab accepted as its own breed. The best the AKC has done is to open up the standards to accept taller measurements at the withers.
The coat of the Labrador is short and dense. The coat is slightly oily giving the Lab a water resistant characteristic for keeping them warm in the water and colder climates. Labs do shed as the fur grows to a certain length then a new hair comes in behind it. Normally Labs shed twice a year in cooler climates but in warmer climates they can shed all year round.
The tail is thick and described as “otter” like in order to help with swimming.
The color of the Labrador for show purposes can be one of three colors (black, yellow, and chocolate). The color comes about through genetics and colors of all three can be produced in the same litter. The dam is called factored for the colors and can be single, double or tri-factored. Because multiple genes determine the color characteristics of the dog there may be some color variations. In particular some dogs may have the white chest markings like the St. John’s Water Dog. Other color variations can produce what is called a “Dudley” coloration which is an unpigmented pink nose.
Choosing the Labrador as a Pet or Companion
The Labrador is one great dog for the family or as a helping partner. They love to please their owners no matter what the work type is. They are, in general, friendly and gentle although they can be very energetic and a little clumsy as puppies. A six month old Labrador puppy can already weigh 50 to 60 pounds and can cause some issues when working off some of that energy. Labs can be trained well and are very good protectors of their space. That’s all the good stuff: here’s the bad. Labs are a bit on the mischievous side and tend to get into trouble if allowed. Labrador puppies will eat anything so supervise at playtime. A Labrador can be very hard headed, stubborn and very intense when it comes to retrieving play. Of course these ‘bad’ traits are also why we love them so. That intensity in retrieving play is the same in the field retrieving game.