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 (varying from cream to gold or almost red), 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. 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.
The Labrador Retriever has a shoulder height of 21-25 in and weighs 55-80 lbs. It has emotional brown or hazel eyes, a large nose, moderate stop (point at which the muzzle meets the forehead) and straight, thick tail similar in appearance to an Otter’s. Although not classified separately, the English and American lines have separate lineage. English Labradors tend to be heavier and blockier than the American Labradors which are usually tall and lanky.
The Labrador Retriever has a short, thick, dense, weather-resistant coat which can be black, yellow (varying from white to gold or almost red) or chocolate brown. The color referred to as silver is actually considered chocolate and charcoal is considered to be black. A small white marking on the chest is permissible. It is possible for all colors of Labrador Retriever to appear in the same litter.
The Labrador Retriever is unusually adaptable, obedient, and kind-hearted. No wonder it’s so popular! Labs are sociable, affectionate, and loyal. They have a very keen sense of smell. Most Labrador Retrievers are athletic and puppies are particularly active.
The Labrador Retriever has a mellow personality and gets along well with children, other dogs, and any household pets. Some Labrador Retrievers may chew, but they can be trained not to. Labradors do not make great watchdogs because they are friendly with strangers and are not territorial.
The Labrador Retriever must be brushed once a week, twice when shedding. Like other large breeds, it is susceptible to hip dysplasia and elbow dysplasia. Some Labs are prone to PRA (an eye disorder) or ear infections. Ever the food connoisseurs, Labradors are prone to obesity, so don’t let their charming personality connive you out of maintaining a healthy diet for them. Labrador Retrievers have a lifespan of 10-12 years. They can live outdoors in warm weather, but prefer indoor life with the family. Their high intelligence makes them adept at staging elaborate escapes, so proper precautions should be taken.
The Labrador Retriever learns very quickly and loves to work for its handler. Leash training is recommended when young. The Labrador Retriever is capable of learning a wide variety of dog sports including Frisbee and Flyball.
Labrador Retrievers need plenty of exercise. They enjoy long walks and are especially fond of field sports, fetch, and water games.