Once known as the “St John’s Dogs,” from its Newfoundland origins, the Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. Originating from Newfoundland, Canada, believed to have been selectively bred down from the much larger Newfoundland dog breed, the Labrador was trained to jump overboard into the icy waters of the region to drag fisherman’s nets ashore. Labradors were brought to England in the 1800’s by English ships coming from the British Isle of Labrador, where the dog’s fine retrieving instincts were honed and developed. One of the best family dogs and canine companions because of their gentle, loving disposition, the highly trainable Labrador also excels today in drug detection, as a guide for the blind, and service dog for the disabled. The breed is also an outstanding obedience and field trial competitor, and known to be tolerant of and gentle with small children.
There are two distinct types of Labradors, the English Labrador and the American Labrador. The English bred lab comes from English bred stock. Their general appearance is heavier, thicker and blockier than the American counterpart, owing to many referring to the English Labrador as “box head.” The American bred Lab comes from American bred stock tends to be more tall and lanky than its English counterpart.
The Labrador Retriever is a solid, muscular dog, slightly longer than tall, with a short, course, low maintenance, water-resistant double coat that does not have any waves, existing in solid black, yellow, or chocolate. There is also said to be a rare silver or gray color that is referred to by the AKC as a shade of chocolate, but this color is controversial and some claim it is a Weimariner cross, while others maintain it is a true mutation. The Labrador has a broad head, athick nose, ascissor bite and a pronounced stop. Its muzzle is fairly wide and its neck is thick and powerful. The eyes are black, chestnut or hazel with a markedly intelligent expression. Ears are medium sized and pendant The otter tail is strong near the body, then tapers, and normally exists completely covered with hair. Its limbs have good bone structure, and the webbed feet aid in swimming.
The Labrador Retriever is known overwhelmingly as a loving, affectionate, playful, patient dog, highly intelligent, loyal, and good spirited dog, making them remarkable pets and working dogs. Lively and good-natured, they love to play, especially in water, as swimming is their passion. They have an excellent, consistent, temperament and are friendly, superb with children and amiable with other dogs. They crave human attention, long to feel as though they are part of the family, and are easily trained. Some may be reserved with strangers, but this is typically easily avoided is aptly socialized with people as puppies.
Labs are watchdogs, not guard dogs, although a select few have shown a tendency to guard. They are prone to destructive behavior if left too much to their own devices, especially when they are young. It is important to train Labradors early not to pull on the leash, as they have very strong necks.
Dog show lines of Labradors are generally heavier and less spirited field lines. Field lines tend to be very energetic and high strung. The ideal Labrador pets tend to be combined with both field and show lines. This breed is very popular. If you are planning to show, buy only from a reputable breeder, as popular breeds to be prone to unethical or in-breeding.
Some of the Labrador’s exceptional talents include hunting, tracking, retrieving, police work, narcotics detection, guide for the blind, service dog for the disabled, search and rescue, sledding, carting, agility, and competitive obedience.
Size characteristics are as follows:
Height: Dogs 22-24 inches (56-61cm.) Bitches 21-23 inches (53-58cm.)
Weight: Dogs 60-75 pounds (27-34kg.) Bitches 55-70 pounds (25-32kg.)
However, some males can grow to 100 pounds (45kg) or more.
Labradors are prone to hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, bloat, and dilative cardiomyopathy. If in the market for a Labrador Retriever puppy, it is a good idea to ask the breeder for documentation of pre-breeding screening for these diseases for the sire and bitch.
Labrador Retrievers will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised on a daily to multi-daily basis. They are moderately active indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard.
Labrador Retrievers are energetic dogs, delighted to work and play hard. They need to be taken on a daily, brisk, long walk, jog or run alongside you when you bicycle. However, it is important not to engage in prolonged activity when the weather is excessively hot, as heat stroke and ensue (remember that they were descended from a region with a very cold climate and are this prone to overheating) Labs have hardy appetites and need regular exercise and controlled rations to avoid a tendency to become overweight.
Life expectancy for the Labrador Retriever averages 10-12 years of age.
Roger L. Welton, DVM
Founder and Chief Editor, Web-DVM.net
President, Maybeck Animal Hospital
Article updated 11/12/2012