The Labrador Retriever (“Labrador” or “Lab” for short), is one of several kinds of retriever and is the most popular breed of dog (by registered ownership) in the United States, United Kingdom, and New Zealand.
Labrador Retrievers are exceptionally friendly, intelligent, energetic and good natured. Labradors, therefore, make excellent companions and working dogs.
Labs respond well to praise and positive attention and are also known to enjoy the water, since historically, they were selectively bred for retrieving in water environments as ‘gun dogs’ and as companions in duck hunting.
Appearance of the Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retrievers or Labradors are relatively large with males typically weighing 27 to 36 kg (60 to 80 lb) and females 23 to 32 kg (45 to 70 lb). Coats are short and smooth and can be coloured black, yellow, or chocolate.
Puppies of all colours can potentially occur in the same litter. The majority of the characteristics of this breed with the exception of colour are the result of breeding to produce a working retriever.
English and the American lines of Labradors differ. English Labs are a medium size dog, shorter and stockier with fuller faces and a slightly calmer nature than their American counterparts, which are bred as a larger lighter-built dog.
Labrador Retrievers also tend to shed hair regularly throughout the year. Labrador hair is usually fairly short and straight, and the tail quite broad and strong. The otter-like tail and webbed toes of the Labrador make them excellent swimmers. Their interwoven coat is also relatively waterproof, providing more assistance for swimming. The tail acts as a rudder for changing directions.
Many people unfamiliar with retrievers find that the Labrador Retriever is quite similar to the Golden Retriever in size, general shape, and general colour, especially when young and especially to Golden Retrievers with lighter coats.
In addition, their personalities are also quite similar, with both breeds being intelligent, friendly, receptive to praise and easy to train. The most obvious difference is the short straight coat of the Labrador Retriever (the Golden has long wavy fur) and the Lab’s thick, otter-like tail compared to the Golden’s plumed tail.
Labrador Retriever Traits
Breed Group:Gun Dog
Weight:male: 30 to 36 kg, female: 25 to 32 kg
Height:male: 55.9 to 62 1/4cm, female: 54 1/2 to 60 cm
Color(s):black, yellow, chocolate
There are three recognised colours for labs: black (a solid black colour), yellow (anything from light cream to gold to fox-red), and chocolate (medium-dark brown).
Yellow Labradors have the greatest variation in shading of the three recognised colours; the so-called “golden” and “white” Labradors are more correctly described as shades of yellow.
A separate shade, so-called ‘silver’, is not recognised by any of the well-known Labrador breed standards and is often considered dubious.
Temperament of the Labrador Retriever
Good-tempered, very agile. Excellent nose, soft mouth; keen love of water. Adaptable, devoted companion. Intelligent, keen and biddable, with a strong will to please. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness. – UK Kennel Club standard
Labradors are a well-balanced and remarkably versatile breed, adaptable to a wide range of functions as well as making very good pets. As a rule, they are not excessively prone to territorialism, pining, insecurity, aggression, destructiveness, hypersensitivity, or other difficult traits which manifest in a variety of breeds.
As the name suggests, they are excellent retrievers. As an extension of this, they instinctively enjoy holding objects and even hands or arms in their mouths, which they can do with great gentleness. They are also known to have a very soft ‘feel’ to the mouth, as a result of being bred to retrieve game such as waterfowl.
They are prone to chewing objects (though they can easily be trained out of this behaviour). The Labrador Retriever’s coat repels water to some extent, thus facilitating the extensive use of the dog in waterfowl hunting.
Labradors have a reputation as a very mellow breed and an excellent family dog (including a good reputation with children of all ages), but some lines (particularly those that have continued to be bred specifically for their skills at working in the field rather than for their appearance) are particularly fast and athletic.
Their fun-loving boisterousness and lack of fear can result in mischief and may require training and firm handling at times to ensure it does not get out of hand.
Labradors mature at around three years of age. Before this time they can have a significant degree of puppyish energy, often mislabeled as being hyperactive. Labs often enjoy retrieving a ball endlessly and other forms of activity (such as dog agility or flyball).
Labs are very “food and fun” oriented, very trainable, and open-minded to new things, and thrive on human attention and interaction, of which they can never get enough.
Reflecting their retrieving bloodlines, almost every Lab loves playing in water or swimming.
Health and wellbeing of the Labrador Retriever
Labrador life expectancy is generally 12 to 13 years, and it is a healthy breed with relatively few major problems.
Labs are often overfed and are allowed to become overweight, due to their blatant enjoyment of treats, hearty appetites, and endearing behavior towards people. A healthy Lab should keep a very slight hourglass waist and be fit and lithe, rather than fat or heavy-set.
Excessive weight is strongly implicated as a risk factor in the later development of hip dysplasia and diabetes, and also can contribute to general reduced health when older. Arthritis is commonplace in older, overweight labs.
Although a generally healthy breed, notable issues related to health and wellbeing include:
Labs are somewhat prone to hip dysplasia (and possibly other forms, such as elbow dysplasia), especially the larger dogs, though not as much as some other breeds. Hip scores are recommended before breeding.
Labs are sometimes prone to ear infection because their floppy ears trap warm moist air. This is easy to control but needs regular checking to ensure that a problem is not building up unseen.
A healthy Lab ear should look clean and light pink (almost white) inside. Darker pink (or inflamed red), or brownish deposits, are a symptom of ear infection. The usual treatment of ear problems is regular cleaning daily or twice daily (being careful not to force dirt into the sensitive inner ear) and sometimes medication (ear drops) for major cases.
As a preventative measure, some owners clip the hair carefully around the ear and under the flap, to encourage better air flow.
A Labrador that undertakes significant swimming without building up can develop a swelling or apparent kink known as swimtail. This can be easily treated by a veterinary clinic and tail rest.
Labs also suffer from the risk of knee problems. A luxating patella is a common occurrence in the knee where the leg is often bow shaped.
Eye problems are also possible in some labs, particularly progressive retinal atrophy and retinal dysplasia. Dogs which are intended to be bred should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist.
Labradors are not especially renowned for escapology. They do not particularly jump high fences or dig, a,lthough some labs may climb or jump up for fun or to explore.
As a breed they are highly intelligent, and capable of intense single-mindedness and focus if their interest is caught. Therefore with the right conditions and stimuli, a bored lab could “turn into an escape artist par excellence.”
It is also worth noting that Labradors as a breed are curious, exploratory and love company, following both people and interesting scents for food, attention and novelty value. In this way, they can often “vanish” or otherwise become separated from their owners with little fanfare.
Labs are also popular dogs if found. Because of this it is good practice that Labradors are microchipped, with the owners name and address also on their collar and tags.
History of the Labrador Retriever
The Labrador is believed to have originated on the island of Newfoundland, now part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. The breed is not indigenous to the Newfoundland area nor is there evidence they accompanied early Inuit settlers.
It is thought to have descended over time from the St. John’s Water Dog (no longer in existence), a crossbreed of native water dogs and the Newfoundland dog (to which the Labrador is closely related), through ad-hoc breedings by early settlers in the mid to late 15th century.
The name Labrador was given to this dog by the Earl of Malmesbury and other breeders in England in order to differentiate them from the Newfoundland dog. The Labrador Retriever was originally called the lesser Newfoundland or the St. John’s dog.
Many fishermen originally used the Lab to assist in bringing nets to shore; the dog would grab the floating corks on the ends of the nets and pull them to shore. They were brought to the Poole area of England, then the hub of the Newfoundland fishing trade, and became prized amongst the gentry as sporting dogs.
- 1 Appearance of the Labrador Retriever
- 2 Labrador Retriever Traits
- 3 Temperament of the Labrador Retriever
- 4 Health and wellbeing of the Labrador Retriever
- 5 Medical conditions
- 6 Exploration
- 7 History of the Labrador Retriever