Breed of the Week - Labrador Retriever

There is a reason why the Labrador Retriever is the most popular AKC registered dog year after year. Versatile Labrador Retrievers are all around family and working dogs– all with a “wash-n-go” coat!

Interestingly, the Labrador Retriever does not hail from Labrador at all but is thought to have originated in Newfoundland. Smaller versions of what would later become the Newfoundland breed were used to assist fisherman by pulling nets from the water. These dogs were brought back to England and crossed with setters, spaniels and other retrievers to be used for duck hunting.

The breed was recognized by the Kennel Club (England) in 1903 and the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1917 as a member of the Sporting group.

According to the AKC breed standard male dogs should weigh 65 to 80 pounds and be 22½ to 24½ inches at the withers. Bitches should weigh 55 to 70 pounds and stand 21½ to 23½ inches. Field dogs, sometimes erroneously referred to as “American” style Labs (as opposed to so-called “English” types that confirm to the breed standard), tend to be taller and leaner.

Labs are loyal, affectionate, good tempered and devoted family dogs. Young labs are strong and full of energy and require consistent training. Labs do well with training due to a deep seated desire to please their master, so praise is a very effective reward for a job well-done. In just a few years that wild and crazy Lab will be happily resting at your feet, but still ready to rise at a moment’s notice for any activity in which you’d like to participate.

I am lucky enough to have been owned by a member of this breed for many years until his death at age 15. Big Ben shared my son’s bed, was best friends with a cat and his greatest joy was chasing rabbits through the cornfield. He was a loyal protector and valued family member and I highly recommend this breed for anyone who is able to live the active lifestyle it craves.

Are there any activities that Labradors do not excel at? Obedience, Agility, Search and Rescue, Narcotic and Explosive detection, dock dogs, field trials, Canine assistance and hunting are just a few things that they are capable of.

This breed LOVES to swim! My Ben would happily jump in any water no matter how murky or algae covered. They also love to retrieve and require daily physical challenges to keep healthy both physically and mentally. These active, social dogs love to move so finding an appropriate activity is not a problem. They will happily retrieve Frisbees or balls for as long as you will throw them.

Labs have a short double coat to shed water and keep the dog warm and dry while retrieving waterfowl. A weekly brushing will remove dead hair and stimulate coat growth.

Because of the Labs desire to fully explore the world it is important to keep the ears free from debris and ticks. Labrador ears fold over to protect the ear canal; however, this also prevents air from entering and drying after a swim or bath. This results in a warm, moist ear environment that is perfect for yeast and bacteria to grow.

Coat colors are black, chocolate (a liver color) and yellow. Yellow Labs can range from an almost white to a golden color.

Labs shed more than their short coat would appear to. Seasonally, large tuffs will fall off and gather in the corners and under your furniture. This, however, is a small price to pay for having one (or more) of these intelligent and loving dogs in your life.

Unfortunately, obesity is common in this breed so owners should monitor food intake for different activity levels to prevent the dog from becoming overweight. Overweight dogs are more susceptible to health problems. Limit snacks no matter how much those big, brown eyes plead!

Canine Hip Dysplasia (CHP) is a major health concern in many large breeds. If you are considering a Labrador Retriever puppy, ask the breeder if the puppy’s sire and dam have been tested for CHP, elbow dysplasia, patellar luxation or retinal dysplasia.

The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) and Canine Eye Registry Foundation (CERF) both contain registries as well as valuable information on health issues in Labrador Retrievers.