The Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed in the United States, as well as in Finland, India, the United Kingdom and many other countries. A vigorous playmate, the Lab loves its family dearly and rarely picks a bone with anyone.
The breed’s intelligence and good nature make it easy to train. Labrador Retrievers excel in hunting, service work, explosive detection, and companionship. Is there anything the breed can’t do? Well, his sociable nature is no match for guard dog duty!
Where and how did Labrador Retrievers originate?
Although celebrated for their friendship with humans, the labs were developed to function. The breed’s predecessors helped Newfoundland anglers off the coast of the Labrador Sea. They worked diligently alongside their owners in freezing temperatures and freezing waters. The dogs helped bring in the nets and scoop up the fish that slipped off the lines.
Known for their athleticism and energy, early Labs wanted to play, even after long days at work. In the 1800s, Labrador Retrievers were brought to England and developed as hunting dogs. The dog’s task was to retrieve dead and injured game and deliver it to the hunter in good condition.
The Labrador as a working dog today
The Labrador’s soft mouth, swimming skills and water-resistant coat make it a popular breed with today’s hunters. Labs (especially those from field lines) will work all day, rinsing upland birds or retrieving downed waterfowl. But new jobs have popped up for the adaptable Labrador.
The breed excels in search and rescue, narcotics detection, as well as water and avalanche rescue. Our armed forces deploy many Labradors as explosive detection dogs.
Labs guide the visually impaired, provide assistance to children with autism, offer splint and mobility support, work as hearing dogs for the deaf, and serve as alert dogs for diabetics, to name a few of their service jobs. Of course, Labs also excel in sports, taking the podium in obedience, rallying, tracking, dock diving and field trials.
What to know about the life and training of a Labrador Retriever
Training a Labrador is relatively easy; he is smart and tender. But, especially as puppies, the enthusiastic Lab can be quite boisterous. Slow to mature, the Lab pup is not short-lived; families need to focus on channeling his energy.
Fortunately, the Lab enjoys activities of all kinds. Because he learns so quickly and is a carefree companion, the Lab is suitable for almost any dog lover, including first-time owners. He quickly absorbs commands, forgives easily and rarely dominates other animals. In fact, he’s usually the favorite at the dog park.
Labrador Retriever Statistics
- Lifetime: 10 to 12 years weight: 65 to 80 lbs (male); 55 to 70 lbs (female)
- Colors: Black, yellow and chocolate
- Coat: Short, dense, weatherproof and double coated
- Loss: Don’t let the short coat fool you — Labs shed
- Tail: The otter tail is a distinguishing feature of the breed. The rudder-like tail aids in swimming and balance. The powerful tail can also knock a lamp off a table with a single blow!
- Possible health problems: Joint problems such as hip or elbow dysplasia; a tendency towards obesity if left unmanaged
- Equipment: Sturdy, strong toys to withstand serious play in the lab
- Best for: Labs are a good choice for new dog owners because they are adaptable and trainable. They also usually don’t hold a grudge about the slip-ups of first-time owners.
- Race motto: A bad place to be is between me and the ball!
Meet Caeli, the Labrador Retriever
Caeli, a 5-year-old Labrador Retriever owned by Chuck and Emily Jones in Colorado, is a love at home and pure energy in the field. Raised in Yuma, Colorado, Caeli is descended from particularly athletic hunting lines. If potential Lab owners want a hardy, dynamic dog for hunting or sport as well as companionship, they will want to seek out breeders who develop bloodlines for field work.
Thumbnail: Photography ©4FR | Getty Images.
About the Author
Originally a lawyer, Lynn Hayner writes about dogs and the law, in no particular order. Lynn lives in Waco, Texas with her family, a rescued cat, and her German Shepherd dog, Anja.
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in Dogster magazine. Have you seen the new Dogster print magazine in stores? Or in the waiting room of your veterinarian’s office? Subscribe now to receive Dogster magazine directly at your doorstep!
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