- Group – Sporting
- Height – 21-24 inches at the shoulder
- Weight – 25-36 KG
- Life Span – 10-12 years
The Labrador Retriever is probably America’s favorite dog. He is playful (well into his adult years) and is often seen as a lifelong friend.
The Labrador’s ancestors date back to 17th century Canada. During the 18th century, the Canadian water dogs differentiated into what we now know as the Newfoundland, the Landseer, the Flat-Coated Retriever, the Chesapeake Bay Retriever and the Labrador Retriever. In the early 1800s, a number of travelers to Newfoundland reported seeing a variety of small black water dogs helping local fishermen haul in their nets. In 1822, one visitor noted: “The dogs are admirably trained as retrievers in fowling, and are otherwise useful… The smooth or short-haired dog is preferred because in frosty weather the long-haired kind become encumbered with ice on coming out of the water.” The second Earl of Malmesbury supposedly saw one of these water dogs on a fishing boat and arranged to have more of them imported to his English estate, where he established the first breeding kennel dedicated to perfecting them as gun dogs and retrievers.
Throughout the 1800s, Canadian fishermen found a profitable market and sold an increasing number of their fishing dogs to English gentry. In 1930, a noted British sportsman, Colonel Hawker, commented on the ordinary Newfoundland as being “very large, strong of limb, rough hair, and carrying his tail high.” He also remarked on the St. John’s breed of water dog – now known as the Labrador Retriever – as being “by far the best for any kind of shooting. He is generally black and no bigger than a pointer, very fine in legs, with short, smooth hair, and does not carry his tail so much curled as the other; is extremely quick running, swimming and fighting…and their sense of smell is hardly to be credited…” The breed was not originally called the Labrador in England. The origin of the modern name dates to a letter written in 1887 by the Earl of Malmesbury, in which he said: “We always call mine Labrador dogs, and I have kept the breed as pure as I could from first I had from Poole, at that time carrying on a brisk trade with Newfoundland. The real breed may be known by its close coat which turns the water off like oil and, above all, a tail like an otter.”
The Labrador eventually lost popularity in its native Newfoundland due to a heavy dog tax stemming from the Newfoundland Sheep Act. Late in the 19th century, strict British quarantine laws virtually stopped all importation of dogs into England. A period of nonselective cross-breeding with other retrievers ensued (the Curly-Coated Retriever, the Flat-Coated Retriever and the Tweed Water Spaniel have been most frequently mentioned). While the Labrador characteristics predominated, the offspring of those breedings became even more valuable than their predecessors, having a keener nose and an even more delightful disposition. Finally, breed fanciers wrote a standard for the Labrador. The studbook of the Duke of Buccleuch’s Labrador Retrievers identifies the pedigrees of the two dogs most responsible for the modern Lab: Peter of Faskally (owned by Mr. A. C. Butter) and Flapper (owned by Major Portal). Their pedigrees go back to 1878.
The Kennel Club (England) first recognized the Labrador Retriever as a separate breed in 1903. No Labrador can become a conformation champion in England unless he also has a working title establishing that he is fully qualified in the field. The American Kennel Club accepted its first Labrador for registration in 1917 – a Scottish bitch named Brocklehirst Nell. The Labrador Club of America, Inc., was formed in 1931 and is the parent club of the breed in this country. During the 1920s and 1930s, many dogs were imported to the United States from England, and many Scotsmen skilled in training retrievers immigrated to America as well. The American Labrador initially was bred primarily as a shooting dog, to be a strong competitor in retriever trials. Many fanciers eventually bred not only for retrieving excellence, but also for conformation, temperament and type, enabling them to show their field dogs in the conformation ring with great success.
The Labrador surged in popularity throughout the 20th and into the 21st century, and it became a global favorite among fanciers of many different disciplines. Today’s Labrador Retriever continues to excel in the field and on the bench, although increasingly there are two distinct types: the field type and the show type. The field type is more energetic and leaner than the shorter, stockier show Labrador. Labrador Retrievers are extremely popular family companions and also are one of the main breeds bred and used as guide dogs for the blind, service dogs for the otherwise disabled and for search-and-rescue work. They excel in field trials, hunting trials, tracking, obedience, rally and agility. Labradors also excel at drug and explosive detection
Personality and Temperament
Labrador Retrievers are obedient, sociable, and affectionate. Loyal dogs, they have a very playful nature ‘ even into adulthood.
This breed gets along well with children, other dogs, and most household pets. They are not considered to be great watch dogs, however.
Hair, Care and Grooming
It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat. A slight wave down the back is permissible. The Labrador Retriever requires weekly brushing, though twice weekly brushing is needed during times of shedding.
This breed is prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, and other eye disorders.
Training and Activity
Considered versatile, Labrador Retrievers can put up with a lot of training and generally respond well to behavior training. They are not excessively territorial or aggressive despite its large size and will often respond with all of the loyalty and obedience as you’re capable of giving. For people who aren’t interested in doing a lot of training on their dog, a Labrador Retriever makes an ideal dog because it will not always require a lot of work to keep it within the bounds of acceptable behavior. This isn’t to say that all Labrador Retrievers will respond this way, however.
The Labrador Retriever can easily adapt to the exercise level of your family, but actually needs a lot of exercise, including long walks and field sports.
Labrador Retrievers tend to be more active, larger dogs and consequently need a fair amount of food in comparison with many dogs. Without plenty of activity, it is common for people to overfeed a Labrador Retriever and this leads to seeing plenty of overweight Retrievers. But what exactly makes an adequate Retriever diet?
Although Labrador Retrievers are a larger breed of dog, it’s important to remember that they still should only get to around 80 pounds on the higher end for males and 70 pounds for the females. Many people are tempted to feed their Retriever like they’re another person in the home, but keep in mind that even an adult Retriever is typically just half the size of an average adult human.
Like with many dogs, meats are popular as well as vegetables and many types of all-purpose dog food can be considered suitable for Labrador Retrievers.