BREED PROFILE – Labrador Retrievers
Labrador retrievers (“labs”) are one of the most iconic dog breeds in the United States. We see them on posters, paintings, television, books, everywhere we look. They are well known as hunting and sporting dogs, workers and companions. Labradors have been one of the most popular dogs in the United States. Once you meet one of these friendly animals, it isn't hard to see why.
This breed is believed to have originated in Newfoundland, Canada as descendants of the Newfoundland breed. They started as working dogs, assisting fishermen with duties like retrieving nets from the ocean. When fishermen began taking the dogs with them to England, the breed became popular as a hunting dog as well, retrieving game birds as well as they retrieved nets. The breed eventually split into the American variety who returned to the United States and the stockier English variety remaining in Great Britain. The breed became increasingly popular as working and sporting dogs and have only recently become popular as pets and companions. They continue to be present in the canine workforce as service animals assisting the disabled and as search-and-rescue and law enforcement animals.
Labradors are found in three colors: black, yellow, and chocolate. This leads to the common names we often hear of “black lab,” “yellow lab,” and “chocolate lab.” The yellow or chocolate labs may vary in shade but should not have variations like brindle patterns within the shade. Labs are also known for their short, thick coat of dense fur. The coat has an outer coat and an undercoat that acts as a weatherproof barrier. Their paws are webbed, and their tails are long and “otter-like,” making them more maneuverable and faster swimmers. The lab's wide eyes and pendulous ears also give them a very endearing look.
Labs are very outgoing dogs and are very eager to please their owners. They are also very energetic so they should begin training as early as six or eight months to make them more manageable when they become 65-pound adults. Try starting with ten-minute sessions a couple times a day, as long as your puppy's attention doesn't wander continuously during the training and incorporate basic commands like “sit” and “stay” to make your puppy easy to control later. Start socializing with other dogs and animals early as well so your dog is used to interacting before he gets big and may cause problems in playing with others. Provide plenty of exercise to help them work off all their extra energy.
Health and Care Considerations
Exercise is also important in avoiding obesity, one of the leading causes of death in these sweet dogs. Labs naturally have more fat reserves than other breeds to help them lie in wait to help duck ducks for their owners. They are also big eaters and if their diet is not managed, they can become overweight easily and increase the possibility of conditions like hip dysplasia, diabetes and musculoskeletal disorders. Labs can also be vulnerable to eye disorders and injury as they wander and explore outside.
Labrador retrievers are not docile “lap dogs” by any stretch of the imagination. They are energetic and playful and can be a very welcome addition into an active household with plenty of time and devotion to spend on them. For the truly devoted, they can even be trained into service animals to be adopted out to a deserving individual in need of a companion. Many dogs are also turned away during the training to be a service animal and may be available for you to adopt into your own home. Contact your local rescues, veterinarians, or service animal organizations for information on these dogs and welcome a Labrador into your home.