The Labrador retriever is one of six retriever breeds recognized by the American Kennel Club as members of the sporting group. Easily trained, Labrador retrievers have traditionally been used as fishing and hunting dogs. Their skills have diversified to lend assistance as therapy and guide dogs, and they are also utilized in narcotics cases and in search and rescue missions. Due to their loyalty and playful energy, Labrador retrievers are also hailed among family pet favorites.
Physical CharacteristicsThe sturdy, medium-sized Labrador retriever was bred for the endurance and strength of fieldwork, with a square build, a fairly wide skull, strong jaws and long legs. Weighing an average of 55 to 75 pounds, he stands 22.5 to 24.5 inches tall at the shoulder. His otter-like tail is broad at the base, acting as a rudder during swimming, and his webbed feet are another trait that enhances his aquatic abilities. The earflaps are proportionately sized with the skull and hang down alongside the head.
Labrador retrievers are clad in double-coats, rendering the dogs virtually waterproof. The undercoat is thick and soft to protect the skin, and the outer coat is made up of guard hairs that water rolls over. His short, straight coat comes in three colors, which are black, yellow and chocolate.
The gentle, loving eyes of black and yellow Labrador retrievers are brown, and chocolate Labrador retrievers may have brown or hazel eyes. Black and yellow Labrador retrievers have black noses, while the nose of a chocolate Labrador matches his brown coat. Black Labrador retrievers are the most popular color choice, followed by the chocolate Labrador retriever.
TemperamentA Labrador retriever’s hunting instincts shine through in his activity level and in his quests to retrieve household items. Quick to learn and eager to please, training will go a long way toward controlling his exuberance when boisterous energy kicks in. His disposition is one of friendliness and a zest for life.
The outgoing nature of the Labrador retriever makes him endearing to everyone he meets, which will not make him an ideal choice for use as a guard dog. He is a devoted family member who gets along exceptionally well with other pets and children. The Labrador retriever takes a keen interest in all household activities and wants to be with his human family members whenever possible. He is as happy to participate in romps through the park as in taking an afternoon nap at his owner’s feet.
Care & GroomingLabrador retrievers require regular physical exercise on a daily basis. Their high energy level makes them excellent companions on hiking trails and campsites, and they remain valued assistants on fishing and hunting expeditions. Labrador retrievers will spend tireless sessions fetching a toy, and the water dogs need no coaxing to go for a swim.
Labrador retrievers are prone to becoming obese, especially if they lead sedentary lifestyles. In addition to daily exercise, it is important to avoid overfeeding. To maintain his hourglass shape, reward his loyal companionship with more interactive playtime instead of more treats. In addition to obesity, Labrador retrievers are at risk for hip and elbow dysplasia, ear infections, skin infections and sustaining torn cruciate ligaments in their knees.
The wash and go coat of a Labrador retriever needs little grooming. A quick, weekly combing with a slicker brush during the shedding season will remove dead hairs and retain his coat’s luster and shine. The water-repellant quality of his coat also provides a measure of soil-resistance. His ears should be inspected regularly, dried after swimming or bathing and kept clean to prevent ear infections. Dental care includes brushing his teeth at least three times weekly.
HistoryThe Labrador retriever hails from Newfoundland, off of the Atlantic coast of Canada. His distant relative is the larger Newfoundland dog, of which there were once two classifications. The larger of the two was the greater Newfoundland, who is known affectionately today as the Newfie. The other was the lesser Newfoundland, who was renamed the Labrador retriever when he was accepted into the British Kennel Club in 1903.
Labrador retrievers were valued companions of fishermen, assisting during the workday by hauling in filled fishing nets and retrieving fish that broke free from fishing lines. At the end of the day, the dogs switched roles to become playful and devoted members of the fishermen’s families. The water-loving dog subsequently proved his skills as an efficient retriever of waterfowl and game in the hunting fields.
The American Kennel Club first recognized the Labrador retriever in 1917. Over recent years, the family-friendly dog has consistently held his rightful place as the most popular breed in the United States, according to the American Kennel Club registration statistics.