The faithful Labrador Retriever truly lives up to the moniker of Man's Best Friend. This sturdy breed was originally developed to retrieve waterfowl and participate in hunting upland game. The breed's name is a bit of a misnomer, having more likely originated from the Newfoundland breeds that later found their way to England and were crossbred with other retrievers of the time.
Description of the Labrador Retriever
According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, the average Lab weighs in around 70 pounds, which makes it quite solid for a medium-sized dog of 23 inches height on average. The breed's tails are also very recognizable for their "otter-like" appearance.
Labs come in three recognized colors:
- Solid Black, with a small amount of white permissible on the chest
- Yellow, perhaps the most popular color
- Chocolate, a rich reddish brown
The Labrador Retriever is highly valued for it's easy, outgoing nature. Stability is the hallmark of the Labrador personality, and these dogs make wonderful family pets that get along well with most other dogs and creatures as well. Labradors love to please their owners and require a lot of affectionate attention, which they are only too willing to return in kind. However, a Labrador is all business when it's time to go to work.
Labrador Retrievers are excellent candidates for all types of training and only require consistency to bring out their best efforts. They have long been prized for their abilities in the field as game dogs, and they also do extremely well in obedience and the sport of agility.
Their gentle intelligence also makes these dogs very good candidates for search and rescue work, as well as guide and therapy dogs.
Except for their heavy weight, Labradors have simple grooming needs. Their coat is short, so it stays much cleaner than longer coated breeds. A monthly bath should suffice. Some shedding should be expected, but brushing with a bristle brush will remove a lot of the loose hair. This can be carried out whenever you want to spend some quiet bonding time with your canine companion.
Be sure to keep an eye on nail length and trim if necessary. Also, because the ear flaps hang downward, be sure to check the ears each week for dirt and possible signs of infection indicated by redness and a foul smell. You may choose to clean these yourself with a cotton swab or leave it to your veterinary professional.
A well-bred Labrador Retriever has a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years on average. Unfortunately, this breed, like many others, is prone to some hereditary diseases that can significantly lower the quality of your pet's life. Responsible breeders screen for the following diseases in order to try to eliminate them from their breeding stock.
- Canine dysplasia - A painful, degenerative disease of the hip and elbow joints
- Retinal Dysplasia - An eye disease that produces folds in the retina
- Renal Dysplasia - A disease that causes abnormal development of the kidney
- Gastric Torsion, aka Bloat - A condition that produces twisting of the stomach; often fatal
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy - A disease that causes blindness
- Canine Cataracts - A condition that causes clouding of the eye lens and blurry vision
- Exercise Induced Collapse - A condition that causes a dog to collapse after moderate to heavy exercise
It follows that you should always ask for a written health guarantee on any pet you purchase.
Learning More About Labs
If you think you might want to add a Labrador Retriever to your family, you'll want to learn more about the breed and find a reputable breeder. The American Kennel Club and The Labrador Retriever Club both offer detailed information on how to find registered litters of puppies. The Labrador Retriever Club even provides information on picking a puppy and the fallacies of designer breeds. The more educated you are before you add a dog to your family, the better prepared you'll be for the joys and pains of dog ownership.