Labrador retrievers are athletic, medium-sized dogs. Prized for their agility and intelligence, these dogs are the most popular dogs in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to registration statistics provided by the American Kennel Club and the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom. Despite their popularity, labs are not for everyone, making it ideal to learn more about the breed and meet any individual dog you are considering adopting.
Labrador retrievers are close relatives to the Newfoundland dog. Both are from the St. John's water dog of the province of Newfoundland, Canada. Settlers of the area were primarily a mix of Irish, English and Portuguese descent, making it likely that dogs from these areas formed the St. John's water dog, and subsequently, the Labrador retriever. The first written description of labs appeared in 1814, in an account written by Col. Peter Hawker in the book "Instructions to Young Sportsmen." The first registration of the breed occurred in 1903 with the Kennel Club of the United Kingdom, followed in 1917 by the American Kennel Club.
Labradors are separated into two types: English labs and American labs. English labs are larger and stockier than their American counterparts. American labs possess a thick, straight double coat, whereas English labs have a wavier coat prone to curling. Labradors come in yellow, chocolate and black. Labradors are often said to have an "otter tail," denoting a thick, wide tail that easily cuts through water. Expressive eyes appear in brown, hazel, green and greenish-yellow. Labradors weigh between 55 and 75 pounds as adults, but some males may grow to 100 pounds or more.
Labradors are kind and eager to please, according to the American Kennel Club's breed standard. Labradors have a reputation for loyalty and lively activity. Most Labradors love to swim, but this does not apply to every dog, as individual preferences and life experiences may temper a love of water. Extremely intelligent and adaptable, the majority of Labradors are not aggressive towards other animals or humans, but again, life experiences may change this trait.
Labradors are prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, an abnormality of the joint, joint muscles and connective tissues. Knee problems, including luxating patella, where the legs become bow shaped, are also common among Labradors. Some dogs may be prone to eye problems, including cataracts and progressive retinal atrophy, where vision loss ultimately ends in blindness. Deafness, hereditary myopathy, autoimmune diseases and exercise-induced collapse are also possible, but rare.
Labradors are active dogs and need to be exercised on a daily basis. Obesity is common among them, due in part to a lack of adequate exercise and a love of treats. Bred as working dogs, labs are prone to destructiveness if left to boredom, and work best when they have a job to do. Labradors do not require extensive grooming, as their coats are easily brushed. Labradors are average shedders and should only be bathed when necessary to avoid dry skin. They typically live between 10 and 12 years.
- American Kennel Club: Labrador Retrievers
- United Kingdom Kennel Club: Registration Statistics
- "Labrador Retrievers for Dummies"; Joel Walton, Eve Adamson; 2009
- "The Labrador Retriever Handbook"; Audrey Pavia; 2000
- "The Essential Labrador Retriever"; Ian Dunbar; 1998
- Black Labrador Retriever image by crazy.nataly from Fotolia.com