It has been long established that, based on ownership, Labrador Retrievers are the most popular breed of dog in such countries as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and have been the most widely and commonly owned breed of dog in the United States since 1991. But how much do you really know about your Labrador Retriever? Labs have very specific needs as pets, and it is essential to your dog’s health and livelihood that they be cared for properly. Let us examine a few basic facts and tips for understanding, raising, and training your Labrador Retriever.
Dog Group: Sporting Group
This group of dogs has a specific correlation to the European reference of hunting. Hunting dogs such as the Labrador Retriever in the Sporting Group are the dogs that descended from those bred by the wealthy classes, mainly in European countries, for the purpose of hunting bird and small game. Thus, dogs in the Sporting Group, such as Labrador Retrievers, are generally quite active and poised, always alert and watchful. These dogs’ energetic dispositions require them to have regular exercise and physical activity.
Class: Gun Dog
“Gun Dog” is the name given to dogs who were bred for hunting birds, small game, and waterfowl. These dogs are generally skilled swimmers and runners, perfectly equipped for a rigorous routine of hunting in areas of field and water. Retrievers are particularly suited for waterfowl hunting, able to remain calm and attentive inside a boat until sent to retrieve its mark.
Labrador Retrievers come in three common colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. Generally, Labs are medium-sized dogs with strong, capable bodies. Most commonly bred as working and hunting dogs, they maintain a sound build and muscular frame with broad backs and clean-cut, chiseled facial features. Their skulls are wide and they have proportionally prominent brows. Their eyes can be black, brown, hazel, and even yellow, and their teeth and jaws are strong and well-defined. The Labrador’s coat has a dense, short texture that makes the hair feel almost hard to the touch. These coats are weather-resistant, allowing the breed more freedom in outdoor settings, such as while hunting in wet conditions. Their tails are quite otter-like, having the same dense, stiff feel of the body hair. The feet of most Labrador Retrievers are small and strong, compact with thick, round pads and arched, webbed toes good for swimming, walking, and running in various terrains.
Undeniably one of the most renowned features of the Labrador Retriever is its wonderful personality. Labs are known for being very friendly and loyal animals, often driven by the desire to please its master and its openness and affection. This is a big part of the reason that Labs are so often used as service animals, specifically as seeing-eye, rescue, detection, and therapy dogs. They are outgoing with pleasant and friendly dispositions and in spite of their physical ability and strength, have the potential to be extremely gentle, even with the things that they instinctively love to carry in their mouths. The Labrador’s outgoing personality and easy acceptance of strangers, in addition to their quiet and non-territorial nature, makes them less ideal for such tasks as guarding. Labradors are famously good with children and the elderly and disabled, able to maintain rigor for the sake of being gentle.
Height and Weight
Labrador Retrievers are generally large dogs, healthy males weighing between sixty-four and ninety pounds and healthy females weighing between sixty and seventy-seven pounds. The height of male Labradors is usually between twenty-one and twenty-six inches, the female height usually between twenty and twenty-four inches. Labs have a tendency to become overweight and obese, though, and can weigh far upwards of a hundred pounds. All height and weight standards are approximate and vary from dog to dog.
Common Health and Behavioral Problems
Because their puppy-like energy does not level-out until they reach maturity at about three years of age, they are often considered hyperactive. Female Labradors tend to be more independent than males. Some common health problems among Labs are hip and knee problems, exercise induced collapse, eye problems, hereditary myopathy, and obesity.
Ideal Living Conditions
Because Labradors are such large, active animals, they really need a place big enough for them to run around outdoors, and something like an apartment lifestyle would not ideally suit a Labrador.
Labrador Retrievers are naturally athletic and intelligent, and thus need to have regular exercise, such as provided by a brisk, daily walk or a few hours spent outside playing (Labs famously obsess over “fetch”). In addition, your Lab needs the proper mental stimulation to keep them keen and happy, and they love to play hiding games. Because they are bred for hunting, Labradors enjoy games of spotting and retrieving.
Diet and Nutrition
Unfortunately, Labrador Retrievers will eat just about anything, whether it be edible or not, and they love to eat, taking every opportunity to do so in excess. It is therefore important to feed your dog balanced, healthy meals with the right vitamins and nutrients to keep their bodies functioning properly. Labs often run the risk of obesity, so be careful about how much and how often you feed your Labrador.
Labradors have comparatively long life spans, the average life expectancy of a Labrador Retriever being between twelve and thirteen years.
Because they have such thick, weather-resistant coats, Labradors require minimal grooming, and a daily to weekly brushing often is enough to keep them looking immaculate. Bathing your dog too much can dry out their skin, so it is best to only bathe your Lab when he or she is very dirty.
Best Training Methods
Labrador Retrievers are very quick learners and thus training a Labrador Retriever is generally quite easy. Training Labrador Retriever puppies is most effectively done with non-violent, positive reinforcement and reward training. The younger your Labrador is when you begin to train it, the easier it will be to train. Obedience training provides mental and physical stimulation for your Lab, and when they are being trained, they most often want to do their utmost to please you. Thus there is no need for harsh stimulus or negativity when training your Labrador Retriever. The biggest thing to keep in mind is that Labs are naturally playful and active, and in spite of the fact that they want to please you, they can unintentionally become frustrating during training routines, and it is important to remain patient and positive with your dog to ensure the success and timely ease of their training.
Despite their name, Labrador Retrievers have quite a peculiar origin, as they come from Newfoundland rather than Labrador. The area they originated from had a very high population of water dogs that when breeding with Newfoundlands made a prototype of the Labrador, named the St. John’s Water Dog. In the 1830s the British started importing these type of dogs, but it wasn’t until the Duke of Malmesbury referred to his dog as a Labrador that they became known by that name. Following this many Labradors started being bred with Retrievers resulting in the breed we now know as the Labrador Retriever.