Breed of the Month: Labrador Retriever

Description: There are two different types of Labradors; the English Labrador and the American Labrador. While they have their differences, the AKC doesn’t recognize them as two different breeds. The Labrador comes in three different colors, black, chocolate, and yellow. There also exists a silver Labrador but some purists do not consider this to be a forth color variation in the Labrador, rather a variation of the chocolate Labrador.

Their body is slightly longer than it is tall. On the broad skull sits the medium sized ears which hang down in a pennant shape. The Labrador has a thick and long otter tail that acts as a rudder when the dog is swimming. Eyes are brown or black in the black and yellow Labradors and brown, hazel, or green in chocolate Labradors. The nose is black in yellow and black labs and brown in chocolate labs.

History: The ancestors of the modern Labrador Retriever actually came from Newfoundland, not Labrador, in Canada, as the name implies, although some historians believe the dog actually originated in Portugal. It is believed that various small water dogs were bred with the Newfoundland which led to the breed St. Johns Water dog; the predecessor to the modern Labrador Retriever.

The St. Johns water dog was a water dog that was used to pull in fishing lines and hunt during the work day and loved spending time playing with it owners and the children in the evening, common traits in todays Labrador.

In the 1880’s the introduction of sheep ranching along with heavy taxes and licensing fees on male dogs started the decline of the breed. Also in 1895 Britain banned the import of dogs, which also effected the numbers of the breed. The St. Johns Water dog eventually became extinct around 1930.

It is said that in 1830 the Earl of Malmesbury saw a St. Johns Water dog working on a ship in Newfoundland and made arrangements to have several of the dogs sent to his estate in England. The Earl of Malmesbury bred these dogs to become excellent duck hunting dogs. Along with the 5th and 6th Dukes of Buccleuch, the Earl of Malmesbury was instrumental in the development of the modern Labrador Retriever.

In 1903 the Labrador Retriever was recognized by the English Kennel Club and was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1917.

Size: Males: 22–24 inches at the withers, weighing 60-75 pounds. Females: 21–23 inches at the withers, weighing 55–70 pounds. Some males can grow to be 100 pounds or more.

Temperament: In my opinion, the Labrador is a great, well rounded dog that is good at many things. Its an exceptional waterfowl retrieving dog, easy to train, can excel in agility competitions, is patient and loving of children and other animals, and is very submissive and loyal. The Labrador is an excellent family dog which is eager to please and loves showing affection.

While English Labradors mature sooner than American Labradors, Labradors will start losing some of that excessive puppy-like energy around the age of three.

Since this breed is very obedient, even tempered, and easy to train, Labrador Retrievers are popular service animals. Labradors have a high intelligence and are rated the 7th smartest dog according to Stanley Coren’s ‘The Intelligence of Dogs.’

This breed makes for a good watchdog as they are known to bark at things unseen or unheard by their owners. While they will occasionally ‘alarm bark’, the Labrador isn’t known to bark excessively like other breeds. As this breed is very friendly and welcoming of most strangers, a Labrador guard dog is extremely uncommon.

Grooming: The Labrador is relatively easy to groom. This dog requires regular brushing and bathing when necessary. While some Labradors can shed a lot, they are mostly average shedders.  Most Labradors shed biannually while some shed throughout the year.

Health: One of the most common health concerns among Labradors is obesity. Labradors have a big appetite and have a propensity to eat quickly and can eat several meals, if given the chance. Owners of obese Labs often succumb to their four-legged friend’s begging and reward them with tasty treats. Labradors enjoy the exercise that they need to stay health. Always consult a veterinarian about how much you should feed your dog.

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited disease which compromises a dogs vision. The vision of a dog with PRA eventually progresses to blindness or near blindness and can affect one or both eyes and to different degrees.

Labradors are also susceptible to hip dysplasia, bloat, and pateller luxation, which is also known as kneecap dislocation.

Lifespan: 10 to 13 or more years.


Famous in Fiction, Television, Movies, and Literature:

‘Marley and Me’ was a best selling novel written by John Grogen about a true-to-life-story and the thirteen years with his family and his dog Marley.

The white Labrador, Brian Griffon, is the talking family dog on the animated television sitcom, Family Guy.

Other famous Labradors:

Widgeon is Prince William’s black Labrador. Buddy and Seamus were President Bill Clinton’s Labrador Retrievers.