Labrador Retriever Description
The English Labradors are much heavier than the American versions. The Labrador Retriever is a well-proportioned dog that has a muscular build. It has a strong neck and a muzzle which is wide. There are three colors that are common with Labrador Retrievers, and these are yellow, black, and chocolate. A few of these dogs may also be silver in color, but this is not common. Their eyes will either be hazel or brown in color. The size for this breed ranges from medium to large. Labradors also have strong tails.
The Labrador Retriever originated from Canada and has become one of the most sought after breeds in the US. The breed was introduced to England in the 18th century, and it was further refined. They are revered for being one of the best family dogs in history. Labs are also used as guide and service dogs, and they have also been used to search for drugs.
One of the most consistently popular of sporting breed dogs for both sportsmen and families is the Labrador Retriever.
The Labrador is so popular with sportsmen because he combines so many of the best qualities of the various sporting dogs. The breed is fast in both water and on land. His short double coat offers little resistance in the water and is easy to care for and allows him to work in even icy conditions. The Labrador’s sense of smell supposedly ranks above all other breeds.
An odd thing about the Labrador is that he didn’t come from Labrador. He originated in Newfoundland and it is thought the fishermen in that area bred a now extinct breed, the St. John’s Newfoundland, to aid in shipwrecks, bringing in nets, hauling wood to the ships and other such activities. Descriptions of the St. John’s dog bear an extremely close resemblance to the modern day Labrador.
In the early 1800s an English sportsman by the name of Colonel Peter Hawker wrote a description of the breed he had observed in Newfoundland and it spoke of a “very quick and active in running, swimming or fishing.” He went on to tell of how the dog “had no equal in its sense of smell or its ability to search out wounded game.” Hawker’s description is even used in today’s standard for the Labrador.
The second Earl of Malmesbury brought the breed to England sometime around 1820 after he had seen them in action in Newfoundland. Importing several specimens he began his own breeding system using only those he had imported or their descendants and unlike many breeders of the time, kept his line pure. Over the following years, he and the third Earl of Malmesbury continued with their breeding program and it is from two dogs whose ancestries trace back to the Malmesbury stock that are credited with being the foundation of the modern Labrador Retriever.
It took until 1903 for the English Kennel Club to recognize the Labrador as a separate breed and another 13 years for the Labrador Club to be founded. The primary force behind the Labrador Club’s founding was Countess Lorna Howe who acted as secretary to the club. It is thanks to Countess Howe and her Banchory Kennels that the Labrador came to the United States.
Lady Howe had a close personal American friend named Frank Lord and he acquired many dogs from her that figured prominently in the Labrador’s start in American. One of these dogs was Banchory Trace whose son Boli of Blake became the first American Bench Champion.
Mr. Lord wasn’t the only one to acquire stock from the Banchory Kennels, early fanciers of the breed W. Averill Harriman of Arden Kennel fame as well as Mr. J.F. Carlisle became the cornerstones of the breed’s beginnings in the States.
The first Labrador registered in the AKC Stud book was a Scottish bitch named Brocklehirst Floss in 1917. The (American) Labrador Retriever Club was founded in 1931, held the first American field trials for retrievers during the same year and is responsible for setting down the standards of the breed.
When examining the standards for the Labrador Retriever, one will find it calls for a “strongly built, medium-sized, short coupled dog.” This dog should be of sound, athletic and well-balanced conformation with a short, dense, weather-resistant coat and an “Otter” tail.
Adult male Labradors stand between 22.5 and 24.5 inches at the withers and weigh 65 to 80 pounds. The female will be between 21.5 to 23.5 inches at the withers and 55 to 70 pounds.
As stated before, the dog should be short coupled with the length from point of shoulders to point of rump being equal or slightly longer than the height from ground to withers.
The skull is wide, with it and the foreface being on parallel planes and approximately the same length. The nose is wide and with well-developed nostrils. On blacks and yellow Labradors the nose should be black while the chocolates will have a brown one.
Jaws are strong with good teeth. Missing molars or pre-molars are considered a serious fault.
An important aspect of the Labrador is its eyes and expression. The eyes should be medium size and set well apart. Blacks and Yellows will have brown eyes; chocolates can have brown or hazel. The expression in these eyes should tell of a dog that is intelligent, kind, friendly and alert.
The neck needs to be long enough to allow the dog to retrieve game easily, muscular and with a slight arch.
The topline of the dog is level from withers to croup regardless of whether the dog is standing still or moving. The shoulders are well laid back, long and sloping back.
The front legs should show good, strong bone and be straight when viewed from the front while ending in feet that are strong and compact.
The hindquarters of the Labrador are broad, muscular and well developed. When viewed from the rear the hind legs are straight and parallel. The tail is a distinguishing trait in the Labrador. It is very thick at the base, tapering towards the tip, of medium length and covered all around by the Labrador’s short dense coat. When all of these are combined, it gives the tail its “Otter” look. One note about the tail, it should not reach below the hocks.
Another distinctive feature of the Labrador is its coat. The standard calls for a short, straight and very dense coat that feels fairly hard to the hand. The Labrador will also have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat.
The accepted colors in Labradors are Black (the most common), Yellow and Chocolate. A small patch of white will be allowed on the chest but isn’t desirable.
Blacks should be all black without any hint of brindle markings. Yellows can vary in color from a fox type of red to a light cream. Chocolate colored Labradors can be from light to dark chocolate but as with the blacks, no hint of brindle markings is allowed. Tan markings are also a disqualification in chocolates.
One of the crowing traits in the Labrador is its temperament. Overall, the breed is renowned for its easy-going, kind disposition. They are known world wide to be outgoing, eager to please and non-aggressive towards humans or other animals.
A large part of the Labrador’s continued popularity by sportsmen, families, drug enforcement agencies, search and rescue operations as well as assistance training for the blind, deaf and handicapped is due to this temperament. The good looks, hardiness and hunting abilities are just toppings on an overall, well rounded dog.
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The Labrador Retriever is a dog that is both affectionate and intelligent. They are loyal to their owners and work well with children. They are the very definition of what constitutes a great family dog. These dogs want to feel as if they are a part of the family. Their intelligence makes them a breed that is easy to train. While Labrador Retrievers aren’t known for being guard dogs, they make excellent watchdogs. These dogs will become destructive if they are left alone for extended periods of time. It is important to train them not to pull on the leash when they are puppies, as they will be difficult to handle when they get older.
Labrador Retrievers are known to suffer from PRA, elbow dysplasia, and eye problems. Labrador Retrievers have a maximum life span of 12 years.
Labrador Retrievers are dogs that have a lot of endurance. They enjoy working and playing, and owners will need to give them ample amounts of exercise. In addition to this, Labs have a very large appetite and must get large amounts of exercise so they don’t gain weight.
Special Grooming Needs
Labs are easy to groom. This is primarily due to their smooth double coat. You will want to brush their fur with a brush that has strong bristles. You should only bathe and shampoo them when they need it. These dogs shed a standard amount of hair.