The Labrador Retriever. Learn all about this strong and gentle breed of dog.

Labrador Retriever
by Mona Gallagher

Strong and gentle are two words that come to mind in describing this breed. In truth, it's difficult to itemize and describe all the wonderful adaptive and versatile qualities of this breed; it is a truly amazing dog.

He's been described as a workaholic with the best temperament and friendliest disposition.

They are ranked as the number one most popular breed in the U.S. according to the number of AKC (American Kennel Club) registered owners. This comes as no surprise to owners and breeders who know and appreciate, the magnificent adaptable and resourceful qualities of the breed.

Ancestors to this dog breed were the "St. John's Dogs" of Newfoundland. Their first known job, as work dogs, was to jump into icy cold water and bring the fisherman's nets back to shore. The exact origins of St. John's dogs are not known, but Newfoundland was a center of trade for many years before the St. John's dogs were known to exist.

In the early 1800s, some of the smaller dogs were imported to England, where the dogs received further training, and their retriever skills developed and refined. These became the Labrador Retrievers that are commonly called Labs.

In 1903, the Retrievers were allowed into English kennel clubs. In 1917, the first Retrievers were admitted into the AKC.

Physical attributes:

  • In physical appearance, the English Labrador is described as heavier, thicker and stockier than the American Labrador bred dogs. The English Labrador is also said to have a calmer temperament.
  • The AKC and other kennel organizations judge the Labrador based on specific and standard criteria . Labs come in black, white, chocolate and silver colors. The colors are solid, but the chocolate and yellow have shade variations that range from dark to light. The silver or gray color is rare. Some people believe that black labs are the only true Labrador Retrievers since chocolate and yellow labs have the recessive genes.
  • Labs are muscular, strong and well-proportioned dogs that have otter tails and webbed feet. The height limits are 22 to 24 inches tall for males and 21 to 23 inches for females. Weight limits are 60 to 75 pounds for males and 55 to 70 pounds for females. Their coats are short, water resistant and are easy care. Baths are recommended only when needed.
  • Agility and movement of the Labrador Retriever is free and effortless and is an important asset in both field work and show competition. Labs are the embodiment of understated quality.
  • An important characteristic and hallmark of the Labrador is his temperament. This breed is known for having a calm demeanor and good temperament. Looking into the face of a Labrador Retriever, you see intelligence and patience in his eyes. He is a loving and loyal companion, adapting to his environment and lifestyle with relative ease. He is not aggressive in normal situations, but his love and loyalty to his owner makes, of him, a good watchdog. The Labrador has substance and soundness in his character.
  • In all his gentle and loving ways, the Labrador Retriever is still an outstanding competitor in field trials and in show competition. He loves to work. He's energetic. He works hard and plays hard and manages to keep a balance in temperament. He needs exercise to keep him fit.
  • He is easy to train and discipline. When employed as a service dog for the blind or disabled, the Labrador is reliable and loyal. He is an outstanding choice for police work and excels in drug detection.
  • Parents, who choose a dog for their child, know that the Labrador Retriever will love, protect and demonstrate great patience with their children. His fault? He requires some training and discipline. He can be destructive if left alone with his own ideas.
  • There are some major health concerns associated with lab ownership. Hip dysplasia can come from heredity factors or it sometimes occurs with the very fast growth of labs. Arthritic conditions frequently occur with hip dysplasia. Labs can reach almost adult weight within six to seven months. Diet control is necessary to make sure the Labrador Retriever receives the right amount of nutrients in line with his growth patterns and to keep his weight at a reasonable and healthy level. Labs like to eat and have a tendency to become overweight.
  • Eye problems, PRA (Progressive Retinal Atrophy), cataracts and epilepsy are some problems that come with dogs of this breed.
  • Potential buyers of Labrador puppies can avoid risks by purchasing puppies from only reputable breeders. Reputable breeders will have the necessary procedures done for the dogs and supply the data or test results to a buyer. This won't guarantee problem free dogs but will swing the odds in the owner's favor.
  • If you purchase a Labrador puppy, he needs to have food that is prepared for large breed puppies. This will help avoid joint problems and aid in diet control to keep his weight within acceptable limits.
Great temperament, body strength and agility are among the Lab's best attributes. He loves to work and works well as a work dog or as a show dog. He is best known and admired as a loving family dog.

Strength and grace come to mind as I consider his many outstanding qualities and attributes.