Breed of the Month: Labrador Retriever

Alexis O.
Managing Editor

One of America’s favorite companions, the lovable Labrador retriever has risen to the number one ranked breed in the United States and other countries as well. Its outstanding disposition, along with its ability to aid those in need, creates a bond unlike any other human-animal bond ever experienced. The breed is classified under the Sporting Group according to the AKC (American Kennel Club) and comes in three distinct colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. The Labrador retriever is very popular in duck-hunting or hunting in general, but it also serves as a common seeing-eye dog, a dog who aids in disabilities, and much more.
Many features characterize the Labrador retriever. Labs almost always have hazel or brolab retriever 1 AOwn eyes, with some (un-AKC registered) “silver labs” having grayish-blue eyes (almost resembling a more stout, compact Weimaraner). Black labs are almost always purely black but can occasionally possess a white mark on their chest or a few white hairs intertwined in their sleek black coat. Chocolate labs are usually light to dark brown in color with either a brown nose/eye rims or black nose/eye rims depending on the genes they carry. Yellow labs can vary from light cream colored to fox-red in color and everything in between. Yellow labs can also have a lighter brown nose/eye rims or a black nose/eye rims depending on their genes. This breed of dogs has webbed feet, making them excellent swimmers, and their love for the water makes it difficult for one to encounter any lake or pool without ending up with a soaking wet mass of fur. Labs typically have medium sized, strong legs, and their tail is sometimes referred to as an “otter” tail (thicker at the base and gradually thinning out toward the end). Labs have a heavy-duty double coat. They do shed a lot, but their coat is designed to keep them warm and help them dry quickly once they exit the water. This dog’s bark is definitely as big as its bite, but any aggressive tendencies are extremely uncommon. They have very strong jaws and a full set of strong teeth but only really use them to chew on their beloved bones. Labs have wide, rather large heads that are strong with a medium length snout and medium sized jowls.
The Labrador retriever, which ranges in size from about 50-85 pounds and is about as tall as a grown man’s thigh, first originated in the St. Johns region of Newfoundland, Canada. Not to be confused with a Newfoundland (which is a different, larger breed of dog) people called the Labrador “small water dog.” Later, around the early 1800s, the Labrador was discovered in Great Britain where the English fine-tuned the breed to create the perfect bird dog (gun dog). Today, the breed is most widely used as just a family companion, but sometimes labs are common is assistance (diabetes, autism, blind, deaf), field trials, and hunting.The reason labs are such wonderful assistance dogs is because they are so tolerant of all kinds of people and so eager to please. They also are very quick learners. For field trials and hunting, labs love running long distances and chasing game that their master shoots. Naturally, this all-around “perfect” breed is very easy to train and is eager to please its master. Basic commands like “sit,” “stay,” “come,” “lie down,” and many more can be taught in a matter of days. This is a very intelligent breed with the will to work and please others.
Labrador retrievers typically get along superbly with children. Even small children are safe with these gentle giants, and the only harm a person is likely to receive is an attack of licks. Labs are very tolerant of young children poking and prodding at them and even climbing on their backs like they are riding a horse. Labs get along very well with other dogs as well. Senior Andrew Lenhart says, “I have a Chocolate Lab and a Basset Hound, and they both get along very well. They are basically best friends.” Very few ever show aggression and are typically very docile and sweet. However, every dog should be viewed as an individual, so breed standards may not always be prevalent in every single dog.
This hardy breed has a life expectancy of about 12-13 years. They are large and prone to hip dysplasia (ball detached from socket), bloat (stomach twists itself), and hereditary cataracts. “My black lab is 12 years old and has hip dysplasia. He still gets around okay, but he has to be on pain medication,” says senior Tyler Raridon.
This breed will do fine in apartment living and generally does not need too much space to run around, but a fenced-in yard is always ideal. Basically, this breed is happiest wherever its owner is. Labrador retrievers usually thrive in cold climates, absolutely love water, and will joyfully bounce around in the snow. Along with Saint Bernards, Labrador retrievers are known for search and rescue work in colder climates because they can withstand the freezing temperatures well (due to their double coat).
In all, there is no question why the Labrador retriever is one of the most popular domestic breeds of dog in the world. They fit in well with almost any family and love their master just as much as their master loves them. Their undeniable affection and endless energy make them a wonderful addition to any household.

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