The Labrador Retriever, or simply the Labrador or Lab as it is more commonly known, is consistently at the top of league tables for the most popular breed of dog in the UK (and most possibly the world), according to Kennel Club statistics. This is probably due to the breed's gentle yet outgoing temperament. Always eager to please and being extremely intelligent, the Labrador Retriever is also known to be one of the easier breeds to train.
Originally bred to retrieve game and fowl, the Labrador Retriever excels when asked to work in difficult and challenging terrains. They are more especially suited to work in and around water, thanks to their alertness and excellent water-resistant coat. The breed also excels at other activities which includes working as Guide and Assistant Dogs as well as making wonderful family pets, more especially for people with younger children because they are renowned the world over as being ultra-good around kids of all ages.
The Labrador Retriever, as the name suggests, was originally bred for a specific purpose - to retrieve game after it has been flushed and shot by the hunter in some of the most challenging environments. The breed originates from the coastal regions of Newfoundland where these dogs are thought to have been created by crossing St John's Water Dogs with other smaller breeds of water dogs and possibly Mastiffs, a breed introduced to the country by Portuguese fishermen in the 16th and 17th centuries.
Labrador Retrievers were first introduced into the UK in the late 1800's by the Earl of Malmsbury and Col Peter Hawker. Both men developed a keen interest in the breed and arranged for a selection of dogs to be bought to the UK. Many Chocolate Labradors are decendents of a Labrador Retriever called Buccleuch Avon, a dog that was gifted to the Duke of Buccleuch in Scotland in 1890 by the kennels owned by the Duke of Malmsbury. Another dog called Malmesbury Tramp owned by Countess Howe, is among the main ancestors of the modern Labrador Retrievers we see today.
Height at the withers: Males 56 - 61 cm, Females 56 - 61 cm
Average Weight: Males 29 - 36 kg, Females 25 - 32 kg
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium to large size dog that is broad and deep through the chest and ribs. They possess strong and compact webbed feet which are perfect for the hours Labrador Retrievers generally enjoy spending in water and marshlands. Their coats are thick, dense and extremely water-resistant perfect for the environments they were bred to work in and they boast otter-like tails.
The Labrador Retriever's coat is short and, unlike a Golden Retriever, has no feathering at all, while the tail, a defining characteristic of the breed, is powerful and rudder-like being thick at the base before tapering away at the tip. Labradors are primarily a solid yellow, black or liver/chocolate in colour. However, the yellow variety ranges from a light cream to a red 'fox' colour, sometimes displaying a white spot in the chest area.
Eyes are usually brown or hazel and medium in size with the majority of breeders claiming they express an even temper and intelligence the breed is renowned for.
Ears are pendant shaped and while not too large or heavy, they hang neatly and close to a dog's head. A Labrador's nose can vary in colour according to coat colour with yellow dogs typically displaying a black nose and a Chocolate Labrador having a lighter brown one. However, it is not uncommon for nose colours of any Labrador to fade as dogs mature and this is not considered a fault in the show ring.
Their wide muzzle contains a set of strong teeth with a bite which should meet with scissor-like precision, enabling a 'soft mouth' in the field capable of holding game firmly, yet gently without causing any damage to any animals or birds they are sent to retrieve.
Labradors are famous for their easy going yet playful and intelligent natures, typically displaying a temperament that is equally at home in the field, in the show ring or in a home environment or as an assistance dog. Rarely displaying aggression, this ease of nature makes them unsurpassable, not only as pets, but also as assistance and working dogs. They thrive in a home environment where they receive plenty of attention, training, exercise and mental stimulation. They also benefit from knowing their place in the "pack" and looking up to their owners as the alpha dog and for leadership.
Labrador Retrievers need quite a bit of care and attention, but they are one of the best choices for first-time dog owners because of their affectionate and loyal natures. However, as mentioned above, they like to know who is "boss" and are much happier when they can look to their owners for direction.
They also enjoy playing interactive games which keeps them mentally stimulated and reduces the risks of any boredom related unwanted behaviours from developing. Lighter weight types of this lovely breed also do very well at canine sporting activities like agility and Flyball. The great thing about Labs is they just love to please and will do their level best to get things right, not only because of the reward they might get, but because they enjoy pleasing the people they love so much.
Labrador Retrievers are generally very good around strangers and people they don't know which is all part of their "friendly" and approachable nature. They are also very adaptable characters and will settle quickly once they have been well exercised in most environments they find themselves in. It is possible to keep a Lab in an apartment as long as they are given plenty of daily exercise and not left cooped up for great lengths of time which could result in boredom setting in as well as a few unwanted behavioural issues.
Labrador Retrievers are renowned for their kind and willing natures which in short, means they are easy to train which is why they are such a popular choice of working dog. They excel at many canine sports and this includes obedience competitions. They are renowned guide dogs as well as hearing dogs with the added bonus being that Labrador Retrievers genuinely enjoy taking part in this type of activity.
The vast majority of Labradors instinctively like children and family life. They are tremendously loyal, loving and trustworthy dogs that make for consistently dependable companions and family pets. If well socialised from a young age as puppies, they get on extremely well with people of all ages as well as other animals. They are considered one of the best disposed and affable of dogs on the planet which is just one of the reasons they always figure high on the list of best family pet not only in the UK, but elsewhere in the world too.
The average life expectancy of a Labrador is 10 + years when properly cared for and fed an appropriate good quality diet to suit their ages.
Most Labradors are known to have hearty appetites and will overeat if an owner allows them to. Because of this, a dog may become overweight or obese all too easily, a dilemma that can affect their overall health and shorten their life span considerably. Obesity can lead to joint problems due to the additional weight a dog carries and all sorts of heart problems.
Labradors are prone to inheriting several forms of eye disorder which includes the following:
Other inherited disorders include the following:
As with any other breed, Labrador Retrievers need to be groomed on a regular basis to make sure their coats and skin are kept in tip-top condition. They benefit from being professionally groomed at least 3 times a year so their coats can be hand-stripped which makes keeping on top of things that much easier. They also need to be given regular daily exercise to make sure they remain fit and healthy. On top of this, Labrador Retrievers need to be fed good quality diet throughout their lives to ensure all their nutritional needs are met.
Having short, dense coats, Labrador Retrievers need to be groomed on a weekly basis for their coats and skin to remain in good condition and to keep shedding under control. This is especially true during the Spring and the Autumn when they tend to shed the most. These dogs also benefit for being regularly bathed during the warmer summer months being careful not to overdo things. It's also essential to use dog-specific shampoos when bathing a dog otherwise it would lead to upsetting the pH balance in a dog's skin which can lead to them developing painful skin irritations and allergies.
Labrador Retrievers are high energy dogs that need to be given the right amount of daily exercise to remain healthy and fit. Ideally this should be a minimum of 2 hours a day and this needs to include plenty of mental stimulation. If not given enough exercise, these dogs get very bored and they are more at risk of putting on far too much weight for their well-being, something Labrador Retrievers are prone to do if fed an incorrect diet and not given enough exercise.
Labradors are known to like their food and are prone to putting on weight if fed the incorrect amount of food to suit their ages and the amount of exercise they are given on a daily basis. As such owners have to carefully monitor their dog's weight and to limit the number of treats they are given as rewards during any training sessions. Labradors are not fussy eaters, but they do need to be fed a good quality diet that's rich in all the right nutrients to suit the different stages of their lives so they remain fit and healthy.
If you are looking to buy a Labrador Retriever, you would need to be prepared to pay anything from £350 to well over £1000 for a well-bred pedigree puppy. As a rough guide, the cost of insuring a 3 year old Labrador Retriever in northern England could be as little as £22 for basic cover to just over £40 a month for a lifetime policy (quote as of March 2016). It's worth noting that lots of things are factored into a dog's insurance premium and this includes where you live in the UK and a dog's age.
When it comes to food costs, you would need to buy the best quality dog food whether wet or dry for your dog throughout their lives and to suit the different stages of their lives. This would set you back between £40-£50 per month. On top of all of this, you would need to factor in veterinary costs if you want to share your home with a Lab and this includes their initial vaccinations, neutering or spaying your dog when the time is right and then their annual health check visits, all of which quickly adds up to over a £1000 a year.
The total average cost to keep and care for a Labrador Retriever as a rough guide would be in the region of £80 - £100 a month depending on the type of pet insurance you opt to buy, but this does not include the initial cost of buying a pedigree Labrador Retriever puppy.
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