The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the world, and is consistently listed within the top five most popular pedigree dog breeds here in the UK.
Labradors enjoy this high level of popularity as both pets and working dogs for a variety of reasons; they are great all-rounders, very intelligent, take well to training, and are generally very personable. They are at their happiest when leading busy, active lives, and are renowned for their love of children, making them eminently suitable as family pets. The Labrador Retriever is classed as a retriever-type gun dog, and was originally bred and trained as a working dog, to assist hunters are retrieving downed birds and other animals, both on land and in the water. They have a keen sense of smell, and also make good tracking dogs.
If you are considering getting a dog as a companion for yourself or your family, the Labrador Retriever is definitely worthy of consideration. Read on to learn more about the Labrador Retriever, and considerations to bear in mind when thinking about ownership.
The Labrador or “Lab” as it is often colloquially referred to, is a relatively large, stocky dog, reaching between 64 and 90lb for males and 55 to 71lb for females. Active, fit Labradors should be lean and padded with muscle rather than fat, although the Lab does have a tendency to run to fat if not carefully supervised, and can reach weights significantly above the breed ideal.
The Labrador retriever comes in three coat colours: black, yellow and chocolate. Labs of all colours can appear in litters, regardless of the colour of the parent dogs, and all Labradors have a single coloured coat with no additional markings or colour patches present.
As well as being immediately distinctive to look at and the type of dog that almost anyone, dog lover or not, could identify on sight, the very personality of the Labrador itself is considered to be one of the most recognisable traits of the breed.
The Labrador is considered to be a good natured, honest dog with a kind personality and laid back approach to life. They are eminently trainable, although they can be prone to stubbornness, and as intelligent dogs, can easily become bored or pick up bad habits inadvertently! Labradors are very tolerant of children, and very affection to their families. They also usually have an open, cheerful approach to outsiders, and despite their large builds and impressive barks, are not usually considered to fall into the guard dog ilk, as they are simply too personable with strangers! However, the Labrador, like any dog, will usually defend its territory, such as its home and family, if threatened.
Labradors are also well known to enjoy their food more than most dogs, and often make adept scavengers and beggars, even when well fed, which can prove infuriating or problematic for their owners!
Labradors are genuinely good all-rounders, which has enabled them to make the transition from working dogs to pets with ease. As well as being used both historically and currently as gun dogs, you may also see the Labrador at work in may other roles, such as working as assistance dogs for people with disabilities, being used in search and rescue operations, or working alongside of the police or military as detection dogs.
For the vast majority of Labradors that live as pets in “civvie street,” the Labrador finds outlets for their energies and talents in play, exercise and a general enthusiasm for everything that is going on around them. They require clear, unambiguous training and plenty of walks!
Labradors are a great pick for people looking to get involved in canine sports, as the Labrador has both the intelligence and enthusiasm to take to a wide variety of new skills. Labradors can commonly be seen competing in or enjoying events such as canine agility, heelwork, and other canine sports such as fly ball.
The Labrador is by its nature, an energetic, outgoing dog that likes to play and run around. However, it would be a mistake to think that the Labrador cannot be prone to laziness, particularly as they get older, and the Labrador is definitely one dog that is prone to piling on the pounds with relative ease. Most of us will have seen a well padded or significantly overweight Labrador padding about on his daily walk, and it is important for the Labrador owner or potential owner to be aware of the breed’s propensity to become rather sedentary and lazy if left unchecked, and if their feeding regime does not match their activity levels.
You should be able to feel the ribs on a healthy Labrador with the touch of a firm hand, something that many owners are unaware of. It is important to ensure that your Labrador is kept active, fit and healthy and put on a diet if necessary, in order to maintain their health and general condition.
While the Labrador is generally considered to be a robust and healthy dog, nevertheless the breed as a whole has a heightened propensity to a range of different health problems. They are more prone than most breeds to hip and elbow dysplasia, and also have elevated risk factors for patellar luxation. Hip scores are sometimes undertaken on dogs intended to be used for breeding, to test for the propensity of issues such as hip dysplasia occurring in the subsequent offspring. Issues of this type can also be heightened or worsened by obesity and weight management issues in the Labrador.
Labradors may also potentially be prone to a range of eye conditions, including cataracts, retinal dysplasia, corneal dystrophy and progressive retinal atrophy. Again, these conditions can be tested and scored by a veterinary surgeon prior to breeding.
It is not difficult to find Labradors for sale or for adoption within the UK, as this is one of the country’s most popular breeds. Always do your homework before buying or adopting a Labrador retriever, and ask the breeder about the health and ancestry of the dog’s parents, and if any testing for conditions such as those mentioned above have been undertaken prior to breeding.