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The Labrador Retriever ("Labrador" or "Lab" for short), is one of several kinds of retriever, and is the most popular breed of dog (by registered ownership) in both the United States and the United Kingdom. The breed is exceptionally friendly, intelligent, energetic and good natured, making them excellent companions and working dogs. Labrador Retrievers are known to be one of the fastest-learning breeds of dog and respond well to praise and positive attention. They are also well known as enjoying water, since historically, they were selectively bred for retrieving in water environments as 'gun dogs' and as companions in duck hunting.
Labradors are relatively large with males typically weighing 27 to 36 kg (60 to 80 lb) and females 23 to 32 kg (45 to 70 lb). They are energetic, outgoing dogs. Their coats are short and smooth, and can be black, yellow, or brown (called "chocolate") in color, in that order of frequency. Puppies of all colors can potentially occur in the same litter. The majority of the characteristics of this breed with the exception of color are the result of breeding to produce a working retriever. The color is determined primarily by two genes. The first gene (the B locus) determines the density of the coat's pigment granules: dense granules result in a black coat, sparse ones give a chocolate coat. The second (E) locus determines whether the pigment is produced at all. A dog with the recessive e allele will produce little pigment and will be yellow regardless of its genotype at the B locus. Variations in numerous other genes control the subtler details of the coat's coloration, which in yellow labs varies from white to light gold to a fox red. Yellow labs can have black or pink noses; chocolate and black labs's noses match the coat color. A very light color sometimes called 'silver' is not officially recognized, but is sought by some owners and therefore unusually light colored yellow and chocolate labs may be described this way by unscrupulous breeders.
As with some other breeds, the English and the American lines differ slightly. Labs are bred in England as a medium size dog, shorter and stockier with fuller faces than their American counterparts which are bred as a larger dog. No distinction is made by the AKC, but the two classifications come from different breeding. Australian stock also exists; though not seen in the west, they are common in Asia.
The breed tends to shed hair regularly throughout the year. Lab hair is usually fairly short and straight, and the tail quite broad and strong. The otter-like tail and webbed toes of the Labrador Retriever make them excellent swimmers. Their interwoven coat is also relatively waterproof, providing more assistance for swimming. The tail acts as a rudder for changing directions.
Many people unfamiliar with retrievers find that the Lab is quite similar to the Golden Retriever in size, general shape, and general color, especially when young and especially to those Goldens with lighter coats. Their personalities are also quite similar, with both breeds being intelligent, friendly, receptive to praise and easy to train. The most obvious difference is the short straight coat of the Labrador Retriever (the Golden has long wavy fur) and the Lab's thick, otter-like tail compared to the Golden's plumed tail.
Please note that, like any animal, there is a great deal of variety among labs. These characteristics are typical of the show-bred or bench-bred lines of this breed in the United States.
Size: Labs are a
medium-large but compact breed. They should have an appearance of proportionality.
They should be as long from the shoulders back as they are from the
floor to the withers.Dogs should stand 22 1/2 to 24 1/2 inches tall
at the withers and weigh 65 to 80 pounds. Bitches should stand 21 1/2
to 23 1/2 inches and weigh 55 to 70 pounds. (By comparison under UK
Kennel Club standards, height should be 22 to 22.5 inches for males,
and 21.5 to 22 inches for females)
very agile. Excellent nose, soft mouth; keen love of water. Adaptable,
devoted companion. Intelligent, keen and biddable, with a strong will
to please. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness."
Labradors are a well-balanced and remarkably versatile breed, adaptable to a wide range of functions as well as making very good pets. They are easily trained and are a very obedient breed. As a rule they are not excessively prone to territorialism, pining, insecurity, aggression, destructiveness, hypersensitivity, or other difficult traits which manifest in a variety of breeds, and as the name suggests, they are excellent retrievers. As an extension of this, they instinctively enjoy holding objects and even hands or arms in their mouths, which they can do with great gentleness. They are also known to have a very soft 'feel' to the mouth, as a result of being bred to retrieve game such as waterfowl. They are prone to chewing objects (though some can easily be trained out of this behavior). The Labrador Retriever's coat repels water to some extent, thus facilitating the extensive use of the dog in waterfowl hunting.
Labradors have a reputation as a very mellow breed and an excellent family dog (including a good reputation with children of all ages), but some lines (particularly those that have continued to be bred specifically for their skills at working in the field rather than for their appearance) are particularly fast and athletic. Their fun-loving boisterousness and lack of fear can result in mischief, and may require training and firm handling at times to ensure it does not get out of hand. Most Labs enjoy retrieving a ball endlessly and other forms of activity (such as dog agility or flyball), are considerably "food and fun" oriented, very trainable, and open-minded to new things, and thrive on human attention and interaction, of which they find it difficult to get enough. Reflecting their retrieving bloodlines, almost every Lab loves playing in water or swimming.
Labradors have a reputation for appetite, and individuals have been described as willing to eat "anything that isn't nailed down". They are also persuasive and persistent in requesting food. For this reason, the Lab owner must carefully control his/her dog's food intake to avoid obesity and its associated health problems (see below).
The steady temperament of Labs and their ability to learn make them an ideal breed for search and rescue, detection, and therapy work. Their primary working role continues to be that of a hunting retriever.
The Labrador Retriever has a short, easy-to-groom double coat. Like most dogs, you should only bathe when it necessary. The Lab is an average shedder and should be brushed weekly with a bristle brush to remove dead hair. It is very energetic and requires regular exercise to remain happy, healthy, and entertained. The best activity choices for this breed include swimming and retrieving. The Lab has a hearty appetite. Monitor its portions so that it does not become obese and lazy. The Labrador Retriever is capable of living outdoors in temperate climate, but it needs so much human interaction that it would be better to allow it access to the family home. The Lab can enjoy apartment life if suitably exercised, however a house with access to a fenced yard is the wiser choice.
Labrador life expectancy is generally 12 to 13 years, and it is a healthy breed with relatively few major problems. Common Lab health issues are:
Labs are somewhat prone to hip dysplasia, especially the larger dogs, though not as much as some other breeds. Hip scores are recommended before breeding.
The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, not in Labrador as one might think. The Lab is actually an offshoot of the original Newfoundland breed. The first Newfoundlands came in different sizes, and the smaller variety was called the St. Johns Newfoundland, or Lesser Newfoundland. These were the earliest examples of the Labrador breed. These dogs were black and of medium size. Labs were very efficient at retrieving all sorts of game, both fowl and fish. They were also adept swimmers and took easily to the icy northern waters, often swimming after fishing nets and pulling small boats along in the water. The breed finally died out in Newfoundland due not in small part to a heavy dog tax. However, there had been a good many Labradors taken to England during the early 1800s. Thanks to these dogs, as well as a few other crossbreeds, the Labrador breed continued to evolve. The breed earned a reputation for upland game retrieving during this period in Great Britain. At first, breeders preferred only black colorations and weeded out yellow and chocolate varieties. The yellow and chocolate versions were eventually accepted though the black was more popular. The breed was recognized by the AKC in 1917. The Labrador Retriever is a talented breed that is effective in drug detection, as a service animal, and in competition. The breed has always been popular in America becoming the most popular breed an honor it retains to this day.
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