The Labrador Retriever has become one of the most popular dogs across the world. These medium-large sized dogs are known for their affectionate and easy-going character. In most countries, Labradors are considered as one of the most prevalent disability assistants. They are often trained to help the people with blindness, autism or other disabilities. Due to its affectionate character, the Labradors often work as a therapy dog as well. The obedience and sharp intellect of the dogs have made them as one of the most favourites of the law enforcement departments across the world for the screening and detection works.
Origin and Lineage
The name of these dogs is a bit misleading, however. These dogs hail from Newfoundland instead of Labrador as the name indicates. In Newfoundland, these dogs used to work as the assistant to the hunters and fishers. Labradors used to retrieve the fishes that have gotten away as well as the hunting down ducks.
The popularity of the Labrador Retriever started in the 1830s when the ships started trading between the Labrador region of Canada and the Poole in Dorsetshire. During this time the 10th Earl of Home imported the progeny of this dog breed from Newfoundland. However, the refinement of the species had not taken place until 1880. During this time, the 3rd earl of Malmesbury, the 6th Duke of Buccleuch and the 12th Earl of Home collaborated to refine the breed.
According to the description of Colonel Peter Hawker, the first Labrador was not more massive than the English Pointer. These dogs often came in black and did not carry its tail as high as the Newfoundland breed. The recorded birth of yellow Labrador occurred in 1899.
The Appearance of Labrador Retriever
As mentioned earlier, Labrador Retrievers are medium to large in size. The males of the family weigh between 29-36 Kg while the females weigh between 25-32 Kgs.
Like some other breeds, the conformation (show, English, or Bench) and the field (Working or American) lines differ in case of Labrador Retrievers. These two types of Labrador come from different breeding lines. However, both of the lines are bred in the UK and the USA.
The conformation Labradors tend to have a fuller face and calmer demeanour than its field counterpart. The field Labrador breeds are often taller, and lighter framed dogs that come with a longer nose.
They are saying that the field dogs are still proportional and should match the standards of the American Kennel Club. There is yet another type of labrador breed exists in the world. Known as the Australian stock, these dogs are widespread in Asia. As these dogs are good with children, they are a popular choice as a family dog.
Labradors have short and straight hair, and the tail is quite strong and broad. Thanks to their webbed toes, the Labrador Retrievers can swim excellently. In the colder climate, the webbed foot serves them as the snowshoe. The coat of the Labrador is interwoven, which helps them to become better swimmers.
The coats of Labrador Retrievers officially come in three different colours, black, yellow and chocolate. There are some dogs that are sold as the pure-bred silver Labradors. But the majority of the breed experts dispute their bloodlines. Even though some of the clubs register the silver labradors, they put them in the category of yellow.
It is common to find puppies of different colours in the same litter. Three different genes determine the colour of the pups. While these three genes determine the prominent colours of the coat, the differences in numerous other genes can be the cause of subtler details of the colouration of coats.
The Labrador Retrievers are of kind, outgoing, pleasant and tractable nature. The strong sense of smell allows the dogs to follow on almost any scent and its point of origin. Being persistent in nature, these dogs stay on the scent until they reach their cause.
For these characteristics, the police and military forces across the world use Labradors as the detector dogs. They are often employed to find out the smugglers, terrorists, thieves and black marketers.
The feel of the mouth of Labrador retrievers is very delicate, as they are bred to assist in the hunting to find and retrieve the game. Even though Labradors love to chew on objects, with proper training, this behaviour can be managed easily.
As these dogs are playful and good to the children and other animals, Labradors are often considered as the best choices for family dogs. Some lines of dogs that are particularly bred for working are very athletic and fast. The fearlessness and the fun-loving boisterousness of these dogs have often required firm handling. This will ensure that the adult does not become uncontrollable.
Labradors reach maturity at about three years of age. Before that, it keeps exhibiting the puppy-like energy, which is often misinterpreted as hyperactivity. That is one of the reasons why leash training should be introduced earlier in their life to make sure that a pulling situation does not occur when they are full grown.
Love to play fetch
The Labradors enjoy the game of retrieving balls or frisbees endlessly. Even though these dogs bark at the noise coming from unseen sources (known as alarm barking), they are not territorial or noisy. Due to their trusting behaviour to strangers, these dogs are not suitable as a guard dog.
Labrador Retrievers are extremely curious and love the attention and the company of others. Following the scents of exciting food and people are things that they love to do. That means, with a little fanfare, these dogs can vanish from the owner quickly.
This makes it easier for thieves to steal the dogs. Due to their inclination for vanishing, the rescue organisations and dog clubs think that microchipping the collars of the dogs and writing down the names and contact number of the owner is a great idea.
However, as they are very intelligent, they can show intense focus and single-mindedness if you can motivate them properly.
Used as a working dog
Good ethics and great temperament make the Labrador a great working dog. The typical roles that the labrador plays are, tracking and detection, therapy work, carting, disabled assistance. In Canada, almost 60-70% of all guide dogs are Labradors.
According to the trainers, the intelligence and loving nature of Labradors ensure its higher success rate as guide dogs. In a recent study conducted on the training of the guide dogs, it was found that the Labrador Retrievers have the highest chance of completing it. The training period for Labrador retrievers to become a guide dog is less.
The labradors are powerful, and they are almost indefatigable swimmers. These dogs can tolerate freezing water for a considerable time. Their capacity to work by the side of the hunters, watch the birds fall from the sky, mark their landing space and ability to retrieve them have made the Labrador Retrievers an excellent hunting partner.
The high intelligence, self-direction and initiative of the dogs have ensured that they can be trained to cover human beings with a blanket during their recovery process and make an emergency phone call.
With proper training, the labradors can also assist the owner to remove credit card and money from the ATM. These dogs have also been employed in life-saving as well as water rescue positions.
In a survey done in 2014, it was found that the average lifespan for the Labrador is of 12 years and three months. However, some of the dogs can live up to 19 years of age. Generally, Labrador Retriever is considered as a healthy breed. Some of the notable health issues include obesity and inherited disorders.
The Royal Veterinary College did a study and another conducted by the University of Sydney indicates that the chocolate Labrador Retrievers are more prone to health issues than the labradors of other colours. They also have a 10% shorter life span compared to the dogs of different colours. Breeders’ focus on increasing the numbers of breeding through selective coat colours than other essential health traits are considered the leading cause of this problem.
The Labrador Retrievers are generally prone to elbow and hip dysplasia. The larger dogs suffer more from this problem than the smaller ones.
Knee dislocation is another common problem from which the labradors suffer.
Eye health problems, like cataract, progressive retinal atrophy, retinal dysplasia, corneal dystrophy, are quite common as well.
Labradors often suffer from exercise-induced collapse. It is a syndrome that results in weakness, hyperthermia, disorientation and collapse after a short bout of exercise.
These dogs like to eat, and that’s why the chances of getting obese are pretty high. Obesity is a severe matter for these dogs and is considered as the number one nutritional problem. You can avoid this by proper exercise and stimulation.
Are you looking for a companion in your dog? Then the Labrador Retrievers would be the perfect choice for you. They are intelligent, fun-loving and would love your attention. Now that you know the origin and health issues from which Labradors suffer the most, it is time for you to become an owner.
About the Author
Teresa has been a pet lover since she was little. She currently lives with two dogs and two cats, and a hamster. Teresa is a qualified dog groomer and canine behaviourist; these days, she spends her time studying canine nutrition. Teresa is the founder of the Dog Friendly Scene and loves sharing her knowledge on pets.