Friendly, loyal, hard-working, and energetic, the Labrador Retriever is one of the most beloved dog breeds; in fact, out of 193 breeds, this member of the working dog group is ranked #1 by the American Kennel Club.
While their moniker leads one to believe that they hail from Labrador, Canada, the Labrador Retriever actually originated in Newfoundland. In the 1500s, Newfoundlands and water dogs were bred, creating a breed known as the St John’s Water Dog, or the Lesser Newfoundland. The breed served as a waterdog, and was used to retrieve ducks for hunters and to assist fishermen with hauling in nets and retrieving catches from the cold waters of the North Atlantic.
In the 1800s, while visiting Newfoundland, England’s Earl of Malmesbury was impressed with the breed’s abilities and returned home with a handful of specimens. Fellow sportsmen used the breed as shooting dogs, and were also impressed with their abilities. They began calling them “Labradors” (though the origination of the name is unknown) and started to breed them, standardizing the breed now known as the Labrador Retriever. The English Kennel Club officially recognized the breed in 1903.
The popularity of the Labrador Retriever grew throughout England, and in the early part of the 1900s, American hunters and farmers become aware of the unique traits of the breed; namely their high energy level, their agility, and their work ethic. They began using the breed to assist with their daily activities, and their popularity steadily grew. In 1917, the American Kennel Club officially recognized the breed, and the Labrador Retriever became the loyal companion of families throughout the country.
Labrador Retrievers still continue to be hard working, highly energetic dogs. They are revered for their intelligence, their dedication, and their vivacious personalities. They do well with people of all ages and other animals, and they are often used as therapy dogs. If you are looking for a companion animal that will be devoted to you and your family, the Labrador Retriever will certainly offer plenty of love and affection.
Characteristics of the Labrador Retriever
Next, we’ll go into the appearance and temperament of the Labrador Retriever.
The Labrador Retriever is considered a medium to large breed. On average, they weigh between 55 and 80 pounds and are roughly 21 to 24 inches tall. Generally, females are smaller than males; however, both genders are muscular and quite agile, as they were bred for sport.
The short, dense coat of the Labrador can vary in color, including yellow, black, and chocolate. No matter the color, white markings are typically showcased throughout the coat. Their heads are broad, their jaws are powerful, and their bodies are muscular. Their faces are quite friendly; look into the eyes of a Lab and you will instantly be greeted by kindness.
The Labrador Retriever is hailed as one of the friendliest and most loyal of all dog breeds. They are famed for their dedication to their human pack members and do well with people of all ages. Their sweet nature, even temper, and ability to mix well with children and other pets makes this breed the perfect choice for a companion animal. Because of their award-winning personalities, Labs are often used as therapy dogs and are used to bring joy to the sick and elderly.
This breed is also highly intelligent, making them exceptional assistance dogs for the handicapped; they are often used as guide dogs for the blind. Their intelligence, bravery, and powerful sense of smell also allow the Lab to serve well as a search and rescue dog. The Lab is also highly trainable, thanks to their incredible cleverness and their desire to make their pack leaders proud; they can learn virtually any trick in a dog training book with ease.
If you are looking to bring a dog into a family with children or other animals, there is no need to worry about aggression with the Labrador Retriever; this breed gets along with pretty much anyone he meets; humans, canines, felines, and virtually any other animal you can imagine. In fact, if you bring a Lab into your home, it is likely that he will become everyone’s best friend.
Labs are also extremely playful, so if you’re looking for a low-energy dog that would rather spend his days lounging in a dog bed, this probably isn’t the breed for you. Labs have an exuberant amount of energy level and are extremely intelligent. As such, they love to play, both on land and in the water. A Lab will love retrieving water toys for dogs at the beach. At home or at the dog park, he’ll enjoy using rope and tug toys to play rousing games of tug-o-war.
Despite their wonderful dispositions, Labradors do exhibit a few undesirable traits. They are avid chewers, which can become problematic. Offering this breed plenty of chew toys for dogs is a must to encourage positive chewing and avoid damage to your home. It’s also a good idea to have dental chews and bully sticks for dogs on-hand, as well, in order to offer variety and further prevent problem chewing. An indestructible dog bed would also be a wise investment for a Labrador Retriever.
It should also be noted that while the high intelligence of a Lab is certainly beneficial, it can also be problematic; if this breed becomes bored, they can engage in destructive behavior. As such, it is extremely important to present your Lab with engaging activities. A variety of interactive dog toys, for example, will help to keep your pet entertained and out of trouble. High intelligence coupled with great determination also makes puzzle toys for dogs a great option for Labrador Retrievers.
Labrador Retrievers also have a tendency to suffer from separation anxiety. As mentioned, this breed is extremely loyal and yearns for companionship. As such, it’s not unusual for a Lab feel anxious when his human pack members depart. If this problem is not dealt with appropriately, it can become a serious issue. Holistic veterinarians often recommend using CBD oil for dogs as an effective way to combat separation anxiety. The use of dog calming aids can also reduce the feelings of stress and anxiety that a Lab can feel when they are left alone.
In regard to traveling, Labradors love getting out and exploring. They enjoy car rides, and in fact, most will leap at the opportunity to go for a drive with you. Do make sure you take efforts to protect your canine companion and protect your vehicle, though. Investing in a dog car seat cover will prevent hair and nails from damaging upholstery, and a dog seat belt will ensure that your pet stays safe while traveling.
With an average life expectancy of 10 to 14 years, a Labrador Retriever will be sure to bring your family plenty of joy for years to come.
Caring for a Labrador Retriever
As with any breed, knowing how to properly care for a Labrador Retriever is crucial. With proper care, this breed will live a long, happy, and fulfilling life.
In regard to feeding, it’s important to select a premium-quality dog food that will meet the nutritional needs of this breed. Labs do have a tendency to suffer from atopic dermatitis, which can be further aggravated by certain ingredients found in many commercial dog food brands; particularly gluten-based ingredients, such as corn, wheat, and soy. Offering your pet a grain free dog food can help to combat this issue. Additionally, Labradors have a hearty appetite and if allowed, they will over-indulge.
To avoid weight gain, make sure you establish a feeding routine and stick to it. To help your pet avoid obesity, consider feeding him a dog food for weight loss, as these formulas have a reduced calorie content compared to standard recipes. It’s also important to monitor any additional treats that you may be offering to avoid excess weight gain; premium-quality treats that are low in calories are highly recommended. Alternatively, you can offer your pet human food that is safe for canine consumption as a treats; carrots and apples, for example.
In comparison to many other breeds, grooming a Labrador Retriever is a relatively simple process. Their coats are short and can be considered “wash-and-wear”, meaning that they don’t require a great deal of care in terms of grooming.
Bathing shouldn’t be done too often, as this breed is prone to sensitive skin, which can be aggravated when bathed too frequently. Generally, a bath every six weeks or so should suffice, unless your pet is visibly dirty or smelly. You should have no trouble encouraging a Lab to take a bath, as this breed loves the water. They can be bathed in either a standard bathtub or tub made specifically for dogs; if you choose the latter, make sure you invest in a tub that will comfortably accommodate your dog.
Begin the grooming process by brushing out your pet’s coat with a quality dog brush. Brushing should always be done prior to bathing, and can also be done on a regular basis. Brushing not only feels good, but it also improves the luster of your pet’s coat and removes the buildup of dead hair, which can help to reduce shedding. For bathing, make sure you use high-quality dog shampoo and thoroughly rinse out all suds after lathering.
Don’t forget to wash the ears, as well as the eyes while bathing. Nails should be kept neat and trim. If they are allowed to grow too long, they can cause serious issues, including pain. You should also consider brushing your pet’s teeth on a regular basis, as canine oral hygiene is extremely important. It’s also a wise idea to apply a dog flea treatment to prevent the risk of infestations of these, and other pests.
Exercise and Activity
As mentioned, Labrador Retrievers have an abundance of energy and are quite intelligent. As such, regular exercise and activity is crucial for this breed. Taking a Lab on regular walks is highly recommended. Do make sure that your pet is secured in a dog harness that properly fits, or attach a durable leash to his dog collar to keep him safe and controlled.
However, taking your dog for a stroll around the neighborhood likely will not be enough for this active breed; they like to run, and in fact, they need to, so it’s important to provide him with plenty of opportunities to run freely. A securely fenced in yard or a dog park is the perfect place to let a Lab get his energy out.
If you are unable to walk your Lab regularly, consider investing in an outdoor dog kennel where he can run freely and safely, or connect him to a dog tie out in a secure yard so he can release any pent-up energy. It’s also highly advisable to invest in plenty of dog toys, as they not only provide opportunities for exercise and fun, but they also keep their intelligent minds happy. Automatic fetch machines are an ideal choice for a Labrador Retriever; and of course, you can simply toss balls, Frisbees, and other solid objects that your pet can safely handle with his mouth.
In terms of exercise, the bottom line is this: Labrador Retrievers require a lot of it. This breed does not bode well when left indoors for extended periods of time; if they are dormant for too long, it is almost guaranteed that they will engaged in problematic behavior, as they have an innate urge to release their energy and keep their minds engaged. If their energy levels and intellect are quelled, they will seek ways to entertain themselves, which can spell disaster. As such, to avoid trouble, make sure you provide your Lab with plenty of activity.
Labrador Retrievers are highly trainable dogs; in fact, they are one of the easiest breeds to train. Their acute intellect combined with their high energy levels and their strong instinct to please their masters make them easy to train; however, it should be noted that this breed can be a bit rambunctious. Additionally, due to their intelligence and energy levels, it should be noted that Labs really do require proper training, otherwise they may start to exhibit undesirable behaviors.
The key to properly training a Lab is to start out when they are young; you can begin training this breed as young as a few months of age. It’s also important to keep your training sessions fun and engaging. Labrador Retrievers love to play and interact with their masters, so if training is made into a game, they will be more likely to participate. Begin training by teaching your canine the basic obedience commands, such as “sit”, “stay”, and “heel”. Once these basic commands are mastered, you can move on to more complex training and even agility activities.
In terms of house training, it’s important to start training this breed as soon as possible. The earlier you start, the faster he or she will be housebroken. Ideally, housebreaking should begin during puppyhood; however, if you have adopted an adult do that isn’t housebroken, he can still be trained; remember, this breed is very smart and wants nothing more than to please their masters, so they will quickly catch on to house training at any age.
No matter how old your Lab is, if you are housetraining, crate training is highly recommended. Make sure that you invest in a durable dog crate that is the appropriate size for your pet; he should have enough room to stand and turn around, but not much more.
No matter what it is that you are attempting to teach a Lab, dog training treats are highly effective tools. This breed loves to eat and will do just about anything for a treat. As previously mentioned, Labradors do have a tendency to gain weight, so make sure that you select a low-calorie dog treat and monitor his consumption. Additionally, it’s important to modify his meal sizes to accommodate for treats to avoid excess calories.
Overall, Labrador Retrievers are considered a healthy breed; however, they are genetically predisposed to a few health issues. Common complications include:
- Hip dysplasia. Many medium and large breeds are prone to hip dysplasia, and the Lab is no exception. This condition is marked by a poorly formed hip socked, which leads to the deterioration of the hip and can cause pain and reduce mobility.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy. Simply referred to as PRA, this condition is used to describe a combination of diseases that affect the eyes and lead to the degeneration of the retina, which can eventually lead to blindness.
- Labs, as mentioned, are avid eaters, and as such, they can be prone to obesity. Additionally, they tend to eat fast, which increases the risk of bloat, or gastric distention, a condition that could be life-threatening.
It’s important to be aware of any signs and symptoms that your dog may be displaying that could indicate a health-related issue. If it seems as if anything is awry, seek medical care as soon as possible. To ensure your pet stays in good health, regular visits to the veterinarian are essential. By offering your Lab the proper care that he requires and attending to any health issues that he may develop, you can ensure that he will live a happy and healthy life.
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