Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada. Small water dogs were used to retrieve birds and fish; they even pulled small boats through the water. Their strong desire to work, versatility, and waterproof coats impressed fishermen, one of whom brought a dog back to England with him. Lord Malmsbury saw this dog, then called a St. John’s Dog, and imported several from Newfoundland. Lord Malmsbury is credited with having started to call the dogs Labradors, although the reason is lost to history. Eventually, the English quarantine stopped additional imports from coming into the country, and the Labradors already in England were cross-bred to other retrievers. However, breed fanciers soon put a stop to that, and the breed as we know it today was born.
Labrador Retriever is a medium-sized, strongly built dog breed that retains its hunting and working instincts. Standing between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall and weighing between 55 and 80 pounds, with females smaller than males, the breed is compact and well-balanced. Labrador Retrievers have short, weather-resistant coats that can be yellow, black, or chocolate. The head is broad, the eyes are friendly, and the tail is otterlike. Grooming a Labrador Retriever is not difficult, although it is amazing how much the coat can shed at times. Shedding is worst in spring and fall when the short, dense undercoat and coarser outer coat lose all the dead hair. Brushing daily during these times will lessen the amount of hair in the house.
Labrador Retrievers do everything with vigour. When it’s time to play, they play hard. When it’s time to take a nap, they do that with enthusiasm, too. But this desire to play and instinct to work means that Labs need vigorous exercise every day and a job to do. They need to bring in the newspaper every morning, learn to pick up their toys, and train in obedience. Labrador Retrievers do very well in many canine activities, including agility, flyball, field tests and trials, tracking, search-and-rescue work, and therapy dog work. Labrador Retrievers still enjoy swimming, and if water is available, a swim is a great way to burn off excess energy.
Early socialisation and training can teach a Labrador Retriever puppy household rules and social manners. Training should continue throughout puppyhood and into adulthood so that the Labrador Retriever’s mind is kept busy. The Labrador Retriever can learn advanced obedience, tricks, or anything else her owner wishes to teach her.
Labrador Retrievers are great family dogs. They will bark when people approach the house but are not watchdogs or protective. Labrador Retriever puppies are boisterous and rambunctious and need to be taught to be gentle with young children. Older kids will enjoy the Lab’s willingness to play. Most Labrador Retrievers are also good with other dogs and can learn to live with small pets, although interactions should be supervised. Health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia, knee problems, eye problems, and allergies.
The Labrador Retriever loves to swim. However, as unlikely as it may seem, Labs do not come “out of the box” knowing how to swim. Furthermore, some Labs become truly nervous around water. That having been said, most Labs can be taught to swim quickly and easily, and a few simple lessons can lead to hours of enjoyment for both you and your dog. There are a number of reasons to teach your Lab to swim while he’s still a pup. For one thing, it’s easier on the dog. A large dog has a lot of body weight to manage in the water, and for a dog new to swimming, this can increase the slope of the learning curve. Puppies, because of their small size, have an easier time.