Labrador Retriever: Everything You Need to Know

The Labrador is one of the most popular breeds in the modern world. It is an ideal pet for families with children, hunters, rescuers, and people with disabilities.

The Labrador retriever is so widespread due to the surprisingly successful combination of external data and “working” qualities, which allow the breed to be not only companions in everyday life but also serve for the benefit of the person. They regularly rank at the top of the “most loyal”, “most obedient”, “most hardworking” dog ratings by professional breeders and ordinary owners.

Whatever geographical associations you have, researchers do not find a direct connection between Labradors and the North American peninsula of the same name. The version of the origin of the breed from the island of Newfoundland, located southeast and now part of the youngest Canadian province, is considered historically reliable.

Various theories explain the origin of the breed’s name. According to one, the original color (exclusively black) resembled the igneous rock, labradorite, lying in their homeland. Supporters of the other argue that Europeans, who did not particularly understand the intricacies of the toponymy of the New World, found such a name apt for animals that arrived on ships from the shores of the Labrador Sea. There was likely an elementary need to distinguish between the new breed and the well-known longhaired Newfoundland to British breeders of the 19th century. However, there is an opinion that both breeds appeared in England at about the same time and, as a result of the confusion, the “natives” from Labrador were named after the neighboring island and vice versa.

By the way, it is assumed that the progenitor of the shaggy giants-Newfoundlands was closely related to the ancestor of the Labradors – the water dog of St. John. Explore the origins of Water Dog St. John’s is not possible for years, but experts admit that it was the result of crossing a large number of breeds that, together with their owners, have ended up in North America since the Great Geographical Discoveries.

The first European explorers of the modern coast of Canada were Portuguese navigators, and it was likely through their efforts that the can appeared here – Portuguese water dogs, bred back in the Middle Ages to make the life of sailors easier. They performed the functions of mail couriers between ships of fishing fleets, delivered messages ashore, pulled out things that turned out to be overboard and even helped to drive shoals of cod into the nets. St. John’s dogs also thrived on the big water and were used by Canadians to search and rescue shipwreck victims. A series of short-sighted restrictive laws and exorbitant taxes for dog owners have led to a decline in the number of animals, and then to their extinction. The last representatives of this breed died in the 20th century, but its genes live in golden retrievers, labradors, Chesapeake bay retrievers, straight-haired retrievers.

The first Labradors arrived in Europe on merchant ships. For a long time, strong economic ties were established between Newfoundland and England, here the Canadians sold cod caught in the Atlantic. The British, passionate hunters, immediately drew attention to the mobile and easily trainable companions of sailors. In the 19th century, the importation of “small Newfoundland dogs” began. The name of the breed adopted today appeared only in the 1870s. At the same time, the influx of overseas “fresh blood” began to dry up, and in 1895 the Quarantine Act was adopted, which prohibited the import of animals without a license and a six-month quarantine. Since then, the breed has developed almost exclusively through internal selection.

The first breeders of Labradors independently of each other were two noble families – the Earls of Malmesbury and the Dukes of Bucklew. Kennels located in Hampshire and Scotland, respectively, helped popularize the breed among local aristocrats. It turned out that the short-haired workers from the island of Newfoundland are ideal companions for hunting birds and small game. Stamina and a meek disposition, with the right upbringing, were added to the amazing ability to find and feed the prey shot by the owner. Good show qualities also contributed to the success of the Labradors later.

For several decades, confusion reigned with the definition of belonging to a particular breed. It happened that even puppies from the same litter in the documents were assigned to different “branches” of retrievers. However, already in 1903 Labradors were officially recognized by the world’s oldest dog breeding club, the English Kennel. This caused another surge of interest and led to the creation of several new nurseries. In 1916, the Labrador Retriever Club was founded – an organization that still functions today, taking care of maintaining the cleanliness of the lines.

During the First World War, Labradors crossed the ocean again. In the United States, they quickly gained popularity, the so-called American type gradually formed, about which there is still debating among specialists.

For a long time, the only acceptable color of the animal was considered black, the rest of the puppies were culled. In 1899 the fawn was registered for the first time, and in 1930 – the chocolate Labrador Retriever.

Most reputable breeders are guided by the Cynological Organization International (FCI) standard, which was revised in January 2011.

Well balanced, not overly chunky or fine-boned. Skull broad, muzzle without large cheeks. The transition from the main part of the head to the muzzle is clearly pronounced. The nose is wide, with well-defined nostrils. The jaws are of medium length and strong. The teeth of the Labrador are set vertically in the jaw, the bite is perfect and scissor-like (the upper incisors completely overlap the lower ones). Eyes of medium size, brown or hazel, express intelligence, and good character. The ears are neither wide nor heavy, drooping, close to the head, and set far behind.

Clean lines, powerful and strong neck.

Straight, horizontal topline. Wide, short, and strong loin. The ribcage is wide and deep, with well-sprung ribs.

Forelegs well boned, straight from elbow to ground. The shoulder is long and oblique. Long blades with an angle of inclination that allows a wide pitch (90-105 °). Feet are round, compact, well-padded, and well-arched toes.

The hind legs are well developed, with no slope of the croup towards the tail. Well angled knees (110 ° provide a building ideal for normal movement of the back of the torso). The hock joint is low. The structure of the paws is similar to the forelimbs.

The tail of a Labrador is very thick at the base, gradually tapering towards the end – a characteristic “otter” shape. Average length. Without dewlap, but on all sides covered with short, dense, dense hair. Carries low, level with topline never bends over back.

Movements are free and productive. Straight and parallel to the fore and hind limbs.

The coat of the Labrador is short, thick, without waves and feathers, and hard to the touch. The undercoat is thick and weatherproof.

Labradors have monochromatic colors: black, fawn, or brown (liver, chocolate). Fawn from light cream to red fox. A small white spot is acceptable on the chest.

The ideal height at the withers for males is 56-57 cm, for females 54-56 cm. Recently, many individuals have appeared in Europe, whose height reaches only 50 cm. This trend is of serious concern to specialists. The weight of Labradors is not regulated by the standard, but the preferred range for males is 29-36 kg, for females 25-32 kg.

It must be remembered that outwardly Labradors differ not only in informal types (English or American; old, classic, heavy, modern and others), but also depending on whether you have a show dog in front of you, intended for exhibitions and performances, or “working “. The former are heavier and have shorter legs, while the latter is athletic.

It is difficult to find a dog with a lighter and more accommodating character than a Labrador Retriever. They are incredibly friendly and try to please the person in any situation. Aggression is not at all peculiar to them, so there will be no problems with living in a house where there are other animals (including cats) and children of any age.

The reverse side of such a mild disposition can only be called poorly developed protective qualities. Do not expect that the Labrador will fight back the robbers – everyone who comes to its territory is perceived by default as a new companion for games, but in the event of a direct threat to the owners from people or “stranger” dogs, it will certainly come to the defense.

Labrador retrievers make excellent guides for the visually impaired, therapists for those with autism, and assistants for people with disabilities. In addition, they are often used as service dogs in rescue operations (in particular, on the water), and a keen sense of smell helps in the search for explosives and drugs.

For generations, the instinct of gun dogs has been laid in them – to find and bring the shot game to the owner. If hunting is not one of your hobbies, it is enough for the dog to regularly apport balls and sticks were thrown far away for happiness. This is great fun and exercise that burns calories.

Labradors are incredibly agile and cheerful creatures, even in adulthood they love active games. High intelligence and calm temperament open up ample training opportunities. At the same time, it is not recommended to show excessive rigidity. You should be persistent, but patient, do not forget about the encouragement (both verbal and with the help of a treat), and avoid boring, monotonous activities in which the pet inevitably loses interest in the process.

Early socialization is extremely important so that your dog does not experience stress when contacting the outside world, other people, animals, and also firmly assimilated the acceptable norms of behavior in various life situations. For Labrador owners who have no experience in raising large dogs, it is better to seek the help of professional dog handlers and take a few lessons or complete a full training course.

The main commandment of the owner of the Labrador Retriever from the first days should be the principle of moderation in food. The fact is that these dogs are prone to overeating, which leads to obesity and very serious health problems. To avoid trouble, accustom your dog to a strict diet, keep track of the portions, do not allow excess “lunch” to remain in the bowl, do not get carried away with dog treats, and, of course, do not treat your pet with pieces from the common table – salty, smoked and sweet food … If you prefer a natural diet, coordinate the menu with your doctor and do not forget about vitamin and mineral supplements. When choosing ready-made feed, focus on the products of proven brands from the upper price segment. With any type of food, the dog must have constant access to fresh drinking water.

As already mentioned, Labradors are very active, regular physical activity for them is not just desirable, but a prerequisite for normal health and psychological state. Get ready for long walks – experienced breeders advise spending half an hour in the morning and at least two hours in the evening on them. In this case, the dog will not get bored, gain excess weight and pester you with pranks in the apartment.

Caring for a Labrador does not require extra effort. Basically, we are talking about standard procedures:

  • combing – daily during the period of active molting, which occurs twice a year, and once or twice a week the rest of the time, it is recommended to use a special stiff brush;
  • washing – under normal conditions, it is enough to do this once every two months, using the means recommended by the veterinarian. Frequent water treatments negatively affect the condition of the coat and skin, as well as immunity;
  • brushing your teeth – regularly, with a special paste for dogs;
  • ear care – to avoid infections, it is necessary to systematically examine the ears and remove contamination with a cotton swab.

It is important, of course, to closely monitor your pet and not to postpone a visit to the veterinarian if signs of poor health or atypical behavior are noticed.

In general, Labrador Retrievers can be called quite healthy dogs, although any purebred animals, due to the limited choice of strains, have a predisposition to certain genetic diseases. From birth or age, some individuals may develop autoimmune diseases or deafness.

But in most cases, before the onset of old age, visits to the clinic will be episodic. Puppies need to be vaccinated on a routine basis if this has not been done by the breeder. Subject to proper care and proper nutrition, the average life expectancy of representatives of this breed is 10-12 years. Like other large dogs, the Achilles heel of Labradors is the musculoskeletal system; the most common disease is called hip dysplasia by veterinarians. Cases of cataracts, retinal atrophy, and corneal dystrophy are not uncommon.

But the main source of danger to the dog’s health is obesity due to the irrepressible appetite, which was already mentioned above. This factor affects the duration and quality of life of a pet, as it inevitably leads to the development of diabetes, eye diseases, diseases of the musculoskeletal system. A controlled diet and sufficient exercise will help your pet stay active and healthy longer.

How to choose a puppy?

The popularity of the breed is not always an advantage for those who decide to get a Labrador Retriever. In pursuit of profit, unscrupulous breeders keep parents and puppies in inappropriate conditions. Of course, unsanitary conditions, cramped conditions, and poor nutrition adversely affect the formation of a growing body and health in the future, so the first piece of advice: do not seek to save money and contact only nurseries with a good reputation, where you can see your future pet with your own eyes, read the documents about the pedigree, get reliable information about vaccinations.

When choosing a Labrador, pay attention to compliance with the external characteristics of the breed, observe the behavior of the baby – he should be playful, active, and easy to make contact with. A healthy shine in the coat, clean eyes and ears, and a normal appetite are important signs of well-being.

Alice White

Written by Alice White

Alice White, a devoted pet lover and writer, has turned her boundless affection for animals into a fulfilling career. Originally dreaming of wildlife, her limited scientific background led her to specialize in animal literature. Now she happily spends her days researching and writing about various creatures, living her dream.

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