As of 2010, for the nineteenth straight year in a row, the Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed of dog in the United States.
They originated in Newfoundland; bred specifically to help fisherman retrieve their nets from icy Canadian waters. Their willingness to please, dogged work ethic, and incredible ability to learn, even temper and loyalty soon gained them popularity with hunters and as companion dogs. Today, Labrador Retrievers are found in the Sport group. They are also commonly "employed" as search and rescue, police, military, service, therapy, detection, watchdog and guide dogs. A Lab without a job is an unhappy dog. Even the family pet, will need to be given some sort of job to be fully content.
There are two types of Labrador Retrievers; English and American. The English Lab is shorter, stockier and has a double coat with wavy hair. In general they are found to be calmer and mature a bit faster than their American cousins. The American Lab is normally a taller and ganglier version, with short straight hair. Both must be shown strong, fair, firm and consistent leadership. Labs respect pack order and strong leaders. Humans of any age must always be perceived as the leader!
Labs range from 55 pounds to some males tipping the scale at over 100 pounds. The average is usually between 60-80 pounds. They tend to pack on weight easily, so there must be a balance between feeding and exercise. It has been found Labs that are not overfed, could live as much as two years over their average life span of 10-12 years.
You can't ask for an easier dog to groom. Just the mention of a bath, has most Labs more than willing to hop into the tub! If they aren't playfully tugging at the hose, they will patiently stand as they are lathered up and rinsed off! A quick towel rub down and they are good to go!
In general, a healthy breed, they are prone to elbow and hip dysplasia, luxating patella, bloat, and osteoarthritis. Watch their weight and diet. Eye disorders such as progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), cataracts, and retinal dysplasia are somewhat common. Those long floppy ears can be the source of ear infections, especially to the ones that can't resist water! Make sure their inner ears are dried off after each swimming or bathing adventure to avoid fungus and/or bacterial infections.
High energy, loyal, playful, intelligent, eager to please, sensitive, affectionate, and one of the most family friendly breeds, best describes the average Labrador Retriever. They can also be stubborn and quite destructive if not socialized, trained and vigorously exercised regularly. That means long hearty walks, possibly an opportunity for a short swim, lots of playing fetch and dog park interactions will need to be on your daily to-do list.
Wonderful with children, supervision is recommended when your Lab is around small children or the elderly. They are incredibly strong for a dog their size...and until they mature, they can be rather excitable and clumsy. Labs can never have too many friends!
They do make good watchdogs, with their rather low, deep bark and inherent supportive nature.
If exercise is not high on your list of favorite activities, you may want to reconsider adding a Lab to your family. They not only need exercise, they need loads of it every day! Otherwise, much to your chagrin, you will find your Lab, creating its own type of amusement!
Rare is a Lab that can pass a puddle, pool or pond, without having an uncontrollable urge to take a dip. Their "otter" tail, thick at the base and little by little tapering to the tip, plus their web feet, propel and glide them, as they retrieve anything from a Frisbee, ball or water fowl from the water. If you have a pool, make sure your Lab, especially a puppy, knows how to get out of it. Odds are, even though you should be there to supervise swimming activities, they are opportunists that will take advantage of any chance for a quick spin around the pool.
Socialization and obedience training is a must. Get your Lab puppy or dog into training as soon as possible. Labs respond to positive reinforcement, punishment-free training as eagerly as they do to swimming. Once trained, something as simple as a change in the tone of your voice, whistle or a subtle hand signal will have your Lab enthusiastically responding to your requests. Labs love to compete...it's in their genes. Agility and rally competitions are a terrific way to show off your well-mannered, well-behaved Lab.
Bottom line: If you are looking for a dog with sense of adventure, oodles of energy, a love of the great outdoors, undying loyalty, a need to please and never enough friends, a Labrador Retriever...chocolate, vanilla or licorice, may be the perfect dog for you and your family. Note: Black Labs are one of the most common dogs found in shelters. Sadly, because of Black Dog Syndrome, many amazing puppies and dogs are not even given a fair chance to find a forever home. They are euthanized sooner and in greater numbers than lighter colored dogs. More often than not, economics are the primary reason they have been surrendered. Check with your local shelter...your next best friend may be patiently waiting for you.