Thursday, July 30, 2009

Breed Profile: Labrador Retriever

By Ruthie Bently

Labrador Retrievers are a special breed, as anyone that has owned one or been involved with one can tell you. I didn’t grow up with a Lab, but one of my favorite books was “The Dog In My Life” by Kurt Unkelbach. It was about a young lady named Cary and her dog Thumper of Walden, and the adventures they had on and off the dog show circuit. Another of my favorite books was “The Incredible Journey” about a Labrador, a Bull Terrier and a Siamese cat and the journey they undertake when their owner leaves them with a friend for safekeeping.

The Labrador Retriever is a member of the Sporting Group and was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1917. Their outgoing personality and versatility makes them ideal as either a family pet or a sporting dog. They excel in tracking, agility, obedience and service work. It is because of their trainability that they are used for rescue work as well as guide dogs. The height for a male should be between 22-1/2 inches to 24-1/2 inches at the shoulder, and his weight should be between 65 to 80 pounds. A female’s height should be between 21-1/2 inches to 23-1/2 inches and her weight should be between 55 and 70 pounds. There are three colors that are acceptable for showing: yellow, black and chocolate. Additionally, in Britain a Labrador needs to have a working certificate or it cannot become a bench show champion.

The Labrador actually originated in Newfoundland not Labrador. The original Labrador breed died out in Newfoundland, due to a heavy dog tax and the restrictions on importing the breed into England. The original Labrador breed traces its history back to a dog known as the St. John’s Water Dog, which came from a cross between small water dogs and Newfoundlands. The Duke of Malmesbury was the one credited with naming the breed, after he admitted that he had always called his dogs Labradors. Accurate pedigrees of the Labradors of today can be traced back as far as 1878, to two dogs “Peter of Faskally” and “Flappe.”

Labradors were used by fishermen in Newfoundland to help pull in nets and catch escaping fish that got away from the fishing lines. A Labrador Retriever has a dense short coat that is weather resistant. Their tail is known as an “otter” tail and they should have eyes that are friendly and “kind.” They should have a good temperament and be intelligent, and since they are primarily bred as a working gun dog, their soundness and structure are very important. Because they are a “working” dog, Labs need a job so they do not get bored. I used to tell my customers that a Labrador needed the equivalent of a five mile walk every day. If you choose a Lab make sure you have the time to spend with them so they get the exercise or workout they need. They are also a dog that uses their mouth, and they tend to chew more than some of other breeds.

My personal experience with Labrador Retrievers is that they are very intelligent, loving, family oriented dogs. My brother-in-law has a lab mix, though she looks more like a Lab to me than the other half. Her name is Wings, and she gets into all sorts of things; she has even followed my boyfriend Steve home from my brother-in-law’s house and will sit in our yard at night guarding it from what she perceives as danger. Once you own a Lab, they will own you. They really want to please and in turn, they wiggle their way into your heart.

Read more articles by Ruthie Bently

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