The Labrador was originally called the St. John’s Water Dog after the capital city of Newfoundland, off the North-eastern Atlantic coast of Canada. It was here that the trusty Lab helped the local fishermen to haul in their nets out of the icy water, and to retrieve any fish that had escaped. Because of their lovely nature, they became firm family companion dogs as well. Today most Labradors will shirk the work willingly to live a pampered life with their family, but they do make ideal therapy dogs bringing much pleasure to the elderly and hospitals. They also make great guide dogs for the blind, and assistant dogs for the disabled. This breed is still used as a working dog for search and rescue, or with hunters to retrieve game. They have a keen sense of smell and can be trained to do almost anything (with a lot of patience required). The only thing they are not good at is being a guard dog. Their friendly nature will welcome anyone to the home, and they are more likely to show them where the valuables are stashed than chasing them away! But overall, they excel at being a loyal companion and friend and have a mellow patient nature.
In the 1700s, the Labrador was known as the St. John’s Water Dog after the capital of Newfoundland. Here, it helped fishermen with their nets and retrieved any fish that fell from the nets. Later, this breed was renamed the Labrador after the Labrador Sea, which was the geographical location of its development. The records show that the Labrador, or its first direct ancestor, was exported to England in the 1820s. The second Earl of Malmesbury was one of the first to own a Labrador and it was because they were so good at retrieving during hunting that they became popular. It was the third Earl of Malmesbury who first referred to the dogs as Labradors. The breed nearly became extinct in the 1880s but was saved by the Malmesbury family and select English breeders. Sadly, in Newfoundland, the breed disappeared because of strict government restrictions and their tax laws. The families were only allowed to keep one dog, and owning a female was highly taxed. Because of this, female puppies were culled from the litters. Thankfully, the breed survived in England, with the breed officially recognised in 1903. In the 1920’s British Labradors were imported to establish the breed in the United States, and as they say… the rest is history.
The Labrador is built for sport – especially swimming. They are muscular and athletic and have an easy care short coat. Placid by nature, and keen to please they are friendly to all. Labs are devoted and loving people friendly dogs, and live to serve their families. Labradors have a short top coat and a thick, dense undercoat that is waterproof. It is ideal for cold weather and icy water. The head of the Labrador is broad, and it has a moderate stop. The nose color can vary with a black nose on the black and yellow Labradors, and brown on the chocolate Labrador. They have strong jaws, with teeth that meet in a scissor or level bite. With a wide muzzle and strong, powerful neck, the Labrador has a body that is slightly longer than its height. These dogs are known for their friendly expressive eyes, often brown or golden brown in color, although the chocolate coated lab can have hazel colored eyes. The eyes are rimmed in black, giving their medium sized eyes a classic look. On a Labrador, the ears are medium in size, pendant shaped and hang down. Their tail is like an otter’s tail, it is thick at the base and tapers to the tip and assists in their swimming, as does their strong, compact webbed feet. The lab has a free and easy gait. The English Labs are heavier and blockier while the U.S. Labrador is taller and lankier. In America, the Labrador Retriever has become the most popular breed, an honor it retains to this day.
Grooming is fairly easy with a Labrador Retriever, a good brushing daily to keep the shedding under control and can even use your vacuum cleaner to go over their coat if they are used to the noise. They do need a bath, usually about every two months or so unless they have found something disgusting to roll in which Labs seem to like doing. They are usually very patient when being bathed, enjoying the extra attention, but watch when you let them out after drying them off; they will head for a dirt patch to roll in! Other maintenance requirements are a regular ear check, as dirt and bacteria can build up inside, causing inflammation and a bad smell. Never insert anything deep into the ear canal, just clean the outer ear. Daily brushing of their teeth using an appropriate pet toothpaste is best, never use human toothpaste for your dog as it can produce a severe reaction. A busy Labrador’s nails will keep short naturally, but if your Lab is clicking its way across the floor, then the nails need trimming. It will help prevent any scratching if they jump up on visitors. If you make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, the rest will be easy. These dogs can be quite active and need regular exercise, and it helps to have a big fenced yard where they can roam. As they are prone to weight gain, as well as bloating, feed your dog meals several times a day rather than one big feed a day to keep them in shape and healthy.