Thursday, July 21, 2011

Labrador Retriever

This friendly loyal breed is very loving towards humans. With their happy usually reliable temperament and dependable easy going way it’s no wonder the Lab is one of the most popular breeds. They not only hold this title in the United State but Canada and Australia as well.

The typical lab thrives on human companionship, approval, and attention. They always want to be around their humans. The expression “follow you around like a puppy dog” may have been invented to describe this dog’s behavior. They are always eager to please and are very affectionate. They have a need for close physical contact. Whether it’s lying on your feet, sitting in your lap (someone must not have told them they aren’t lap dogs), or leaning against you they need to have that close contact with their humans.  If you’re the type of person that doesn’t appreciate such displays of affection this is probably not the right breed for you.

Lab are the type of dog that doesn’t consider anyone a stranger. Whether you have known them forever or just met them they will greet you just as enthusiastically. They have plenty of kisses and tail wags to spare. Guard dogs they are not.  Many do make good watch dogs though. When someone approaches Labs will warn you with a bark. The key to keeping this easy going attitude towards others is socialization. No dog is too young to begin that very important behavior. Be sure to enforce social behavior throughout your dog’s life. (No matter what breed a social dog is a good dog.)

Their loving affectionate nature and desire for the company of others makes them a good choice for families.  Definitely not a one man’s dog. . Labs love to run and play with kids. Generally they are gentle and patient with children. They are not usually easily startled or upset. However, caution should be taken as their enthusiasm may get the best of  them and they may knock a child over by accident. Many also enjoy games of fetch especially if water is included. Their other favorite hobby is chewing. They mouth and chew anything and everything. It’s not uncommon to see them carry things around in their mouths. Labs usually get along with other dogs so do well in a multi dog family.

Labs are pretty content to live anywhere. Whether it’s an apartment without a yard or a huge home in the country they are happy. Just remember to always take them for a daily walk or run. Burning that extra energy makes for a happy dog. Remember if you have a yard be sure that it’s securely fenced. This breed tends to wander if not supervised.

This highly intelligent breed makes training easy. Commands are often picked up very quickly. Be sure they have plenty of exercise to release any pent up energy. If bored they are notorious for digging holes. Also lonely or bored Labs tend to be more vocal. The chewing habit may appear in destructive ways to release their frustration.

If you’re looking for a hiking or jogging companion this may just be the breed for you. They are very athletic, strong, and have plenty of energy. These attributes make them good in agility, obedience events, and hunting. Many Labs have gone on to be therapy dogs, service dogs, or guide dogs for the blind. Some have even gone into fields such as search and rescue or narcotics detection.

It’s important to know being a larger breed they tend to physically grow quickly. However, their mental growth may take longer. Until two years old (sometimes older) these wonderful dogs tend to act like puppies. Another good reason early training is recommended. Since they crave leadership it’s important to establish that role with them. Adult Labbies tend to be very strong dogs so it’s important to teach them fundamentals at a young age. For example always make sure they know not to bolt out doorways or gates before you.

There’s two types of Labrador Retrievers. The English which as their name suggests are bred from English stock. The other of course is the American. The overall appearance of the two types does differ. American bred tend to be tall and lanky. The double coat is smooth and does not have any waves. Whereas the English Lab tend to be heavier, blockier, and have a thicker build.

The head is broad with a moderate stop that sits on a proportionately wide and powerful neck. They have thick noses that are black on the black or yellow Labs. On the chocolate Labs their nose pigmentation is brown. Since pigmentation often fades this is not considered a fault in the show rings. Their muzzles are fairly wide and their teeth should meet in a level or scissors bite. Lab’s bodies tend to be slightly longer then tall. The hard short coat isn’t too difficult to care for. It’s also water resistant.

Yellow and black labs should have brown eyes. Chocolate labs have hazel or brown. Green or greenish yellow are also possible. Silver dogs usually have gray eyes. The medium sized eyes are set well apart. In Chocolate Labs their eyes are rimmed in brown whereas the yellow and black labs have black rims. Lab ears are medium sized and gradually taper into a tip. They’re covered in short hair completely with no feathering. Labs are known for their strong compact webbed feet. This genetic trait has aided many in swimming.

English lines tend to be more calm and laid back compared to their American counterparts. It’s also said that they mature quicker. Field lines like the American tend to be very energetic and become easily high strung if they are not exercised properly.

Both are average shedders. Their smooth short double coat is easy to groom but does require regular combing or brushing. Be sure to pay close attention to the undercoat.  Bathing or using dry shampoo should only be done when needed. The coat colors come in solid black, yellow, or chocolate. Colors such as silver, gray, or white are not “rare” as many may have you believe. Breeders often try to get more for such color mutations. However, these colors are referred to as a shade of chocolate by the AKC.  There is controversial debates over these colors. Some claim the mutation is true. Others strongly believe it’s due to the Weimaraner breed being crossed bred with Labradors.

Height for males is usually 22-24 inches and in the females it’s 21-23inches. Males tend to weigh 60-75lbs though some may grow up to 100 or more. The females typically stay smaller within the 55-70lb range. Labs generally live 10 - 12 years.

Labs usually don’t have many major problems. However, they do have some inherited disorders.

Prone to hip and elbow dysplasia especially in the larger labs. It’s recommended to get hip scores before breeding and joint supplements are often recommended.

Suffer from the risk of knee problems. Luxating patella is common in the knee where the leg is often bow shaped.

Eye problems like progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. A veterinary ophthalmologists should examine and give an eye score for any dogs being considered for breeding.

Hereditary myopathy is a rare disorder that causes a deficiency in type II muscle fibre. Symptoms are short stilted gait or bunny hopping. In rare cases ventroflexion of the neck accompanied by a kyphotic posture.

Small incidence of other conditions like autoimmune diseases and deafness in Labs. Either congenitally or later in life.

Labs often suffer from exercise induced collapse. Syndrome that causes hyperthermia, weakness, collapse, and disorientation after short bouts of exercise.

Labs like to eat. Without proper exercise they can become obese. Healthy labs can swim and do wind sprints for two hours. They should have a very slight hourglass waist. They should be fit and light not fat or heavy set. When fat they usually develop hip dysplasia or other joint problems and get diabetes. Osteoarthritis is common in older overweight labs. According to a 14 year study by Purina of 48 dogs those fed to maintain lean body shape outlived by about two years those fed freely. This is an example of why not over feeding is important.

Once known as the St John’s dog. Labs are native to Newfoundland. These dogs worked beside fishermen catching fish that came loose from the lines. Also they were trained to jump in icy waters to help pull the nets. In the 1800s they were brought to England by English ships coming from Labrador. Setters, Spaniels, and other types of Retrievers were cross bred with the Labradors. These breeding techniques were done to improve the hunter instincts. Present day Labs now excel in hunting, tracking, and retrieving.

History of subtypes:

Yellow and Chocolate Labs did occasionally appear through the breeding lines. However, sadly many were often culled. It wasn’t until the 20th century that they finally gained acceptance.

Ben of Hyde born in 1899 was the first recognized yellow. In the 1930s chocolate became more established.

Yellow - 
Early years until mid 20th century labs of the color we now refer to as yellow were much darker an almost butterscotch shade. Many early photos of yellow labs show this. At that time the shade was known as golden. They then had to change that name b/c UK Kennel club said gold wasn’t actually a color. Over the 20th century preference for lighter shades and cream colors. Now these days most yellows have this shading. Fawn was also another common color in the yellows.

English breeders in the 1980s reestablished the interest of darker shades such as gold or fox red. Three dogs were instrumental in this change. A black lab born approx 1976 by the name of Balrion King Frost consistently sired very dark yellow offspring. He’s credited for having the biggest influence of the redevelopment of the fox red shades. His great grand son Wynfaul Tabasco was born in 1986 has been described as “the father of the modern fox red Labrador”  He was also the only modern fox red show champion in the uk. Others such as Red Alert and Scrimshaw Placido Ramingo are also credited with passing on the genes into more then one renowned bloodline.

Chocolate - 
Jack Vanderwyk traces the origins of Chocolates listed on the LabradorNet database. (About 34000 labs of all shades) to eight original bloodlines. These shades were not seen as a distinct color until the 20th century. Before that time according to Vanderwyk these dogs can be traced but not registered.  Crossbreeding with Flatcoats or Chesapeake Bay Retrievers has also been documented in the early 20th century prior to be recognized.

Chocolate labs were well established in the early 20th century at the kennels of the Earl of Feversham, and Lady Ward of Chiltonfoliat. These traced bloodlines each lead back to three black labs in the 1880s.

Buccleuch Avon (m), his sire Malmesbury Tramp and dam Malmesbury June . Morningtown Tobla also an important intermediary, and according to the Buccleuch Kennels studbook the chocolates in this kennel came through FTW Peter of Faskally (1908).

Group Classification:
Gun dog, AKC Sporting.

Registered with:
CKC = Continental Kennel Club
FCI = Fédération Cynologique Internationale
AKC = American Kennel Club
UKC = United Kennel Club
KCGB = Kennel Club of Great Britain
CKC = Canadian Kennel Club
ANKC = Australian National Kennel Club
NKC = National Kennel Club
NZKC = New Zealand Kennel Club
CCR = Canadian Canine Registry
APRI = American Pet Registry Inc.
ACR = American Canine Registry
DRA = Dog Registry of America, Inc.
NAPR = North American Purebred Registry, Inc.

Information compiled from various sources. No copyright infringement intended. No monetary gain was received. Original was created July 21st, 2011 by Carrie McCormick.

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