Labrador Retrievers, everything you need to know, and a little bit more.
The Labrador retriever, Labrador, or just lab for short… they’re the ultimate furry family member! This means it’s not a surprise that these glorious pooches are the most popular breed among British families. Bursting bundles of joy with a zest for life and endless enthusiasm for all things fun.
Originally hunting dogs from a place called Newfoundland, these extraordinary pooches are avid swimmers who also hold a passion for fetch, combine the two and you’ll have the happiest dog there is. These beauties are at their most comfortable surrounded by a loving pack who have the time for (nearly endless) games of fetch, splash about in the water and for teaching all kinds of new tricks, because a lab loves to learn.
Labradors really are the definition of an all-rounder (unless you want a pooch that’ll fit under your arm), ideal for an active family, they’re also proven successful working dogs, with a goal-orientated mind set, these popular, fun-loving dogs, make great workers, family pets or even therapy dogs and amazing service partners.
Labrador retrievers are sturdy dogs with a wide head and thoughtful, intelligent eyes, their coats are dense and hard, ranging in shade. You can find chocolate, yellow, black and fox red as some of the more common variations, sometimes you’ll be able to spot offshoots of these colours such as golden or even silver.
A Labrador loves a good swim, and it makes sense why, along with their natural love for the activity, each toe is webbed, which helps propel them through the water with relative ease, but not only do they help the labs swim, they’re also more accustomed to the winter months, these webbed toes help to form a casing that keeps snow and ice from being trapped between their toes.
Labs are also very well known for their so-called otter tails, while having no relation to the otter itself (as far as we know at least) the nickname comes from the typically rounded shape of the tail, much like an otter. The tail can differ from dog to dog, as labs bread for showing are often idealised for their ‘otter tail’ with no feathering. Some of the work-accustomed labs have been known to have slightly thinner and longer tails than those of a non-working dog.
According to the Kennel clubs breed standards, studs (male labs) typically stand between 22 and 24 inches in height, whereas bitches (female labs) stand between 21 and 23 inches in height. This doesn’t however guarantee the size of your lab as this can very dog to dog, some being bigger and others smaller.
Labrador retrievers make for fabulous family dogs as they are most well known for their loving and non-aggressive nature. With bundles of energy, they are incredibly outgoing dogs who thrive and adore being surrounded by their pack of two- and four-legged family alike.
Lovers of all activities involving exercise, they need a lot of stimulation, so if you’re an active family already, them this amazing breed will fit in perfectly. And its ok if you’re not ready to run a marathon or swim the English Channel just yet, these beautiful dogs are happy with a simple game of fetch, we’d just recommend a large field and a few hours of free time, but most importantly, don’t forget to take breaks. Even a Labrador can run out of energy
Now it’s always safe to ease a new dog into the fold, especially if you already have children and other pets already living with you, not to worry though because Labradors make it easier, because they are so outgoing and sociable, with no aggressive traits to speak of, they’ll happily make friends with new people and pooches alike. Just take it slow and hopefully you’ll get to watch some budding new friendships unfold
Like their ancestors from Newfoundland, Labradors are incredibly intelligent dogs, and as ex-working dogs they do an amazing job as a service partner, this can be a double edged sword however, if you ever find yourself walking with your lab off lead, be sure to keep an eye on them, when a lab catches a sent it can be hard to break free and they will follow it as far as it leads.
The friendly nature of the lab means they often crave company, so we’d advise socialising them with other dogs relatively often, which is best off started at a young age so they can become more confident as they grow, as the age old adage goes, you cant teach an old dog new tricks (not entirely accurate but the point stands here) the older they get the harder it will be, so starting young is the best way for them to properly grow into their social tendencies. And plus, it’ll just make it easier for you in the long run.
The ideal home:
As energetic, sociable dogs, Labradors will do best in a home with a reasonable amount of outdoor space, accompanied by pet parents that won’t leave them alone for too long, having someone around for frequent walks and activities is important for the mental and physical health and development of the dog. These balls of fluff also thrive with regular training sessions helping to reinforce the house rules, so if you work from home or happen to have enough time to keep them active, a Labrador could make an amazing addition to your household.
The ideal owner:
Just like the labs, if you have bags of energy, patience for regular training and enjoy being outdoors, a lab might just be perfect. With the working history of the Labrador, sometimes simple exercises might not cut it. To really tire your lab out test their mental abilities, play hide and seek, try some trick training or some puzzle toys or if you have the ability, you can take them to a canine sports club, where they can work on their agility and problem-solving skills.
Tips for training:
The amount of energy these pups bring to the table means a consistent schedule of training and socialisation is needed to channel that energy in the right direction, one key thing is helping them be comfortable outside of the house, which means plenty of walks, and plenty of time to socialise, so as these pups develop into adult life they’ll be unfazed by the variety of situations they are presented with day to day.
Puppy training classes are also a great way to set a solid foundation of house rules and toilet training habits that’ll serve them throughout life, not only are puppy training classes one of the most effective methods of helping your dogs learn how to behave, but it is also once again an amazing opportunity for them to socialise with other dogs and humans. Meeting other pet parents and their pups is a great way of exposing them to the variety of other species, like dogs and humans.
A typical lab will shed its coat twice a year but can happen all year round if you live somewhere with more temperate weather, their thick double coat needs to be groomed often, ideally every week or two and potentially every day when they begin the shedding processes, otherwise you could end up with fur all over the house. They don’t need a good soak in the bath too often, (unless they love rolling around in dirt all day of course) but feel free to give them a semi regular gentle bathe, and like other dogs they’ll need their nails trimmed and their teeth cared for through special chews or even brushing regularly.
According to the Kennel Club, Labrador Retrievers can live on average between 10 and 12 years. But, as with all of our four-legged friends, one of the most important things to know about Labrador Retrievers is that there are a few health problems to keep an eye out for. While they’re a healthy breed, these conditions include elbow and hip dysplasia, hereditary myopathy (muscle weakness), exercise induced collapse (EIC), bloat, eye conditions such as progressive retinal atrophy, and heart disorders. For prevention of these conditions, speak to your vet and arrange regular health checks to make sure your pooch is in tip-top health.
Its also up to you to make sure your lab takes a break, as once they get fixated on something, that attention won’t break unless your force it to, so making sure your lab takes frequent breaks and some water is very important to keeping them healthy. So, make sure your Labrador Retriever avoids collapse with timely breaks between all the fun.
Now we couldn’t bring this guide to an end without a little bit of the history that makes these dogs what we have grown to adore and trust us there’s a lot of interesting stuff know.
The Labrador is the world’s most popular dog, beloved by families and royalty alike for years, being one of the world’s most versatile breeds, seen in any and all fields from guide dogs to search and rescue, they really can do it all.
The Labrador has been the faithful companion to some of history’s most notable figures, from presidents and prime ministers to musical icons like Frank Sinatra and authors like Roald dahl. Although nowadays a Labrador is partial to curling up on the sofa after a long day of play, it didn’t start this way, it actually originates from a largely cold and often times inhospitable place.
The complete origin of this breed encompasses many different parts of the world, such as Canada, Portugal, and Britain. British settlers took their hunting dogs of the time to Newfoundland, around the same time the Portuguese were making use of the areas for its rich harvest of cod, when these Portuguese fishermen set sail back to England with their hauls of cod, they took permutations of the breed back with them, with the first reported sightings of the Newfoundland dog in England taking place in the mid-1800s
The Labrador is a direct descendant of the St John’s Dog, these dogs were described as at home in the water as they are on land, specialising in retrieving ropes and nets and were even known to dive into the water to retrieve any fish that had slipped from their hooks. These dogs worked in tandem with fishermen and were considered as much a part of the process as the fisherman themselves.
The Earl of Malmsbury was the first to give the official name Labrador to the breed after playing an important role in importing them over to England for the first time.
The St Johns Dog had a dense, oily, and waterproof coat, perfect for venturing into the water and as are today’s Labradors, completely oblivious to the cold and happy to swim in exceptionally icy conditions.
Despite the popularity of Labs in the 19th century, a dog tax caused the breed to drop in numbers in Newfoundland especially, because of this the labs that remained were bred across multiple other breeds to preserve the line, thankfully this worked, and we now have the amazing breed we have today.
In 1903 the Labrador was officially recognised as a breed by the English Kennel Club, following this throughout the 20s and 30s England saw a massive influx of labs, so much so that the majority of today’s labs can be traced back to them.
As the world transitioned into the modern era, many people found that there’s more to the Labrador than the typical hunting and fishing traits, traits that made them suitable as indoor household pets, patience is a virtue after all.