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"To err is human, to forgive, canine."

Author Unknown
 



 

Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever (also Labrador, Labby or Lab for short), is one of several kinds of retriever, a type of gun dog. The Labrador is considered the most popular breed of dog (by registered ownership) in the world, and is by a large margin the most popular breed by registration in the United States (since 1991) the United Kingdom, Poland, and several other countries. It is also the most popular breed of assistance dog in the United States, Australia, and many other countries, as well as being widely used by police and other official bodies for their detection and working abilities. They are exceptionally affable, gentle, intelligent, energetic and good natured, making them both excellent companions and working dogs. Although somewhat boisterous if untrained, Labrador Retrievers respond well to praise and positive attention, and are considerably "food and fun" oriented. These dogs are as well loyal and great with little children. They may be used in shows. With training, the Lab is one of the most dependable, obedient and multi-talented breeds in the world.

Appearance
Labradors are relatively large, with males typically weighing 30–36 kg (65–80 lb) and females 25–32 kg (55–70 lb). Anything close or over 100 lb is considered obese or a major fault. under AKC standards, but some labs do become overweight and may weigh significantly more. Their coats are short and smooth, and they possess a straight, powerful tail often likened to that of an otter. The majority of the characteristics of this breed, with the exception of colour, are the result of breeding to produce a working retriever.

As with some other breeds, the English (typically "show" or "bench") and the American (typically "working" or "field") lines differ. Today, "English" and "American" lines exist in both the United Kingdom and in North America. In general, however, in the United Kingdom, Labs tend to be bred as medium-sized dogs, shorter and stockier with fuller faces and a slightly calmer nature than their American counterparts, which are regionally often bred as taller, lighter-built dogs. These two types are informal and not codified or standardised; no distinction is made by the AKC or other kennel clubs, but the two types come from different breeding lines. Australian stock also exists; though not seen in the west, they are common in Asia. Other "local minor variants" may also exist in some areas.

The breed tends to shed hair twice annually, or regularly throughout the year in temperate climates. Some labs shed a lot, however individual labs vary. Lab hair is usually fairly short and straight, and the tail quite broad and strong. The otter-like tail and webbed toes of the Labrador Retriever make them excellent swimmers. Their interwoven coat is also relatively waterproof, providing more assistance for swimming. The tail acts as a rudder for changing direction.

Show standards
Like any animal, there is a great deal of variety among Labs. These characteristics are typical of the conformation show bred (bench-bred) lines of this breed in the United States, and are based on the AKC standard. Significant differences between US and UK standards are noted.

Size: Labs are a medium-large but compact breed. They should have an appearance of proportionality. They should be as long from the shoulders back as they are from the floor to the withers. Males should stand 22.5-24.5 inch (55.9-62.5 cm) tall at the withers and weigh 65–80 lb (30–36 kg). Females should stand 21.5–23.5 inch (54.5–60 cm) and weigh 55–70 lb (25–32 kg). By comparison under UK Kennel Club standards, height should be 22–22.5 inch (55.9–57.2 cm) for males, and 21.5–22 inch (54.6–55.9 cm) for bitches.

Coat: The Lab's coat should be short and dense, but not wiry. The coat is described as 'water-resistant' or more accurately 'water-repellent' so that the dog does not get cold when taking to water in the winter. That means the dog naturally has a slightly dry, oily coat. Acceptable colours are chocolate, black, and yellow. A small white spot on the chest on black labs is the only acceptable variance from a solid colored coat, but it is not ideal. There is much variance within yellow Labs. Colours should be solid, though varying shades of yellow on the same dog are acceptable in yellow labs. There has been an increase in the demand for "white" Labs, which are simply Labradors with a very light yellow coat.

Head: The head should be broad with a pronounced stop and slightly pronounced brow. The eyes should be kind and expressive. Appropriate eye colours are brown and hazel. The lining around the eyes should be black. The ears should hang close to the head and are set slightly above the eyes.

Jaws: The jaws should be strong and powerful. The muzzle should be of medium length, and should not be too tapered. The jaws should hang slightly and curve gracefully back.

Body: The body should be strong and muscular with a level top line.

The tail and coat are designated "distinctive [or distinguishing] features" of the Labrador by both the Kennel Club and AKC. The AKC adds that "true Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the 'otter' tail."

Color
There are three recognised colours for Labs: black (a solid black colour), yellow (anything from light cream to gold to "fox-red"), and chocolate (medium to dark brown). There is no such thing as a silver Labrador or a Golden Labrador, a common mistake for the Yellow variant. There is also a black-and-tan coat type, but this coat colour is the least popular as it renders the Labrador un-showable except in the UK.

Puppies of all colours can potentially occur in the same litter. Colour is determined primarily by two genes. The first gene (the B locus) determines the density of the coat's pigment granules: dense granules result in a black coat, sparse ones give a chocolate coat. The second (E) locus determines whether the pigment is produced at all. A dog with the recessive e allele will produce little pigment and will be yellow regardless of its genotype at the B locus. Variations in numerous other genes control the subtler details of the coat's colouration, which in yellow Labs varies from white to light gold to a fox red. Chocolate and black Labs' noses will match the coat colour.

Nose and skin pigmentation
Because Lab colouration is controlled by multiple genes, it is possible for recessive genes to emerge some generations later and also there can sometimes be unexpected pigmentation effects to different parts of the body. Pigmentation effects appear in regard to yellow Labs, and sometimes chocolate, and hence the majority of this section covers pigmentation within the yellow Lab. The most common places where pigmentation is visible are the nose, lips, gums, feet,tails, and the rims of the eyes, which may be black, brown, light yellow-brown ("liver", caused by having two genes for chocolate), or several other colours. A Lab can carry genes for a different colour, for example a black Lab can carry recessive chocolate and yellow genes, and a yellow Lab can carry recessive genes for the other two colours. DNA testing can reveal some aspects of these. Less common pigmentations (other than pink) are a fault, not a disqualification, and hence such dogs are still permitted to be shown.

The intensity of black pigment on yellow Labs is controlled by a separate gene independent of the fur colouring. Yellow Labs usually have black noses, which may gradually turn pink with age (called "snow nose" or "winter nose"). This is due to a reduction in the enzyme tyrosinase which indirectly controls the production of melanin, a dark colouring. Tyrosinase is temperature dependent—hence light colouration can be seasonal, due to cold weather—and is less produced with increasing age two years old onwards. As a result, the nose colour of most yellow Labs becomes a somewhat pink shade as they grow older.

A colouration known as "Dudley" is also possible. Dudleys are variously defined as yellow Labs which have no pigmented (pink) noses (LRC), yellow with liver/chocolate pigmentation (AKC), or "flesh coloured" in addition to having the same colour around the rims of the eye, rather than having black or dark brown pigmentation. A yellow Lab with brown or chocolate pigmentation, for example, a brown or chocolate nose, is not necessarily a Dudley, though according to the AKC's current standard it would be if it has chocolate rims around the eyes (or more accurately of the genotype eebb). Breed standards for Labradors considers a true Dudley to be a disqualifying feature in a conformation show Lab, such as one with a thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment along with flesh coloured rims around the eyes. True Dudleys are extremely rare.

Breeding in order to correct pigmentation often lacks dependability. Because colour is determined by many genes, some of which are recessive, crossbreeding a pigmentation non-standard yellow Lab to a black Lab may not correct the matter or prevent future generations carrying the same recessive genes. For similar reasons, crossbreeding chocolate to yellow labs is also often avoided.

Variant lines
Differences in the physical build of the dog have arisen as a result of specialised breeding. Dogs bred for hunting and field-trial work are selected first for working ability, whereas dogs bred to compete in the sport of conformation showing are selected for the characteristics sought by judges in the show ring. There are significant differences between field and trial-bred (sometimes referred to as "American") and show-bred (or "English") lines of Labradors. In general, show-bred Labs are heavier, slightly shorter-bodied, and have a thicker coat and tail. Field Labs are generally longer legged, lighter, and more lithe in build. In the head, show Labs tend to have broader heads, better defined stops, and more powerful necks, while field Labs have lighter and slightly narrower heads with longer muzzles. Field-bred Labs are commonly higher energy and more high-strung compared to the Lab bred for conformation showing, and as a consequence may be more suited to working relationships rather than being a "family pet." Of course, each individual dog differs. Some breeders, especially those specialising in the field type, feel that breed shows do not adequately recognise their type of dog. There is also occasional debate regarding officially splitting the breed. In the United States, the AKC and the Labrador's breed club have set the breed standard to accommodate the field-bred Labrador somewhat. For instance, the AKC withers-height standards allow conformation dogs to be slightly taller than the equivalent British standard. However, dual champions, or dogs that excel in both the field and the show ring, are becoming more unusual.

 

Labrador Retriever
Nicknames: Lab, Labrador, Labby
Country of origin: Newfoundland and Labrador, which became a province of Canada in 1949


Non-variants
Terms such as "golden", "silver", "blue", "white" or "grey" as variants are not recognised. The term "Golden Labrador" has been used both as an incorrect term for yellow labradors of a golden shade, and also for any Labrador-Golden Retriever crossbreed of any colour, including black. White is a light shade of yellow (officially referred to as 'light cream' or 'pale yellow' in the standard), and silver is either not recognised or registered as chocolate (officially registered by the AKC as chocolate labs with variant colour). Claims that some "rare" variants exist or have been verified by DNA testing, or the like, are widely considered to be a 'scam'.

Temperament
Labradors are a well-balanced, friendly and versatile breed, adaptable to a wide range of functions as well as making very good pets. As a rule they are not excessively prone to being territorial, pining, insecure, aggressive, destructive, hypersensitive, or other difficult traits which sometimes manifest in a variety of breeds, and as the name suggests, they are excellent retrievers. As an extension of this, they instinctively enjoy holding objects and even hands or arms in their mouths, which they can do with great gentleness (a Labrador can carry an egg in its mouth without breaking it). They are also known to have a very soft feel to the mouth, as a result of being bred to retrieve game such as waterfowl. They are prone to chewing objects (though they can be trained out of this behavior). The Labrador Retriever's coat repels water to some extent, thus facilitating the extensive use of the dog in waterfowl hunting.

Labradors have a reputation as a very mellow breed and an excellent family dog (including a good reputation with children of all ages and other animals), but some lines (particularly those that have continued to be bred specifically for their skills at working in the field rather than for their appearance) are particularly fast and athletic. Their fun-loving boisterousness and lack of fear may require training and firm handling at times to ensure it does not get out of hand - an uncontrolled adult can be quite problematic. Females may be slightly more independent than males. Labradors mature at around three years of age; before this time they can have a significant degree of puppyish energy, often mislabeled as being hyperactive. Because of their enthusiasm, leash-training early on is suggested to prevent pulling when full-grown.[ Labs often enjoy retrieving a ball endlessly and other forms of activity (such as agility, frisbee, or flyball). They are considerably "food and fun" oriented, very trainable, and open-minded to new things, and thrive on human attention, affection and interaction, of which they find it difficult to get enough. Reflecting their retrieving bloodlines, almost every Lab loves playing in water or swimming.

Although they will sometimes bark at noise, especially a degree of "alarm barking" when there is noise from unseen sources, Labs are not on the whole noisy or territorial, and are often very easygoing and trusting with strangers, and therefore are not usually suitable as guard dogs.

Labradors have a well-known reputation for appetite, and some individuals may be highly indiscriminate, eating digestible and non-food objects alike.[24] They are persuasive and persistent in requesting food. For this reason, the Lab owner must carefully control his/her dog's food intake to avoid obesity and its associated health problems (see below).

The steady temperament of Labs and their ability to learn make them an ideal breed for search and rescue, detection, and therapy work. Their primary working role in the field continues to be that of a hunting retriever.

Use as working dogs
Labradors are an intelligent breed with a good work ethic and generally good temperaments (breed statistics show that 91.5% of Labradors who were tested passed the American Temperament Test.) Common working roles for Labradors include: hunting, tracking and detection, disabled-assistance, carting, and therapy work. Approximately 60–70% of all guide dogs in the United States are Labradors; other common breeds are Golden Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs.

The high intelligence, initiative and self-direction of Labradors in working roles is evinced by individuals such as Endal, who during a 2001 emergency is believed to be the first dog to have placed an unconscious human being in the recovery position without prior training, then obtaining the human's mobile phone, "thrusting" it by their ear on the ground, then fetching their blanket, before barking at nearby dwellings for assistance. A number of labradors have also taught themselves to assist their owner in removing money and credit cards from ATMs without prior training.

Health and well-being
Labrador pups should not be brought home before they are 7–10 weeks old. Their life expectancy is generally 12 to 13 years or a few years longer with good medical care[citation needed], and it is a healthy breed with relatively few major problems. Notable issues related to health and wellbeing include:

Inherited disorders

Labs are somewhat prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, especially the larger dogs, though not as much as some other breeds. Hip scores are recommended before breeding.

Labs also suffer from the risk of knee problems. A luxating patella is a common occurrence in the knee where the leg is often bow shaped.

Eye problems are also possible in some Labs, particularly progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. Dogs which are intended to be bred should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye score.

Hereditary myopathy, a rare inherited disorder that causes a deficiency in type II muscle fibre.

There is a small incidence of other conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and deafness in labs, either congenitally or later in life.

Other disorders
Labs are sometimes prone to ear infection, because their floppy ears trap warm moist air. This is easy to control, but needs regular checking to ensure that a problem is not building up unseen. A healthy Lab ear should look clean and light pink (almost white) inside. Darker pink (or inflamed red), or brownish deposits, are a symptom of ear infection. The usual treatment is regular cleaning daily or twice daily (being careful not to force dirt into the sensitive inner ear) and sometimes medication (ear drops) for major cases. As a preventative measure, some owners clip the hair carefully around the ear and under the flap, to encourage better air flow. Labradors also get cases of allergic reactions to food or other environmental factors.

Obesity
Labs are often overfed and are allowed to become overweight, due to their blatant enjoyment of treats, hearty appetites, and endearing behavior towards people. Lack of activity is also a contributing factor. A healthy Lab should keep a very slight hourglass waist and be fit and light, rather than fat or heavy-set. Excessive weight is strongly implicated as a risk factor in the later development of hip dysplasia or other joint problems and diabetes, and also can contribute to general reduced health when older. Osteoarthritis is commonplace in older, especially overweight, Labs.

Exploration
Labradors are not especially renowned for escapology. They do not typically jump high fences or dig. Because of their personalities, some Labs climb and/or jump for their own amusement. As a breed they are highly intelligent and capable of intense single-mindedness and focus if motivated or their interest is caught. Therefore, with the right conditions and stimuli, a bored Lab could "turn into an escape artist par excellence".

Labradors as a breed are curious, exploratory and love company, following both people and interesting scents for food, attention and novelty value. In this way, they can often "vanish" or otherwise become separated from their owners with little fanfare. They are also popular dogs if found, and at times may be stolen. Because of this a number of dog clubs and rescue organisations (including the UK's Kennel Club) consider it good practice that Labradors are microchipped, with the owner's name and address also on their collar and tags.

Significant crossbreeds
The "Labradoodle" is a popular "designer dog" that combines a Labrador with a Poodle, to create a hybrid that is more suited to allergy sufferers.

Some assistant-dog groups also like using Golden Retriever / Labrador Retriever hybrids (officially called a Golden Labrador Retriever) in hopes of having dogs with fewer genetic problems. Naturally it is important to use dogs from good stocks since crossbreeds are not immune to such problems and since Golden Retrievers and Labradors have some of the same health problems.

Another significant crossbreed of the Labrador Retriever is the Labradinger, which combines a Labrador with an English Springer Spaniel. This breed is generally smaller and is recognized by the American Canine Hybrid Club