The Labrador Retriever, is one of the most popular dogs in the world. Very versatile, it is at once a hunting dog, a rescue dog, an assistance dog or simply a companion dog.
A bit of history
Legend has it that the Labrador was born from a cross between a Newfoundland and an otter. In fact, the Labrador Retriever is descended from the St. John's water dog, originally from the town of St. John's Newfoundland, Canada. They were used on fishing boats to help sailors fish. These Newfoundland dogs, most probably crossed with Castro Laboreiro dogs, were exported to England at the beginning of the 19th century. It was finally the English Earl of Malmesbury who gave the name Labrador to this dog from Canada, crossed with English hunting dogs throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the period in which the breed was established. The Labrador arrived very early in Europe, specifically in France, in 1896.
The breed was definitively recognized by the Fédération Cynologique Internationale (FCI) in 1954.
Physical characteristics of the Labrador
The Labrador's physique makes it a large dog, close in size to its Golden Retriever and Flat Coated Retriever cousins. There is a difference between males and females. The male measures between 54 and 61 cm at the withers and weighs between 30 and 35 kg. The female measures between 52 and 56 cm at the withers and weighs between 28 and 33 kg.
The Labrador belongs to group 8 of the FCI: hunting retrievers, hunting hounds, water dogs. It carries the number 122.
Body: The body of the Labrador Retriever is well built, with a level back. The chest is deep, with arched ribs. The loin is short and strong.
Head: The head is broad, with a well marked stop. The neck and jaws are strong and powerful. The muzzle is straight, the nose is broad.
Ears: hanging, set well back. They are of medium size.
Eyes: almond-shaped, of medium size, brown or hazel color.
Tail: The Labrador's tail is thick, of medium length, with an equally thick coat. It is thinner towards the tip.
Coat: The coat is short and thick, close fitting. It offers good protection against the weather.
Color: The different standards, including the Royal Canine Society of Spain (RSCE) and the Spanish Stud Book (LOE), generally accept three colors: yellow, black and chocolate.
Character of the Labrador
The Labrador's character has made it famous around the world and has contributed greatly to its popularity, which has been maintained for decades. It is a docile, affectionate and loyal dog. Intelligent and playful, it is an excellent playmate for children. The Labrador is known to be very intelligent and determined, without being stubborn. It is a formidable assistance and rescue dog, widely used as a guide dog for the blind.
The Labrador breed is very sociable, and is never aggressive. It gets along well with other dogs and can coexist without problems with other pets, such as cats or even exotic animals. But don't forget that the Labrador is still a hunting dog, with a strong predatory instinct. Therefore, you should make sure to socialize it well from puppyhood. The Labrador is not distrustful of strangers, so it is not a good watchdog, but it can still be protective.
The Labrador is compatible with all types of families: singles, couples, families with or without children? Being an energetic animal, the Labrador can be suitable for elderly people, but only if they can take it for long walks. Needless to say, it is perfectly suitable for visually impaired people.
The Labrador enjoys a fairly solid health. Its life expectancy is between 10 and 12 years. However, the breed is known to have certain problems, in particular overweight and obesity. The Labrador can also be affected by joint problems, such as hip and elbow dysplasia, disorders that are very common in large dogs. It is also not free from certain eye problems, in particular progressive retinal atrophy or cataracts. The Labrador is also one of the dog breeds affected by epilepsy. As a large breed dog, the Labrador Retriever is also at risk for stomach torsion.
The Labrador is a dog that adapts well to any environment, so it can live in an apartment without problems, provided it is well cared for, given enough time every day and taken for a run. This little dog is not particularly barky, which reduces the chances of having neighborhood conflicts. However, like all dogs, if its owner does not pay enough attention to it, the Labrador can develop problematic behaviors (compulsive barking, destruction...). But this can also happen even if you live in a big house with a garden. The Labrador is not a dog made to be left alone. He needs human presence to be totally happy. His ideal environment would be a big house in the country, near the forest, where he can run freely, but he can also live in an urban environment.
The Labrador dog breed is known to be one of the easiest dog breeds to train. This reputation does not come as a gift. In fact, the Labrador is very receptive to training, which should always be done without violence. It adopts a positive approach based on reward, not punishment. The Labrador is an intelligent and docile dog, who likes to please his master. Take advantage of this quality! The Labrador's education makes it a very suitable dog for a first adoption.
Feeding: how to feed the Labrador
Feeding the Labrador is essential for it to maintain good health throughout its life. So you have to make good choices from the beginning and start by choosing a suitable food for the puppy. Go for a premium quality food or pate. These should contain mainly animal proteins, but don't be afraid to give him vegetable proteins, which can also be of quality. Just keep in mind that the dog is a carnivorous animal, so animal protein is essential for him and should be the main component of his food. Take the time to read package labels to analyze the compositions and avoid products loaded with sweeteners, additives or preservatives. The feeds and pates sold in supermarkets and department stores are not of the quality necessary for your Labrador. Avoid them whenever possible.
If you do not like industrial food and you have time to prepare your Labrador's meals yourself, you can opt for homemade food, based on cooked meat and vegetables, or the BARF diet, which consists of raw meat and well-cooked vegetables such as green beans. Always ask your veterinarian or a specialist in animal nutrition for advice before starting, as these types of diets leave no room for error. Do not hesitate to use food supplements, such as pre and probiotics, always under veterinary advice. Beware of treats! The Labrador is prone to obesity.