The Labrador retreiver as a breed can fill many hats. They were developed as a working dog, assisting in the water with nets in fishing operations. They became best known as a hunting dog, specific in retreiving waterfowl from the water after the birds were killed.
Although the most common variety is the black lab chocolate and yellow are also accepted breed colors. Generally the males are 60-80 pounds with the females slightly smaller. The breed was developed as a working retreiver assisting with pulling nets to shore, but has also found favor with many other uses including search and rescue, K9 detection dogs, service dogs, guide dogs, and many other tasks. They’re trainable and adaptable for many things. They have a short, dense water resistant coat and an “otter” tail. They have an expressive character and are eager to learn and help people. From an AKC standpoint males must be 22-1/2 to 24-1/2 inches high at maturity. They are short coupled, with a stocky square image. The head is wide and well developed without exaggeration. A dog that moves freely without being too heavy is favored.
They will often “alarm bark” but aren’t really normally good guard dogs. There is a mix of power and gentleness in the breed. The breed is somewhat prone to hip displasia and an ear infection born from their ears trapping warm moist air. Some individuals have eye problems or a risk of knee problems. They are often overfed, increasing the chances of major health problems so owners should be careful in watching carefully the condition of the dogs.
A bored dog can create things to do and normally owners don’t like them. Keep your dog busy. Train them, play with them, give them toys – keep them busy and they’re less apt to make trouble.
Labradors have been so popular that often crossbred dogs with a short black coat are referred to as “Labs” even without key characteristics of the breed. Rescues and foster homes take on some of these dogs as well as purebreds – the dogs make wonderful pets for a family and the higher play drive dogs can make determined working dogs. Detection dogs, such as those searching for drugs, bombs, illegal wildlife and other substances, is just one thing the highly intelligent Labrador is suited for. They’ve long been well known as seeing eye dogs. Labradors in the media include being featured in the television series “Lost” and the book and movie “The Incredible Journey”, among many others.
One Labrador in the public eye is Bubba, an “officer” with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission trained to find venison, spiney lobster, turkey, duck, alligator and black bear. He also tracks people and alerts on things people have dropped, helping officers find poachers. K9 assistance dogs are often the “hyper” dogs, not uncommonly rescue dogs. They’re the “problem” dogs that get into things, tear things up, have more energy than is suitable for most people. Channelling this play drive into working takes a special balance. Another Lab is trained to sniff for toxic mold in homes.
Of course there are thousands of Labs doing another important job – being a home companion. They aren’t the dog for everyone – but a breed worth consideration for someone wanting to enter a lifetime committment with a good dog.