Considered by many to be a "plain" dog, a good quality sound, well-proportioned Labrador at his most powerful and beautiful best in water, from his wet, seal like head down to his otter tail, or in the show ring in his Sunday Best coat, is a sight to behold. I can think of no other creature that gives me so much pleasure and so much to be passionate about.....
The Labrador, originally from Newfoundland, was perhaps named "Labrador" to distinguish him from his larger compatriot the Newfoundland. Used by the fishermen as a "water dog" to help bring in their nets, maybe this is where the breed's love of water stems from!
Developed as a breed in England from 1820, the Labrador has truly earned the title of one of the world's most famous breeds. He excels as a working dog on the Farm and in the Field, and as a Service dog: perhaps his greatest attribute is that he is so welcome on our hearth, and in our home. His temperament is such that he adapts well to the family pack as a pet and companion.
Weighing in at a mature weight on the male around 37kilos, with a well muscled, square set body and with the typical Labrador head he exudes an air of strength softened by the wonderful "kind" expression so desirable with the Labrador.
The Labrador can be black, yellow or chocolate coloured. The yellow Labrador is often mistakenly referred to as the Golden Labrador and is often quoted as such. However, its correct name is the yellow Labrador to distinguish it from the Golden Retriever, a quite separate breed with longer hair.
Occasionally, the chocolate Lab is referred to as liver in showing and FT circles. Many, many years ago the chocolate puppies in a litter were discarded as unsuitable. Now the situation has changed and the chocolate Lab has become very popular, especially after the debut of the first chocolate champion "Cookridge Tango" (bred by Mr and Mrs Pauling, of Cookridge Labs) which did much to establish the chocolate as desirable as the black and yellow.
When asked "Which would you choose?" my reply is always "... depends whether you prefer black or brown hairs on the butter, or yellow hairs in the jam!"
The Lab usually casts his coat twice in the year and having a tough top coat and a dense short undercoat which literally waterproofs his skin, he can shed quite an amount of hair! After looking like a reject fur rug from Oxfam for a couple of weeks, he emerges as a sleek, handsome chap. A "brush" with a clean chamois leather or an old silk scarf (!) will make him gleam!
Hip Displasia and PRA can rear their ugly heads in this breed as in others, and breeders who are sensitive to the need for vigilance in these areas are to be applauded.
The first thought that springs to mind when I see a Lab puppy at about 6 weeks old is "it looks like his mum has bought his school blazer 2 sizes too big so as 'he'll grow into it'!". There always seems to be too much furry coat - but what a lovely fur coat to bury your nose in and smell the sweet puppy scent that fades away after 9 weeks or so. (Remember?)
Some Labradors can be very bouncy and puppy-ish for quite a time even after adolescence. Others, usually bitches, can settle very quickly and become fantastic companions. They also have the tendency to be "chewers", usually because of boredom, as in other breeds.
The Labrador needs exercise, plenty of it, and games to keep his mind alert and occupied. He also has the reputation for loving food; speak to any Labrador owner and they have to be very disciplined in the amount of food and titbits they allow their dog. It takes a strong man to resist those melting brown eyes!
He is intelligent, sensitive, willing and amiable. Much beloved and trusted as a family pet, the Labrador has certainly earned his place in society.