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Breed Profile: Labrador

Labrador Retrievers were first bred on the island of Newfoundland, which lies off the north-eastern Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally known as St. John’s dogs, after the capital city of the island, they were bred to be friendly, family dogs, as well as working dogs. At first they were used to help fishermen to haul nets, fetch ropes, and retrieve fish from the icy waters of the North Atlantic sea.

These days, the Labrador Retriever is still just as hard working and good-natured as his ancestors, and is one of the most popular breeds around. Although not used for hard labour nowadays, they compete in shows, are used as retrievers for hunters, as search and rescue dogs, and because of their sweet nature, as therapy dogs as well, among many other types of canine-related jobs.

General Physical Characteristics of Labradors

The Labrador Retriever is energetic, and his muscular, athletic body with its short, easy-to-care for black, yellow, or chocolate-coloured coat, is built for sport. They have an average height of around 1’9” to 2’ tall at the shoulder, and can weigh anything from 55 to 80 pounds.

Character/Temperament of Labradors

Labrador Retrievers are extremely intelligent, loyal, loving, people-oriented dogs, and are completely devoted to their families - it is not uncommon for the owners and fans of this breed to refer to them as “angels”. Although they excel in agility and obedience competitions, their friendliness and sweet nature makes them no good as watchdogs.

Even though the Labrador Retriever has over the years, easily shifted from being a companion/helper to fishermen, retriever for hunters, to modern working dog, to competitive show dog, the one thing that has remained constant throughout history about the breed, is his loyalty, and loving, friendly, nature.

Lifespan of Labradors

The average lifespan of a Labrador Retriever is about 12 to 15 years.

Common Health and Personality Issues in Labradors

Not all Labrador Retrievers suffer with the following diseases, but just like most other breeds, they are prone to certain health issues, such as:

  • Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD) – the result of improper growth of the cartilage in joints
  • Cateracts
  • Epilepsy
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) – which involves the slow deterioration of the retina
  • Myopathy
  • Ear infections
  • Cold tail
  • Acute moist dermatitis
  • Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD) – a congenital heart defect that some Labrador Retriever puppies are born with
  • Gastric Dilation – commonly referred to as “bloat”, this a life-threatening disease. It can be caused by the dog being fed one large meal a day, eating too fast, drinking too much water, or getting too much exercise right after eating a meal. Symptoms include a distended stomach, excessive drooling, or retching without actually throwing up, and a vet should be seen as soon as possible, should any of them occur.

In addition to the above, since they are so energetic, Labrador Retrievers should have about 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day. Without the necessary exercise, they will get rid of pent-up energy in other, destructive ways, like constant barking and chewing.

Many people are under the impression that because of their wonderful nature, Labrador Retrievers do not need training. This however, is far from the truth. Being the large and energetic breed they are, it is vital that they are taught good canine manners through puppy and obedience training classes.

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