The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada. Small water dogs were used to retrieve birds and fish; they even pulled small boats through the water. Their strong desire to work, versatility, and waterproof coats impressed fishermen, one of whom brought a dog back to England with him. Lord Malmsbury saw this dog, then called a St. John’s Dog, and imported several from Newfoundland. Lord Malmsbury is credited with having started to call the dogs Labradors, although the reason is lost to history. The Labrador Retriever breed emerged over time from the St. John’s Water Dog through random breeding by early settlers in the mid to late 16th century. The forebears of the St. John’s Dog are not known, but were likely a random-bred mix of English, Irish, and Portuguese working breeds. The smaller short-coat St. John’s Dog was used for retrieval and pulling in nets from the water. These smaller dogs were the forebears of the Labrador Retriever. The white chest, feet, chin, and muzzle characteristic of the St. John’s Dog often appear in Lab mixes, and will occasionally manifest in Labradors as a small white spot on the chest (known as a medallion) or stray white hairs on the feet or muzzle.
Labradors do everything with vigor. When it’s time to play, they play hard.
Eventually, the English quarantine stopped additional imports from coming into the country, and the Labradors already in England were cross-bred to other retrievers. However, breed fanciers soon put a stop to that, and the breed as we know it today was born. The Labrador Retriever is a medium sized, strongly built dog that retains its hunting and working instincts. The breed is compact and well-balanced. Labrador Retrievers have short, weather-resistant coats that can be yellow, black, or chocolate.
The Brown Labrador Retriever is rare compared to the other two Labrador Retriever colors.
Labrador Retrievers are registered in three colors: Black (a solid black color), Yellow (anything from light cream to “fox-red”), and Chocolate (medium to dark brown).
Some Labrador retrievers can have markings such as white patches on their chest and other areas, but most commonly they are one solid color. Puppies of all colors 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 (D) locus determines whether the pigment is produced at all. A dog with the recessive d 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 coloration, which in yellow Labradors varies from white to light gold to a fox red. Chocolate and black Labradors’ noses will match the coat color.
The Labrador Retriever’s head is broad, eyes are friendly, and the tail is otterlike. Grooming a Labrador Retriever is not difficult, although it is amazing how much the coat can shed at times. Shedding is worst in spring and fall when the short, dense undercoat and coarser outer coat lose all the dead hair. Brushing daily during these times will lessen the amount of hair in the house.
Labradors do everything with vigor – when its time to play, they play hard. When it’s time to take a nap, they do that with enthusiasm, too. But this desire to play and instinct to work means that Labs need vigorous exercise every day and a job to do. They need to bring in the newspaper every morning, learn to pick up their toys, and train in obedience. Labradors do very well in many canine activities, including agility, field tests and trials, tracking, search-and-rescue work, and therapy dog work.
A Labrador Retriever will bark when people approach the house but they are not watchdogs or protective.
Labradors enjoy swimming, and if water is available, a swim is a great way to burn off excess energy. Early socialization and training can teach a Labrador puppy household rules and social manners. Training should continue throughout puppyhood and into adulthood so that the Labrador’s mind is kept busy. A Labrador Retriever can learn advanced obedience, tricks, or anything else its owner wishes to teach. Labrador Retrievers are great family dogs. They will bark when people approach the house but are not watchdogs or protective. Puppies need to be taught to be gentle with young children. Older kids will enjoy the Labrador’s willingness to play. Most Labradors are also good with other dogs and can learn to live with small pets, although interactions should be supervised. Health concerns include hip and elbow dysplasia, knee problems, eye problems, and allergies.
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