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. 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.
Labrador Retriever is probably the most popular dog breed in the world.
Labrador Retriever is a medium-sized, strongly built dog breed that retains its hunting and working instincts. Standing between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall and weighing between 55 and 80 pounds, with females smaller than males, the breed is compact and well-balanced. Labrador Retrievers have short, weather-resistant coats that can be yellow, black, or chocolate. The head is broad, the 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.
Photo: Labrador Retriever puppies – Brown, Black and Yellow.
Labrador Retrievers do everything with vigor. When it’s 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. Labrador Retrievers do very well in many canine activities, including agility, flyball, field tests and trials, tracking, search-and-rescue work, and therapy dog work. Labrador Retrievers still 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 Retriever puppy household rules and social manners. Training should continue throughout puppyhood and into adulthood so that the Labrador Retriever’s mind is kept busy. The Labrador Retriever can learn advanced obedience, tricks, or anything else her owner wishes to teach her.
Labrador Retrievers are great family dogs. They will bark when people approach the house but are not watchdogs or protective. Labrador Retriever puppies are boisterous and rambunctious and need to be taught to be gentle with young children. Older kids will enjoy the Lab’s willingness to play. Most Labrador Retrievers 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.
The Labrador Retriever loves to swim. However, as unlikely as it may seem, Labs do not come “out of the box” knowing how to swim. Furthermore, some Labs become truly nervous around water. That having been said, most Labs can be taught to swim quickly and easily, and a few simple lessons can lead to hours of enjoyment for both you and your dog. There are a number of reasons to teach your Lab to swim while he’s still a pup. For one thing, it’s easier on the dog. A large dog has a lot of body weight to manage in the water, and for a dog new to swimming, this can increase the slope of the learning curve. Puppies, because of their small size, have an easier time.
See 7.5 week old Labrador pups go to the water for the first time
Even before you teach your Lab to swim, you can start off on the right foot by building his confidence around water. Take your dog for a walk around the local pond or lake. Encourage any interest that your dog shows in the water with verbal praise. If he is willing to get his feet wet, encourage him to do so and praise him when he does. Simple preliminaries like this lay a strong foundation for you because you teach the dog that there is no reason to fear water. Remember that the primary goal here is to provide positive experiences for your Lab around and in the water. Making sure that the aquatic site you’ve chosen is safe goes a long way towards ensuring such experiences.
Labrador Retriever Videos
Training Labrador Retrievers: Training Labrador puppies is best started around 2 months of age; the same time as the Labrador puppy is weaned from his mother. This life-long commitment is the beginning of a wonderful relationship between owner and dog. Here are some videos from dog training expert Melanie McLeroy to help you get started.
Teach your Labrador to learn and respond to their name.
Teach your Labrador to sit on command.
Teach your Labrador to stay on command.
Teach your Labrador to lie down on command.
Teach your Labrador to heel.
Teach your Labrador to come on command.
Before your Labrador training starts, you have to consider the training method you intend to use. This method needs to be consistent, so making the decision is one that requires some research. Many professional animal trainers use what’s called positive reinforcement (believes that animals are much better behaved and easier to train when they’re earning rewards and praise than if they’re being punished).
For further reading, Labrador Retriever Dog Breed Standard extension – a deeper dive.