History: Labrador Retrievers, as their name implies, were bred as hunting dogs to retrieve waterfowl and pull nets in from water. Their founding breed was the St. John’s Water Dog, which was a mix of English, Irish and Portuguese working breeds. The name Labrador arose from the need to distinguish these dogs from the larger Newfoundland breed from which they descended.
Traits: Excellent swimmers, hardworking, loyal, kind, outgoing, excellent sense of smell, avid chewers, great family dogs, good with children, fearless, easygoing and trusting (not such great guard dogs!), intelligent, curious
Appearance: Labs come in three colors: yellow (ranging to a darker butterscotch), chocolate, and black. Labs are medium- to large-sized dogs with shorter, stockier frames, broad faces and longish noses; males weigh 64 to 90 pounds while females range from 55 to 71 pounds. Lab mixes can have a typical tuxedo pattern of white on their chests. This breed’s webbed paws serve as paddles in the water and snowshoes in wintry climates. Their short, dense, interwoven coats are also relatively waterproof.
Health Risks: Labradors are somewhat prone to hip and elbow dysplasia as well as knee problems. They can also have eye problems, including progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. Labs often suffer from exercise induced collapse, a syndrome that causes hypothermia, weakness, collapse and disorientation after short bouts of exercise.
- Endal, a British service dog, widely recognized as the most decorated dog in the world.
- Lucky and Flo, twin black labs who became famous in 2007 for sniffing out nearly 2 million pirated counterfeit DVDs. They were awarded Malaysia’s “outstanding service award” for their help.
- Sabi, an Australian special forces explosives detection dog who went MIA for 14 months in Afghanistan before returning home safely in 2009.
- Buddy and Seamus, Former President Bill Clinton’s dogs
- Marley, the title character in John Grogan’s bestseller Marley & Me, was based on Grogan’s real-life lab.
- Labs are ranked No. 7 in Stanley Coren’s The Intelligence of Dogs
- 92.3% of labs tested passed the American Temperament Test
- Their great sense of smell allows them to work with the disabled and as therapy dogs
- Labs’ life expectancy is 10 to 12 years
- Labs are often used in water rescue and lifesaving
- Labradors are exceptionally popular dogs and are widely considered the most popular dog breed in the world. They are #1 in Australia, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, UK and USA.