The Labrador Retriever: History, Facts, and Information
History of the Labrador Retriever
The dog breed known as "the most popular dog in the world" for many years is the Labrador Retriever. The founding breed of what is now the Labrador Retriever was the St. John’s Water Dog. In the lesser Newfoundland, Canada in the 1800s, they were used by the fishermen to jump into the icy waters and help them pull in their fishing nets. They also assisted by towing ropes from one boat to another and towing dories. The fishermen called them “small water dogs.” It is said that the Earl of Malmesbury saw some fishermen with their small water dogs and he was so impressed by their skill in retrieving just about anything from the water that he had some of these wonderful dogs exported back to England, where he bred dogs for duck hunting. After seeing the skill and agility of these small water dogs, he devoted his entire kennel to developing this breed. It was then that the dogs were named “Labrador" after the geographical region of England. It was soon after this that the Labrador Retriever began its reign as retrievers or “gun dogs,” as they were then called.
The Labrador Retriever is medium-sized dog included in the “sporting” group of the American Kennel Club. They were recognized by the AKC in 1917. They range from 22 to 25 inches in height and weigh between 60 and 90 pounds. They have two coats: a top coat that's more coarse and dense, and a softer undercoat that's water resistant. They have a strong muscular body, a wedge-shaped head with a broad back skull, and a long, thick nose with an excellent sense of smell. The Labrador Retriever has an “otter-like” tail and slightly webbed toes, which aid it in swimming. This dog breeds comes in solid colors of yellow, chocolate and black. They shed seasonally and should be brushed with a coarse-haired brush about twice a week during this time. They are not excessive shedders, but you will find some dog hair on your couch and clothes.
Personality and Temperament
The Labrador Retriever, or simply “Labs” as they are affectionately called, are the most popular dogs in the United States, as well as in many other countries. They are a loving and loyal breed with a friendly disposition. They are wonderful with children and love to play. Labs love the water and enjoy swimming and retrieving. They are prized for their good temperaments and loyalty. They crave human companionship and attention, and they are happiest when you are praising them and giving them a good scratch behind the ears. My husband and I currently have a yellow lab named Sadie. She loves to swim and play fetch. She could play with our grandchildren for hours at a time. The kids wear out before she does. When we leave the house, it doesn’t matter if we are gone for 10 minutes or for 10 hours: she greets us like we have been gone for days! Labrador Retrivers are very easy to train. They love the attention and receiving treats as rewards. They are also easy to house-train too. Once Sadie was house-trained, she never had an accident. We can leave her inside for hours and she will “hold it” until she can go outside.
Easy to Train
The Labrador Retriever is a highly intelligent dog and it is said that they are the easiest breed of dog to train and will learn commands quickly. They are excellent water fowl retrieving dogs. They have a soft bite, which means that when they retrieve the game, they bite it and carry it so softly that they leave no marks. They are kind and gently dogs and it is no wonder that they are so often used as guide dogs for the blind as well as rescue and therapy dogs. I have a friend who has seizures. He never knows when a seizure is coming on, but his yellow lab “Honey” does. She could tell shortly before it happened and would “force” him to sit down. She would lean against him and basically push him down with her body. Once he realized what she was doing, he never left home without her!
Labradors Retrievers have a very high energy level and get bored easily. As puppies, they need lots of attention and play time or they can be a little destructive. Give them plenty of chew toys to keep them happy and keep your furniture intact. Even as they get a little older, they still love to play and will be very active dogs for years. Once they begin to age a little and slow down, they will tend to gain weight quickly. Be sure they get plenty of exercise and be careful not to over feed your dog at this time as obesity can be a health issued for this breed.
The Most Decorated Dog in the World: A Yellow Lab Named Endal
Endal was a service dog in Great Britain and among many other distinctions was known as “the most decorated dog in the world.” He was voted as “Dog of the Millennium” and won the PDSA’s gold medal for Animal Gallantry and Devotion to Duty. He was the service dog for disabled ex-Royal Navy Chief Petty Officer, Allen Parton in the late 1990s. Endal came to national attention in 2001 when Allen was knocked out of his chair by a passing motorist. Endal pulled the unconscious Allen into what is called the “recovery position" and covered him with a blanket. He then retrieved Allen’s cell phone from underneath a car, and pushed towards his face. Barking profusely at nearby dwellings until he brought attention to Allen’s situation.
Endal’s owner, Allen Parton, was severely injured during the Gulf War and was confined to a wheel chair. His speech was also very limited and Endal managed to learn over 100 commands by sign language. Among the usual “doggie skills,” Endal could operate Allan’s wheelchair lift, help Allen with the laundry by loading and unloading the washing machine, hit the emergency button on the telephone, and operate an ATM machine. On March 13th, 2009, at the age of 13, Endal was “passed on." He had suffered a stroke and suffered from severe arthritis. He was laid to rest in the Ilford PDSA Animal Cemetery.
The Labrador Retriever is just an excellent overall dog breed. They have been rated the most popular in the world for good reason. They are loyal, protective, good with other dogs, and love children of all ages. They love to play and snuggle, as they are very affectionate dogs! Whether you choose, yellow, chocolate or black, male or female, I am sure you and your Labrador Retriever will be happy for many years to come!
Have you ever owned a Labrador Retriever?
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© 2012 Sheila Brown