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Amiable, affable, and adventurous — that’s the Labrador Retriever dog breed or you. America’s most-loved breed sitting tight at the #1 spot since 1991, Labs are, as somebody correctly pointed out, miracles with paws. They make for exceptional canine companions.
Today, let’s take a deep dive into Labrador Retrievers and learn everything that is there to know about them.
Belonging to the line of sporting dogs, the first-ever Labrador Retrievers owe their parentage to St. John's Water Dogs from Newfoundland and British hunting dogs. With a remarkable fondness for water, Labs became close companions of European fishermen as they embarked on their fishing expeditions.
From diving for cods in the icy depths of the Atlantic to retrieving a hunter’s catch — these dogs have established a close kinship with humans dating back to the 1800s!Read more
Since then, Labradors have come a long way. Apart from being very well-loved house pets, these active and athletic canines double up as service, search and rescue, and therapy dogs today.
Fun Fact: Did you know that all modern-day Labradors owe their origin to Ned and Avon, dogs belonging to the Third Earl of Malmesbury? Talk of a royal lineage and no one can beat Labs at it!
Labradors are famously known for their wide-set heads, kind and friendly eyes, and distinctive “otter tails”. They have a very athletic build with a short and dense double coat of fur that comes in either a luscious black, gorgeous brown or timid yellow. They are not a hypoallergenic breed.
Depending upon their sex, these dogs can stand anywhere between 21.5 inches to 24.5 inches in height. Typically, male Labs stand taller than females at 22.5 to 24.5 inches while the latter’s height ranges from 21.5 to 23.5 inches.
Full-grown healthy Labs can weigh anywhere between 55 to 80 pounds, with males occupying the heavier side of the scale.
Labs usually have a lifespan of a good 10 to 12 years, but some beat the odds and live longer. Bella from Derbyshire, England lived her life to the fullest with parents David and Daisy Richardson for 26 years!
With their floppy ears and goofy smiles, Labrador Retrievers happen to be one of the friendliest dogs known to mankind. While their excellent temperament makes them great family pets, they fail miserably when it comes to being guard dogs.
In fact, some Lab parents believe that these trusting and outgoing dogs might even befriend burglars if the house is under attack.
Labradors are sensitive and therefore extremely affectionate with their families, going out of their way to express love. They’ve also got the smarts and can be trained easily to do just about anything — from fetching your frisbee to sniffing out explosives.
Because of their gentle demeanor, Labs are great with children. Always bubbling with energy and enthusiasm, they need an active lifestyle to keep fit and healthy.
Labrador retrievers are not picky eaters. You can keep them on a vet-recommended diet of commercially available or homemade food, twice a day with plenty of fresh and clean water for them to lap up.
Depending on their preference, Labs can enjoy a well-balanced:
But do bear in mind that they have a notorious tendency to overeat and stand the chance of getting obese in the blink of an eye. That’s why you need to pay special attention to their diet and chalk a meal plan in consultation with your vet. Make sure to serve them only the advised portions (varies from dog to dog depending upon size, sex, etc.).
Pro tip: Do not feed your Labrador table scraps, no matter how much they plead with you. They can gain unnecessary weight and fall ill with unsupervised intake of human foods.
Labradors can safely enjoy human foods like lean cuts of meat including beef, chicken, duck, turkey, venison, lamb, pork, etc. You can also treat them with fish like salmon, tuna, mackerel. They can even snack on an occasional egg once in a while. Just make sure they eat a balanced diet where none of the above are completely substituted for all their meals.
You can let them enjoy certain fruits and vegetables, but only after removing pits and chopping them into bite-sized pieces. It is advisable to part cook or fully cook veggies without salt or oil before feeding them to your dog.
But do not feed your Labrador human food indiscriminately. Some can be toxic and therefore lethal for them. Labradors should never be fed chocolates, chewing gums, onions, garlic, macadamia nuts, alcohol of any kind, grapes or raisins, and any food that contains xylitol.
Make sure to choose a food bowl that your pet will enjoy eating from. Elevated steel bowls and anti-splash water bowls are often a hit with Labradors.
Because they have a tightly packed, short-haired double coat covering their body, Labs are usually low to medium maintenance dogs. However, they do shed a fair bit.
You must brush your Lab liberally at least twice every week to keep its coat shiny, groomed, and healthy. Do not bathe Labs too often, this can cause their coats to dry out and lead them to develop skin conditions. Instead, bathe them every 4 to 6 weeks.
Now let’s talk about the nails. Should you clip your Labrador Retriever’s nails? Yes! Just like us, they need regular trimming. Long nails can get entangled in your house rugs/sofa, etc., causing accidents. Unkempt nails can accumulate mud, dirt, and dust, becoming a breeding ground for infection.
So, if you hear the clacking of nails as your Lab walks around in the house, know that it is time for a pedicure! Trimming your pet’s nails is not the easiest thing to do, so take help from a professional groomer if you feel the need for it.
Just like the nails, you need to take good care of your Lab’s ears too. Labradors love to splash about in the water, so whenever you take your dog for a swim, take extra care of their ears.
Even without a swim session, make sure to check for dirt accumulation or mites, and keep those floppy ears squeaky clean. The same thing goes for their teeth — brush them without fail to ensure good oral hygiene.
If you want your dog to look dapper all the time, schedule him/her for a professional grooming session. Make sure your dog is comfortable with the groomer if you choose to visit one.
While often overlooked, Labrador Retrievers are susceptible to and get afflicted by certain health conditions. Some hereditary problems that these otherwise athletic dogs can suffer from include:
Apart from these major health concerns, Labs can get affected by cataracts, central progressive retinal atrophy (CPRA), hypothyroidism, to name a few.
But does that mean they’re unhealthy dogs? Certainly not. Proper care, including a good diet and exercise can keep Labs in good health.
Whether or not a Labrador will suffer a painful disease is also determined by its upbringing and pedigree. Those coming from unethical breeders are naturally prone to more health issues than those brought up with TLC. Make sure to get your Lab pups tested by a licensed vet to rule out future illnesses.
That said, dogs are like us. Even the healthiest ones can fall ill. If your Labrador develops any sickness over time or with age, get them proper medical attention.
Since they were bred to be sporting and hunting dogs, Labs need a healthy dose of vigorous exercise every day. Depending on their energy levels and age, they could require anywhere between a minimum of 45 minutes to 2 hours of activity, preferably split into a morning and evening session.
Take them on walks, jogs, hikes, or swims — Labs love to be outdoors. Indulge them with playtimes where they can expend their energy. These otherwise sweet dogs can create quite a ruckus and get destructive when they have too much pent-up energy in them.
Apart from playtime, do schedule them for dog training sessions. Labradors are always eager to please their human companions and their inherent earnestness makes them easy to train.
Socializing Labrador Retriever puppies with other dogs and people from a young age definitely helps them grow up to be good boys and girls. Go for ethical dog training methods, like positive reinforcement dog training.
If you want your dog to grow up shouldering more responsibilities than being just a pet, you can even enroll them in specialized training programs. Who knows when your Lab pup might win you a dog tournament or make you proud as a therapy dog!
With Labradors, the possibilities are endless. Explore the right ones by finding out what your pet wants. Don’t force him/her to do anything against his/her will.
Thanks to their loving nature and calm temperament, Labrador Retrievers do very well as family pets. If socialized well, they can even get along in a multi pet household.
Yes, they are! These loving and affectionate dogs are low on maintenance and friendly in nature, an ideal combination for first-time dog parents.
While a dog’s disposition is influenced by several factors, English Labradors are known to be calmer than their American counterparts. Yellow Labs are also much calmer than the brown and black ones.
It is advisable to get your Lab puppy from a verified and vetted ethical breeder, but you can always open your home and heart to one from the local shelter. After all, every dog deserves a good home.
Labradors can suffer from a few genetic disorders including hip dysplasia, cataract, heart ailments, etc.