Origins Of The Labrador Retriever

The Labrador breed is thought by some to have been developed by fishermen who needed helpers that were strong, good at retrieving and that had thick coats that were resistant to water and cold. It is thought that they come from Newfoundland and not Labrador. They were known by several names – St. John’s Water Dog, the Little Newfoundlander & the Black Water Dog. In 1904, The Kennel Club (England) listed Labradors as a separate breed.

The Labrador Retreiver comes in three colors – Black, Chocolate & Yellow. Yellow can be a lighter to darker yellow, but not reddish, as this would be a disqualification. The overall appearance should be that of an athletic, well balanced & solid looking dog. A good Labrador wants to please & is easy to train. They possess a keen sense of smell.

A good Labrador wants to please and is easy to train. All these qualities make the Labrador the perfect hunting companion. Labs are also known for their sweet, instantly friendly expression in their eyes.

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Labrador Retriever Personality

One of the reasons for the Lab’s swift rise in popularity is that over the years he has consistently proved his worth in all fields and truly earned the title “all around” dog. One of the most predominant characteristics of the Lab is a strong desire to learn. This quality has done much to enhance the breed’s popularity.

Coupled with a high degree of native intelligence, it equips the Lab to fulfill the roles of hunter, retriever, companion, pet and watchdog. This desire to please makes the Lab a willing and eager pupil, a dog that enjoys learning and is a pleasure to teach.

By far the most exciting of the Lab’s qualities is his inherent working ability. This all-important factor has been maintained and strengthened over the years by careful and selective breeding. So Strong is the Lab’s natural inclination for retrieving that it is manifested when a puppy is still under three months old.

Another endearing characteristic of the breed is untiring devotion to people. Yellow Lab with Kids The Lab thrives on human company and companionship; he has the rare ability of being able to be everybody’s friend and still maintain an undying allegiance to his master.

The lab has the uncanny and most admirable quality of being able to adapt himself to all sorts of situations and surroundings. His devotion and patience make him a trusted playmate for children. He joins in their games with enthusiasm and thoroughly enjoys what you and I would consider mauling.

At the same time, he is perfectly able to take care of himself by simply evacuating the area if things get to rough. Somehow, in each instance, the Lab seems to grasp almost instinctively what is desired and to willingly apply himself in that direction.

Few other breeds can match the Lab for perseverance and courage. His reputation was founded on his ability to withstand the hardships of a day’s shoot. Whether it is retrieving ducks in icy water on a cold winter day or hunting pheasants in honeysuckle groves, hedgerows, briar patches, and other likely spots, the Lab performs his task like a trooper.

How much wounded game would have been lost if it were not for the Lab’s excellent scenting powers and perseverance! Any duck hunter knows the trouble strong wounded game can cause, but the Lab does not give up. Certain members of the breed have been known to carry on hot pursuit for over an hour.

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History Of The Labrador Retriever

Many authorities believe that the forebears of the Labrador Retrievers were produced in Newfoundland. They also agree that the breed descended from the St. John’s variety of water dog. Attempts to further trace the history of the Labrador Retriever have failed or have yielded no strong proof.

Some believe they were brought to Newfoundland by the fishermen of Devon, when they first invaded and settled the land. Others believe they originated in North America, and some even say they are of Asiatic descent.

The Labrador Retriever performed many useful services for the fishermen of Newfoundland, for example, he could help gather up fishing nets and carry ropes between boats. There are even stories of Labrador Retrievers saving crew members from drowning.

The first Labrador was brought to England in the 1820s, but the breed’s reputation had spread to England many years before. The story goes, the Earl of Malmesbury saw a Labrador on a fishing boat and immediately made arrangements with certain traders to have some imported.

The Labradors so impressed the Earl with their genius for retrieving that he devoted his entire kennel to developing the breed. It was not long before many others realized their worth and followed his example. In their enthusiasm, they gave little thought to keeping the breed pure. However, the Malmesbury strain retained its purity for many years.

Eventually, a combination of the Newfoundland dog tax and the English quarantine laws brought importing to a standstill. Interbreeding became necessary as a means of acquiring new blood. In most cases this activity was restricted to the use of the curly-coated and flat-coated retrievers and various breeds of water spaniels. Due to the fact that the breed was very old, its characteristics remained predominant throughout.

In 1903, the Labrador was recognized by the English Kennel Club, but at that time no definite standard of the breed was agreed upon. Fortunately for the breed, its followers were primarily interested in the development of working qualities. Unhampered by a standard, they were able to continue their breeding schemes, which included occasional outcrosses, and were responsible for producing the multi-purpose dog that is our present-day Labrador Retriever.

According to some records, the Labrador’s first appearance in the show ring took place as early 1860. Oddly enough, this was long before the breed received its official nod from the Kennel Club. It is said that King George V had a great deal to do with awakening national interest in the breed.

Then as now, the majority of the Labrador’s followers attributed little importance to success in the show ring. They measured value by the ability to deliver in the field. As a means of discerning their Labrador’s respective merits, small groups of enthusiasts started to hold retriever trials in 1880.

Over a period of time, the interest and the entries grew considerably. As a result of this increased competition, breeders redoubled their efforts to refine and strengthen the Labrador’s valuable qualities, each striving to outdo the other. This healthy competition produced the strong foundation that is responsible for the proficient working ability of the breed today.

Americans knew little of the Labrador’s true usefulness until after World War 1. At that time they gradually began to be imported, but it was not until the middle 1930s that they gained any sort of widespread acclaim. Retriever field trials were largely responsible for the rapid spread of the breed’s popularity in the United States. Once the Labrador had the chance to demonstrate his capabilities before the public, his reputation and numbers grew quickly.

The breed has made a highly successful trial record in the United States. For example, during one 20-year period, Labradors placed first in 520 out of 637 trials open to all breeds of retrievers and Irish Water Spaniels. They have gained the coveted title of National Retriever Champion for twelve out of the first sixteen years it was in existence.

Little known before the 1930s, the Labrador has already taken an unchallenged lead in the retriever field and today is steadily climbing to a well-earned place among the country’s leading breeds.

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Why Labs Are More Prone To Ear Infection

One of the cutest features of a Labrador retriever is also a common source of chronic problems. Labrador retrievers are more prone to ear infections because of their floppy ears. There are some other risk factors, though, and important preventative measures to keep infection at bay.

Keep Their Ears Dry and Clean

Labs love water, but their ears don’t. When water gets into the ear from baths or swimming, the floppy ears create the perfect breeding ground for germs because it is dark, wet, and warm. You can solve this problem by immediately drying your dog’s ears after a bath, swimming, or any contact with water.

Some veterinarians can also provide ear drops to administer after getting wet as another method of infection prevention. Once a week, clean out their ears with a kit you can purchase at a pet store or from your veterinarian.

Know What a Healthy Ear Looks Like

A healthy ear should be pink in color, odorless and can have some ear wax that is light brown in color. Lab owners need to examine their dog’s ears on a daily basis. If there are any changes, treatment can begin that much sooner.

How Will I Know When There is an Infection?

Signs of infection, whether bacterial or yeast, include redness, flaking, strong odor in ear, an increase of ear wax that is dark brown or black in color. Your lab may also scratch their ears a lot, shake their head, and whimper because the infection is causing pain.

At this point, a veterinarian should be consulted to determine what type of infection is the culprit. Your lab may be given cream, ear drops, or oral antibiotics. These are usually given for 10 days and should clear up the infection. If it does not go away or gets worse, a return visit to the vet is usually necessary.

Could it be Mites?

Mites are a parasite that dogs can get in their ears and, left untreated, can spread to the rest of their body. They can happen to a dog at any time in their lives, but do tend to occur more commonly in puppies because they do not yet have a mature immune system. Symptoms can include black discharge, an increase in ear wax, and itching. If this is the case, a vet can clean out the ears and provide medication.

If you have a lab or are considering becoming a lab owner, it is important to remember that labs are more prone to ear infections. If left untreated, an ear infection can cause damage to the ear drum, hearing loss, secondary infections, and hematomas on the external ear from head shaking and scratching.

By being devoted to keeping your dog’s ears healthy, you can significantly reduce and quite possibly eliminate the occurrence of ear infections for your lab.

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Dog Communication and Body language

Dogs are unable to use speech to express feelings like uncertainty, fear, aggression, pleasure or playfulness. But every dog has a range of “body signals” that it can use to express these emotions. Visible signs of how your dog is feeling can be shown by its whole body and also by its face. Barks, growls and whimpers give other clues.

As a dog owner, it is important that you should be able to read these signals. Be alert and “tuned in” to recognize signs based on body posture, vocalization ears, eyes, lips, tongue, tail, hair, standing on end.

The dog’s voice

Most dogs are fairly vocal. They can produce a range of sounds ranging from whimpers, through rolling growls to proper barks. Dogs use their voices to express themselves, raising the pitch or volume of their bark to indicate frustration or emotion. Barking isn’t necessarily aggressive. It is more likely to mean “hurry up, come and play!” or “nice to see you!” than “one false move and I’ll tear your throat out”

Growling is more often aggressive in adult dogs than puppies. Some dogs play growl, but their mood is always obvious. Many can make a rolling sound like a growl, fluctuating in pitch. The pitch of an aggressive growl may be constant or increase with the aggressive body posture.

The “normal” dog

A happy, alert dog carries its tail well, with no tension in its body. It moves freely and holds its head high. The tongue may loll out and the jaws are relaxed.

Asking to play

When it wants a game, a dog often dips down at the front into a crouch. It gives little yips and barks or rolling growls with high notes. It may raise one foot and lean to one side, its head almost on the ground. It may jump backwards and forwards, the head looking up at you with relaxed jaws.


The invitation to play may quickly change into a submissive posture with the dog in a lower crouch. It still raises its front feet in a mild play invitation, teeth are hidden. There is no tension in this posture and the dog is probably silent. As it crouches lower it may lick a little. A submissive dog often turns side-on to present its flank.

Complete submission

Now the dog’s ears are folded down. It drops it’s tail and folds it round one leg, very nervous animals will tuck it right under. The head is down to avoid eye contact, with reassurance it comes up . The final stage in submission is rolling over, one hind leg raised. Unless afraid, the dog usually raises it’s ears a little to show the submission stems from trust.

Fearful aggression

The dog shows its teeth, emits a constant low growl or snarl, or even barks. The ears are laid back. The whole body is tense, with the back legs held ready for rapid movement. The hair down the center of the dog’s back stands on end. The tail is held down and rigid.

Dominant aggression

Rather than simply warning you off, the dog advances confidently with its tail and ears held high. It will look straight at you, teeth bared, snapping and ready to bite.
Facial expressions
Like ourselves, dogs are blessed with facial muscles capable of giving different expressions to the face, although these muscles and their control system are not as efficient as man’s.
The lips can be curled back to expose the teeth. Baring the teeth is not always aggressive – some dogs seem almost to laugh, and when very pleased, their lips are drawn back to expose the incisors. In aggression, the lips are drawn back further, often exposing the pointed canine teeth as well.

The Ears are extremely mobile and can turn to follow sounds – even drop-eared dogs such as spaniels can move their ears into an alert position, although they don’t have the range of expression of those breeds with erect ears.

The eyes are expressive too. When a dog is happy, there is a distinct brightening of the eyes. Some dogs raise their eyelids when surprised or quizzical – this is often exaggerated by a tilting of the head.
Staring Fearful aggression may give the dog a wild, wide-eyed look; the skin is drawn back, exposing the whites of the eyes and often the pupils are dilated. But in dominant aggression, the pupils will probably be constricted, daring eye contact and fixed on your every move.

To a dog, a fixed stare is a challenge. Usually, a person staring at a dog will cause the dog to look away and become submissive. A dog sure of itself and its relationship with the owner may simply react with a questioning look. However don’t try to “stare out” a dog unless your confident that you can handle the potential attack that may follow your losing this eye-to eye contest.

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