LABRADOR RETRIEVER APPEARANCE:
Labradors are relatively large with males typically weighing 60 to 80 lb (27 to 36 kg) and females 50 to 70 lb (23 to 32kg). They are energetic outgoing dogs, and are either black, yellow, or brown (called "chocolate") in color, in that order of frequency. The color is determined by two sets of genes - one determining coat color (black and yellow) and the other determining nose color (black and pink/brown). The black coat gene is dominant in both cases. Chocolate Labs are the result of the black coat color gene and a pink/brown nose color gene. Chocolate Labradors were not considered to be purebred until very recently, when it was proved that the color was a gene mutation. Yellow Labs vary in color from white to light gold to a fox red. Their fur is usually fairly short and straight, and the tail quite broad and strong. The otter-like tail and webbed toes of the Labrador Retriever make him an excellent swimmer. Their interwoven coat is also waterproof, providing more assistance for swimming. The tail acts as a rudder for changing directions. Yellow labs can have black or pink noses; chocolate and black labs's noses match the coat color.
There are two types of Labrador Retrievers, the English and the America stock. English Labs are shorter and stockier with fuller faces than their American counterparts. No distinction is made by the AKC, but the two classification come from different breeding. Australian stock also exists; though not seen in the west, they are common in Asia.
Many people unfamiliar with retrievers find that the Lab is quite similar to the Golden Retriever in size, general shape, and general color, especially when young and especially to those Goldens with lighter coats. The most obvious difference is the short straight coat of the Labrador Retriever (the Golden has long wavy fur) and the Lab's thick, otter-like tail compared to the Golden's plumed tail. To confuse the two breeds would be a serious faux pas to a fancier of either, of course.
The Labrador is believed to have originated on the island of Newfoundland, now part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. It is thought to have descended from the St. John's Water Dog (no longer in existence), a crossbreed of native water dogs and the Newfoundland to which the Labrador is closely related. The name Labrador was given to this dog by the Earl of Malmesbury and other breeders in England in order to differentiate them from the Newfoundland dog. The Labrador Retriever was originally called the lesser Newfoundland or the St. John's dog. Other origins suggested for the name include the Spanish or Portuguese word for workers, "labradores", and the village of Castro Laboreiro in Portugal whose herding and guard dogs bear a "striking resemblence" to Labradors.
Labradors typically live into their teens and are a healthy breed with relatively few major problems. Common Lab health issues are:
Labs are somewhat prone to hip dysplasia, especially the larger dogs, though not as much as some other breeds. Hip scores are recommended before breeding.
Labs are sometimes prone to ear infection, because their floppy ears trap warm moist air. This is easy to control, but needs regular checking to ensure that a problem is not building up unseen. A healthy Lab ear should look clean and light pink (almost white) inside. Darker pink (or inflamed red), or brownish deposits, are a symptom of ear infection. The usual treatment is regular cleaning daily or twice daily (being careful not to force dirt into the sensitive inner ear) and sometimes medication (ear drops) for major cases. As a preventative measure, some owners clip the hair carefully around the ear and under the flap, to encourage better air flow.
Labs are often overfed and are allowed to become overweight, due to their blatant enjoyment of treats, hearty appetites, and endearing behavior towards people. A healthy Lab should keep a very slight hourglass waist and be fit and lithe, rather than fat or heavy-set. Excessive weight is strongly implicated as a risk factor in the later development of hip dysplasia and diabetes, and also can contribute to general reduced health when older.
Labradors are a well-balanced and remarkably versatile breed, adaptable to a wide range of functions as well as making very good pets. As a rule they are not excessively prone to territorialism, pining, insecurity, aggression, destructiveness, hypersensitivity, or other difficult traits which manifest in a variety of breeds, and as the name suggests, they are excellent retrievers. As an extension of this, they instinctively enjoy holding objects and even hands or arms in their mouths, which they can do with great gentleness. They are, however, prone to chew objects (though they can easily be trained out of this behavior). The Labrador Retriever's coat repels water to some extent, thus facilitating the extensive use of the dog in waterfowl hunting.