Labrador Retrievers hail from the island of Newfoundland, off the northeastern Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally called St. John's dogs, after the capital city of Newfoundland, Labs served as companions and helpers to the local fishermen beginning in the 1700s. The dogs spent their days working alongside their owners, retrieving fish who had escaped hooks and towing in lines, and then returned home to spend the evening with the fishermen's family. Although his heritage is unknown, many believe the St. John's dog was interbred with the Newfoundland Dog and other small local water dogs. Outsiders noticed the dog's usefulness and good disposition, and English sportsmen imported a few Labs to England to serve as retrievers for hunting. The second Earl of Malmesbury was one of the first, and had St. John's dogs shipped to England sometime around 1830. The third Earl of Malmesbury was the first person to refer to the dogs as Labradors. Amazingly, Labs — now America's most popular dog — were almost extinct by the 1880s, and the Malmesbury family and other English fans are credited with saving the breed. In Newfoundland, the breed disappeared because of government restrictions and tax laws. Families were allowed to keep no more than one dog, and owning a female was highly taxed, so girl puppies were culled from litters. In England, however, the breed survived, and the Kennel Club recognized the Labrador Retriever as a distinct breed in 1903. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1917, and in the '20s and '30s, British Labs were imported to establish the breed in the U.S. The breed's popularity really began to take off after World War II, and in 1991, the Labrador Retriever became the most popular dog registered with the American Kennel Club — and he's held that distinction ever since. He also tops the list in Canada and England. Today, Labs work in drug and explosive detection, search and rescue, therapy, assistance to the handicapped, and as retrievers for hunters. They also excel in all forms of dog competitions: show, field, agility, and obedience. Read more at http://dogtime.com/dog-breeds/labrador-retriever#zhtMUr6BX45XOIJ6.99
The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.
The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an "otter" tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its "kind," friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.
The Lab has the reputation of being one of the most sweet-natured breeds, and it's well deserved. He's outgoing, eager to please, and friendly with both people and other animals. Aside from a winning personality, he has the intelligence and eagerness to please that make him easy to train. Training is definitely necessary because this breed has a lot of energy and exuberance. The working heritage of the Lab means he is active. This breed needs activity, both physical and mental, to keep him happy. There is some variation in the activity level of Labs: some are rowdy, others are more laid back. All thrive on activity.
The lovable Lab needs to be around his family, and is definitely not a backyard dog. If he's left alone for too long, he'll probably tarnish his saintly reputation: A lonely, bored Lab is apt to dig, chew, or find other destructive outlets for his energy. Labs show some variation in their activity levels, but all of them need activity, both physical and mental. Daily 30-minute walks, a romp at the dog park, or a game of fetch, are a few ways to help your Lab burn off energy. However, a puppy should not be taken for too long walks and should play for a few minutes at a time. Labrador Retrievers are considered "workaholics," and will exhaust themselves. It is up to you to end play and training sessions. Labs have such good reputations that some owners think they don't need training. That's a big mistake. Without training, a rambunctious Lab puppy will soon grow to be a very large, rowdy dog. Luckily, Labs take to training well — in fact, they often excel in obedience competitions. Start with puppy kindergarten, which not only teaches your pup good canine manners, but helps him learn how to be comfortable around other dogs and people. Look for a class that uses positive training methods that reward the dog for getting it right, rather than punishing him for getting it wrong. You'll need to take special care if you're raising a Lab puppy. Don't let your Lab puppy run and play on very hard surfaces such as pavement until he's at least two years old and his joints are fully formed. Normal play on grass is fine, as is puppy agility, with its one-inch jumps. Like all retrievers, the Lab is mouthy, and he's happiest when he has something, anything, to carry in his mouth. He's also a chewer, so be sure to keep sturdy toys available all the time — unless you want your couch chewed up. And when you leave the house, it's wise to keep your Lab in a crate or kennel so he's can't get himself into trouble chewing things he shouldn't.
The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. A slight wave down the back is permissible.