Where did the Labrador Retriever come from?
The ancestor of the Labrador comes from Newfoundland and mention of them dates back to the early 1800s when the Earl of Malmsbury reputedly saw the dogs brought to England by fishermen. He arranged for the importation of some of these dogs. In time, import taxes and quarantine laws practically stopped the importation into England. Thereafter, selective breeding with other types of hunting dogs began to bring about the characteristics that formed the appearance of the dog that we know today as the Labrador Retriever. The Labrador was first recognized as a separate breed by the English Kennel Club in 1903.
In America, the 1920s brought about many fads. One of these was an interest in Scottish pass shooting. This encouraged wealthy land owners to bring over British gamekeepers, and with them, many British dogs, which included the Labrador. The Labrador Retriever Club Inc. was formed in 1931 and the Labrador has held its place in field trials since that time. The first Labrador Retriever Club Specialty was held on May 19, 1933.
Originally bred to assist his master in retrieving game, he is equally at home as a companion animal, and is used to assist his human owners in such areas as guiding the blind, alerting the deaf, and aiding people confined to wheelchairs. The dog is also reliable in use by officials in the location of drugs, bombs, fire accelerants, and the location of humans in disaster areas. He is also a reliable obedience dog. The ability of the Labrador to accomplish all of these tasks makes him truly an all purpose dog.
What is the typical Labrador temperament?
Living with a Labrador is somewhat like living with Peter Pan….they never really grow up. A Labrador will always greet you with his tail fiercely wagging ( knocking everything off the 2coffee table in the process). He understands that when a human is knocked to the ground after the dog accomplishes a record breaking running long jump onto the chest of his owner, that the human knows he is greatly loved. The Labrador goes to great lengths to show you his love by constantly doing excavations in your yard, understanding that soil must be turned over regularly.
A Labrador is loyal (to whomever feeds him on any given day) and would protect you with his life, if he only understood that there really are bad people in the world.
If you own a Labrador, you understand that everything mentioned above is absolutely true, and to be expected by the owners of a Labrador. It is part of the charm of the breed, that they are comedians and always looking for a good time. A Labrador would never consider eating the neighbor children. He asks only for your love and a good meal now and then. In return, he will guide your way if you are blind, he will find anything you ask him to find, tell you if there is a sound you should hear if you are deaf, carry your belongings if you are in a wheelchair, and least not forget… bring home dinner if you are a hunter. He will watch your children, and be a playmate. He will do almost ANYTHING you ask of him.
The Labrador is an active dog, that requires daily exercise to maintain his physical and mental fitness. Without it, he may become overactive and difficult to live with. Obedience training is an essential part of responsible dog ownership, and a great benefit to the Labrador owner.
Does a Labrador require extensive grooming?
The Labrador adapts well to many living conditions, and is easily maintained with a minimum of grooming, proper feeding, and proper veterinary care. The Labrador can be expected to live from 10 – 13 years of age.
Grooming a Labrador is much easier than with many other breeds of dog. We often joke about them being wash and wear dogs. In fact, that is very close to the truth. The Labrador needs no special shampoos or other coat products to keep his coat and skin in good condition. In fact, over-grooming will strip the coat of natural oils necessary in maintaining a healthy coat. Twice yearly, the coat of the Labrador will become dry and discolored. It will fall out as a new coat grows in. This process keeps the Labrador coat appropriate for the weather conditions. As the Labrador has a very thick, dense coat, this can be a messy process for the average family. Daily combing of the coat at this time will pull out the dead hair, helping to keep it out of your carpets and furniture. The sooner that the dead coat is gone, the sooner the new coat can grow in its place.
When should I spay or neuter my dog?
The proper time to spay or neuter a dog is at about six months of age. It is the duty of all pet owners to assure that their dog will not reproduce and add to the population of unwanted dogs in America today. This procedure will help to keep your dog healthy as well, as it is shown that the risk of breast cancer is increased with each season a female dog goes through, and the potential for infection and unwanted pregnancy increases with each season. In the male, this procedure will decrease his chance of prostate problems and injury caused by roaming.
What if I should decide to breed my dog?
No dog should be bred without the owner having invested a great deal of time learning about the breed. Responsible breeding involves the purchase of a dog representative of the breed, having a working knowledge of the background of the dog in question, and all clearances for genetic problems obtained. The goals of a responsible breeder are to improve the breed, proper socialization of his puppies, and careful selection of a proper home for his puppies. Careful selection of a breeder and a well-bred puppy is rewarded by years of happy companionship for the Labrador owner.
What genetic problems does this breed typically have?
Although there are many genetic problems seen in all breeds, the most common in the Labrador are the following:
- Degenerative Joint Diseases of several types, that could cause lameness in a dog at an early age.
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy, which can lead to blindness.
- Retinal Dysplasia
- Retinal folds
Do not consider breeding without medical clearances!
How will obedience classes help my dog?
A good obedience lesson can do more for you and your dog than any other single activity you can become involved in.
In just one obedience lesson, you will see a change in the behavior of your dog, and in the way you relate to your dog.
There are many advanced levels of obedience, but for now, lets concentrate on beginning obedience for you and your dog.
Obedience classes will teach you to communicate with your dog in both a verbal and physical manner. Good communication is the key to being both a good pet, and a good pet owner. Your dog wants to do what is right, but without good communication skills, he can not understand the meaning behind what you are trying to convey.
Basic obedience will teach your dog to pay attention, walk calmly on a leash, sit at your side, lie down on command, come when called, and obey you with other dogs present.
What about field work?
You need not be a hunter to enjoy field work with your dog. We all enjoy a good game of fetch, and field work takes that game to new levels.
Most Labrador owners get a great deal of fun watching our dogs retrieve from the water. In field work, the dog learns to retrieve on command, to watch for the item to be retrieved, to come back to you and deliver that item into your hand.
There is no single activity that a Labrador takes more seriously than retrieving. That, after all, is what he was bred to do.
If you enjoy a good hunting trip, and have always wanted to teach your dog to retrieve birds, you can teach your dog to be a reliable retriever without sending him away to some school to do it for you for a fee. In the long run, you will enjoy your dog more, and he will learn better if taught by his owner.
Field work is more easily taught if the dog has had some basic obedience.
If you want to have a fun day getting wet, field work is for you.
Canine good citizen tests, why?
Many of us enjoy taking our dogs wherever we go. Be it just a trip to Aunt Janes house, the local store, or on vacation with us. In many Labrador homes, the dog is part of the family, and we want to be able to take that family member with us.
The Canine Good Citizen test is to demonstrate that the dog as a companion of man, can be a respected member of the community, and can be trained and conditioned to always behave in the home, in public places, and in the presence of other dogs in a manner that will reflect credit on the dog.
To pass a C.G.C. test, the dog must pass the following categories
- Sitting politely for petting.
- Appearance and grooming.
- Walking on a loose leash.
- Walking through a crowd.
- Sitting, lying, and staying in place.
- Praise/Interaction (calming after play or praise)
- Reaction to another dog.
- Reaction to distraction.
- Supervised isolation.
What other activities can I enjoy with my Lab?
Have you ever been to a company picnic that had competition where the people had to make it through an obstacle course to win a prize. Most of us enjoy watching this sort of contest.
Imagine if you will, watching a team of dogs doing the same thing…. running through tunnels, over bridges, around obstacles, over a see-saw, and through a hoop. If you think its fun to watch, you should see how much fun the dogs have doing it.
Agility is an event where everyone has a great time. Watch one and see!
As with most activities, it helps to have gone through basic obedience before attempting agility, as the dogs do perform off leash.
Ribbons and prizes are great rewards for just having a great time with your dog.
The kids especially will enjoy agility.
Showing your Labrador:
Showing in conformation can be great fun for you and your dog, but unlike many other activities you can become involved in where, in the beginning, you compete against yourself (trying to improve your scores etc.), in the conformation ring your dog is being compared to the other dogs in the ring. One must expect that there will likely be other very nice dogs in the ring. Even if you have a very nice dog, until you learn how to present it, you may not find yourself in the ribbons at first. Then again, you just might.
There is much to learn about the conformation of a dog and about the process of showing.
Simply by attending shows in your area, you can learn a great deal from watching the procedure. You will have the chance to meet some of the people who have experience with showing, and can give you pointers. Eventually, you and your dog will have to just get in the ring and try it out.
Why should I join a local Labrador club?
Becoming involved with a breed club will help you, as they usually have seminars, classes, and newsletters that will teach you what you need to know.
A Labrador Retriever Club is one way to meet the people who will guide you in the direction you wish to go with your Labrador. Your fellow members can help you through the most simple of problems, to guiding you through tough issues that you may face with your dog. Be these behavior problems, or a need for education for you and your dog, there is someone in the membership who can assist you.
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