The Labrador or Labrador Retriever as it is sometimes known, is a breed of dog originating from the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada,
In the 1500s, Newfoundland dogs were bred with small water dogs creating a new breed which was called the St Johns water dog or the Lesser Newfoundland. They were used by fishermen to jump into icy waters and bring back fish that had fallen off the hooks, also to pull in fish filled nets.
The Labrador was introduced to the U. K in the 1830s, from ships trading between Canada and Poole in Dorset. The Earl and Duke of Malmesbury started to use them in their shooting sports, and they gave them the name Labrador, the name stuck and the Earls son began to breed them.
In 1903 the first Labrador was registered in the U. K kennel club, and the American kennel club recognised them in 1917. Originally all black, the first Chocolate Labrador emerged in the late 1800s and in 1899 at the kennels of Major C.J. Radclyffe the first Yellow Labrador was born.
The majority of the breed, with the exception of colour were a result of breeding to produce a working retriever. The Labrador is broad, strong and as webbed toes which help make it an excellent swimmer, these serve as good snow shoes by stopping snow from balling up between the toes, this can be very painful for other breeds of dog.
A medium to large breed, with healthy males weighing 65-80lb (29-36kg) and females 55-70lb (25-32kg). They are as long from the withers to the base of the tail as they are from the withers to the floor. Height standards are varied, in the U. K its 56-57cm (22in) for males and 55-56cm (21-22in) for females, but with the American kennel club its 57-62cm (22.5-24.5in) for males and 55-60cm (21.5-23.5in) for females.
The Labrador regularly tops lists as the most popular dog breed in the U. K, the U. S and Canada.
In recent times there is not much call for hunting dogs, so the Labrador as had to take on other roles. They are regularly used by the military, police, rescue services and as detection dogs. Some Labradors are taken at an early age and trained to be Guide dogs for the blind and disabled. With the help of these dogs blind and disabled people can do everyday tasks that would otherwise be very difficult or impossible. They are intelligent, with high energy levels, loyal and have strong desire to please, making them perfect for the required tasks.
A guide dog puppy will start training from 7-8 weeks old, either at a training centre or in special homes they are trained thoroughly for at least twelve months.
The most decorated dog in the world is a Labrador called Endol, he has won The dog of the millennium and the PDSA gold medal for animal gallantry and devotion to duty, amongst other awards.
Many Labradors are now kept as family pets, they are an ideal dog to have around the house, they are good-natured and socialable, playful, and excellent with children.
A healthy Labrador on average will live for 12 to 14 years, but they are more prone to obesity than any other breed, due to a specific gene mutation, so this needs to be watched. Other things to watch out for are hip and knee problems, and like most breeds eye problems can also occur.