About Labrador Retriever
The Labrador Retriever was developed in England in the mid 1800s by a few private kennels dedicated to developing and refining the perfect gundog. That many such kennels were pursuing their own vision of such a dog is the reason behind the variety of today’s retriever breeds.
It’s fairly clear that there were no indigenous dogs in Newfoundland when the first fishing companies arrived. If the native Americans of the time had any, the explorers never observed them. Thus it’s quite likely that the St. Johns dogs themselves come from old English Water Dogge breeds, insofar as fishermen were the primary people on Newfoundland for centuries. There is also some speculation that the old St. Hubert’s dog might have been brought over as well – illustrations of the breed show a black, drop-eared dog with a certain resemblance to the Labrador. But it is unknown if the fishermen going to Newfoundland would have had hound dogs used for game rather than water dogs.
We can only speculate what happened, but we do know that the cod fishermen sent out from Britain practiced “shore fishing.” Small dories were used for the actual fishing, and they worked in teams of four – two in the boat and two on the shore to prepare and cure the fish. They would have needed a small dog to get in and out of the boat, with a short water repellent coat so as not to bring all the water into to the boats with them. They would have bred for a strong retrieving instinct to help retrieve fish and swimming lines, and a high degree of endurance to work long hours. If the runs were heavy, the fishermen were reputed to go for as long as twenty hours to haul the fish in. The dog developed for this early work could be found in several varieties: a smaller one for the fishing boats, and a larger one with a heavier coat for drafting.
The smaller dog has been called, variously, the Lesser St. John’s dog, the Lesser Newfoundland, or even the Labrador. These dogs came from Newfoundland; it is unknown why the name “Labrador” was chosen except possibly through geographical confusion.
Charles Eley, in History of Retrievers at the end of the 19th century comments: The story […] was that the first Labrador to reach England swam ashore from vessels which brought cod from Newfoundland […] It was claimed for them that their maritime existence […] had resulted in webbed feet, a coat impervious to water like that of an otter, and a short, thick ‘swordlike’ tail, with which to steer safely their stoutly made frames amid the breakers of the ocean. Part of the confusion over the names is that “St. John’s dog” and “Newfoundland dog” were used interchangeably for both the greater (larger) and lesser (smaller) varieties. And the term Labrador has also been used to refer to the lesser St. John’s dog, especially in the latter half of the 19th century.
The greater is commonly held to be the direct ancestor of today’s Newfoundland, while the lesser was used to develop many of the retrieving breeds, including today’s Labrador. The exact relationship between the two varieties of the St. Johns dog (and some 19th century writers listed up to four varieties) is also unclear; we don’t know which came first, or to what degree they were related. Certainly the greater St. Johns dog was first imported to England nearly a hundred years earlier, and many contemporary and modern day writers assume that the lesser was developed from the greater but we have no real evidence one way or another.
Newfoundland has been used for fishing and other activities since approximately 1450 so there has been plenty of time for the development of the St. Johns dog and its varieties.
By the turn of the century, these retrievers were appearing in the British Kennel Club’s events. At this point, retrievers from the same litter could wind up being registered as different retrievers. The initial category of “Retrievers” included curly coats, flat coats, liver-colored retrievers and the Norfolk retriever (now extinct). As types became fixed, separate breeds were created for each and the Labrador Retriever finally gained its separate registration under the Kennel Club in 1903. While there have been strains of Labradors bred pure up to this time, it is unknown how many of these cross-bred dogs were folded into “Labradors” or into other breeds as the registrations began to separate. Many breeders feel that crossbreeding at this time accounts for much of the poor type that can appear today; however claims about the use of Pointers or Rottweilers can probably be safely discounted. The first two decades in the 20th century saw the formation in Britain of some of the most influential kennels that provided the basis for the breed as we know it today. Lord Knutsford’s Munden Labradors, and Lady Howe’s Banchory Labradors are among several. At this time, many dogs distinguished themselves in both field trials and conformation shows; the high number of Dual Champions at this time attests to the breed’s versatility.
Labradors were first imported to the United States during World War I. At this point, the AKC still classified them as “Retrievers;” it was not until the late 1920’s that the retrievers were split up into the breeds we know today in the AKC. The Labrador Retriever has been used heavily in the US as a gundog; the American Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. (LRC, Inc), is to this day primarily a field trial organization, and it was instrumental in forming the AKC field trials. The two World Wars greatly diminished the breed in numbers (as it did many others). After the second World War saw the rise of the Labrador Retriever in the United States, where Britain’s Sandylands kennel through imports going back to Eng CH Sandyland’s Mark influenced the shape and direction the show lines took in this country. Other influential dogs include American Dual CH Shed of Arden, a grandson of English Dual CH Banchory Bolo, especially evident in field trial lines. This return trip to the Americas resulted in the widely expanded use of the Labrador as a gun dog. In Britain, the Labrador was, and still is, used primarily for upland game hunting. Typically, separate breeds were used for different tasks; and the Labrador was strictly for marking the fall, tracking and retrieving the game. But in the United States and Canada, the breed’s excellence at waterfowl work and game finding became apparent and the Labrador soon proved himself adaptable to the wider and rougher range of hunting conditions available.
In the earliest years of the Labrador, yellows were simply culled. The first registered yellow was Ben of Hyde, out of two black dogs, themselves from import stock. Ben produced many yellows when bred to black bitches.
Oddly, his yellow littermate Juno produced few if any yellows when she was bred to blacks. However, bitches produce few puppies compared to dogs so chance probably stepped in with homozygous dominant black mates for Juno. The anti-yellow sentiment was so strong that in the 1920’s experienced breeders reported being directed to the Golden Retriever ring! At this point, dogs of this color did suffer a wide variation of incorrect type.
A separate standard was briefly drawn up to address this problem, but eventually it was felt that yellows should simply adhere to the same standard as blacks. Today, you will find as many, if not more, yellows as blacks of the same quality. Only in some hunting circles will you still find the erroneous opinion that “blacks make better hunters.”
Chocolates: Chocolates, like yellows, have also been present all along in the breed. In fact, the well known story of the origins of the Chesapeake Bay Retriever refers to an 1807 shipwreck involving two St. John’s dogs probably destined for Poole and hence to Malmesbury or Buccleuch: one black and one liver. Some believe that the chocolate color was introduced into Labradors around the turn of the century by crossing with Pointers.
This is unlikely for several reasons:
* Prior documented presence of livers in the St. John’s dogs.
* The presence of the liver color in many other closely related breeds, such as the Flat-coat, Chesapeake, and Newfoundland.
* Since liver is recessive to black, it is perfectly possible to “hide” the gene in many generations of black, especially if the occasional liver is quietly culled. Chocolate Labradors have gained favor much more slowly than the yellows have, although culling of them probably declined about the same time. They did well in early field trials at the turn of the century but it was not until 1964 that Britain had its first chocolate bench champion, Cookridge Tango. Chocolates are by far the rarest color in the ring, whether show or field. They are increasing in popularity steadily, though, and in another 10 years may equal the other colors in numbers, acceptance, and quality. Prejudice against chocolates in both show and field arenas is still widely present today. They are either “too ugly” for the show ring or “too stupid/stubborn” for the field.
The Standard describes the physical appearance and other desired qualities of the breed otherwise known as type. Some characteristics, such as size, coat quality, and movement, are based on the original (or current) function for the dog. Other characteristics are more cosmetic such as eye color; but taken together they set this breed apart from all others. The Standard describes an ideal representive of the breed. No individual dog is perfect, but the Standard provides an ideal for the breeder to strive towards.
ORIGIN : Great Britain.
DATE OF PUBLICATION OF THE ORIGINAL VALID STANDARD : 24.06.1987.
UTILIZATION : Retriever
CLASSIFICATION F.C.I. : Group 8 Retrievers, Flushing Dogs, Water Dogs. Section 1 Retrievers. With working trial.
GENERAL APPEARANCE : Strongly built, short-coupled, very active; broad in skull; broad and deep through chest and ribs; broad and strong over loins and hindquarters.
BEHAVIOUR / TEMPERAMENT : Good-tempered, very agile. Excellent nose, soft mouth; keen lover of water. Adaptable, devoted companion. Intelligent, keen and biddable, with a strong will to please. Kindly nature, with no trace of aggression or undue shyness.
CRANIAL REGION :
Skull : Broad. Clean-cut without fleshy cheeks.
Stop : Defined.
FACIAL REGION :
Nose : Wide, nostrils well developed.
Muzzle : Powerful, not snipey.
Jaws/Teeth : Jaws of medium length, jaws and teeth strong with a perfect, regular and complete scissor bite, i.e. upper teeth closely overlapping lower teeth and set square to the jaws.
Eyes : Medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper; brown or hazel.
Ears : Not large or heavy, hanging close to head and set rather far back.
NECK : Clean, strong, powerful, set into well placed shoulders.
Back : Level topline.
Loins : Wide, short-coupled and strong.
Chest : Of good width and depth, with well sprung barrel ribs.
TAIL : Distinctive feature, very thick towards the base, gradually tapering towards tip, medium length, free from feathering, but clothed thickly all round with short, thick, dense coat, thus giving ” rounded ” appearance described as ” Otter ” tail. May be carried gaily, but should not curl over back.
FOREQUARTERS : Forelegs well boned and straight from elbow to ground when viewed from either front or side.
Shoulders : Long and sloping.
HINDQUARTERS : Well developed, not sloping to tail.
Stifle : Well turned.
Hocks : well let down. Cowhocks highly undesirable.
FEET : Round, compact; well-arched toes and well developed pads.
GAIT / MOVEMENT : Free, covering adequate ground; straight and true in front and rear.
HAIR : Distinctive feature, short, dense, without wave or feathering, giving fairly hard feel to the touch; weather-resistant undercoat.
COLOUR : Wholly black, yellow or liver/chocolate. Yellows range from light cream to red fox. Small white spot on chest permissible.
Ideal height at withers :
dogs: 56-57 cm ( 22-22,5ins);
bitches: 54-56 cm ( 21,5 – 22 ins).
FAULTS : Any departure from the foregoing points should be considered a fault and the seriousness with which the fault should be regarded should be in exact proportion to its degree and its effect upon the health and welfare of the dog.
Any dog clearly showing physical or behavioural abnormalities shall be disqualified.
N.B. : Male animals should have two apparently normal testicles fully descended into the scrotum.
This interpretation will help to underline the essential characteristics of the Labrador without which any individual dog is not representative of the breed and does not possess breed “type.” While it is critical that the Labrador be “sound,” evaluation of the breed solely on this factor is incorrect and detrimental. No true evaluation of the breed can take place without a thorough knowledge of breed “type”: those defining characteristics which distinguish the Labrador from all other breeds and help it accomplish its work as an incomparable retriever.
While judges, breeders and exhibitors must always evaluate individual dogs against the breed standard, it is equally obvious that no standard is absolutely perfect or totally comprehensive. This is true of the Canadian Kennel Club Labrador Retriever Standard which, for example, makes no reference to the breed’s double coat, or undercoat, an essential characteristic of the breed. The standard is equally vague about such essentials as the proportion of skull to muzzle, the proportion of body length to height, and the proportion of leg length to depth of body. The old cliche that “standards are written for those who already know the breed” is certainly true of our standard.
The purpose of this interpretation is not to rewrite or replace the standard but to clarify and supplement the standard with knowledge that has developed over the decades within the Labrador Retriever community about essential breed characteristics. Any true evaluation of the Labrador must move beyond the sound, showy, “generic” dog to an understanding and appreciation of those qualities which typify the breed and distinguish it from all others. Without Labrador type there is no Labrador
The general appearance of the Labrador should be that of a strongly built, short-coupled very active dog. He should be fairly wide over the loins, and strong and muscular in the hindquarters. The coat should be close, short, dense and free from feather.
The opening section of the standard emphasizes those qualities which make the Labrador what it is: a powerful, rugged , athletic retriever. Any evaluation of the Labrador must be done with the dog’s function as a working retriever foremost in mind. Working Condition should not be confused with “Field Trial Condition”. The Labrador is a strong,stocky, powerful dog but he must not be cloddy or cumbersome. Neither must he be weedy or racy. Moderation should be the key when considering the Labrador Retriever.
The breed should display not only power but agility and athleticism, as suggested by the word active”, and should not only be powerful enough to retrieve heavy game, but agile enough to capture game that is only wounded. Labradors should be able to retrieve a large goose or run down a wounded pheasant. Labradors should be capable of a days work which requires agility, strength and stamina. But it must be remembered that the breed’s work is not that of a setter or spaniel. Although some Labradors are used to flush upland game, their primary function is to retrieve, which requires athleticism and the power necessary for short, intense bursts of speed –note the standard’s emphasis on strongly built, short coupled, and muscular hindquarters.
The other emphasis in this section is on correct, close, dense, free from feather coat, a necessity for a dog who must be out in all types of foul weather and who must often wait quietly in wet or freezing conditions for the next retrieve. A poor quality coat would fail to protect the dog against the elements. Although the standard does not specifically give the proportions for the breed’s outline, the general appearance should be that of a slightly off-square dog rather than rectangular. Distance from withers to elbow should approximate distance from elbow to ground.
Approximate weights of dogs and bitches in working condition dogs: 60 to 75 pounds (27 – 34 kg); bitches 55 to 70 pounds (25 – 32 kg).
Height at shoulders– Dogs: 22-1/2 to 24-1/2 (57 – 62 cm) inches; bitches: 21-1/2 to 23-1/2 inches (54 – 60 cm).
Size in Labradors has recently become a contentious issue. Obviously, Labradors within the standard’s range are acceptable. Animals outside these ranges may either lack the power and strength or the agility to do the work required of the breed. In practice, many breeders strive for a medium sized dog that possesses both power and athleticism. To meet these requirements the Labrador must be in firm, fit condition, not fat and flabby, nor thin and racey. It should be noted that today’s Labrador, in show condition, may carry more weight than described in the official standard, provided it is well muscled and not fat.
COAT AND COLOUR
The coat is another very distinctive feature, it should be short, very dense and without wave, and should give a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The colours are black, yellow, or chocolate and are evaluated as follows:
(a) Blacks: all black, with a small white spot on chest permissible. Eyes to be of medium size, expressing intelligence and good temper, preferably brown or hazel.
(b) Yellows: Yellows may vary in colour from fox-red to light cream with variations in the shading of the coat on ears, the underparts of the dog, or beneath the tail. A small white spot on chest is permissible. Eye colouring and expression should be the same as that of the blacks, with black or dark brown eye rims. The nose should also be black or dark brown, although ‘fading’ to pink in winter weather is not serious. A ‘Dudley’ nose (pink without pigmentation), should be penalized.
(c) Chocolates: Shades ranging from light sedge to chocolate. A small white spot on chest is permissible. Eyes to be light brown to clear yellow. Nose and eye-rim pigmentation dark brown or liver coloured. ‘Fading’ to pink in winter weather not serious. ‘Dudley’ nose should be penalized.
The outer coat is close, short and dense and has a “hard” feeling, yet not as harsh as a terrier coat. There is often a slight wave down the back in good textured coats. The coat should look healthy but not shiny, rather it has a matt finish. Shiny coats are often single coats with no undercoat. The Canadian standard makes no mention of undercoat; this is a serious omission. There should be a soft dense water-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold, and rough terrain. Depending on climate, time of year, and oestrus, the coat might be thinner and have less undercoat. But there should always be some undercoat present and the outer coat should give evidence of a good hard texture.
The Labrador’s coat blunts the angles and hollows of the dog and gives the typical rounded appearance of the breed which should be created from coat rather than from fat. Wooly coats, soft coats, lack of hard texture, and single coats without undercoat should be severely penalized as these coats are not suitable for a working Labrador.
There are few hunting experiences as pathetic as sitting in a waterfowl blind with a sodden, freezing Labrador who is miserable because his coat offers no protection from the elements. The Labrador is a natural dog and there should be no trimming, scissoring or sculpting of the coat other than to trim the hair between the pads and remove the corkscrew hair from the tail, if desired. Sprays and other artificial enhancements of coat also have no place in the breed and should be looked upon unfavourably. The Labrador should be shown in a clean and natural condition and should be capable, if having the proper coat, of doing a mornings work in the field and be in the conformation ring in the afternoon without any preparation other than a good combing or brushing.
In the Labrador, all three colours have equal value. Each Labrador should be held to the same standard of perfection regardless of its colour. When judging the Labrador, colour must not be a consideration. In some geographic locations or at certain times, one colour may be superior, but this is only a localized occurrence and is not true of the breed as a whole. In all colours a small white spot on the chest is permissible, but most breeders would prefer not to have such a spot. On occasion white hairs may be found between the pads, on the stomach and groin, and under the guard hair near the base of the tail. Not usually visible, these white hairs should not be considered faults. In yellows, the colour may vary from fox red to almost white. Again no shade is more acceptable than another.
There are also shadings in individual coats with the ears, hocks and back being usually a darker shade and underparts and back of hind legs being lighter. Some yellows have a mask of darker yellow hair around the muzzle sometimes reaching up as far as the brows. If this gives a hard, atypical look and ruins expression, it should be penalized. Yellows with bad coats tend to have soft, fluffy coats with plenty of undercoat but no hard guard hair. Occasionally blacks with poor coats tend to have single, shiny coats with no undercoat. Black and chocolate coats are particularly affected by the sun. Black coats will typically take on a brown cast and chocolate will look very faded and patchy. Coats with brindle or tan markings are totally unacceptable and should be so severely penalized as to be unworthy of an award. Some Labradors have cow-licks which should only be considered faults if they interfere with expression.
Labrador expression is an essential of the breed. The gentle and intelligent expression which should be typical of the breed can not be overemphasized. A hard, mean look is abhorrent. The head should possess both strength and a gentle expression which reflect the character of the breed. The head is wide and strong but without exaggeration, clean cut and without wrinkle. The head is at its widest between the ears and tapers only lightly to the eyes, and must not give the appearance of being wedge shaped. The skull may show some median line which disappears as it moves towards the back skull. The occipital bone is not conspicuous in mature dogs, although puppies under a year can often exhibit pronounced occipital “bumps” that hopefully will break as they mature. A fault frequently seen today is the extremely undesirable overdone Rottweiler look: great, huge heads with overdeveloped cheek muscles, hard expressions and over developed stops.
The stop should be easily discernable but moderate. Brow ridges help in defining the stop. Insufficient stop is often seen in association with wedge shaped heads and too obliquely set eyes which impart an undesired “foxy”expression. The skull and foreface should be on parallel planes and of approximately equal length. Small, toy-like, snipey muzzles are very incorrect since they render dogs incapable of properly retrieving game. The bridge of the muzzle should be straight. The muzzle is slightly deeper from stop to underjaw than it is from nose to underjaw. In other words, when viewed from the side the muzzle tapers very slightly from stop to tip. The muzzle should be strong and appear almost square, with good underjaw. It should not be long and narrow nor short and stubby. Lips should be tight and clean cut with sufficient padding to fill out the foreface and create a strong appearance to the muzzle.
Lips should not be pendulous, although there are often slight flews. There should be only a little wrinkle at the corner of the mouth. The nose should be wide and the nostrils well developed for scenting power. In black and yellow dogs the nose should be black. In chocolates pigmentation should be brown. Nose colour in yellows will frequently fade, particularly in winter, and should not be faulted. Noses without pigment are a fault. Also, as yellows mature, frequently the nose pigment fades but the eye rims will remain dark. This is not be be confused with lack of pigment. In the revised American Kennel Club Standard (March, 1994) noses without pigment (pink noses) are a disqualification. Eyes should reflect kindness and intelligence. They are of medium size, set well apart, and neither protruding or deep set. Eyes are set straight, not obliquely. They have sometimes been described as “diamond shaped”, not round. Eye rims should be tight to protect against debris when the dog is working. No white should be visible when the dog is looking forward. In blacks and yellows the preferred colour is brown, sometimes described as dark hazel or the colour of burnt sugar. Yellow eyes are very objectionable as they create a hard, staring expression. The British have always detested black eyes and now the Americans have listed black eyes as undesirable. Black eyes, however, have a much less detrimental affect on expression than do yellow “headlight” eyes. Chocolates’ eyes will usually be lighter than blacks or yellows, a hazel colour, but they should not be yellow or staring. Eye rims are black in blacks, black or dark brown in yellows, and brown in chocolates. Chiseling of the bony structure under the eyes adds to expression and the appeal of the head. Ears hang close to the head and are not so large as to appear houndy or so small as to seem out of proportion to the head. They are medium sized, set well back on the skull, and should be carried close to the head reaching about to the bottom of the jaw line. They will reach to the inside corner of the eye when pulled forward. When the dog is alert, the inside corner of the top fold of the ears will break almost even with the top of the skull and the fold will have a slightly downward angle. The fold of the ear should not break above the skull and should not square off the head as in a Rottweiler or Bullmastiff.
Teeth are described in the standard as strong and regular with a level mouth.Most breeders have taken “level mouth” to mean a scissors bite. Although a level bite is acceptable it is not preferred. The standard says nothing about undershot, overshot, or misaligned teeth, but these have always been considered by breeders as serious faults in a retriever. Missing teeth are also not mentioned in the standard. It is not uncommon to see one or two missing premolars in Labradors. In the past this has not been considered by most breeders to be a serious fault, but Canadian breeders and judges are becoming more concerned about missing teeth, particularly if this involves more than one or two premolars. Full dentition is preferred. However, as in all things related to the Labrador, the yardstick should be how this will affect work in the field. The experience of most hunters is that one or two missing premolars does not affect retrieving ability. Whiskers need not be cut, but may be if so desired.
The neck should be medium length, powerful and not throaty.
The neck should be of medium length, strong and clean, enabling the dog to carry heavy game. It should balance the dog and have a moderate arch which flows smoothly into the shoulders without a “break” or roll of flesh. The neck should not be “stuffy”, neither should it be overly long and weak. There should be no excess skin (dewlap) on the throat.
The shoulders should be long and sloping. The legs must be straight from the shoulders to the ground, and the feet compact with toes well arched, and pads well developed.
Ideally the shoulders are well laid back and form an angle of approximately 90 degrees with the upper arm which is approximately the same length as the shoulder blade. Straight shoulders and short upper arms are faults too prevalent in the breed. The lack of reach which these cause and the resulting short, choppy, “hackney” gait is not conducive to a hard days work. Also considered a serious fault are Labradors which are “loaded” in the shoulders with heavy bunched muscles that restrict movement. Front legs are well boned, strong and straight. Too much bone is as undesirable as too little. Bone should be heavy but certainly not massive. Massive bone may be seen in association with the overdone Rottweiler look mentioned previously. Legs should be well under the body and perpendicular to the ground.
Elbows should be held close to the body and should appear to be directly under the withers. A plumb-line dropped from the withers should fall just behind the dog’s elbow. Tied in elbows or “being out at the elbows” should be severely penalized because of their contribution to improper gait. Distance from withers to elbow should be approximately equal to the distance from elbow to ground. Short legged, out of balance Labradors are too common and are not typical, neither are “leggy” specimens lacking in depth of body. Pasterns should be short and strong and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the leg. There should be no narrowing of the bone in the pastern. Feet should be compact with well-arched toes and webbing between the toes. The feet are neither hare nor cat feet, since neither could withstand the type of work in the water and the field that Labradors perform. Pads should be thick and strong. Dew claws may be removed. Splayed feet, hare feet, feet turning in or out are very serious faults.
The chest must be of good width and depth, the ribs well sprung and the loins wide and strong, stifles well turned, and the hindquarters well developed and of great power.
The forechest is well developed, but the prosternum is not exaggerated. The chest is of medium width and should not be pinched or narrow. Neither should it give the wide appearance of a bulldog type front. The chest should taper between the forelegs which permits unrestricted foreleg movement. In mature dogs the chest will usually reach to the elbows and will be approximately the width of a man’s hand between the forelegs. There is a greater spring of ribs in the breed than in other retrievers, but the ribs should not be completely barrel shaped. The ribs spring from the backbone like the staves in a barrel but then should narrow to a “keel” where they meet the breast bone. In cross section the ribs would look more round than oval as they spring from the spine. Slab sided or barrel-shaped Labradors are very undesirable. This greater spring of rib produces a wide, strong back that does not narrow appreciably through the loin.
There should be no noticeable appearance of a waist on a mature dog when viewed from above. The loins should be short, strong and wide. The ribs run well back, and the Labrador is more short coupled that other retriever breeds. The back is level and there is no slope to the loin. The back should not be slack, roached or swayed.
Soft, dipped, top lines are all too common in the breed. Bitches will be a little longer cast than males. The underline has a very slight curve from the bottom of the chest to the loin, but there should be no apparent tuck up, particularly in a mature dog. Sometimes immature bitches in particular will have a tuck up but this should disappear as they mature and have a litter.
Stifles well turned, and the hindquarters well developed and of great power. The hocks should be well bent, and the dog must neither be cowhocked nor be too wide behind; in fact, he must stand and move true all around on legs and feet. Legs should be of medium length, showing good bone and muscle, but not so short as to be out of balance with rest of body. In fact, a dog well balanced in all points is preferable to one with outstanding good qualities and defects.
The Labrador has a well turned, moderate stifle, and over angulation should be avoided, as should a straight, weak rear assembly. Do not reward angulation, such as found in an Irish Setter, which is over angulation in a Labrador. Too much rear angulation inhibits drive by creating imbalance between the front and the rear and produces a sloping topline not typical of the breed and too little rear angulation results in lack of drive. The toes should be only slightly behind the point of rump when the dog is standing. The hindquarters should give the impression of tremendous power which will propel the dog through water or over the roughest terrain. There should be a strongly muscled second thigh. The hocks should be well bent but short and strong. Cow hocks or sickle hocks are to be penalized. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel with good bone and apparent muscle. When viewed from above the Labrador should look slightly wider in the rear than the front because of the muscling in the rear. “Banana” rears, hindquarters with good turn of stifle but no second thigh or muscle, are sometimes seen in the breed, although not as frequently as they once were. Balance is essential in a dog required to work hard.
The tail is a distinctive feature of the breed; it should be very thick towards the base, gradually tapering towards the tip, of medium length, should be free from any feathering, and should be clothed thickly all round with the Labrador’s short, thick, dense coat, thus giving that peculiar ’rounded’ appearance which has been described as the ‘otter’ tail. The tail may be carried gaily but should not curl over the back.
The Labrador’s otter tail is unique to the breed. The base is very thick and has been compared to the thickness of a man’s wrist. The tail tapers to a point; the corkscrew of hair that often appears at the end may be removed for neatness, if desired. The thickness and round appearance of the tail are the result of the Labrador’s coat. Dogs with atypical coats will not have a correct otter tail. Tails are free of feathering, although “bushy” tails with quite long hair on the underside are seen all too frequently. The tail follows the topline, which is straight, and the tail is an extension of the spine. The Labrador tail comes straight off the topline since there is no slope of the croup as in the Golden Retriever. The tail can be carried gaily but should not curl over the back or be carried straight up. The tail should be carried either straight out, or at no more than 30 degrees from the horizontal. Curled or overly curved tails detract from the balance of the dog.
Long thin tails are serious faults, but short, out of balance tails which look like they have been stuck onto the end of the dog are equally faulty. Docking or any alteration of the natural carriage of the tail should be severely penalized. In the American standard such alterations are a disqualification. The tail should reach to the hock, although there is no need to check the tail length by bringing it down to the hock. Rather look for the tail that balances the dog.
Movement should be free and effortless. The forelegs should be strong, straight and true, and correctly placed. Watching a dog move towards one, there should be no signs of elbows being out in front, but neatly held to the body with legs not too close together, and moving straight forward without pacing or weaving. Upon viewing the dog from the rear, one should get the impression that the hind legs, which should be well muscled and not cow-hocked, move as nearly parallel as possible, with hocks doing their full share of work and flexing well, thus giving the appearance of power and strength.
Movement in the Labrador should be sound, strong, and powerful. The Labrador is a dog that must be able to work in the field, but its work is not that of a setter or pointer. The Labrador should have good reach and powerful drive, but it is not correct for the Labrador to have the extended reach of a setter. The Labrador should be thought of as a Quarter horse: able to work all day at a normal pace and capable of sudden bursts of speed. Movement should be free and effortless and short, choppy, inefficient movement should be severely penalized, but do not expect a Labrador to race around the ring like a setter. Any movement which interferes with performance, such as side-winding, hackney-like gait, paddling, crossing over, close behind or weaving should be severely penalized as inappropriate for a working dog. At faster speeds the Labrador will tend to converge toward the center of gravity, but should not single track.
Temperament Commentary: Temperament is not directly mentioned in the standard, yet it is as important a part of the breed as the “otter” tail, double coat, or retrieving instinct. The standard does indirectly indicate some aspects of temperament when it states that the eyes should express “great intelligence and good temper” and the skull should have “brain room”. The Standard calls for intelligence and good temper, but does not define what good temper is in the breed. Over time, breeders have come to define “good temper” in a Labrador as marked by a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature. A Labrador should be friendly, confident, eager to please, adaptable, “non-aggressive”, and trainable. Certain characteristics might not be able to be fully evaluated in the breed ring; however, the friendly, confident, outgoing nature of the breed should be evident. Mature animals who exhibit shyness or aggression should be severely penalized. Male dogs might be on less than friendly terms with other males but there should be no evidence of a desire to attack other animals in the ring. In his 1933 book on the Labrador, Leslie Sprake listed the common faults inherent in the breed: “heavy shoulders and clumpy neck, a dipped back, and a somewhat short muzzle.” These are some of the major faults that still appear in the breed. But, Sprake also noted, “the amiable, dignified and persevering disposition” of the breed which, fortunately, is the case today. Early writers on the breed frequently use the word, “sagacious” (intelligent, wise, sound in mind) to describe the Labrador’s character. It is this soundness of mind that makes the Labrador such a trainable retriever and wonderful companion. Without Labrador temperament; there is no Labrador.
Retrievers are a type of dog. They are, literally, dogs that retrieve and were originally bred to retrieve game for hunters both on land and in the water.
The American Kennel Club recognises six different breeds: Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, Flat Coated Retrievers, Curly Coated Retrievers and Irish Water Spaniels. There are other breeds of Retrievers not currently recognized by the AKC, for example CKC’s Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever.
Labradors don’t shed, do they?
Actually, they do. They have a double coat.. These two types of coat help keep the dog warm and dry while swimming in cold waters when retrieving. Generally Labradors will shed their coat twice a year. This is called “blowing” their coat.
They are moderate shedders, not like Alaskan Malamutes or German Shepherd Dogs. There will be a certain amount of hair loss throughout the year, especially in more temperate climates. This varies individually; some Labradors shed less than others, especially if they happen to have an incorrect coat.
How much grooming do they need?
Labs need to be brushed on a regular basis (about once a week) in order to keep them clean. This is a good way to keep their shedding under control. A “slicker” type brush would be perfect. Labs also need to have their toenails clipped regularly. Clippers can be found at pet stores and you should have your vet demonstrate the best way to clip the dog’s nails.
Labs do not need frequent baths. The Labrador coat does not need constant attention. A true bath is neccessarry only when the dog smells bad. In case it is merely dusty or muddy, you can rinse them off with plain water or brush the dirt out.
Shampooing them too often could prove to be damaging, as shampoo tends to strip the natural oils out of their coats. A properly oily coat repels dirt and sheds water easily.
Are Labradors hyperactive?
A Labrador with correct temperament is never hyperactive. Since their populaarity is rising lately, some Labs are bred by people who disregard their temperament. If you don’t breed for good temperaments you will only obtain them accidentally. This generally happens to people with little or no knowledge of breeding dogs, who are doing so mostly for the money.
The best advice for finding a Labrador with the right temperament is toget the most possible information about the breeder. An idea would be to ask to see their other dogs–this should give you an idea of the energy level you can expect from their puppies. Try to find out the names of other people who have previously bought dogs from them — and then contact these people and ask them how they behave. Labradors with poor temperaments are often the result of thoughtless breeding. However, Labradors are active dogs especially in puppyhood. And they do not fully mature until the age of 3. This means you will have a dog that will act like a puppy until this age. Often a Lab puppy is labelled hyperactive when it is simply a normal, exuberant puppy. If you are prepared to be patient with them during this period of their lives, you will not have problems. Such dogs, untrained and unexercised, will become destructive, unmanageable, and in many cases escape artists. If corrrectly disciplined-which EXCLUDES beating- most of these Labs will become good companions.
Labradors are popular, aren’t they?
Yes.At the end of 1997, the U.S. President got a chocolate Labrador. This means that there are a lot of people breeding Labradors hoping to get rich in a short time, instead of improving the breed. This requires a lot of attention to where you get your dog from.. With a bit of research and care, you can find good puppies. If you are asked to pay substantially more or less for a puppy without good reason given, be wary.
Do they make good guard dogs?
Labradors are not guarding dogs. Most will probably bark if they hear or see something disturbing- especially if it is near their yard. If plan to get a guard dog, a Labrador is not a good choice, but if you want an “alarm” barker, most Labradors are fine.
What kind of work can Labradors do?
They are good at hunting, doing field trials, and being terrific pets. Also, many Labradors are used as Service and Therapy dogs. Others do very well in Search and Rescue work, as well as making excellent Bomb, Narcotic, and Arson dogs.
Their nose, disposition, and trainability make them particularly suitable for these types of activities.
How are they with children?
As a breed, they tend to be good with children. As with any dog, it is not recomended to let puppies and children play unattended. Both puppies and children tend to be unaware of their own size and strength and could injure one another by accident. Labradors aren’t likely to hurt anyone intentionally, but could knock a child over during playing.
If you are a parent of a young child and the owner of a young Lab, you will have to spend time teaching both of them how to behave around one another. A Labrador that is not well trained nor properly exercised is much more likely to hurt a child by accident children than one who is kept firmly under control.
Do Labradors like to swim?
They love to swimming. Don’t be alarmed if your little pup is afraid of swimming the first time–they have to learn it just like anything else. Never throw a young puppy into the water! If you have an adult dog around that enjoys swimming, it can be easier since the pup will follow it. Or you can help them yourself.Be careful, though, since pups have sharp nails which can be painful if they try to climb up on you in the water. The spot where it learns to swim should be where there is a gradual entry, and without any current. The pup should be allowd to explore the water at his own pace. Another important matter is that dogs should not be allowed unattended access to a swimming pool unless know how to get out. Dogs often cannot pull themselves easily out of the pool.
If you do let your Lab in your swimming pool, check that filter often.
Are there golden Labs? What is the difference between golden and yellow Labs?
Labradors come in three colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. Yellow Labradors are often mistakenly called “golden Labradors.” The term yellow refers to a range of color from nearly white to gold to fox-red. The Golden Retriever is a separate breed from the Labrador, although there are similarities. Sometimes the term is used informally to refer to a Labrador / Golden Retriever mix.
Are there any other colors of Labradors?
No. Black, chocolate, and yellow are the only correct colors. While mis-marked purebred Labradors are possible, be careful of those selling “rare” Labradors of other colors at exorbitant prices. There are yellow Labradors that are so pale they appear white, but they are still considered to be yellow and will usually have some color, even if it is only on the ear tips. These lighter yellows not unusual nor rare and should not command a significant price difference. The same goes for “fox red” Labradors.
Variations in the color of yellow Labradors are not penalized, but treated the same as any other yellow Labrador; however the lighter shades tend to predominate in the ring at this time. “Silver” Labradors are purely a scam and are either crossed with Weimaraners or very light chocolates. An actual silver Labrador would be treated as a mismarked dog and not command a high price. As far as we know, “blue” Labradors (dilute blacks) have never been offered, but if they were they are in the same situation as the ones treated above. However, based on a comparison with Doberman Pinschers, it seems reasonable to speculate that silvers are dilute chocolates.
Can you get yellow Labradors from black ones? And vice versa? What about chocolates?
Yes, you can get yellows from blacks and blacks from yellows. Similarly, you can get chocolates from blacks or yellows and vice-versa. It all depends on what color genes the parents carry. But it is sure that if both parents are yellow, the resulting puppies are always yellow, never black or chocolate; if both parents are chocolate, you can get yellow or chocolate puppies but never black ones.
Are there differences between Labs of different colors?
Aside from the color itself, there are no differences. Some think that black Labs are better hunters, yellow dogs are lazier, and chocolate dogs are stubborn. It is al untrue.
The colour of the coat in normally colored Labs is determined by two genes unrelated to anything else about the dog.
It is perfectly possible to get all three colors in the same litter, therefore the notion that there is a color based difference in temperament and/or ability is absurd.
Under the current standard, a yellow with chocolate pigmentation is disqualified. Traditionally, the way to determine a dog’s genetic background for color is to examine the whelping box: a dog that produces yellows and/or chocolate carries those genes.
What is a Dudley?
This is a yellow Labrador with chocolate pigmentation. It can also refer to a Lab with absolutely no pigmentation on the nose or eyerims (all pink in color), but in actuality, this is extremely rare, and probably a genetic abnormality. Although, while this is considered an undesirable trait, it is not some sort of genetic abnormality. There is no known correlation between Dudley noses and poor health.
But I see some Labradors with a pinkish nose?
Yes, this happens with many breeds, actually. Many yellow Labs will have dark noses in the summer that fade somewhat in the winter and repeat the cycle the next year. This also happens in many northern breeds such as Huskies and Malamutes. It is not considered a fault in any of these breeds and is not penalized. To differentiate between Labs with faded noses and Dudleys, check the eyerims and gums of the dogs. A Dudley will have only light pink or tan skin; the other dogs will have black pigment in these areas.
Do they bark a lot?
Excessive barking is not generally typical of the breed. They usually give a warning bark to an unusual event that they feel needs your attention.
Will a male or female Labrador make a better pet?
Both sexes make good pets. In general, male Labradors are more dependent and females are somewhat independent. For example, if you are at home working on your computer, your male Labrador will probably sleep right under your feet while your female will probably sleep in the other room and just come in and check on you periodically. For most people, a male Labrador will probably make the best pet!
How do I choose a puppy?
You need to make some decisions about what sex and color you’d like. What you plan to do with the dog. What kind of temperament you’d like. Once you have some answers to those questions, you should discuss your concerns and ideas with breeders. After you have found a breeder you like, then allow the breeder to help you select your puppy. Most breeders have a know of what the puppies’ personalities are like and will guide you to a good choice.