While the Labrador is a very sociable breed, they do not get along with other pets in the household. Labrador Retrievers love to have company, whether it is from family members or other pets.
They are excellent with children and make a great playmate. These amazing dogs have a strong prey drive, so cats and smaller dogs tend to be at risk in a Lab household.
Characteristics Of A Labrador Retriever
If you are thinking of bringing a Labrador into your life you need to know what you are getting into.
This honest review and assessment of Labrador Retriever characteristics and temperament will help you decide whether or not one of these magnificent dogs is the right companion for you at this point in your life.
We’ll be looking at Labrador’s aptitudes and abilities, his personality traits, and his renowned temperament.
We’ll also be finding out what makes this breed so popular in so many parts of the world and where our Labs originally came from.
We’ll be digging down to find out what exactly are the attributes that make a Labrador a Labrador.
Join us as we look at how the Labrador breed has become divided and how the two different types of Labrador Retriever may differ from one another.
Find out about the kinds of problems that can arise if people are unprepared for some aspects of a Labrador’s personality. And at the kinds of roles that the Labrador is most suited to.
The Labrador Retriever was bred to be both a friendly companion and a useful working dog breed. Historically, they earned their keep as fishermen’s helpers: hauling nets, fetching ropes, and retrieving fish from the chilly North Atlantic.
Today’s Lab is as good-natured and hardworking as their ancestors, and they’re also America’s most popular breed. Modern Labs work as retrievers for hunters, assistance dogs, show competitors, and search and rescue dogs, among other canine jobs.
DogTime recommends this dog bed to give a good night’s sleep to your medium-sized Lab. You should also pick up this dog de-shedder for your high shedding pup!
See below for all Labrador Retriever facts and dog breed traits!
The Labrador’s Original Purpose
Before we look at the physical characteristics of the Labrador Retriever and at his personality traits and abilities, it is helpful to briefly note where all these characteristics come from.
The Labrador falls into the category of ‘gundog breeds’ of dogs.
The history of his development as the world’s favorite gundog is a fascinating story.
The origins of the Labrador have had a profound influence on his appearance, personality, and behavior.
The Original Friend Of A Fisherman
The Labrador was originally bred as a fisherman’s companion, working alongside the men and women who inhabited the inhospitable island of Newfoundland, long before modern conveniences, and technology were available.
This was a job requiring a waterproof coat thick enough to withstand very low temperatures, and an ability to swim in strong currents and for long periods of time.
Imported to England, the Lab’s role changed to that of a shooting companion, where his skill at finding game, his ability to carry objects in his mouth without harming them, and his intelligence and biddable temperament would make him the world’s finest retriever.
An Abled Dog
From those early beginnings, Labrador Retrievers divergence into many different roles – from a therapy dog to the military dog, to a companion – and his competence at everything he is asked to do, has defined him.
He is clearly a dog of many talents.
Let’s take a look now, at the kind of dog we can expect to meet when we bring a Labrador into our homes.
Physical characteristics of the Labrador Retriever
The Labrador retriever is a sturdily built medium to large dog. He may weigh anything from 50 to 80lbs once adult, depending on his breeding.
He has a well-proportioned body with a healthy balance between the length of the leg and the length of the spine. A shape that is often described as ‘short coupled’.
What does a pedigree Labrador look like?
The distinguishing features of the Labrador Retriever are well known.
He has a broad skull with ‘chiseled’ features that are softened by his kindly expression and soft ear flaps. His body is powerful and well-muscled and ends in a thick tail that tapers to a point.
His full-length muzzle houses a good cooling system and a strong set of jaws with a full complement of 42 large white teeth.
The Labrador Retriever’s Coat
The Labrador’s short dense ‘wash and go’ coat comes in one of three gleaming solid colors and needs little grooming to keep it looking smart.
The coat has a shining slightly oily surface and the individual hairs are straight, although a slight ripple can be seen along the back of some dogs once the adult coat is established.
A thick undercoat and the water-resistant topcoat keep a Labrador warm in the coldest water. And a quick shake on emerging from the sea or lake sees the majority of the water removed from its repellant surface.
The genetics of Labrador coat color is interesting and more straightforward to understand than many other breeds of dog.
Strictly speaking, Labradors come in only three colors. Yellow, Chocolate (which used to be called Liver), and Black.
You will hear people use all sorts of other descriptions, but officially there is no such thing as a ‘Golden Labrador’, or a ‘Fox Red Labrador’, these are simply variations of the color yellow.
The only colors recognized by the Kennel Clubs of the United Kingdom, and the USA are Yellow, Chocolate, Black.
The Overall Appearance Of A Labrador
His sleek water-resistant coat, soft flapped ears, and thick otter tail gives the Labrador an almost seal-like appearance. In the water, this likeness is intensified.
He looks as at home there as he clearly feels, swimming low in the water and confidently powered by strong webbed paws.
On land he is equally sleek and powerful, giving the overall appearance of a fit and healthy canine athlete. Let’s look a little closer at that athletic ability.
The Athletic Ability Of A Labrador
The Labrador is a versatile dog who can sprint at speed over short distances or maintain an easy loping stride that will carry him for mile after mile.
For a moderately large dog, he is surprisingly agile, capable of jumping heights well in excess of a meter.
The extent of his physical prowess may vary depending on the type or group of Labradors he belongs to, and we’ll look more closely at that in a moment.
Temperament Of A Labrador Retriever
The Labrador’s kind expression is mirrored by his kind nature. His easy-going, tolerant temperament and love of water are hallmarks of the breed, but of course, not all Labradors fit this breed description precisely.
It is fair to say that sometimes poor temperament traits such as aggression and nervousness can appear in the breed.
But is it also fair to say that this is not the norm?
On balance, the labrador’s good reputation is justified, and provided care is taken in the choice of a lab puppy, you stand a good chance of getting a friendly, good-natured dog.
Extraordinary Labrador Breed Characteristics
Born from generations of being bred for retrieving in the shooting field, the Labrador has some special and important breed features
His gentle mouth is capable of carrying delicate items with great care, and his urge to pick up and carry things is strong.
His ability to track items by scent alone is extraordinary and it is no surprise that Labradors are so sought after by bomb disposal teams, customs, and excise authorities and those engaged in sports where tracking is involved.
Personality Of A Labrador Retriever
Many people are convinced that their Labrador has a sense of humor, and some Labradors are extremely playful, and not just like puppies
Others can be bumptious, clumsy, and bouncy, especially when young.
Temperament, abilities, and general personality may of course vary somewhat from individual to individual. But more importantly, in the last half-century, Labrador has been divided into two distinct types.
We’ll take a look at those now because not every Labrador is suited to every home, and some homes are better suited to one type than to the other.
Some of the traits of the Labrador Retriever depend on which group of Labradors he belongs to.
Two Different Types Of Labrador
For over the last fifty or so years, Labradors in both the UK and the USA have effectively become divided into two quite distinctive strains.
Labrador characteristics vary considerably between those bred for the show ring, and those bred for the field.
Characteristics of ‘English’ or show bred labradors
Most people are familiar with the picture book image of the broad-headed, heavyweight show-bred lab, known as the English Lab in the USA and the Show lab in the UK
The AKC describes the labrador as being distinguished by 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 British Kennel Club breed standard also describes a dog with a broad skull, wide nose, and thick tapering ‘otter tail.
The KC also describes the breed as ‘agile’, though this is a slightly optimistic description of some show dogs.
The show-bred labrador does have a sturdier frame than his working cousins, but unfortunately many show dogs are also fairly overweight.
Traits of American Or Working Bred Labradors
A large number of Labradors are born each year from working stock, and their appearance is likely to be very different.
The field-bred Labrador, known as the American Lab in the USA and the Working Lab in the UK, is an altogether ‘racier’ specimen than his show bench cousin.
He often lacks the characteristic ‘otter tail’.
He is likely to have longer ears, a narrower head, and generally less substance.
His eyes may be closer together/more forward-facing and he is likely to be more ‘sensitive’ in nature, and more enthusiastic about retrieving and generally racing around.
Whether this division in the breed is a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of argument.
Many Labrador enthusiasts would like to see show dogs carry less weight and field-bred dogs have a more classic labrador appearance, but we are unlikely to see a convergence of the strains anytime soon.
Retrieving Ability Of Labradors
Most Labradors, even those from show stock have an inborn urge to retrieve things.
This is often reflected in their fondness for carrying things around in their mouths and even chewing things up.
The basic urge to chase and pick things up is of course a result of generations of breeding for the Labrador Retrievers’ original purpose. The instinct to bring those things back can be more variable!
Good and Bad Characteristics of Labrador Retrievers
- Enthusiastic attitude toward life
- Short easy-care coat
- Cheerful, tail-wagging nature
- Thrives on exercise and athletic activities
- Steady-tempered and dependable with everyone
- Peaceful with other animals
- Very responsive to training
- Needs a goodly amount of exercise, not just a couple of short walks around the block
- High energy and exuberant jumping, especially when young
- Sheds a lot
- Risk of serious health problems
Who are Labradors well suited for?
Despite the fact that Labradors are so popular, some people are not well suited to life with a large dog that is boisterous and destructive when young, sheds copious amounts of hair, and has a particular affection for mud and rolling in dead things.
Labradors are social and affectionate dogs who do not like being left alone for long periods of time, so if you work full time, then daily dog care is essential.
If you are not house proud and have time to exercise train, and simply be with, an athletic, affectionate, and powerful dog.
You might well enjoy life with a Lab.
These are dogs with friends, often exuberant, personalities and a sense of fun.
Despite the differences in show and field strains of labrador, there are still many Labrador characteristics that are common to both types.
In particular their dependable good nature, sense of fun, and love of human companionship which perhaps more than anything else has made them so popular as pets today.
Despite his popularity both as a companion and as a service dog The Labrador is first and foremost a retriever.
His role as such is to remain close to his master at all times until required to retrieve an animal or bird that has been shot.
Anything he is asked to do, including retrieving gently to hand, he is expected to do willingly, unquestioningly, and quickly.
The Labrador’s highly cooperative and intelligent temperament reflects that role perfectly and it is what has made him such a perfect fit for so many roles in our society
It is not surprising that this lovable and versatile dog is simply the most popular family pet in the USA, UK, and many other parts of the world.
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