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.
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The following writings are based off my experiences with the third and fourth Labradors I have come to work with professionally. The recollection of these experiences will help to showcase how Labs can be suited to live in most environments. This particular Lab is also one I have worked with multiple times. He is a young, pure bred born in the countryside who lives in New York City. He immediately impressed me with how comfortable he was maneuvering through crowded and loud midday streets. Taking a step back, he never gave me any problems applying his winter coat and he showcased astounding respect for the whole process, even helping me as much as he could. He is full of that quintessential Lab intelligence. In his apartment, he made use of two cages: one a playpen, the other a legitimate cage. He was much taller than the playpen fencing, and I have seen him jump outside when we were in the park, but in the house he never many any attempt to escape or hop the fence to greet me. Likewise, one time I found him left in the cage and he moved with dignity and grace as he awoke to me letting him go. When I closed up the case, he gently pushed me aside and pawed at the latches, rubbing his nose in between the gaps of wireframe. Here we see exemplified that classic Lab sense for articulation. I opened the cage because I clearly understood what he meant. He immediately rushed in and dragged out his favorite toy, which he brought over to the pile containing his leashes and winter coats. My takeaway is that even with the spike of intelligence one discerns when dealing with Labrador retrievers, they still desire, for the most part, the simple pleasures companionship as they know it, and of being understood. Once in the park, he gave me no problems and even with his young age, he treated me as an equal, trusting my guidance, perhaps because he understood the respect for which I saw him gesture. — I juxtapose this third Lab with a fourth one: a young female, also very articulate and incredibly well behaved compared with other dogs her age across varying breeds. She mainly taught me that there is something to Labradors that shows they understand the stakes of living in companionship with human beings. She speaks for her whole breed when she makes no fuss about winter attire, verbal commands, traffic laws, sightings of other dogs, preference for the timing of treats: all these come secondary to a Lab's respect for his or her bond with an owner; or in my case, as a walker, they exhibit a willingness to trust based on a general, intuitive albeit basic understanding of human life.
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Labradors tend to get bored when left alone indoors for too long. This can lead to listlessness and destructiveness from all the unspent energy and lack of attention. This breed is happiest and healthiest with plenty of exercise and outdoor play.
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Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Labrador. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
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