The original Labradors were all-purpose water dogs originating in Newfoundland, not Labrador. Not only did the breed not originate in Labrador, but it also was not originally called the Labrador Retriever. The Newfoundland of the early 1800s came in different sizes, one of which was the “Lesser” or “St. John’s” Newfoundland—the earliest incarnation of the Labrador. These dogs—medium-sized black dogs with close hair—not only retrieved game but also retrieved fish, pulled small fishing boats through icy water, and helped the fisherman in any task involving swimming. Eventually the breed died out in Newfoundland in large part because of a heavy dog tax. However, a core of Labradors had been taken to England in the early 1800s, and it is from these dogs, along with crosses to other retrievers, that the breed continued. It was also in England that the breed earned its reputation as an extraordinary retriever of upland game. Initially black labs were favored over yellow or chocolate colors. By the early 1900s, the other colors had become more accepted. The breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1903 and by the AKC in 1917. The popularity of this breed has grown steadily until the Labrador Retriever became the most popular breed in America in 1991 and remains so today.
Recommended daily amount: 2.5 to 3 cups of high-quality dry food a day, divided into two meals. Note: How much your adult dog eats depends on his size, age, build, metabolism, and activity level. Dogs are individuals, just like people, and they don't all need the same amount of food. It almost goes without saying that a highly active dog will need more than a couch potato dog. The quality of dog food you buy also makes a difference — the better the dog food, the further it will go toward nourishing your dog and the less of it you'll need to shake into your dog's bowl. Keep your Lab in good shape by measuring his food and feeding him twice a day rather than leaving food out all the time. If you're unsure whether he's overweight, give him the eye test and the hands-on test. First, look down at him. You should be able to see a waist. Then place your hands on his back, thumbs along the spine, with the fingers spread downward. You should be able to feel but not see his ribs without having to press hard. If you can't, he needs less food and more exercise. You'll need to take special care if you're raising a Lab puppy. These dogs grow very rapidly between the age of four and seven months, making them susceptible to bone disorders. Feed your puppy a high-quality, low-calorie diet that keeps them from growing too fast. For more on feeding your Lab, see our guidelines for buying the right food, feeding your puppy, and feeding your adult dog.
It has been shown that out of all dog breeds, it is the Labrador Retriever that is most likely to be obese. In a 2016 published study it was shown that out of 310 Labradors, most were missing all or parts of the POMC gene. This gene plays a part in appetite regulation as well as indication of the amount of one's stored fat. The study concluded that the absence of that gene had a significant impact on Labrador weight and appetite. The POMC gene mutation is present in only one other breed – the Flat-Coated Retriever.