The warm and intelligent Lab is America's number one breed registered with the American Kennel Club. Even non-dog people can recognize a Lab, and artists and photographers have captured his image countless times — usually as the loyal companion, waiting patiently by his owner's side. Built for sport, the Lab is muscular and athletic. He has a short, easy-care coat, friendly demeanor, keen intelligence, and plenty of energy. Devotion to this breed runs deep; Labs are loving, people-oriented dogs who live to serve their families, and owners and fans sometimes liken their Labs to angels. The breed originated on the island of Newfoundland, off the northeastern Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally called the St. John's dog, after the capital city of Newfoundland, he was bred to help the local fishermen — hauling nets, fetching ropes, and retrieving fish that had escaped the nets — as well as to be a family dog. Today, most Labs skip the hard labor and spend their days being pampered and loved by their people. However, some Labs still serve as indispensable working dogs. The Lab's sweet nature makes him an excellent therapy dog, visiting homes for the elderly and hospitals, and his intelligence makes him an ideal assistance dog for the handicapped. He also excels as a search and rescue dog or as a retriever for hunters, thanks to his athletic build, strong nose, and courageous nature. And Labs have also become the breed to beat at dog sports such as agility and obedience competitions — especially obedience. There's one dog job that Labs are hopeless at: watchdog. In fact, owners say their sweet, helpful Lab is likely to greet an intruder and happily show him where the goods are stashed. Labrador Retrievers have proven their usefulness and versatility throughout the breed's history, easily shifting from fisherman's companion, to field retriever, to show dog, to modern working dog. One role has remained constant: wonderful companion and friend.
One thing that is especially important to keep in mind is that this breed has a tendency to retain weight if it is sedentary too often, or if it is given too many treats. One of the most common health problems for the modern Labrador dog is obesity. A healthy Labrador should have a trim, hourglass shape. While it may be tempting to treat your Lab pal often, in return for their unconditional affection, it is far better to treat your friend with quality playtime rather than edible treats. This will ensure that you and your Lab will enjoy a long and healthy companionship. Labradors do very well outside with a doghouse, as they are adaptable for outdoor conditions, but they prefer to live indoors, close to people, most of the time.
The AKC describes the Labrador's temperament as a kind, pleasant, outgoing and tractable nature. Labradors' sense of smell allows them to home in on almost any scent and follow the path of its origin. They generally stay on the scent until they find it. Navies, military forces and police forces use them as detection dogs to track down smugglers, thieves, terrorists and black marketers. They are known to have a very soft feel to the mouth, as a result of being bred to retrieve game such as waterfowl. They are prone to chewing objects (though they can be trained to abandon this behaviour).
A Labrador Retriever has the kind of versatility that other dogs only dream of. He can be a companion, show dog, hunting dog, canine athlete, guide dog, service dog, sniffer dog, search and rescue dog, and therapy dog. He enjoys jogging (health permitting), boating, swimming, hiking and more. If it’s active, outdoors and with his people, the Lab is ready and willing to participate in any activity.
Orvis Travel Crate: A fold-flat soft sided (not metal cage) travel crate is a huge boon to pet owners who travel, and I’ve used them for more than a decade at hotels, friends’ houses and in all sorts of on the road scenarios. The problem is that most are flimsy and I went through a few broken zippers and other durability issues before the nation’s oldest mail order retailer, Vermont-based hunting, fishing and outdoor specialist Orvis, introduced this new better version, the Orvis Field Collection Folding Travel Crate. Instead of thin plastic fabric like most, it uses heavy-duty, tight polyester Oxford weave around a strong, tubular metal frame, folds flat, and sets up in seconds, featuring top, side, and front zipped entry doors with ventilated windows. It was designed to keep your dog comfortable and safe in the back of an SUV on the way to and from the field, but works equally well in luxury hotels or wherever your adventures take you and your best friend. It comes in Orvis’ classic rugged dark khaki colors and features leatherette trimmed and rounded corners that protect your floors and auto interior, plus a carry handle for easy transport. It also has removable and machine washable plush, padded Sherpa fleece mat with a water-resistant backing and extra comfort (109-$149).
This is the one toy guaranteed to turn heads at the local dog park. The Cannon shoots tennis balls 30 feet down the field, saving your arm from unwanted wear and tear. Simply pull back the handle to deploy the rubber band inside, load up a tennis ball, and then squeeze the trigger to send your pup sprinting downrange to chase down the ball. [$16.99; amazon.com]
The breed tends to shed hair twice annually or regularly throughout the year in temperate climates. Some Labradors shed considerably; however, individual Labradors vary. Labrador hair is usually short and straight, and the tail is quite broad and strong. The webbed toes of the Labrador Retriever make them excellent swimmers. The webbing between their toes can also serve as a "snowshoe" in colder climates and keep snow from balling up between their toes—a condition that can be painful to other breeds with hair between the toes. Their interwoven coat is also relatively waterproof, providing more assistance for swimming.
Just like people, as dogs get a little longer in the tooth, climbing and jumping onto things gets less fun and a lot less advisable. Unfortunately, as good as dogs are at doing dog-related things – like fetching and greeting – they tend to struggle with “don’t jump into the car anymore”, and other ideas that make sense to us. A portable dog ramp will save Fido from himself and help him get a lot more miles out of those old bones.