While most shelters and rescues cannot determine a dog's exact breed, some facilities may utilize DNA tests to determine the genetics of a mixed breed dog, and AKC registered Labs may be surrendered to a shelter. Even with proof that a dog's heritage includes Labrador Retrievers—and though the dog may show the physical characteristics of the breed—the individual dogs' personality traits may differ from the breed standard.
Once known as the "St John's Dogs," the Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. The Lab is native to Newfoundland, where it worked side by side with fishermen catching fish that came loose from the lines and trained to jump into the icy waters to help pull in the nets. Specimens were brought to England in the 1800s by English ships coming from Labrador. The breed was crossed with setters, spaniels and other types of retrievers to improve its instincts as a hunter. The Labrador is highly trainable and is not only popular as a family companion but also excels in: hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, police work, narcotics detection, guide for the blind, service dog for the disabled, search and rescue, sledding, carting, agility, field trial competitor and competitive obedience.
The Lab’s thick, tapering tail—an “otter tail,” it’s called— serves as a powerful rudder, constantly moving back and forth as the dog swims and aids the dog in turning. As for the breed’s characteristic temperament, it is as much a hallmark of the breed as the otter tail. “The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and nonagressive towards man or animal,” the breed standard says. “The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog.” When defining a Lab’s primary attributes, the most important might be temperament since his utility depends on his disposition. “If a dog does not possess true breed temperament,” wrote a noted dog judge, “he is not a Labrador.”
The steady temperament of Labradors and their ability to learn make them an ideal breed for search and rescue, detection, and therapy work. They are a very intelligent breed. They are ranked No. 7 in Stanley Coren's The Intelligence of Dogs. The AKC describes the breed as an ideal family and sporting dog. Their primary working role in the field continues to be that of a hunting retriever.
If the dog parent is the self-help type, Sonia Nathan, owner of Sonia’s Pet Grooming, recommends The Other End of the Leash by Patricia M. McConnell. “Better than any other writer, McConnell helps us appreciate that our relationships with our dogs are enriched by an understanding of ourselves — knowing how we differ from dogs and how we are comparable. It’s more than a ‘how-to’ book. It’s a ‘why-to’ book: why we behave in certain ways around dogs, and why understanding that will help us engage in a more gratifying manner.”
When you get a dog, everyone’s like, “You’re going to have hair everywhere!” You think, whatever, it’ll be fine, they’re just exaggerating. Then two weeks in, everything you own is covered in a thick coat just like the dog’s. You can avoid it all with this groomer. It snaps onto Dyson vacuums and goes straight to the source, sucking all the loose hair off the pup without yanking on anything that’s still attached.
Labs are famously friendly. They are companionable housemates who bond with the whole family, and they socialize well with neighbor dogs and humans alike. But don’t mistake his easygoing personality for low energy: The Lab is an enthusiastic athlete that requires lots of exercise, like swimming and marathon games of fetch, to keep physically and mentally fit.