Labrador dogs are large, strongly built dogs with good bone and substance. Their heads are broad with soft, intelligent eyes. Their tails are totally unique being otter-like. The short, dense coat comes in solid black, yellow and chocolate/liver. Adult dogs measure 56-57cm and weigh about 30kg and adult females are 55-56cm and weigh about 28kg.
The Labrador Retreiver breed originated not in Labrador, but on the coast of Newfoundland in the 17th century. They were trained to bring in the fishing-nets through the icy waters for the fishermen and, in the early 19th century, were brought to Poole Harbour in Great Britain. They were so attractive that the fishermen had umpteen offers from Englishmen to buy them. The breed was instantly successful as a gundog. The Earl of Malmesbury was fascinated by these dogs, known at that time as Saint John's breed, and he started breeding them, calling them Labrador dogs (or 'Labs').
The Labrador breed is definitely in the top three when it comes to choosing a family pet - as long as you enjoy exercise! They are friendly, good-natured dogs who are affectionate with everyone. They are adaptable social dogs who can bond well with other animals and children, being patient and forgiving but this should never be abused. They are extremely loyal and love to be included in all aspects of family life. Labradors will bark to draw your attention to strangers but will welcome them with open arms.
As with many breeds, Labrador dogs can suffer from various hereditary eye disorders, and hip and elbow dysplasia (joint conditions that can be painful and lead to mobility problems). Eye testing and hip scoring of dogs prior to breeding is therefore important.
Labradors will adapt quite readily to the amount of time you can allocate for their exercise but do remember they should be given quite a reasonable amount – a couple of hours a day being ideal for a healthy adult. They love fairly long walks with a chance to run and play off the lead. They adore retrieving and water, so do take care when near the latter to ensure their safety. They are prone to weight gain but this is often due to a lack of exercise as well as a love of food.
Large breed dogs, as well as having large appetites, benefit from a different balance of nutrients including minerals and vitamins compared to smaller-breed dogs. The Labrador is prone to bloating and stomach problems; smaller, more frequent meals can help minimise this risk.
Labrador dog coats are easy to maintain. The coat is thick and dense with a weather-resistant undercoat and is easy to maintain with a brush through once a week, and more regular attention when moulting.