Breed Spotlight: Labradors
The Labrador Retriever (also known as Labrador, Lab dogs or Labs) are an incredibly popular breed of dog that belongs to the Gundog/ Sporting Kennel Club group. They have a rich history that dates back to the 1500s in Canada and are thought to later spread to Britain around the 1800s.
Labradors are incredibly popular worldwide and are considered one of the top 5 most popular dog breeds in the UK. Their good temperament and kind nature make them beloved family pets. They are known for being friendly, loyal and eager to please, which contributes to their reputation as excellent family dogs; just watch out for the food on your plate!
If you are considering introducing a Labrador into your home, read on to learn more about this lovable breed!
The Labrador Retriever originated in the 1500s in Newfoundland, a Canadian province located on the Northern border. They were traditionally used as working dogs for local fishermen, retrieving fish and nets. During a Canadian winter, their short, dense and weather-resistant coat was preferred as they would sometimes be covered with ice when coming out of the water. Their webbed paws, thick ‘otter tail’ and strong swimming skills also made them the perfect breed for the job.
During the early 1800s, this breed (known at the time as St John’s Water Dog) was spotted by English nobles who visited Canada and immediately decided to bring them home to England. During the 19th century, British breeders refined and standardised this breed; though it’s still not known where the name Labrador came from.
Fast forward to the 21st century, the Labrador Retrievers' temperament and breed traits are familiar and loved by millions of devotees around the world, not just in England.
It’s no secret that Labrador Retrievers have gained popularity due to their friendly and gentle nature. The characteristics they typically possess are why they make excellent family pets and companions. So let’s delve into some of the many traits the Labrador breed has.
Labradors are an incredibly friendly and social breed. They are typically amiable with strangers and their trusting nature often makes them more accepting of new people. They also thrive on human companionship, often seeking physical contact and attention from humans. Not only do they form strong bonds with their family members, but they also are eager to please, meaning they have a strong desire to please their owners.
Their higher energy levels require regular exercise and mental stimulation to stay happy and healthy. Daily walks, playtime and engaging activities are essential to help them release their energy and prevent behavioural issues.
Labradors were originally bred as water retrievers, so naturally, they tend to love water! Their webbed paws, water-resistant coat, and love for swimming make them well-suited for water-related activities.
It’s important to note that while these characteristics are commonly associated with Labrador Retrievers, individual dogs may vary in personality and early socialisation and consistent training are crucial.
Lifestyle and Healthcare
If you are looking to welcome a Labrador into your home, it’s important to take into account their specific needs and see if they fit with your lifestyle accordingly. First things first, they need exercise and a lot of it. On average, a healthy Labrador requires at least 80 mins of high-quality exercise a day; off-lead time, fetching a ball or having a good run around! Of course, this will differ depending on the Labrador's energy levels. Without enough exercise (or attention for that matter) they can be known to be slightly destructive.
As mentioned, Labradors make great family dogs due to their friendly and gentle nature. Their playful and high-energy personality, mixed with their patient and tolerant temperament makes them the perfect companions for children. They enjoy interactive games, fetching and outdoor activities, so if you enjoy an active lifestyle - a Labrador may just be the perfect dog for you.
While Labradors are known to be mostly friendly and social dogs, they can also possess a protective instinct when it comes to their family. They can provide a sense of security to their loved ones and may often act as a deterrent to unwanted guests!
Labrador Retrievers are a healthy breed overall with an average lifespan of 10-14 years, but like all breeds, they have a few health concerns you should be aware of.
They can be prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, a developmental condition that can affect the hip and elbow joints, causing pain and mobility issues such as early-onset arthritis. Both conditions can be hereditary and are commonly screened for by ethical breeders.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is a group of genetic eye disorders that can lead to progressive vision loss and eventual blindness. Regular eye examinations and genetic testing can help identify affected dogs and prevent the spread of these conditions.
Some other conditions can include Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia (TVD), Hereditary myopathy with early respiratory failure (HMERF). It’s worth noting, that the first step to a healthy puppy starts with the ethical breeder you choose.
Coat and grooming
Labrador Retrievers are recognised by The Kennel Club as having three colour variations: black, yellow and chocolate. Yellow ranges from light cream to fox red, and chocolates range from light to dark. Though not recognised by The Kennel Club, another variation is silver. Silver Labradors are thought to be a variation of chocolate with a dilute gene; although some believe they are not completely purebred and may be crossed with Weimaraner.
A Labrador's coat is short, with thick and dense hair - this hair sheds considerably and is thus not considered hypoallergenic. Because of their heavy shedding, it’s advised to brush at least once a week to stay on top of it (there is no getting away with dog hairs in your food however!). During moulting seasons, typically spring and autumn, you will need to brush your Labrador more frequently!
As with all dogs, their nails will need trimming every month or two to avoid any issues and/or pain. If you are unsure how to trim your Labradors nails, seek advice from your vet - they can show you the correct technique. Bathing your Labrador is only necessary when they get particularly mucky, especially after jumping in muddy puddles or rolling in something they shouldn’t!
Training and Socialisation
Labrador Retrievers are considered one of the easiest breeds to train due to their intelligence and willingness to please. Their keenness and devotion to their owners will also ensure that they will work beside you in training. However, early training and socialisation are still necessary. The sooner and more in-depth the socialisation and early training, the less likely they will display nervous and anxious traits.
Socialisation such as meeting people, other dogs and new environments can start as early as 5 weeks if executed appropriately and most importantly safely. Socialisation, before they are fully vaccinated, needs to be sought out in ways recommended by experts - make sure you do your research!
Just like early socialisation, starting training at a young age is incredibly important. Puppy classes are a great way to get the training off to a good start. Positive reinforcement is the best training method for this breed. Motivated by food, they are most likely to respond well to food reward training. As you advance in training, it’s important to increase the value of treats; such as chicken or cheese. As well as food, Labradors are likely to respond well to praise.
How can Paws in Work help?
Though Labradors are known to be friendly and sociable dogs, without proper training and socialisation they can be nervous around new people. Our socialisation programme helps alleviate this by socialising them from a young age.
We are helping them grow up to be confident, happy dogs that are less likely to show anxious behaviour later in life. This is all whilst being constantly monitored by trained and experienced staff in a safe controlled environment. Our socialisation programme is always being reviewed and developed to ensure the pups we work with get the most out of their time with Paws in Work as possible.
We love working with all breeds of dogs at Paws in Work and are certainly not breed-bias. However, we only work with ethical reputable breeders who also have the wellbeing of the pups at heart as much as we do.
Get in touch today
We believe that early socialisation for Labradors is vital for their development and helps alleviate some of the initial anxiety they may possess. We are always looking for reputable breeders to add to our network for future socialisation.
Have you got a litter of Labradors you would like to socialise with Paws in Work? Get in touch today with our breeder team to find out more!