The Working Retriever
The founding breed of the Labrador was the St. John's water dog. Labradors are an intelligent breed with a good work ethic and generally good temperaments. Common working roles for Labradors include: hunting, tracking and detection (they have a great sense of smell which helps when working in these areas). Labradors are powerful and indefatigable swimmers noted for their ability to tolerate the coldest of water for extended periods of time. Their ability to work quietly alongside hunters while watching for birds to fall from the sky, marking where they land, and then using their outstanding nose to find and retrieve dead or wounded birds has made them the king of waterfowl retrievers. They are also used for pointing and flushing and make excellent upland game hunting partners.
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. Labradors have a reputation as a very even-tempered breed and an excellent family dog. This includes a good reputation with children of all ages and other animals. Some lines, particularly those that have continued to be bred specifically for their skills at working in the field (rather than for their appearance), are particularly fast and athletic.
It's been reported an average lifespan for the Labrador Retriever of 12 years and 3 months, with some living up to 19 years of age. Many dogs, show distinct whitening of the coat as they grow older; especially around the muzzle. Labrador pups generally are not brought to the home before they are 8 weeks old.
It is a healthy breed with relatively few major problems. Notable issues related to health and well-being include inherited disorders and obesity.
Labradors also suffer from the risk of knee problems. A luxating patella is a common occurrence in the knee where the knee dislocates and goes back into place.
Eye problems are also possible in some Labradors, particularly progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. Dogs which are intended to be bred should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye score.
Hereditary myopathy, a rare inherited disorder that causes a deficiency in type II muscle fibre. Symptoms include a short stilted gait or "bunny hopping," and in rare cases ventroflexion of the neck accompanied by a kyphotic posture.
Labradors often suffer from exercise induced collapse, a syndrome that causes hyperthermia, weakness, collapse, and disorientation after short bouts of exercise.
Out of all dog breeds it is the Labrador Retriever that is most likely to become obese. This obesity has been attributed to a specific gene mutation.
Labradors like to eat, and without proper exercise can become obese. Laziness is a contribution to this. Obesity is a serious condition and can be considered the number one nutritional problem with dogs. A study shows that at least 25% of dogs in the United States are overweight. Therefore, Labradors must be properly exercised and stimulated. A healthy Labrador can do swimming wind sprints for two hours, and should keep a very slight hourglass waist and be fit and light, rather than fat or heavy-set. Obesity can exacerbate conditions such as hip dysplasia and joint problems, and can lead to secondary diseases, including diabetes.
When cared for in all aspects (breeding, general health maintenance, nutritional diet and training techniques) the Labrador Retriever whether a pet/companion or upland/waterfowl Hunt Retriever will live a healthy and well preserved life for you and your family to enjoy for years to come.