Although many are under the impression that Labrador retrievers were first bred as hunting dogs, the dogs in fact made their first appearances in fishing operations off the Newfoundland coast (an unsurprising origin given their affinity for water), where they assisted fishermen with pulling in their nets and catching stray fish. Only after being crossed with spaniels and setters in the latter part of the 1800s did they begin to be used as hunting companions.
The Labrador retriever is currently the most popular single breed of household pet in the United States. Intelligent, fun-loving, and easy to train, Labs are appropriate canine companions for most homes. However, because these dogs tend to be highly gregarious and therefore require a good amount of companionship and play, potential dog owners should consider whether their particular home environments are conducive to maintaining the optimal health and happiness levels of dogs of this breed. Busy professionals who spend considerable time away from their homes may want to consider a pet with less stringent social and physical needs.
Labradors thrive in active environments, and although extremely loyal, they aren’t known for being “one-man” dogs. Those desiring a canine companion whose friendship and feelings of loyalty are exclusively directed to one owner might prefer to investigate other breeds. Labradors are unsurpassed, however, as family pets. Trustworthy and even-tempered, Labradors are an especially good choice for households with children.
Owing to their superior intelligence and social skills, Labrador retrievers make excellent guide and therapy dogs. They’re also commonly used as rescue dogs by both volunteer and government rescue operations. Many stranded or lost wilderness adventurers have returned safely home to their families because a Labrador retriever was an essential part of a rescue team.
Their medium size makes them suitable choices for all living situations, from large country homes to urban apartments, provided they are regularly provided with opportunities to exercise. A daily run is advised for those keeping a Labrador in a home without a yard. Outdoor enthusiasts will find them to be perfect companions for weekend hiking and camping activities.
Most Labradors are jet black, but golden and chocolate Labs are to be found as well, with chocolate being the most rare. Their short-haired coats make grooming easy; a thorough brushing once a week is all that most Labradors will need in order to keep shedding in check. Labradors have no significant breed-specific health problems and are often quite long-lived. The average dog of this breed weighs in at between 50 and 75 pounds.
Those considering sharing their homes with a Labrador retriever should keep in mind that members of this breed will often remain behaviorally puppy-like for as long as four years. Many people find this to be a positive aspect, but others may be better suited to breeds with less youthful temperaments. Although Labs learn commands more quickly and easily than do most dogs, an intermediate level of dog-handling skills is advised for anyone planning to train an active young Labrador retriever.