Hunting Dog Profile: The Labrador Retriever

September 3, 2013 – 02:04 pm

We’re going to start incorporating some breed profiles on the Gun Dogs blog in order to help spread information about well-known and little-known hunting breeds. Each month I'll profile a breed, chime in with some personal thoughts and welcome you to do the same.

Of course, I have to lead off with my completely unbiased (I hope you read the sarcasm) devotion to the Labrador retriever.

According to the American Kennel Club breed standard, the Lab is part of the Sporting Group, was first recognized as an independent breed by the organization in 1917 and should weigh between 55 and 75 pounds. The energetic and intelligent Lab thrives when part of an active or hunting family, sheds seasonally (which, personally, I think means year round) and is an outgoing, friendly and devoted companion that is used as everything from hunting partner to seeing-eye dog to Diabetic Alert Dogs to family pet.

Originally from Newfoundland, early Labs were developed from an extinct breed known as the St. John’s Water Dog that were used to, among other things, retrieve nets and fish from the Atlantic. The dog was taken to England, crossed with setters, spaniels and other retrievers and voila, the modern-day incarnation of today’s Lab appeared. Its duties shifted from retrieving nets and fish to picking and delivering game; everything from waterfowl to upland birds to rabbits.

The AKC’s general appearance of the breed is as follows:

"The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.
The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an "otter" tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its "kind, " friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.

Above all, a Labrador Retriever must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance."

More in-depth descriptions of the head, body, tail, neck, movement, etc., can be found on the AKC site. However, the general appearance of the breed is where I’m going to add a little editorial.

In the above description, the Lab’s structure and breeding should primarily reflect its working role and heritage. While the Lab can and does partake in other endeavors (show dog, seeing-eye dog, police dog, etc.), its role in the field is of primary importance and should always reflect that. However, that ideal has long since passed.


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Gilly & Silver Labrador Puppy
Gilly & Silver Labrador Puppy

There is no such thing as a Silver Lab.

Terms such as "golden", "silver", "blue", "white" or "grey" as variants are not recognised. The term "Golden Labrador" has been used both as an incorrect term for yellow labradors of a golden shade,[26] and also for any Labrador-Golden Retriever crossbreed of any colour, including black.[27] White is a light shade of yellow (officially referred to as 'light cream' or 'pale yellow' in the standard),[10][28][29] and silver is either not recognised or registered as chocolate (though regarded as a major fault and not up to confirmation).[20][10] Claims that some "rare" variants exist or have been verified by DNA testing, or the like, are widely considered to be a 'scam'.[10][30]

Related posts:

  1. Silver Labrador Retrievers Texas
  2. White Labrador Retriever temperament
  3. English Labrador Retriever temperament