The Labrador Retriever is considered a large, stocky dog, standing between 22-25 inches and weighing between 60-80 lb. Labs, as they are affectionately called, have a block head, drop ears, webbed feet, short coat, and a strong otter tail. Their fur is dense and designed to repel water. They come in three colors, black, chocolate and yellow. Blond, fox red, vanilla, golden are all just variations of the yellow color.
The Lab originated in Newfoundland. Their heritage was to work with fisherman, retrieving nets from frigid waters. Commonly they are used to bring back downed waterfowl. Their large noses coupled with a willingness to work make them ideal drug sniffing or search and rescue dogs. Their eager personalities, high intelligence and thoughtful disobedience make them great service dogs.
Most of all, Labrador Retrievers make great pets for young, on-the-go families. They are great with children because they are friendly and love to play. Labs are easy to train and willing to work. They love to retrieve and will play ball for hours. They are natural, strong swimmers and love nothing more than retrieving a ball, or a dummy, in water. Because they don't play favorites they are very accepting of all members of the family and adjust well to new babies or children leaving for school. They are not guard dogs, but their size and loud bark are protective.
Sound ideal? It is, as long as your family is active and has the ability to take care of the dog's exercise needs on a daily basis. Labs need a place to romp, thus do better in homes with a fenced yard. They love to go for daily walks, and because they are prone to obesity, need those walks and play time to keep their weight in check. Labs can be diggers and chewers, and their need to retrieve can lead to items in their mouth disappearing down their throats. A lab's appetite knows no bounds so they are prone to bloat, ingestion of dangerous substances such as chocolate and intestinal blockage secondary to sock eating.
Without a fenced yard a Lab can become a wanderer. They don't do well with electric fencing, being all to willing to suffer a small shock in order to see the world. And they stay puppyish longer than most dogs, a lab doesn't mature in personality until around three years of age. That is a long time of puppy like behavior. Fortunately labs take well to training, are willing and fast learners. Anyone who adopts a lab puppy should join a puppy class, if you adopt an older dog, think about taking obedience classes. Large pet stores such as Petsmart offer these short training courses, as do independent dog trainers and dog clubs. It is fun to work with your dog, and makes him/her a better pet.
Also, labradors are prone to bone disorders such as hip dysplasia, elbow problems and early onset arthritis. Feeding the dog premium dog food, exercising correctly and keeping the dog at ideal weight all help. Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition, so purchase your puppy from a great breeder who has tested both parents for this trait in their line of dogs. This is called Pen clearance or having an OFA number between fair to excellent. NEVER PURCHASE YOUR PUPPY FROM A PET STORE. No matter what they tell you about the parents, puppies in pet stores ALL may come from Puppy Mills, which are a national disgrace.
Labs also are prone to eye disorders the most serious one is PRA or progressive retinal atrophy. Make sure the parents of the puppy you purchase both have had yearly eye test and are registered to be clear of eye disease by the Canine Eye Registry Foundation.
But labs are wonderful dogs. So if you are willing to work with your dog, enjoy an active, friendly, exuberant, warm type dog, and will research in order to find that outstanding breeder or a labrador rescue group from which to obtain your labrador - go for it!!!