The Labrador – or, to give the breed its full name, Labrador Retrievers – makes a great companion. There is a very good reason that this breed was named the Most Popular Breed of 2011 according to the American Kennel Club, and in fact the breed has topped this list for the past 21 years! It is a breed that wins people over with its loyalty and playfulness, but also makes a great working dog for the police and search and rescue.
Labradors are medium-sized dogs and have plenty of stamina as they were initially bred as gun-dogs. Now they are one of the most popular breeds for training to become a guide dog. They have a smooth, short coat which comes in three solid colors: black, yellow and chocolate. These dogs generally live for about 10 to 12 years.
The Labrador is not by nature a solitary breed and can suffer from separation anxiety, which can in turn lead to the dog becoming destructive. This can be very stressful for the dog, so think very carefully before getting a Labrador puppy, particularly if it will have to be left alone for a while during the day. Another thing to bear in mind is that this breed needs a lot of exercise due to its roots as a gun-dog, and Labradors can become highly-strung without this.
In terms of character, the Labrador is intelligent, eager to please, loyal, patient, energetic and loving. They make very good family dogs as they are well-behaved with children, and they also get on well with other dogs.
The fact that this breed is eager to please makes training fairly straightforward, providing that it is kept varied and the young dog does not become bored. They have a short attention span, so it is important that training sessions are initially kept short as the puppy will be more interested in playing. Positive reinforcement is vital, and they learn best with reward-based training.
Although Labradors are a fairly hardy breed, they can suffer from a few of the conditions which pure-bred dogs are often susceptible to. These include hip and elbow dysplasia, a common problem with many larger dogs, and eye conditions such as cataracts. When choosing Labrador puppies, consider breeders carefully: they should be able to produce the breeding clearances of the parents when requested.
Labradors are also greedy dogs by nature, and they will eat whatever is put in front of them. It is important that the owner does not overfeed their dog, as Labradors gain weight very easily and this can lead to more health problems.