Archive for June 20th, 2009

The Labrador Retriever Yesterday and TodayThere are many theories about the origin of the breed known today as the Labrador Retriever. One point on which all historians seem to agree is that the breed originally came from Newfoundland in far northeastern Canada, not Labrador. They were known by several names— including the St. Johns Water Dog, the Little Newfoundlander, and the Black Water Dog.
Some believe the Labrador Retriever was developed by the fishermen off the coast of Newfoundland, and that the breed was the result of an attempt to pro¬duce a somewhat smaller dog because the Newfoundland breed is a bit cumber¬some. The dog had to be a good retriever, had to have good bone and strong limbs to pull heavy loads, and needed a dense coat thick enough to withstand the cold water, but one that would not ball up with ice. She had to be eager to please, able to swim great distances, and happy to live on a diet of fish and what¬ever else could be scrounged up. The Labrador Retriever became that dog. But how?
That is the mystery. Some believe the large Newfoundland dogs were indige¬nous to Newfoundland. Others believe there were no dogs there until the Europeans came to the coast to fish.
It appears that the native inhabitants of the island, the Beothucks, did not have any dogs. The British began to fish in Newfoundland in 1498, and about twenty years later they built some settlements. Most of the settlers were hunters as well as fishermen. They wanted dogs to hunt and retrieve their fish and work around the settlement. Most historians of the breed agree that the fishing boats commonly ran between Newfoundland and Poole Harbour, in Dorset. The fish¬ermen went back and forth to sell their salted codfish, and their dogs often made the trip as well.
The dogs brought by the settlers were probably the only dogs in Newfoundland, and over the centuries they were bred and trained to meet the needs of their owners. From these various breeds of dogs, bred over a period of 280 years under rigorous conditions, the Newfoundland dog and the Labrador Retriever were developed. They were the product of their environment and sur¬vival of the fittest and, perhaps, selective breeding.
Some time around 1818, some of these dogs were seen and purchased in England. The English waterfowl hunters were quick to appreciate these talented dogs. The Second Earl of Malmesbury was said to have purchased several from some of the fishing boat captains, and, liking these dogs, he continued to import and breed them. Although the earl said that he kept his lines as pure as possible, it’s likely that at some point the dogs were bred with the retrievers that were being used in England before the fishermen arrived—to improve the local dogs. The Third Earl of Malmesbury gave some of his dogs to the Sixth Earl of Buccleigh, and it was he who actually started keeping good breeding records.
In 1904, the Kennel Club in Britain listed Labrador Retrievers as a separate breed. Before that time, retriever covered the broad category of all retrievers. Labs were gaining popularity by leaps and bounds, winning at field trials and in the ring at dog shows.

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The Lab’s CharacterLabrador Retrievers have been the most popular dog in America for many years, for several reasons. The breed’s size and easy-care coat certainly have something to do with this popularity, but most enthusiasts say they love the dogs’ personality. Labs are fun. They love to play and are always up for whatever you want to do. You like hiking? Labs love to go for a hike! You like to go swimming? They’ll do that, too. Labs chase balls and catch Frisbees. They will play with the kids, and go jogging with Dad. Labs enjoy life!

Family and Friends

Labrador Retrievers are devoted family dogs. They love everyone in the family equally with loyalty and devotion. When you come home, even if you’ve only been gone a few minutes, you’ll be greeted with a wagging tail, a wriggling body, and a smiling face.
This breed is also very devoted to his friends. Once you’re a friend, you will be greeted with enthusiasm each and every time the dog sees you, no matter whether it’s weekly or once a year.

Intelligence and Trainability

Labs are bright dogs. They are smart enough to get into trouble and can figure out problems: Many Labs have figured out how to open sliding glass doors to let themselves into the house! The breed is also very trainable. When you have fig¬ured out how to motivate the dog and keep his attention, Labs can (and have) been trained in agility, flyball, obedience, therapy dog work, search and rescue, and much more.
Although Lab puppies can be very silly and easily distracted, once past ado¬lescence they can become more serious about training. Puppy owners just need to be patient and consistent with training.

Active Dogs

Labs do best in a household where the people want to do things with him. If they’re left alone for too many hours each day, many Labs will find ways to amuse themselves, and often those activities will be unwelcome. Labs have been known to bark too much, dig holes in the lawn, pull down the woodpile searching for critters, and escape from the yard. Labs can also be destructive chewers. However, when you can spend time with him every day and can make sure the dog gets enough exercise, your Lab will be a wonderful companion dog.

Not Protective

If you’re looking for a protective dog, perhaps a dog who would give his life to defend you, don’t get a Lab. Labs will bark a few times when someone approaches the house, but other than that, the breed is not at all protective. This breed was bred to be nonthreatening.
This trait is one of the reasons why they are such good family dogs. Not only are Labs always ready to play, but they also don’t get upset when other people play. For example, if your son brings home his friends and the kids begin wrestling in the backyard, the Lab may either join in or just watch. A protective dog will be very upset. To a protective dog, wrestling is a potential attack. But not to a Lab.

Working Dog Extraordinaire

Several of the breeds characteristics have made them very popular as working dogs. The Lab’s keen sense of smell and love of play has lead many military and law enforcement agencies to use them for detection work. With a play session as a reward, Labs will search for drugs, contraband, and other items. They are also excellent search and rescue dogs.
The breed’s devotion to his owners and trainability have made it popular as assistance and service dogs. The Lab’s wonderful temperament and friendliness lead them to be wonderful therapy dogs. Labrador Retrievers can be found working in many different occupations.

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