Labrador Retriever Breed Magazine features information, expert articles, and stunning photos from AKC judges, breeders, and owners.
Let’s Talk Breed Education!
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Official Standard for the Labrador Retriever General Appearance: 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. Size, Proportion and Substance: Size -The height at the withers for a dog is 22½ to 24½ inches; for a bitch is 21½ to 23½ inches. Any variance greater than ½ inch above or below these heights is a disqualification. Approximate weight of dogs and bitches in working condition: dogs 65 to 80 pounds; bitches 55 to 70 pounds. The minimum height ranges set forth in the paragraph above shall not apply to dogs or bitches under twelve months of age. Proportion -Short-coupled; length from the point of the shoulder to the point of the rump is equal to or slightly longer than the distance from the withers to the ground. Distance from the elbow to the ground should be equal to one half of the height at the withers. The brisket should extend to the elbows, but not perceptibly deeper. The body must be of sufficient length to permit a straight, free and efficient stride; but the dog should never appear low and long or tall and leggy in outline. Substance - Substance and bone proportionate to the overall dog. Light, "weedy" individuals are definitely incorrect; equally objectionable are cloddy lumbering specimens. Labrador Retrievers shall be shown in working condition well-muscled and without excess fat. Head: Skull -The skull should be wide; well developed but without exaggeration. The skull and foreface should be on parallel planes and of approximately equal length. There should be a moderate stop-the brow slightly pronounced so that the skull is not absolutely in a straight line with the nose. The brow ridges aid in defining the stop. The head should be clean-cut and free from fleshy cheeks; the bony structure of the skull chiseled beneath the eye with no prominence in the cheek. The skull may show some median line; the occipital bone is not conspicuous in mature dogs. Lips should not be squared off or pendulous, but fall away in a curve toward the throat. A wedge-shape head, or a head long and narrow in muzzle and back skull is incorrect as are massive, cheeky heads. The jaws are powerful and free from snippiness- the muzzle neither long and narrow nor short and stubby. Nose-The nose should be wide and the nostrils well- developed. The nose should be black on black or yellow dogs, and brown on chocolates. Nose color fading to a lighter shade is not a fault. A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment is a disqualification. Teeth-The teeth should be strong and regular with a scissors bite ; the lower teeth just behind, but touching the inner side of the upper incisors. A level bite is acceptable, but not desirable. Undershot, overshot, or misaligned teeth are serious faults. Full dentition is preferred. Missing molars or pre-molars are serious faults. Ears -The ears should
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hang moderately close to the head, set rather far back, and somewhat low on the skull; slightly above eye level. Ears should not be large and heavy, but in proportion with the skull and reach to the inside of the eye when pulled forward. Eyes -Kind, friendly eyes imparting good temperament, intelligence and alertness are a hallmark of the breed. They should be of medium size, set well apart, and neither protruding nor deep set. Eye color should be brown in black and yellow Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolates. Black, or yellow eyes give a harsh expression and are undesirable. Small eyes, set close together or round prominent eyes are not typical of the breed. Eye rims are black in black and yellow Labradors; and brown in chocolates. Eye rims without pigmentation is a disqualification. Neck, Topline and Body: Neck -The neck should be of proper length to allow the dog to retrieve game easily. It should be muscular and free from throatiness. The neck should rise strongly from the shoulders with a moderate arch. A short, thick neck or a "ewe" neck is incorrect. Topline -The back is strong and the topline is level from the withers to the croup when standing or moving. However, the loin should show evidence of flexibility for athletic endeavor. Body -The Labrador should be short-coupled, with good spring of ribs tapering to a moderately wide chest. The Labrador should not be narrow chested; giving the appearance of hollowness between the front legs, nor should it have a wide spreading, bulldog-like front. Correct chest conformation will result in tapering between the front legs that allows unrestricted forelimb movement. Chest breadth that is either too wide or too narrow for efficient movement and stamina is incorrect. Slab-sided individuals are not typical of the breed; equally objectionable are rotund or barrel chested specimens. The underline is almost straight, with little or no tuck-up in mature animals. Loins should be short, wide and strong; extending to well developed, powerful hindquarters. When viewed from the side, the Labrador Retriever shows a well-developed, but not exaggerated forechest. Tail -The tail is a distinguishing feature of the breed. It should be very thick at the base, gradually tapering toward the tip, of medium length, and extending no longer than to the hock. The tail should be free from feathering and clothed thickly all around with the Labrador's short, dense coat, thus having that peculiar rounded appearance that has been described as the "otter" tail. The tail should follow the topline in repose or when in motion. It may be carried gaily, but should not curl over the back. Extremely short tails or long thin tails are serious faults. The tail completes the balance of the Labrador by giving it a flowing line from the top of the head to the tip of the tail. Docking or otherwise altering the length or natural carriage of the tail is a disqualification. Forequarters: Forequarters should be muscular, well coordinated and balanced with the hindquarters. Shoulders-The shoulders are well laid-back, long and sloping, forming an angle with the upper arm of approximately 90 degrees that permits the dog to move his forelegs in an easy manner with strong forward reach. Ideally, the length of the shoulder blade should equal the length of the upper arm. Straight shoulder blades, short upper arms or heavily muscled or loaded shoulders, all restricting free movement, are incorrect. Front Legs-When viewed from the front, the legs should be straight with good strong bone. Too much bone is as undesirable as too little bone, and short legged, heavy boned individuals are not typical of the breed. Viewed from the side, the elbows should be directly under the withers, and the front legs should be perpendicular to the ground and well under the body. The elbows should be close to the ribs without looseness. Tied-in elbows or being "out at the elbows" interfere with free movement and are serious faults. Pasterns should be strong and short and should slope slightly from the perpendicular line of the
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leg. Feet are strong and compact, with well-arched toes and well-developed pads. Dew claws may be removed. Splayed feet, hare feet, knuckling over, or feet turning in or out are serious faults. Hindquarters: The Labrador's hindquarters are broad, muscular and well-developed from the hip to the hock with well-turned stifles and strong short hocks. Viewed from the rear, the hind legs are straight and parallel. Viewed from the side, the angulation of the rear legs is in balance with the front. The hind legs are strongly boned, muscled with moderate angulation at the stifle, and powerful, clearly defined thighs. The stifle is strong and there is no slippage of the patellae while in motion or when standing. The hock joints are strong, well let down and do not slip or hyper-extend while in motion or when standing. Angulation of both stifle and hock joint is such as to achieve the optimal balance of drive and traction. When standing the rear toes are only slightly behind the point of the rump. Over angulation produces a sloping topline not typical of the breed. Feet are strong and compact, with well-arched toes and well-developed pads. Cow- hocks, spread hocks, sickle hocks and over-angulation are serious structural defects and are to be faulted. Coat: The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather- resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. A slight wave down the back is permissible. Woolly coats, soft silky coats, and sparse slick coats are not typical of the breed, and should be severely penalized. Color: The Labrador Retriever coat colors are black, yellow and chocolate. Any other color or a combination of colors is a disqualification. A small white spot on the chest is permissible, but not desirable. White hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as brindling. Black- Blacks are all black. A black with brindle markings or a black with tan markings is a disqualification. Yellow-Yellows may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts of the dog. Chocolate-Chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Chocolate with brindle or tan markings is a disqualification. Movement: Movement of the Labrador Retriever should be free and effortless. When watching a dog move toward oneself, there should be no sign of elbows out. Rather, the elbows should be held neatly to the body with the legs not too close together. Moving straight forward without pacing or weaving, the legs should form straight lines, with all parts moving in the same plane. Upon viewing the dog from the rear, one should have the impression that the hind legs move as nearly as possible in a parallel line with the front legs. The hocks should do their full share of the work, flexing well, giving the appearance of power and strength. When viewed from the side, the shoulders should move freely and effortlessly, and the foreleg should reach forward close to the ground with extension. A short, choppy movement or high knee action indicates a straight shoulder; paddling indicates long, weak pasterns; and a short, stilted rear gait indicates a straight rear assembly; all are serious faults. Movement faults interfering with performance including weaving; side-winding; crossing over; high knee action; paddling; and short, choppy movement, should be severely penalized. Temperament: True Labrador Retriever temperament is as much a hallmark of the breed as the "otter" tail. The ideal disposition is one of a kindly, outgoing, tractable nature; eager to please and non-aggressive towards man or animal. The Labrador has much that appeals to people; his
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gentle ways, intelligence and adaptability make him an ideal dog. Aggressiveness towards humans or other animals, or any evidence of shyness in an adult should be severely penalized. Disqualifications: 1 . Any deviation from the height prescribed in the Standard . 2. A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment. 3. Eye rims without pigment . 4. Docking or otherwise altering the length or natural carriage of the tail. 5. Any other color or a combination of colors other than black, yellow or chocolate as described in the Standard.
Approved February 12, 1994 Effective March 31, 1994
Labrador Retriever THE
BY FRANCES O. SMITH DVM PHD DACT VICE-PRESIDENT, THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER CLUB, INC.
T he Labrador Retriever is in a unique position as the most popular breed of dog in the United States. The Labrador reigns as number one in popularity and has maintained this position since 1991. The Labrador Retriever is a friendly, outgoing, athletic dog that possesses lots of love to go around to the whole family. Labradors are typically very friendly with other dogs and are renowned for their versatility. They serve humans as companions, as service dogs that aid in mobility and in the physical and mental needs of their owners, and as working companions that are capable of drug detection, explosive detection, and working as retrievers—finding and retrieving game birds on land and in the water. Part of the Labra- dor Retriever Club, Inc. Mission Statement is to preserve the Labrador Retriever as a working retriever and promote its multipurpose function. During COVID, the demand for dogs and puppies as companions has increased dramatically. Fortunately, there are many breeders of Labrador Retrievers to fulfill the demand for the breed. Potential owners may find that wait list times are longer than in previous years, and finding the right breeder can be somewhat of a challenge. It is important that potential buyers are aware of the health conditions that can occur in the Labra- dor Retriever, and select a breeder who performs the required and recom- mended health tests that are part of the CHIC requirements for the Lab- rador Retriever. CHIC, the Canine Health Information System, serves as an open guideline for breeders and owners as a resource for test results. For the Labrador Retriever, the required tests are as follow: OFA hip radio- graphs, OFA elbow radiographs, CAER eye examinations, EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) a neuromuscular disorder, and testing for the presence of the gene for dilute (DNA based D Locus results from an approved laboratory). Recommended additional testing is for CNM (Centronuclear Myopathy) a neuromuscular disorder, the prcd form of PRA, and a cardi- ac examination, preferably including an echocardiogram. Many breeders do additional testing on their breeding stock. The demand for puppies has led to many casual breeders deciding to produce a litter of puppies without the benefit to the dogs of this health testing.
THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER IS A FRIENDLY, OUTGOING, ATHLETIC DOG THAT POSSESSES LOTS OF LOVE TO GO AROUND TO THE WHOLE FAMILY.
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THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER
THE TYPICAL LABRADOR POSSESSES STYLE AND QUALITY WITHOUT OVER-REFINEMENT, AND SUBSTANCE WITHOUT LUMBER OR CLODDINESS.
The yellow coat color in the Labrador Retriever may appear to be intensely red.
The Labrador Retriever comes in only three colors; black, chocolate, and yellow. Blacks are all black. Chocolates are brown, and can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Yellow may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts. The intensity of the yellow color is dependent upon modifiers that affect the gene for yellow. Some of the yellow dogs may appear almost white, and some may appear to be as intensely red as a Setter. For many years in the conformation show ring, chocolates had a tendency to lack breed type and were rarely awarded wins. This situation has changed greatly and there are many lovey chocolate dogs in the show ring. Likewise, some fox-red dogs tended to lack breed type and were leggier and more hound-like in the head. This situ- ation has also changed, and we now see beautiful fox-red Labra- dor Retrievers. Any other color—or combination of colors—is a disqualification. A small white spot on the chest is considered acceptable, but not desirable. Many chocolates do “sun burn” as they get ready to blow their coat; this should not be considered an abnormal coat color.
It has been said that the Labrador Retriever is head, coat, and tail. Yes, these are breed characteristics and are very important. The Labrador should be a strongly-built, medium-sized, short-coupled dog, possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gundog. The 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 neck should be of proper length to allow the dog to retrieve game easily. Distance from the elbow to the ground should be equal to one-half the height at the withers. The brisket should extend to the elbows, but NOT perceptively deeper. The dog should never appear low and long or tall and leggy in outline. The Labrador should have a short, dense, weather-resistant coat that feels fairly hard to the touch. The coat should have a soft, weath- er-resistant undercoat that protects from water, cold, and all types of groundcover. A slight wave down the back is permissible. Wooly, soft, silky coats and sparse, slick coats are not correct and should be penalized.
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THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER
THE LABRADOR IS BRED PRIMARILY AS A WORKING GUNDOG. THUS, STRUCTURE AND SOUNDNESS ARE OF GREAT IMPORTANCE.
The tail is a distinguishing feature of the breed. It should be very thick at the base, gradually tapering toward the tip, of medium length, and extend- ing no longer than to the hock. The tail should be free of feathering, and wrapped thickly all around with the short, dense Labrador coat, giving it a rounded appearance that resembles an otter’s tail. The tail should follow the topline when standing. While in motion, it may be carried gaily, but should not curl over the back. Both extremely short tails and long, thin tails are serious faults. The head should be clean-cut, with a broad backskull and moderate stop, powerful jaws, and kind, friendly eyes. Full dentition is preferred, with missing molars and premolars considered serious faults. A scissors bite is preferred—a level bite is acceptable, but not desirable. Eye color should
be brown in black and yellow Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolate Labradors. Eye color should contribute to a kind expression. The skull and foreface should be of approximately equal lengths. You will see many head styles in the conformation ring. Long heads and narrow muzzles are incorrect as are massive, cheeky heads similar to Rottweilers or Newfoundlands. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun- dog. Thus, structure and soundness are of great impor- tance. The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over-refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Frances O. Smith, DVM, PhD, DACT became a Diplomate of the College of Theriogenology in 1986. Since that time, she has been in private practice as a small animal practitioner, specializing in canine reproduction. Dr. Smith is one of very few board certified theriogenologists in private practice in the United States. Her expertise in genetic counseling, chilled and frozen semen, and reproductive infertility of the male and female canine is known throughout the US. Dr. Smith frequently speaks to breed groups, veterinary associations and students, and the general public. Dr. Smith obtained an Associate of Arts Degree from Normandale Community College and was accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1976. She obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1978 and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree in 1980. Dr. Smith was offered a residency in Small Animal Reproduction at the University of Minnesota in 1980 where she worked with Dr. Shirley Johnston and Dr. Ray Zemjanis. She completed her residency in 1983. Her PhD was completed in 1984 with a thesis
titled, “Cryopreservation of Canine Semen - Technique and Performance.” Dr. Smith grew up in a military family that bred German Shepherd Dogs. She breeds Labrador Retrievers under the registered kennel name Danikk. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., where she is the Health Committee Chair. She has served Minnesota as a member and President of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, and is the President of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals—the foremost animal health database in the world. She competes in hunt tests, conformation shows, obedience trials and, occasionally, field trials. She is an approved hunt test judge, and a nationally recognized lecturer and author. For fun, Dr. Smith rides horses, gardens, volunteers, and spoils her granddaughters.
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Judging the LABRADOR RETRIEVER by Stefanie Perrine
I have been asked to say some- thing about Labrador confirma- tion as if I we’re speaking to a Judge. I will comment on some things that to me need attention. A good judge for Labradors will judge the dog as a whole. A judge that knows and cares about the breed will have read the standard and be true to it. Labradors are not dramatic like a pointer or setter. The drama in a finely bred Labrador is in the subtle yet defi- nite beauty as the entire dog fills your eye. Power without bulk. Seemingly effortless movement. A Labrador should move freely and effortlessly. They are not a big mover like the pointing breeds or the setters. They also are not lumber- ing. A clean free gait that covers mod- erate ground. They should not be com- pared to the big movers of the group. They should be compared to their stan- dard only. Labradors that are straight in the front and over angulated in the rear tend to have a big go around. This is not right for the breed. What I would like to stress is the importance of balance and moderation in the Labrador. A Labrador should be close to the same standing still and in motion. If they have straight legs and are proper- ly constructed they should have a free clean gait. Going easy as the legs swing forward to reach the ground. The rear foot should step into but not in front of where the front foot just left. On coming and going they should be clean with straight legs. Somewhat converging on the center line. The legs should not be making circles or the feet flipping about. The foot front or rear should plant itself nicely. Show power in the lift off. Drive or reach cleanly to
the next planting. Feet should be for- ward facing. Not toed in or out. The head should have even plains when viewed from profile. A moder- ate, but definite stop is present. Not like a Rottweiler and not sloping. The eyebrow should be noticed but not pro- truding. The muzzle should match the length of the head and be strong with clean flews. The ears are triangular set- ting just off the side of the back skull laying forward towards the eye. The leather should be impressively thick. Not thin and drooping. But able to hold its own form. When viewed from the front you should see a kind expression. A keen eye that denotes neither fear nor aggres- sion. But friendly, joyful, intelligent and ready. The eye should be almond shaped with close fitting lids. The lids should not be droopy or loose fitting. This could collect debris while hunting.
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The feet should be tight and round. Well arched toes akin to a cat foot. The toes should be tight together with no space between them. The should have webbed feet. They should not be down in the pasterns. The pasterns will have a slight flex when moving but not so much as to be noticeable. Leg to body ratio can be a confus- ing issue to some. Labradors are a somewhat-square breed. They should be slightly longer then tall. A 48-52 ratio describes it best. They should be equal height front to rear standing or moving. They should not appear to be running downhill on the go around. Balance and moderation are key to the Labrador. I would also like to address the height issue. I know it has been an issue at least since just before I started in Labradors. It is my understanding that Labradors were getting to be springer sized and being advertised as apartment sized dogs. So the parent club stepped in after it was noticed by several judged that this breed had a definite problem. The standard now allows for a three inch variance in height for dogs and bitches. To me this is tremendous. Some breeders have a huge problem with height being a disqualification. I don’t understand that especially given the three inch variance that is allowed. Again I stress that balance and mod- eration are (at least to me) key when judging a Labrador. I know there is no perfect dog. I also know that my own dogs have their shortcomings. Even some that I have talked about. I want to also say something about temperament. No Labrador should be slinking around the ring jumping at shadows or afraid of really anything. They are a sound balanced working hunter. Also they should not be aggres- sive in any manor. To me a Labrador has nothing to prove. Here are two great ideas for judging tHe Labrador 1. Read the standard as many times as you need to for it to sink in. 2. Stay true to the standard. A Labrador is not a long distance runner not a body builder but a stocky lean hunter that has the temperament to be set to any task, easily and happily accomplish it. This is only my opinion.
Equally objectionable would be round protruding eyes. The muzzle flows into the cheek with good fill under the eyes. The back of the ear helps form the shape of the head. The back of the ear is away from the head while the front of the ear is close fitting to the cheek. The top skull of a Labrador should be level without wrinkling. The ear set should not inter- fere with the level broad back skull The head is on a powerful neck with good reach. The neck should be a suf- ficient length for the dog to be able to easily carry a goose without it touching the ground. Enough length to not have a bird impede it’s swimming movements while in the water. Enough to effort- lessly reach the ground while quarter- ing a field. I would like to stress that this dog is a working retriever. His weight is of importance. They should not be over or under weight. They are a thick stocky dog. Not fat, not thin. Well muscled. Bones should not be visible but easy to find. The coat should be closed on itself. A good coat will follow the contour of
the dogs body. The length of the coat is somewhat debatable. I prefer a dog with a coat 1 to 1 ½ inches in length and very dense. It is very important that the coat lay close and tight to the body. Rendering it weather resistant. If the coat is sticking up and you can see it open anywhere you will know it can not be weather resistant. You should be able to pour a bottle of water on a Labrador and every bit of it should run off as if running off a duck’s back. I have done this to my own dogs. The outer coat should not be soft. It should have a course, but not wiry feel. The undercoat should be soft and dense. There should be no fringing ESPECIAL- LY on the tail. The tail should not only be thickly coated but have a compleat wrap. That means there is NO fring- ing NO flagging the standard says otter tail. The hair grows almost in a circu- lar pattern from the top side of the tail closing on itself when it meets on the underside. Which can form a twist or twizzle at the tip of the tail. The tail should also be straight continuing the line of the topline. The tail should not be curled or Sabre like. “the Standard now allowS for a three inCh varianCe in height for dogS and bitCheS.”
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Labrador retriever VERSATILITY
by Stefanie Perrine
T he versatility of the Labra- dor is well known. For 20 years they have been Amer- ica’s dog, and for one rea- son. There’s nowhere, no environment where a Labrador can not be found. Why? Versatility. They are used regularly by our mili- tary and police departments; they are valued family companions, one of the most popular hunting companion; upland, water fowl and dove. Labrador Retrievers can be found in more homes than nearly any other breed of dog; being gentle with children, other pets and the elderly. They have provided endless services for physically challenged people from assisting those in wheel chairs, the blind, those in need of emotional support, those suffering PTSD. Versatility is another outstanding quality of the Labrador Retriever. I am proud to have bred dogs that have been very successful in many of these rolls in addition to being success- ful in conformation. You will be hard pressed to find another breed with as stable of temper- ament of the Labrador Retriever. They can be set to any task and they will will- ingly do it. I like to tell people that if my Labradors had opposable thumbs they would help me do everything—house- work, laundry, yard chores. They are a whole-hearted dog that always give it
their all even when they have nothing left to give. They are not only willing but wanting to do what they are asked and to be with their humans. The Labra- dor has the ability to problem solve and think on their own while at the same
time the willingness to take direction. They are able to work alone or as a team. My Labradors show and win not only in all breed shows but specialties as well. They hunt waterfowl, dove, pheasant and sometimes field mice.
can be found in more homeS than nearLy any other breed of dog...”
© 2013 evasuik
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They do hunt tests, obedience and can hang out and lounge around if needed. I have bred Labradors that are ther- apy dogs, delta dogs, pet partners and service dogs. I have bred two Labradors that hunt and have won best in show. One of them is also a specialty winner with his junior hunter title. The other is working on his JH title now. I am proud to say one of my Labradors has become one of the first crisis response dogs in Colorado and was comforting the vic- tims and their family’s at the trials for the aurora theater shootings. I know many breeders can taut some of these same things about their Lab- radors. They are the #1 dog for a rea- son. They are very adaptable, happy loving creatures. I believe a Labrador can do almost any task that is asked of any breed. Because they so want to do some- thing. They so want to be with you and please you. And their mind is so open and pliable. A Labrador is a terrible thing to waste. “i am Proud to Say one of my LabradorS haS become one of THE FIRST CRISIS RESPONSE DOGS in coLorado and waS comforting the victimS and their famiLy’S at the triaLS for the aurora theater ShootingS.”
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JUDGING THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER: It’s Not as Easy as It Might Seem D uring my seminars on “Judging the Labrador Retriever,” a surprising number of participants comment that By Michael J. Woods PhD
Th e Labrador is an exceptionally versatile breed that can perform numerable service dog jobs, from leading the blind to detecting bombs and narcotics; it is at home in virtually any climate and any situation, and is the most popular family dog in the world. Such versatility often directs attention away from the Labrador’s primary function as a retriever. Yet, it is the breed’s history and character as a retriever that has allowed it to adapt so well to the modern world. Th e Standard recognizes this versatility, but also emphasizes that, from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail, the Labrador is designed to retrieve. Th e written Standard provides a clear description of the ideal Labrador Retriever and is the “bible” for judging the breed. It emphasizes the breed’s function as a water retriever par excellence.
Th e Standard also emphasizes that sound temperament is “a hallmark of the breed.” From its beginnings, the Labrador has been closely associated with man. Its work as a fi sherman’s dog and as a retriever demanded that the dog be trainable and co-operative. Early writers constantly used the terms “useful” and “sagacious” to describe the breed. Th ere are numerous reasons why the Labrador has gained such extraordinary popularity as a retriever and a companion; none is more important than the breed’s consistently outstanding temperament. Labrador temperament requires that the dog be outgoing (but not out-of-control), friendly and con fi dent. Th e words the Standard uses to describe the ideal temperament are: kindly, adaptable, tractable, intelligent, gentle, and eager to please.
judging this breed is a challenge. Th ey are particularly concerned with the concept of di ff erent styles within the breed. Entries in a class may have the essential characteristics that de fi ne Labrador Retriever breed (type), but they are not “cookie cutter” replicas. Th e de fi ning features of type might come in di ff erent packages, or styles. Sometimes extreme variations in style can interfere with Labrador type characteristics. However, all the essential characteristics in the breed Standard that de fi ne a Labrador must be present if an exhibit is worthy of an award in the conformation ring.
“There are numerous reasons why the Labrador has gained such extraordinary popularity as a retriever and a companion; NONE IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THE BREED’S CONSISTENTLY OUTSTANDING TEMPERAMENT.”
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“THE STANDARD ALSO GIVES A DETAILED PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION of a dog whose form (physical appearance) allows it to perform its primary function (retrieving, particularly in water or marsh).”
Th e Standard also gives a detailed physical description of a dog whose form (physical appearance) allows it to perform its primary function (retrieving, particularly in water or marsh). It uses words such as strong, powerful, athletic to describe a medium-sized e ffi cient working retriever. While the dog is described as strong and powerful, nowhere does the Standard say the dog should be fat and cumbersome. Th e Labrador is a breed that, because of its genetic background, which demanded that the dog be able to survive on very little in the harsh environment of early Newfoundland, is prone to excessive weight in the overabundance of our modern world. Often one of the main problems with conformation dogs is that they carry excessive weight. However, the powerful build of a Labrador should not be confused with being too fat. Judges need to be cautious that their placements do not reward excess. Th e Kennel Club in England has instituted a review of all breed standards, “Fit for Function; Fit for Life.” Many breeds have been singled out for attention. One is the Labrador
whose standard has been revised to read, “well sprung ribs—this e ff ect not to be produced by carrying excessive weight.” Another change is the inclusion of “very agile” (which precludes excessive body weight and substance.” Sadly, this problem of excess is more than evident in North American Labradors. While the question of excessive weight has been in the forefront of discussions about Labradors, the important and more contentious issue of excessive substance garners less attention. Are our Labradors too massive? Are we caught in that particularly modern mentality that bigger and more are always better? If a broad skull is good, isn’t a bucket-head even better? Isn’t a too short, thick tail more desirable than a tail that balances the dog? Isn’t more coat what we should aim for? Shouldn’t a Labrador have the shortest possible coupling? PERHAPS NOT! An early writer (1833) on the Labrador, Peter Hawker, described the breed as “very fi ne in the legs.” Th is was, one must note, in comparison to the Newfoundland dog. Pictures of early Labradors show dogs that do not
have excessive bone and substance. Th ey are what I would call moderate, dogs that looked agile and athletic. Are we are getting away from that moderation because breeders are producing dogs with more substance that severely lack agility and athleticism because that is what is rewarded in the conformation ring? Th e Labrador Standard calls for a medium-sized dog that is “strongly built” with good bone and muscle. Th is is a far cry from the ponderous, massive dogs of extreme substance and bone that can be found in some conformation rings today. Too often those who decry this situation are labeled as supporting the “generic dog” or advocating “ fi eld type.” However, there is a long distance between generic and medium, athletic, active and strongly built. If judges are committed to maintaining breed type, focused on maintaining the integrity of the breed, devoted to not betraying the history of the breed, should we not pay more attention to the form and function of the Labrador and less to rewarding a dog that is often an unfortunate caricature of what the breed was and should be?
“An early writer (1833) on the Labrador, Peter Hawker, DESCRIBED THE BREED AS ‘VERY FINE IN THE LEGS’.”
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“THE LABRADOR’S BODY SHOULD BE COMPACT, WITH GOOD SPRING OF RIBS, STRONG BONE, A MODERATELY WIDE CHEST, AND A WELL, BUT NOT OVERLY ANGLED FRONT AND REAR.”
Th e details of the Standard describe a dog that can work e ff ectively in the harshest conditions. Th e Labrador’s head is ideal for the dog’s function—from the wide, well-developed nostrils needed to scent fallen game; to the powerful muzzle essential to carrying heavy water fowl; to the ears that fi t close to the head to keep out water and debris. Th e clean- cut, chiseled head is strong, but without exaggeration. Th e medium-sized dark eyes re fl ect intelligence and good temper, with a kind and approachable expression. Th ose judging the Labrador should never tolerate any indications of shyness or bad temperament. Th e Labrador’s body should be compact, with good spring of ribs, strong bone, a moderately wide chest, and a well, but not overly angled front and rear. Th e dog is clothed all round with a hard outer coat and soft undercoat that virtually sheds water. Indeed, the Labrador’s coat and unique “otter tail” are two of the breed’s “distinctive features.” Th e Labrador’s coat may be the bane of many households where the breed’s heavy shedding is one of its few detractions. However, the coat is an essential element in the dog’s ability to perform its function, and should be an important consideration when judging the breed. While ‘fault judging’ can be the refuge of those who do not know the breed, judges should be aware that current areas of concern for breeders are poor front assemblies, weak toplines, rounded croups and low set tails, too short legs, and faulty movement. Th ese problems should be kept in mind when judging the Labrador.
Many Labrador breeders are frustrated by judges’ lack of knowledge about the breed, by the trend in Group judging to put up ‘hair’ and ‘ fl ash’, and by the Labradors’ lack of placement in Groups. Th e Labrador is the workingman of the Sporting Group. He lacks the glamorous fl owing coat of some breeds, and the fl are and showmanship of others. His coordinated movement is typical of a breed whose work involves swimming and short bursts of speed rather than running over long distances. It lacks the tremendous reach and drive common to some breeds in the Group. However, any knowledgeable judge of the Labrador will focuses on the breed’s function, on what it is designed to do, not on what it should possess to be a successful generic show dog. Exhibitors have the right to expect that judges know the standard for the breed and can make an educated decision between type and soundness in each breed. Th ere are some very good judges of Labradors, and many judges new to the breed are taking every opportunity of attend seminars and study groups on the breed, as well as attending specialties. Th e National Specialty, which rotates across the country from one time zone to the next and includes a Judges’ Study Group, provides such an opportunity. In addition, there are numerous Labrador Retriever regional specialties held throughout North America that a ff ord judges the chance to see su ffi cient numbers of Labradors to become familiar with breed type. Breed experts, both domestic and foreign, who o ff er a sounding board against which to evaluate one’s own judgments, usually judge these specialties
Th e Labrador Retriever is not an easy breed to judge. Th ose who wish to do service to the breed should approach judging with a fi rm understanding of the breed’s history, its function as a water retriever, and those characteristics emphasized in the Standard that make the Labrador a truly unique retriever. In the show ring, awards should never be given to shy or aggressive dogs. Judges should be aware that this is a natural, balanced, unexaggerated breed whose presentation should re fl ect the dog’s ability to do an honest day’s work in a cold water environment. Th e Labrador should be strongly built, powerful, and athletic, and should be neither cloddy nor weedy. A knowledgeable judge of the Labrador focuses on the breed’s function, on what it is designed to do, not on what it should possess to be a successful generic show dog. BIO Dr. Woods is a mentor and presenter for Th e Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. Judge’s Education Committee. He judges Labrador Retrievers in the U.S. and Canada, and other countries. Dr. Woods owned and bred Labradors under the Waterdog prefix, and began judging in the U.S. in 1988.
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Introducing THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER
By the Labrador Retriever Club
espite the contradic- tion in name, the Labrador Retriever’s origins can be found in Canada. Early in the 19th century an
Englishman, Lord Malmsbury, purchased several Labradors (Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s Dogs as they were called) from Newfoundland. He was attracted to the dogs because of their highly developed retrieving instinct and their willingness to please, and he developed a breeding pro- gram to preserve those characteristics. From this early beginning the dog devel- oped into the Labrador of today—one that excels in a variety of uses beyond the hunt- ing fi eld. Th e adaptability and trainability of the breed fi nds it utilized in many dog guide and assistance programs, as well as excelling in substance detection or search and rescue work. And, of course, with proper training and socializing, Labrador Retrievers are wonderful family companions. Because the Labrador is a dual-purpose dog, the breed soon attracted the attention of sportsmen in the United States and it came back to this continent in the early part of the 20th century. Today the Labra- dor Retriever is the breed with the largest number of annual AKC registrations in the United States, and it has held that position since 1992. GENERAL APPEARANCE A Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-size, short-coupled dog possess- ing an athletic, well-balanced conforma- tion that enables it to function as a retriev- ing gun dog for long hours under di ffi cult conditions. Th e most distinguishing char- acteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense weather-resistance coat; an
“BECAUSE THE LABRADOR IS A DUAL-PURPOSE DOG, the breed soon attracted the attention of sportsmen in the United States and it came back to this continent in the early part of the 20th century.”
“otter” tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; power- ful jaws; and its “kind,” friendly eyes that express character, intelligence and good temperament. Labrador Retriever coat colors, as rec- ognized in the o ffi cial AKC Standard for the breed are, “black, yellow and choco- late. Any other color or a combination of colors is a disquali fi cation.” A small
white spot on the chest is permissible, but not desirable. White hairs from aging or scarring are not to be misinterpreted as brindling (a mixture of white or tan and black hairs). Blacks are all black. Yellows may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and under parts of the dog. Chocolates can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate.
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“BASIC OBEDIENCE TRAINING IS AN ESSENTIAL PART OF RESPONSIBLE DOG OWNERSHIP. It helps to establish a bond between you and your Labrador and makes him/her a welcome part of the family and in the neighborhood.”
TEMPERAMENT Ideal Labrador temperament can be described as friendly and outgoing, indul- gent with its peers, strongly human-orient- ed and tractable. YOUNG DOG NEEDS If you plan on adding a Labrador Retriever puppy to your household, it is important to consider the needs of a young dog and to plan a program to address those requirements. Here is a list for review: 1. Proper diet at regular intervals. 2. Regular checkups and inoculations. 3. Clean, roomy housing. 4. Daily exercise—this is an active breed. 5. Regular grooming. 6. Companionship and love. 7. Early training to become a canine good citizen: t$SBUFUSBJOJOH t1VQQZ4PDJBMJ[BUJPO t0CFEJFODF$MBTT CRATE TRAINING Crate training can be a signi fi cant milestone in a puppy’s early regimen. Your puppy can learn to accept a crate happily and the crate will become a mobile “home” so there will never be a problem about where to keep your dog when you travel. Finally, should your puppy require time at the veterinarian’s o ffi ce because of an illness, it will not be
stressed if it is placed in a crate during a hospital visit. In addition, the puppy will be much easier to house train if you con- fi ne it to a crate when you cannot observe it. Puppies do not want to soil their bed so the puppy will wait to relieve itself until you take it outside. Th ere are many types of dog crates. Th ey can be made of plastic, wood or wire. A collapsible wire version is often the crate of choice if it is to be used within the house or when traveling by car. Th e puppy cannot chew it, ventilation is good, and it allows viewing from all sides. You can partially cover a wire crate with a blanket if you want to provide your puppy with a “den-like” environment. Airlines may require a closed (plastic) crate if you ship your dog by air. Do not allow the crate to become a substitute for valuable time spent in play and socializing. RESPONSIBLE OWNERSHIP A key part of your responsibility as the owner of a Labrador Retriever is to make sure that your Labrador is not only trained, but also supervised. If left outside, your dog should be in a fenced yard or kennel run, not roaming the neighborhood. Loose dogs run the risk of being hit by a vehicle, causing an accident, annoying the neigh- bors or even being stolen. Your dog should always be on lead when walking with you unless you are hunting or training. In urban and suburban areas,
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the responsible owner never fails to curb and pick up after his dog. TRAINING Basic obedience training is an essen- tial part of responsible dog ownership. It helps to establish a bond between you and your Labrador and makes him/her a welcome part of the family and in the neighborhood. In urban areas, there are obedience training clubs that o ff er classes where you and your dog can learn the fundamentals of basic obedience train- ing. Th ese classes can range in scope from puppy socializing to advanced training for obedience competition. If training classes are unavailable in your area, there are numerous books and videotapes that can be purchased on the subject and many are available through your local library. Early train- ing and consistency are the keys to having a well-behaved dog. If you plan to hunt your Labrador, basic obedience training is essential. HEALTH CARE Veterinarian care is an important part of your responsibility in providing for a Labrador. You should select a veterinar- ian and have your new puppy examined, and an immunization schedule set up. After the initial series of immunizations, your puppy should see the veterinarian on an annual basis for protection against regional health threats and early detection of debilitating disease. It is important to establish a relationship with a veterinarian in your area, so he or she can be contacted if an emergency arises. A good diet is essential for keeping your Labrador healthy and strong. Most commercial foods are well balanced and palatable. TO SPAY OR NEUTER Not all dogs need to be bred to live a happy and ful fi lled life. Spayed bitches and neutered males do not exhibit extreme personality changes by removing their reproductive capability. Th ey often live longer and healthy lives free from cancer, uterine infections and perianal tumors. While most Labradors should be surgically
sterilized at some time during their lifes- pan, the sex hormones have been proven to have important health bene fi ts. Early spay and/or neuter has been associated with an increase in size, an increased risk of some orthopedic diseases, bone cancer and some undesirable behavior. It is recommended that the timing of surgical sterilization involve a conversation regarding risk/ bene fi ts between the veterinarian and the owner of the dog. THE AKC PARENT CLUB FOR THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER Since its inception over 80 years ago, Th e Labrador Retriever Club, the AKC Parent Club for the Labrador Retriever, has been dedicated to preserving the integrity of the breed as a retriever gun dog that is equally at home as a hunting companion, at a dog show, or sleeping on a child’s bed. Given the breed’s popular- ity, it is remarkable the degree to which Labradors have retained their ability as working retrievers. Th at achievement is a measure of the health and vitality of the breed. A Breed Standard for Labrador Retrievers was developed when the Club formed. It is an approved writ- ten description of the ideal Labrador— IPXJUTIPVMENPWF MPPLBOEBDU0OMZ Labrador Retrieves without known heredity defects or severe temperament fl aws should be used as breeding stock. Because of the popularity of the Labra- dor Retriever, breeders have the added responsibility of maintaining healthy stock, free from hereditary defects and possessing the qualities that make this breed versatile and educating new pup- py owners on proper care and training. Raising a litter of Labradors is a serious consideration and involves a signi fi cant fi nancial investment, as well as extended time commitments. Th e Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. encourages everyone who is consider- ing using their Labrador Retriever for breeding to radiograph the dogs’ hips BOEFMCPXT 0'" UPIBWFFZFFYBNTCZ BO "$70 WFUFSJOBSZ PQIUIBMNPMPHJTU specialist and to do genetic tests for EIC (exercise induced collapse) and CNM
(Centronuclear myopathy) and for prcd (PRA). Th ese tests can insure that the puppies produced will remain healthy companions for many years. Th e Labra- dor Retriever Club, Inc. has funded many research projects through the AKC Canine Health Foundation and the Morris Ani- mal Foundation to assure that these tests are available to owners and breeders of Labrador Retrievers. Th e LRC, Inc. provides educational material for new owners as well as breed- ers and potential judges of the breed, and donates funds toward breed speci fi c health issues. For novices interested in training their dog for fi eldwork, the LRC has an intro- ductory program called a Working Cer- ti fi cate Test. A Working Certi fi cate will be issued to any Labrador that passes the basic test requirements. Th e Club also sponsors a Conformation Certi fi cate pro- gram whereby a dog is evaluated against the written Standard for the breed. Both these programs are open to Labradors of all ages, as well as spayed or neutered ani- mals. It is also recommend that you have your dog pass a Canine Good Citizen Test sponsored by the American Kennel Club. A list of local Labrador Retriever clubs that support similar activities on a local level can be found on the Club’s website at: www.thelabradorclub.com. In addition, the Club sponsors a rotat- ing National Specialty Event Week that includes a specialty conformation show, obedience and agility competitions, retrieving tests and educational seminars JO0DUPCFSPGFBDIZFBSɨF-3$ *OD also hosts two retriever hunting tests and two fi eld trials annually, as well as pub- lishing a quarterly Newsletter and an annual Yearbook.
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