The sturdy, well-balanced Labrador Retriever can, depending on the sex, stand from 21.5 to 24.5 inches at the shoulder and weigh between 55 to 80 pounds. The dense, hard coat comes in yellow, black, and a luscious chocolate. The head is wide, the eyes glimmer with kindliness, and the thick, tapering “otter tail” seems to be forever signaling the breed’s innate eagerness.
The Labrador Retriever is generally categorized by lines that are destined for slightly different purposes. The show Labradors are bred for beauty and carriage -- for perfection in appearance, in other words. The hunting dogs follows the more traditional bloodlines, with usefulness being the key to perfection. The hunting Retriever has the physical characteristics that make it impervious to frigid water, an extraordinary sense of smell, and the agility to bag game with speed, along with companionable devotion to its human counterpart. Champion, or field trial Labradors, are bred for speed, energy, and intelligence, with appearance being the last consideration. Their appearance strays somewhat from the traditional Labrador -- they are quite trimmer, with smaller heads, and it is generally agreed that this line may be a bit too enthusiastic for the average dog owner. They require a much higher degree of exercise, and considerably more space to move around. Not least is the most popular category, the family Labrador.
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.
Best Made in USA Dog Toys: Because of all the work I have done reporting on the food industry, I’m frankly scared to give my dog chew toys made in China - which means almost all chew toys on the market. That’s why I love West Paw, a Bozeman, Montana-based company that makes all of its great products to exacting standards right here in the USA. My dog has always loved their plush toys (she still sleeps with one) but now she has grown into a powerful chewer and avid retriever, and because it’s almost impossible to find domestically made tennis balls, we use the durable Jive Dog Ball, made from a latex-free, BPA-and-phthalate-free, solid rubbery material that she hasn’t been able to even dent. It bounces, floats, and comes in three sizes. It’s part of the bigger Zogoflex line, all made of the same safe, clean and ultra-durable material, in a wide array of chew toy shape and sizes. These are great for outdoor play.
Also check out my 2018 Gift Guide for Foodies, Kitchen and Cooks, my 2018 Gift Guide for Skiing, Fitness & Outdoor Activities, plus last year’s 2017 Forbes Gift Guides, with many great picks that are still perfect, on a wide range of gifting topics including: Beer, Wine & Spirits (here); Food (here); Kitchen & Home (here); Whiskey Lovers' Gifts (here); Cycling (here); Skiing (here); and Golf & Fitness (here).
For the heavy-set Labradors preferred by show breeders in the United States and the United Kingdom, the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. offers information as well as breeder and rescue referral. For the middle-weight show-type Labradors preferred in most other countries, the National Labrador Retriever Club also offers such information and referrals. For the leaner, field-type Labradors who are best suited to more athletic endeavors, Retriever Training Forum offers breeder classifieds.
Labrador Retrievers hail from the island of Newfoundland, off the northeastern Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally called St. John's dogs, after the capital city of Newfoundland, Labs served as companions and helpers to the local fishermen beginning in the 1700s. The dogs spent their days working alongside their owners, retrieving fish who had escaped hooks and towing in lines, and then returned home to spend the evening with the fishermen's family. Although his heritage is unknown, many believe the St. John's dog was interbred with the Newfoundland Dog and other small local water dogs. Outsiders noticed the dog's usefulness and good disposition, and English sportsmen imported a few Labs to England to serve as retrievers for hunting. The second Earl of Malmesbury was one of the first, and had St. John's dogs shipped to England sometime around 1830. The third Earl of Malmesbury was the first person to refer to the dogs as Labradors. Amazingly, Labs — now America's most popular dog — were almost extinct by the 1880s, and the Malmesbury family and other English fans are credited with saving the breed. In Newfoundland, the breed disappeared because of government restrictions and tax laws. Families were allowed to keep no more than one dog, and owning a female was highly taxed, so girl puppies were culled from litters. In England, however, the breed survived, and the Kennel Club recognized the Labrador Retriever as a distinct breed in 1903. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1917, and in the '20s and '30s, British Labs were imported to establish the breed in the U.S. The breed's popularity really began to take off after World War II, and in 1991, the Labrador Retriever became the most popular dog registered with the American Kennel Club — and he's held that distinction ever since. He also tops the list in Canada and England. Today, Labs work in drug and explosive detection, search and rescue, therapy, assistance to the handicapped, and as retrievers for hunters. They also excel in all forms of dog competitions: show, field, agility, and obedience.
A nice Lab puppy can usually be purchased for $700 to $1,500. For this price you should expect the puppies to have been raised in a clean environment, from parents with health clearances and show or field championships to prove that they are good specimens of the breed. Puppies have been temperament tested, vetted, dewormed, and socialized to give them a healthy, confident start in life.
Sarah Fraser, co-founder of Instinct Dog Behavior and Training in New York City, likes to give younger or adolescent dogs what’s called a flirt pole, which is “like a giant cat toy. For many dogs, it quickly becomes their favorite — a fantastic substitute for chasing real squirrels. Plus, it’s a great form of exercise that doesn’t require the owner to do much.” There’s one for small-to-medium dogs from Outward Hound that she likes.