Several early descriptions of the St. John's water dog exist. In 1822, explorer W.E. Cormack crossed the island of Newfoundland by foot. In his journal he wrote "The dogs are admirably trained as retrievers in fowling, and are otherwise useful.....The smooth or short haired dog is preferred because in frosty weather the long haired kind become encumbered with ice on coming out of the water."
Whether you’re planning to get your new best friend from a breeder, a pet store, or another source, don’t forget that old adage “let the buyer beware”. Disreputable breeders and facilities that deal with puppy mills can be hard to distinguish from reliable operations. There’s no 100% guaranteed way to make sure you’ll never purchase a sick puppy, but researching the breed (so you know what to expect), checking out the facility (to identify unhealthy conditions or sick animals), and asking the right questions can reduce the chances of heading into a disastrous situation. And don’t forget to ask your veterinarian, who can often refer you to a reputable breeder, breed rescue organization, or other reliable source for healthy puppies.
Over the past few years a limited number of breeders have advertised and sold dogs they represent to be purebred Labrador Retrievers with a dilute or gray coat color—hence the term “silver labs.” The AKC has accepted some of these “silver labs” for registration. Apparently, the rationale for this decision is that the silver coat color is a shade of chocolate. Interestingly, the original breeders of “silver” Labradors were also involved in the Weimaraner breed. Although we cannot conclusively prove that the silver Labrador is a product of crossbreeding the Weimaraner to a Labrador, there is good evidence in scientific literature indicating that the Labrador has never been identified as carrying the dilute gene “dd.” The Weimaraner is the only known breed in which the universality of “dd” is a characteristic.
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.
The second half of the “gift pack” is the perfect wine glass. Honestly, when I first saw these I sent them to all of my fellow dog mom friends and demanded we get them. Swimming dog wine glasses! Riggins doesn’t like water, but I feel like he would make an exception for wine. Just kidding. Don’t let your dog swim in wine. First of all, it’s a waste of good wine. Second, alcohol is very bad for dogs.
In the United States, the American Kennel Club (AKC) and the Labrador's breed club have set the breed standard to accommodate the field-bred Labrador somewhat. For instance, the AKC withers-height standards allow conformation dogs to be slightly taller than the equivalent British standard. However, dual champions, or dogs that excel in both the field and the show ring, are becoming more unusual.
Some dogs are simply easier than others: they take to training better and are fairly easygoing. They're also resilient enough to bounce back from your mistakes or inconsistencies. Dogs who are highly sensitive, independent thinking, or assertive may be harder for a first-time owner to manage. You'll get your best match if you take your dog-owning experience into account as you choose your new pooch.
It’s OK that your dog sleeps in bed with you every night, and it’s OK that you don’t sleep as well without the little guy snuggling at your feet. This pup-sized sleeping bag zips into just about whatever human-sized model you own and lets you bring the closeness into the wilderness. You each get your own space, with plenty of cuddle room in there too.
Andrea Romano is a freelance writer and video editor in New York. She has worked for several publications, including Mashable, Travel + Leisure, and Bustle, as well as Brit + Co. She received her BA in Theater from the University of Northern Colorado and a Master’s degree in Media Studies and Film from The New School. When she is not working, she is writing sketch comedy and storytelling through The People's Improv Theatre and loves to knit and play music.
The Labrador Retriever should be well-balanced and sturdy with an athletic build. The skull should be wide and balanced, with ears that hang beside the face. Alert, intelligent eyes must be kind. The tail should be wide at the base and taper into the recognizable 'otter tail.' The straight, dense coat of black, yellow, or chocolate coloring should protect against the water and cold weather. The temperament of a Lab must suit the hunt, as well as the home: always friendly and stable. – AKC Breed Standards
The original Labradors were all-purpose water dogs originating in Newfoundland, not Labrador. Not only did the breed not originate in Labrador, but it also was not originally called the Labrador Retriever. The Newfoundland of the early 1800s came in different sizes, one of which was the “Lesser” or “St. John’s” Newfoundland—the earliest incarnation of the Labrador. These dogs—medium-sized black dogs with close hair—not only retrieved game but also retrieved fish, pulled small fishing boats through icy water, and helped the fisherman in any task involving swimming. Eventually the breed died out in Newfoundland in large part because of a heavy dog tax. However, a core of Labradors had been taken to England in the early 1800s, and it is from these dogs, along with crosses to other retrievers, that the breed continued. It was also in England that the breed earned its reputation as an extraordinary retriever of upland game. Initially black labs were favored over yellow or chocolate colors. By the early 1900s, the other colors had become more accepted. The breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1903 and by the AKC in 1917. The popularity of this breed has grown steadily until the Labrador Retriever became the most popular breed in America in 1991 and remains so today.
Making a donation on behalf of your friend in her dog’s honor is an excellent alternative to standard gift-giving. Consider local shelters or the ASPCA (read our interview with ASPCA’s CEO to learn about some of the great work they’re doing to help shelter animals all over the country). Most animal rescue organizations have online donation forms that allow you to pick the amount. As an added bonus, the ASPCA even lets you pick out a card design to be emailed or mailed to the recipient!
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.
Friendliness toward dogs and friendliness toward humans are two completely different things. Some dogs may attack or try to dominate other dogs even if they're love-bugs with people; others would rather play than fight; and some will turn tail and run. Breed isn't the only factor; dogs who lived with their littermates and mother until at least 6 to 8 weeks of age, and who spent lots of time playing with other dogs during puppyhood, are more likely to have good canine social skills.
The Labrador Retriever not only loves kids, he enjoys the commotion they bring with them. He'll happily attend a child's birthday party, and even willingly wear a party hat. Like all dogs, however, he needs to be trained how to act around kids — and kids need to be taught how to act around the dog. As with every breed, you should always teach children how to approach and touch dogs, and always supervise any interactions between dogs and young children to prevent any biting or ear or tail pulling on the part of either party. Teach your child never to approach any dog while he's eating or sleeping or to try to take the dog's food away. No dog, no matter how friendly, should ever be left unsupervised with a child. If a Lab has had plenty of exposure to other dogs, cats, and small animals, and has been trained how to interact with them, he'll be friendly with other pets, too.
“My favorite dog-related item that I personally own is a gift I gave myself when I got into the business of dog training: a specially sized Bone Toggle Collar from Wagwear, an New York City–based doggy accessories boutique,” says Anthony Newman, a certified canine-behavior consultant who founded Calm Energy Dog Training. “I’ve worn it on my wrist now for nearly ten years, all day every day; it expresses my love for dogs and it’s truly unique, with beautiful hand-stitched leather and brass. Though I suppose you can also use it as an actual dog collar, as founder and designer Amy intended it.”