This image copyrighted by Jane Parton for MJLRC All rights reserved!
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Thank you for your interest in our breed. We hope this information will help you decide if the Labrador Retriever is the right choice for you and your family and, should you decide to get a Lab, guide you in your search for a suitable dog.
Many local clubs maintain listings of puppies and older dogs available from their members. These lists are aids for club members and prospective Labrador owners, but do not necessarily imply endorsement by the club.
HISTORY OF THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER
The Labrador traces its origins back to Newfoundland, where fishermen kept what was referred to as the small Newfoundland or St. John's dog. There the dogs were used for hauling in nets and a variety of other tasks. The fishermen carried on a lively trade with England, and a favorite port was Poole in Dorset. Dogs accompanied the fishermen on these voyages and they came to the attention of the English, who soon found them unparalleled for hunting wild fowl. The earliest printed reference to the "Labrador breed" is found in the classic, "Instructions to Young Sportsmen in Al1 That Relates to the Guns and Shooting", written in 1814 by Col. Peter Hawker.
In 1904, the Kennel Club of England, formally recognized the Labrador Retriever as a separate breed. The breed found its way to the United States by way of well-to-do families who obtained the dogs for use in the sport of hunting. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1914. Since that time, the Labrador's good nature and gentle disposition has increasingly led to its being kept as a family pet, and it is now the most popular pure-bred dogs in the USA. Today the Lab is used extensively as a hunting companion, a family pet, guide dog for the blind, and more.
IS THE LABRADOR THE DOG FOR YOU?
Deciding to own a Lab means making a serious long term commitment. Taking responsibility for another living creature demands time and expense. The Labrador Retriever has many fine qualities which have contributed to making it a very popular breed. What follows is an account of those fine qualities, along with some of the less commendable qualities of the breed. If you get a Lab, you should be prepared to accept the not so good along with the terrific.
The Labrador is very people oriented. The Lab's fondness for humans will make a young Lab as likely to follow a stranger as you -- this is not a one man dog. It is just this quality which makes adoption of an older Lab a very reasonable option.
The Labrador is smart. This is why Labs are so often used for therapy, detection and guide dog work. However, inexperienced owners sometimes neglect to train their new puppies. The result -- an intelligent 65 pound, strong, energetic, unruly animal accustomed to getting his own way. Most breeders strongly suggest you and your puppy enroll in an obedience class.
The Labrador requires very little upkeep. The watch words are few, they are: coat, nails, ears, diet, and exercise. Coat -- bathe occasionally and brush as needed, more often during shedding season. Nails -- clip regularly. Ears -- check often, keep them clean and healthy. Diet-- feed a well-balanced, high-quality food. Exercise -- essential for good condition and easily accomplished with a dog that loves to retrieve.
The Labrador has a wonderful temperament. This is generally true. Ill natured Labs are few and far between. However, like people, Labs can exhibit a wide range of dispositions. The Lab can be easy-going and quiet. The Lab can also be an energetic, bouncy dynamo. This is a very important point to discuss with the breeder. Ask questions, and be clear as to what sort of pet you want.
The Labrador is 'soft mouthed'. Labs have been bred to retrieve game without damaging it. They love to carry things in their mouths, but like most puppies, will often chew anything they can find. They have been known to lazily munch on chair rungs, rugs and even walls. You will have to provide suitable items for the puppy to chew.
In General. Labs come in black, yellow and chocolate. The LRC does not recognize "silver" Labradors. Yellows range from cream to fox red, and chocolates range from light sedge to very dark brown. There is generally no difference in personality among the different colors and a single litter can have pups of all three colors. Among Labs, both sexes are essentially the same in terms of disposition and trainability.
SELECTING YOUR LABRADOR RETRIEVER
So you have decided the Lab is the dog for you. Now is the time to take those steps to ensure that the animal you choose to share your life for the next 10 to 15 years is as close as possible to the dog you have in mind.
Probably the worst possible first step would be to go look at a litter. All puppies are adorable, and your heart could overrule your head. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Go to dog shows, obedience trials, or hunting tests. Read about the breed. There are many fine books available from libraries and book stores. (Refer to the reading list at end.) Talk to as many Lab owners and breeders as you can. Ask questions, questions, questions. Study the section on hereditary problems, so you know what to ask the breeder. Those questions could save you heartache and expense.
Prepare your home and your family to welcome your new pet. If an area is set up for the newcomer and the family knows how to behave with the new pet, the transition will be greatly eased.
SOURCES OF LABRADOR RETRIEVERS
Serious Hobby Breeders: This is an excellent source of pure-bred Labrador puppies and adult dogs. This breeder is easy to spot. The serious hobby breeder:
Will ask you many questions about your previous experience with dogs and the environment in which you plan to keep your dog.
Will want to know what your expectations are and what your family is like.
Will have socialized and evaluated each puppy in the litter, have a very good idea about their individual personalities, and may recommend a puppy that matches your expectations.
Will participate in some dog organization such as a breed, obedience or hunting club. Ribbons, pictures or trophies may be in evidence.
Will have a clean well-organized environment for the puppies and older dogs. Some breeders may ask you not to handle the puppies since transmittable diseases are a serious problem with animals too young to have had all their vaccinations.
Will ask you to have the puppy checked by your veterinarian to satisfy everyone that the puppy is sound and in good health.
Will provide you with health and inoculation records.
Will provide you with detailed instructions for the care and feeding of your puppy and encourage you to call if you have any questions.
Will provide proof that both parents of the puppies have been cleared for hereditary diseases. (See section on Inheritable Diseases.)
Will provide the puppy's three generation pedigree and registration papers. A limited registration" may be used for animals which are not intended to be bred.
Professional Breeders: This person makes a living from involvement with dogs. Sometimes this breeder will specialize in selling field trained animals to hunters who do not have the time and experience to train a dog themselves. Be cautious here, since not all of these breeders put the kind of thought and care into the breeding of their animals as the above mentioned hobby breeder. Remember -- ask questions, questions, questions.
Backyard Breeders: This person, for any of a variety of reasons, has decided to breed his or her female and raise a litter of puppies. The incentive may be to make money, get a second dog just like "Mom without paying for it, or provide an educational experience for the children. In any event, the breeding was unlikely to have been carefully thought out. The mother may not have been given good prenatal care. The puppies may not have been properly nourished and socialized after they were born. The father may have been selected for the simple reason that he lived in the neighborhood. With these litters, it is unlikely that the parents were screened for hereditary diseases. The puppies may come with AKC registration but may have little else to recommend them.
Pet Stores or Puppy Marketeers: These are the worst possible places to find a puppy. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying, which is no way to choose an addition to the family. Here, puppies come from puppy mills and sometimes from local backyard breeders who fail to sell or can't be bothered to sell their puppies. In recent years, many puppy mills have sprounted up in the Lancaster P.A. area. Do not expect the puppies parents to have been cleared for hereditary diseases. Often they are sold with guarantees, at inflated prices to cover the cost of replacement. But what most often happens is, by the time a problem becomes apparent, buyers have become too attached to a pet to return it and are left with a sickly or crippled animal and enormous veterinary bills. Problems may also arise when a puppy spends as many as the first 3 months of its life without socialization. This is akin to raising a human infant in a ward with minimal human interaction during the formative years of its life.
SOME HEREDITARY ISSUES
Hereditary problems are a fact of life with almost all dogs, including mixed breeds. In Labrador Retrievers there can be a number of health issues. These include: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye disease (PRA and Retinal Folds), epilepsy, Exercise-induced collapse (EIC), Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis (HNPK) and Tricuspid Valve Disease (TVD). Fortunately screening is available for many of these problems and a responsible breeder will test for these and often other diseases.
Hip Dysplasia: This problem exists in many breeds. Hip dysplasia includes a number of hip malformations which are believed to be influenced by hereditary, environmental and nutritional factors. X-rays are used to accurately diagnose this disease long before any outward signs are seen. Most breeders x-ray an animal which is likely to be bred or used in field or obedience work. Some breeders do preliminary x-rays at a year of age, and "final" x-rays are done at two years of age. X-rays are generally sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for evaluation. An "OFA number" will be assigned to a dog with a passing rating. Ratings can be found under a dog's name on the OFA website. A dog with hip dysplasia may well lead a long, happy and useful life, but should not be bred.
Elbow Dysplasia: (see OFA website for more info @ https://www.ofa.org/diseases/elbow-dysplasia)
Eye Diseases: Labs are subject to cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and other eye diseases. A member of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (A.C.V.O.) can perform an examination to uncover these problems. If an animal is free from these diseases, he will provide a certificate to be sent to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) for issuance of a CERF number. Breeding stock should be examined annually. Animals with any evidence of these diseases should not be bred. A more recent gene test by Optigen can determine a dog's status for PRA.
Epilepsy: There is not yet a test to detect the presence of this disease, therefore currently there is no certification available; however progress is being made towards developing a test. (See http://canine-epilepsy.net/) Epilepsy is not the only cause of seizures; other causes include trauma, poisoning and infections, just to name a few. Most cases are controllable. No dog with a history of seizures should be bred, both for it's own health and the health of any offspring.
Exercise-induced collapse (EIC): There is now a genetic test for this disease. (See this article fmi
Hereditary Nasal Parakeratosis (HNPK): Several Companies including VetGen DNA testing, OptiGen, VetGen, and Paw Print Genetics offer DNA Testing for this disease, which is an inherited autosomal recessive skin disorder found in Labrador retriever dogs that is characterized by a buildup of keratinocytes or hyperkeratosis, thickening and hardening of the skin, causing crusts, fissures and depigmentation of the nasal planum. Many breeders now screen for this disease.
Tricuspid valve dysplasia: "A congenital heart disease resulting from malformation of tricuspid valve leaflets, chordae tendinae, or papillary muscles. These structural changes in the heart valves lead to varying degrees of tricuspid regurgitation and the clinical sign of a heart murmur."
Here is an OFA link on general testing recommendations for the Labrador Retriever: https://www.ofa.org/recommended-tests?breed=LR&var=
THE "SILVER" & "DILUTE" CONTROVERSY
Written by Margaret Wilson, long time breeder, exhibitor, and judge.
"The Labrador is descended from the St. John's dog, not a breed, but a landrace from Newfoundland, Canada. A number of St. John's dogs were imported by sportsmen into Great Britain where the lines remained basically pure in the breeding Kennels under the dedication and care of the Earl of Malmesbury and and Duke of Buccleuch. The St. John's dog was not a dilute dog and was the progenitor for all the modern retrieving breeds developed in Great Britain at that time, most notably the Labrador Retriever, the Golden Retriever, and the Flat Coated Retriever ( colors produced in these breeds were limited to black, liver, and yellow). Despite what some dilute supporters claim, as evidenced in meticulous record keeping, breeding and whelping logs, and descriptions of all colors, markings, etc, there was never any mention of dilutes appearing in any of the Retriever breeds based on the St. John's dog.
The Labrador Retriever was officially recognized and registered first in the country where it was developed, Great Britain, in 1903. The predominant color was (as it remains today) black, but chocolates and yellows have always been legitimately in the breed. Subsequently, the Labrador Retriever was imported into North America and gained recognition and registration by the AKC in 1917. The rest of the world soon followed suit and Labradors have since grown in popularity from 23 dogs in the USA in 1928 to 40 Labs registered in 1931, and went on to become the number one dog in AKC registrations for more than the past 2 decades. The Labrador has become the world's most popular breed, described by every breed standard and registry in pretty much identical terms throughout the world. There is no Labrador Breed standard which describes any color other than Black, Yellow, and Chocolate.
It was not until 1985 that the AKC registered the first 'Silver' which began the incestuous practice of inbreeding siblings, parents and offspring, etc. by an individual to "establish" dilutes. The dilute lines can all be traced back through pedigree information to two particular dogs from a kennel in the midwest during the latter part of the 20th century. The overwhelming consensus among breed experts from legitimate Labrador Clubs, the position of these accredited Labrador clubs and a growing number of recognized purebred dog registries, is that the dilutes are the result of a cross breeding, with Weimaraner being the source of the dilute allele, and are therefore not registerable in a purebred registry.
It was not until 2006 that the first "silver" was born in Great Britain, from dilute parents imported from the United States. There was no "silver" born in Australia until the same time, also from dilute parents imported from the United States. There have been no dilutes of any kind born anywhere else in the world until within the past decade and that was to dilute parents imported from the United States. Any reference to writings which addresses shades or coloring which the dilute supporters claim describes a dilute dog, have been taken out of context, misquoted or otherwise misapplied to create an incorrect scenario which did not exist.
The Newfoundland dog during the days of the St. John's dog was not the contemporary breed as we recognize it. The Newfoundland is a distinctly Canadian breed and yet even today, the Newfoundland in Canada remains true to its origins and only comes in two colors, Black, and Landseer, neither of which is dilute. The dilute allele was likely introduced into the Canadian Newfoundland after it was exported to Europe and crossed with mastiff breeds after the Labrador was already established as an individual breed. Since the first Chesapeake Bay Retriever (a bitch) was imported to Great Britain by Dr. Helen Inglesby in the 1930's, this is also evidence debunking the claim that the Labrador was developed by crossing the Newfoundland with the Chesapeake Bay Retriever, and is thus not accurate. Despite multiple references to "research" gleaned from a particular silver breeder site, none of the writings on that site are credible since most of them are grossly inaccurate or outright false.
In addition to erroneous information on breed purity, the genetics involved in producing dilute carriers and dilute affecteds, another example is the claim that dilute labradors are accepted and recognized by most clubs and registries. The author includes the ANKC, the CKC, the UKC, the NKC, the FCI, and the NZKC, which, in fact, prohibit the registration and breeding of dilutes. Any dog falsely registered as a recognized and accepted color in many of these registries will have the registrations revoked, progeny will be revoked, the dog will not be exportable or breedable, etc. The bottom line is that with the presence of so much incorrect information being cited as "fact" any of the information being put forth by dilute promoters needs to be treated with extreme prejudice and skepticism. We have all seen in the outright lies which come so vehemently from the dilute supporters. Why anyone would blindly believe anything else coming from them defies wisdom and logic. There was never any mention in the meticulous and exhaustive breeding records, whelping logs, descriptions of markings colors, etc., and stud books kept by gentlemen of unimpeachable integrity of any dog being produced that was, in fact or in fantasy, a dilute. Not in ANY of the retriever breeds developed from the St. John's dog during that time in Great Britain. The dilute allele was introduced after the establishment of the recognized breeds. In the case of the Labrador this introduction occurred in the USA during the latter part of the 20th century. Chocolates and yellows, regardless of their popularity, and unlike the dilutes, have always been recognized as legitimate Labrador Retrievers and have NEVER been a non-accepted color or a disqualification. The early days of the St.Johns dog, and the development of the Labrador Retriever breed are not recorded with enough authority to be absolutely reliable. It was not until the Duke of Buccleuch and the Earl of Malmsbury dedicated themselves to maintaining meticulous breeding and whelping logs that we have reliable records, and on these we must rely and be forever thankful."
Thanks to artist Jane Partin of Petersberg, VA for her drawing of our Labrador puppies.
This article was prepared by the Mid-Jersey Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. We wish you the best of luck in your search for a puppy and hope you have many happy years with your new pet.
THE COMPLETE DOG BOOK, the Official Publication of the AKC. Pictures and standards for all AKC recognized breeds. How-to's of selection, training, and care of pure-bred dogs. (Howell Book House, Inc, 230 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169)
THE NEW COMPLETE LABRADOR RETRIEVER, by Helen Warwick. A history of the breed along with practical information. Pictures. (Howell Book House Inc., 230 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169)
THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER: The Dog That Does it All, by Lisa Weiss and Emily Biegel
LABRADOR RETRIEVERS FOR DUMMIES (Paperback) by Joel Walton & Eve Adamson
THE VERSATILE LABRADOR RETRIEVER by Nancy Martin
TRAINING RETRIEVERS TO HANDLE by D.L. & Ann Walters
TRAINING YOUR RETRIEVER by James Lamb Free
HOW TO RAISE A PUPPY YOU CAN LIVE WITH, by C. Rutherford and D. Neil. (Alpine Publications, Inc., 1 901 S. Garfield, Loveland, CO 80537)
RETRIEVER PUPPY TRAINING, by Rutherford and Loveland (Alpine Publications Inc., 214 19th St. SE, Loveland, CO 80537 (303) 667-2017)
AGILITY TRAINING: The fun sport for all dogs by Jane Simmons-Moake
SUGGESTED WEB SITES
The AKC Home Page at: http://www.akc.org.The AKC has a lot of information regarding the sport of Pure Bred Dogs, and dog ownership.
Copyright: The Logo and all pictures are copyright by the MJLRC, Inc. or the originating artist and may not be used elsewhere without the Club's permission. Copyright 1998-2023 Mid-Jersey Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.. All rights reserved. You may download and print a copy of this file for your personal use. Further distribution must be with the explicit permission of the authors.