The Labrador Retriever has been the most registered breed with the American Kennel Club for the last decade. Their popularity is no accident. The Lab is kind, gentle, intelligent and playful yet also a great watchdog and an excellent companion. These large dogs, despite their size, can adjust to a variety of living situations and do equally well in a house, an apartment or out in the country.
Labs have a thick, short to medium length, smooth, double coat that is slightly oily to the touch and very dense. They can be a variety of colors including chocolate, yellow and black as well as a relatively unrecognized shade in the show ring known as silver. The dogs are very solid in build, thick not delicate, but also not heavy or bulky in appearance when in top shape. The head is large, wide and open with eye, nose and lip colors matching the coat color. The ears fold down and hang to the top of the lower jaw. This breed has a very distinctive tail that is very thick at the hips and tapers to a point. It is carried low to high but never curled up over the back. The feet of the Lab are wide, thick and heavy and the toes are webbed to make these dogs great swimmers.
Labs, like most of the bigger breeds, can be prone to hip dysplasia. This is a congenital condition that impacts the hip joint and leads to increasing mobility problems, pain and risk of arthritis as the dog ages. Buying from a breeder that screens for hip dysplasia is an important consideration. I contend that screening for hip dysplasia is must if you are dealing with breeder. They should at least use the OFA protocols but the PennHip screen is better. To keep those joints healthy watch their weight by carefully controlling your Labs food intake as they are often true chow hounds.
There are actually two different types of Labs, the English and the American. English Labs are more compact and slightly calmer in temperament than the lankier, more rambunctious American Labs. Both can also be bred to hunt, known as the field lines, or bred for show, known as the bench lines. All of these varieties make excellent, intelligent and very loving pets that are great with kids, other animals and other dogs.
As with any companion pet the Lab needs routine exercise as they can be very laid back and sedate when left on their own. This is a great pet for a family that loves the outdoors and these dogs excel in all types of obedience, agility, hunting and sporting dog types of competitions. However, this is also a dog that will lie at your feet or snuggle with you on the couch. My parents lab, Adam, is great pillow when I lay on the floor to watch football with Dad. Labs are happiest when they are part of the family and, despite their size, they prefer being a house dog to an outside pet.