Photo of Golden Retriever dog playing in the creek.

Breed Highlight: Labrador Retriever

by Kris Phillips

A chocolate Lab and Black Lab in downtown DenverIf being a dog was a popularity contests, the Labrador Retriever would consistently take home the crown. Labradors are intelligent, affectionate, highly driven, and energetic dogs.

A chocolate Labrador in the park

Their origin story seems to be hotly debated. Though it is frequently assumed they originated in the Labrador region of Canada, the breed is actually traced back to a much bigger predecessor. In Newfoundland in the 1500’s fisherman started crossing the much larger Newfoundland breed with slightly smaller water dogs to create what was originally deemed the “Lessor Newfoundland” or “St. John’s Water Dog”.

Black Labrador puppy with toy monkey Denver skyline in the background.Fisherman found the dogs to be hard workers, helping to pull in fishing nets. They were even happy to jump into the frigid water to retrieve fish that had fallen off the hooks, which will come as no surprise to anyone who’s had a Lab. Their thick water-repellent coats & webbed feet made them perfectly suited for life on the sea. Yellow Labrador playing in Clear Creek in Golden, Colorado

It wasn’t until the early 1800’s the Earl of Malmesbury saw them in action and had them imported to Poole, England. He found them equally suited to life as a gun-dog. And it was the Earl who began calling them his “Labrador Dogs”. The name stuck, and they’ve been Labradors ever since.

Chocolate Labrador in field in mountains near Denver Colorado

Labrador Retrievers are classified as medium-large dogs, weighing between 55-85 pounds. They have a thick double coat that’s water resistant. They typically shed twice a year and require little more maintenance that occasional bathing & brushing. Labs come in three gorgeous colors; black, yellow, and chocolate. One of their coolest features in their webbed feet, which make them excellent swimmers!

Dog-Mom getting kisses from both her dogs.Personality wise Labradors are known to be friendly, loving, and motivated to serve. They are highly intelligent and have been known to learn upward of 150 commands. The same traits which made them wonderful fishing & hunting dogs lend to a variety of important jobs. Labs are one of the most common dogs trained as service dogs.

Black Labrador wearing a service vest

They’ve also been trained to sniff out bombs and in search & rescue work. Labradors are also used frequently in therapy work. In fact the US military employs a number of them to help service members cope with stress. They’re generally great with children and other pets and always happy to make new friends. Labs are considered exceptional family dogs because they tend to have a very even temper and will tolerate a lot from little ones.

Black Labrador with red bandanna in the mountains outside Denver Colorado As their name suggests most Lab’s favorite hobbies include fetch, sometimes for hours on end. To say this breed is high energy would be a bit of an understatement. Labs require extensive daily exercise. Which may bring us to their one big flaw, if they don’t have a productive way to burn of the excess they’re likely to find less desirable behaviors, like destroying furniture. They also make terrible guard dogs. Chocolate Lab in Spring Tulips

Labs are known to hold on to their puppy-hood longer than most dogs. In fact I’ve photographed many senior labs who were just as excited to splash thru the creek for a ball as they were in adolescence. Yellow Lab splashing through Clear Creek in Golden Colorado

So the short version is: there’s a reason Labs consistently come in at the top of the AKC’s most popular breed list. They’re awesome at almost everything they do. Except being guard dogs, they kinda suck at that. They’re loving, friendly, intelligent, and motivated to work. Sounds like the perfect employee, or  best friend!woman kissing yellow Lab

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