The Labrador has become the most popular dog breed in America, but what makes people love them so much?

In this article, we'll find out more about the Labrador, their origins, and why you should think about choosing one as your companion.

What Type Of Dog Is A Labrador?

The Labrador is classed as a medium-sized dog, giving the appearance of a dog that is strong, muscular and active, all labrador retrievers are either a solid black, a solid yellow, or a solid chocolate.  The head, which includes a very specific kind and friendly expression, the coat and the tail are the breed's three outstanding characteristics. However, the head, coat, tail and temperament, all worn on the correct body or frame, are what give you the complete Labrador.

Though temperament is not a physical trait, it is the essence of this breed. The Labrador's kindly temperament is visible in his warm eyes as well as in his body language. If any of these things is missing, you do not have a Labrador.

The head of a Labrador Retriever is one of the breed's most distinguishing characteristics, it should not remind you of any other breed. If it reminds you of a Coonhound, a Great Dane or some kind of Terrier, then it is not a correct Labrador head. The Lab has a fairly broad back skull and a nice stop. The stop connects the skull to the muzzle, and the eyes are set into the stop. The skull and muzzle run on practically parallel planes. The head should not have big, heavy, apple cheeks or flews that are too pendulous. The head should have a neat, clean appearance unlike the sloppy or drooling look that is appropriate for a Saint Bernard. The muzzle should be strong and never snipey looking. The nose should be wide with well-developed nostrils, for that keen sense of smell.

To find out more about this amazing dog, let's take a look at the Labrador's origin.

The Origin Of Labradors

There are many theories as to the origin of the breed known today as the Labrador Retriever. One point on which all historians seem to agree is that the Labrador originally came from Newfoundland.  They were known by several names like the St. John's Water Dog, the Little Newfoundlander and the Black Water Dog, before officially being dubbed the Labrador Retriever.

Some believe that the Labrador was developed by the fishermen off the coast of Newfoundland and that he was the result of an attempt to scale down the Newfoundland dog. In other words, they wanted to produce a somewhat smaller dog because the Newfoundlands were a bit cumbersome.

The dog had to be a good retriever. He also had to have good bone and strong limbs to pull heavy loads. He needed a dense coat thick enough to withstand the cold water, but one that would not ball up with ice. He had to be eager to please, able to swim great distances and happy to live on a diet of fish and whatever else could be scrounged up. The Labrador became that dog.

Why Should You Choose A Labrador

By far the most common use of today's Labrador is as a home companion, a role at which he excels. Surprisingly, the Labrador Retriever was rarely kept strictly as a house pet until several decades after the breed's introduction to the united States. The initial fanciers of the breed became acquainted with him through knowledge of the shooting game. When the breed was well established as a sporting companion, his docile, brainy nature won his way out of the kennel and into the home.

The Labrador Retriever's ability to quickly adapt and respond to instruction made the transition quite easy. Today, puppies raised in the home actually become so entwined in the lives of their owners that they often suffer when relegated to the kennel life. (If you are planning to keep a kennel of Labradors, select puppies that are properly socialized but still familiar with kennel life.)

As a companion, the Labrador Retriever is good-natured and gentle enough to accept the roughhousing of youngsters without returning it. If properly socialized while young, a Labrador will share his "home with another dog, providing there is enough affection for all. It is more common for a Labrador to misbehave out of jealousy than out of dislike for another animal.

Labrador Retrievers are long on self-control and loyalty, but they do not make the most avid watchdogs. As a rule, they are not overly suspicious of strangers or highly protective of loved ones, and when natural instincts are not stimulated they can be inattentive to such a task. Always keen for a scent or sound, a Labrador Retriever would certainly give voice at the approach of an intruder, but he might be won over by a friendly gesture or a luscious piece of sirloin. If left on duty, a Labrador Retriever may wander off in search of a scent that has caught his attention. In short, he is a people-dog. If you really need a watchdog, get your Labrador a German Shepherd friend!

The Companionship Of A Labrador

The value of companionship with this breed should not be underestimated. In recent years, obedience-trained Labradors as well as other breeds are being used as Therapy Dogs to enrich the lives of nursing home residents and even emotionally disturbed children.

The process is simple: a group of experienced dog handlers, such as those trained by therapy dogs International, bring their dogs to visit, perhaps put on an obedience performance for the audience, and then let animals and humans mingle, if conditions permit. The dogs are all obedience trained and have proven themselves to be extremely gentle and outgoing.

Their job is to make people feel wanted, and it works wonders for alleviating the loneliness and depression that often burden such lives. Labradors love people and the few hours therapy dogs share with others enrich both dog and man.

Finding A Labrador

Once you have decided that a is the right dog for you and your family, you are now ready to begin the search for a puppy that will hopefully be an ideal pet for the entire household, one that will be fun training to retrieve and can be used as such during the hunting season.

Whether it would be a male or a female is something that you need to decide before buying a Labrador Retriever.  For those who want to acquire a hunting dog, a male is preferable because a female may come in heat just when she is needed as a retriever.  However, in other circumstances, there is really not much difference; each sex has advantages and disadvantages.  Either will wander if enticed away by neighboring dogs, or stay at home to be
with their family.

For the prospective dog owner, a good way to find the right Lab is to go to dog shows.  There are dog magazines that you can buy that list the shows with dates and where they are going to be held.  At a dog show, talk with as many people as possible, especially with those who will put you in touch with active breeders.  Unfortunately, many successful breeders are "kennel blind," believing so strongly in their own type of Labrador that they do not see the faults in their stock.  However, breeders are flattered when a serious beginner asks their advice; and the more intelligent the questions asked, the more interest there is in helping the new breeder to get started.  The successful breeder is the one with many satisfied customers, and it is important for the beginner to talk with owners of Labradors from some of these kennels before visiting the place.

This is a big country, and you may end up buying a high-priced puppy from a person you have never seen, so you have to make sure that you will get what you are paying for.  This involves talking with a great many Labrador owners and breeders and eventually deciding upon a breeder whose advice you believe to be trustworthy.  No one is infallible; miracles rarely happen and we never get perfection, but with proper research and planning, mistakes can be minimized when buying a puppy which you hope will be a superior, all-purpose pet.

At first, the beginner can rarely see the difference between one puppy or dog within a breed and another, especially if they are all the same color.  It takes constant training of the eye to distinguish various differences between the Labradors one has the opportunity to see.  Also, there is more involved than visual appearance in selecting the ideal puppy.  A beginner will be more capable in choosing the right breeder than the right puppy and should rely upon the breeder to make the selection.

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