Today's meet the breed is about the single most popular breed in the world. You guessed it. The Labrador Retriever.
Most of you have either had a Lab or know someone who does. This is an excellent breed for, not only canicross, but almost any dog sport. The Labrador Retriever is a very versatile, gentle tempered, easily trainable dog that does well in almost any household. Although they are a fairly high energy breed, especially while young, they didn't become the most popular breed in the world for nothing. A lab will usually conform to whatever lifestyle you lead as long as you feed him and rub his belly.
The history of the Labrador Retriever has been well documented as is very extensive. I will cover the basics here, but I encourage you all to look up the full story of how this great breed came about.
The original name for the breed was St. John's Water Dog. They were developed at about the same time as the Newfoundland. Interestingly, the Labrador originated in the Newfoundland area and the Newfoundland originated in the Labrador area. Around 1820 both breeds were brought to England where they were further developed and their names got mixed up. Once the breed arrived in England it was refined into the breed we know and love today.
Like I mentioned before, the history of the breed is very well documented (at least compared to most other modern breeds) and I think it's worth a little research to get the full story.
The Labrador Retriever comes in three standard colors. Yellow, black, and chocolate. There are several variations on these colors and a few more exist but those remain the only colors recognized by the AKC.
The Lab stands between 21 and 25 inches tall at the shoulder. They weigh in at 55 to 80 pounds. They have a strong athletic build and a level top line. The Lab's coat should be short and dense, but not wiry.
Coming from the freezing waters of Canada, some wonder why the Lab has a short coat. This was by design, as longer coats can hold extra liquid which can freeze when the dogs leave the water. That ice is being held close to the skin, it's heavy, and it constantly pulls at the dogs fur. This leads to a very uncomfortable, cold, and exhausted dog.
Not much needs to be said on the temperament of the Lab. Although much could be said. They are one of the most mild mannered, patient, and even-tempered breeds in the world. All this is evidenced by their common use as guide dogs, therapy dogs, and search and rescue dogs.
Arguably, there is no better breed as a family pet.
There are many genealogical lines in the modern Labrador Retriever. This is both a blessing and a curse. Typically, Labs are a healthy breed but a lot of backyard breeders have corrupted the gene pool. Though relatively uncommon, there are several things to watch out for.
The biggest risks are no surprise. Most large breeds are prone to hip dysphasia and bloat. However, Labs are also prone to elbow dysphasia, and a luxating patella (this is when the knee frequently dislocates and goes back into place) both of which are very painful and can be a huge burden on your dog. Aside from bloat, the aforementioned health risks are more common in older and/or overweight dogs. It's important to regulate the amount of food and exercise a Lab receives. Other concerns that are usually less common include several eye problems, a muscle deficiency, autoimmune disorders, and blindness.
The LARGEST factor in the health of the Labrador Retriever is his weight. Labs love to eat. If you let them, they will eat a lot. There is a very large number of obese Labs in the United States. Obesity brings lots of major health concerns. In my opinion, contributing to your dogs weight problems IS animal neglect. Diet and exercise are so very important for this breed.
To bring it all home, the Labrador Retriever is a great companion and a great breed for canicross. Easy to train, athletic, loving, and loyal. The Lab fits in any home any any heart. They will do their best to please you for almost nothing in return. You can adopt a new running partner at Lucky Lab Rescue in Indiana, or any other Lab rescue group that is trying to find great homes for great dogs. You can also check your local animal shelter and rescue groups. Being the most popular breed, unfortunately, means being one of the most commonly abandoned.
Adopt and new best friend and go run!
Credit for the beautiful photo goes to Lucky Lab Rescue