The Labrador Retriever, also Labrador, or Lab for short, is one of several kinds of retriever, is a type of gun dog. A breed characteristic is webbed paws for swimming, useful for the breed’s original purpose of retrieving fishing nets. The Labrador is the most popular breed of dog by registered ownership in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is also one of the most popular assistance dog breeds in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and many other countries, as well as being widely used by police and other official bodies for their detection and working abilities. Typically, Labradors are athletic and love to swim, play catch and retrieve games, are good with young children, elderly, and for protection. They are also used as Guide dogs to help people who are blind.
Labrador pups generally are not brought home before they are 8 weeks old. Their life expectancy is generally 10 to 12 years, and it is a healthy breed with relatively few major problems. Notable issues related to health and well-being includes:
- Labradors are somewhat prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, especially the larger dogs, though not as much as some other breeds. Hip scores are recommended before breeding and often joint supplements are suggested.
- Labradors also suffer from the risk of knee problems. A luxating patella is a common occurrence in the knee where the knee dislocates and goes back into place.
- Eye problems are also possible in some Labradors, particularly progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy and retinal dysplasia. Dogs which are intended for breeding should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye score.
- Hereditary myopathy, a rare inherited disorder that causes a deficiency in type II muscle fibre. Symptoms include a short stilted gait or “bunny hopping,” and in rare cases ventroflexion of the neck accompanied by a kyphotic posture.
- There is a small incidence of other conditions, such as autoimmune diseases and deafness in Labradors, either congenitally or later in life.
- Labradors often suffer from exercise induced collapse, a syndrome that causes hyperthermia, weakness, collapse, and disorientation after short bouts of exercise.
Labradors like to eat, and without adequate exercise can become obese. Laziness also contributes to this. Obesity is a serious condition and can be considered the number one nutritional problem with dogs. A study shows that at least 25% of dogs in the United States are overweight. Therefore Labradors must be properly exercised and stimulated. A healthy Labrador can do swimming wind sprints for two hours, and should keep a very slight hourglass waist and be fit and light, rather than fat or heavy-set. Obesity can exacerbate conditions such as hip dysplasia and joint problems, and can lead to secondary diseases, including diabetes. Osteoarthritis is common in older, especially in overweight, Labradors. A 14 year study covering 48 dogs by food manufacturer Purina showed that Labradors fed to maintain a lean body shape outlived those fed freely by around two years, emphasizing the importance of not over-feeding. Labradors should be walked twice a day for at least half an hour.