Labrador Retrievers hail from the island of Newfoundland, off the northeastern Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally called St. John's dogs, after the capital city of Newfoundland, Labs served as companions and helpers to the local fishermen beginning in the 1700s. The dogs spent their days working alongside their owners, retrieving fish who had escaped hooks and towing in lines, and then returned home to spend the evening with the fishermen's family. Although his heritage is unknown, many believe the St. John's dog was interbred with the Newfoundland Dog and other small local water dogs. Outsiders noticed the dog's usefulness and good disposition, and English sportsmen imported a few Labs to England to serve as retrievers for hunting. The second Earl of Malmesbury was one of the first, and had St. John's dogs shipped to England sometime around 1830. The third Earl of Malmesbury was the first person to refer to the dogs as Labradors. Amazingly, Labs — now America's most popular dog — were almost extinct by the 1880s, and the Malmesbury family and other English fans are credited with saving the breed. In Newfoundland, the breed disappeared because of government restrictions and tax laws. Families were allowed to keep no more than one dog, and owning a female was highly taxed, so girl puppies were culled from litters. In England, however, the breed survived, and the Kennel Club recognized the Labrador Retriever as a distinct breed in 1903. The American Kennel Club followed suit in 1917, and in the '20s and '30s, British Labs were imported to establish the breed in the U.S. The breed's popularity really began to take off after World War II, and in 1991, the Labrador Retriever became the most popular dog registered with the American Kennel Club — and he's held that distinction ever since. He also tops the list in Canada and England. Today, Labs work in drug and explosive detection, search and rescue, therapy, assistance to the handicapped, and as retrievers for hunters. They also excel in all forms of dog competitions: show, field, agility, and obedience.
In the field world, people will tell you “If you want a machine that mows over every blade of grass to find the bird, get a lab. If you want a dog to stop and think about the best route to find the bird, get a golden.” That’s really the difference–if you want a high energy dog that never stops and can take a lot of distress, labs are your dog. If you want a high energy dog that is strategic, and won’t make the same mistake twice, then you’re a golden person.
You’re playing fetch with only your arms? You’re doing it wrong. This simple contraption turns you into a ball-throwing monster. One flick of your wrist hucks a tennis ball hundreds of feet instead of dozens. You’ll go from playing fetch in the backyard to sending your dog up and down a football field. And trust us: your dog will be stoked about your newfound fastball.
The sleek and easy-care Lab coat has two layers: a short, thick, straight topcoat, and a soft, weather-resistant undercoat. The two-layer coat protects him from the cold and wet, which helps him in his role as a retriever for hunters. The coat comes in three colors: chocolate, black, and yellow. Black was the favorite color among early breeders, but over the years, yellow and chocolate Labs have become popular. Some breeders have recently begun selling "rare" colored Labrador Retrievers, such as polar white or fox red. These shades aren't really rare — they're a variation of the yellow Lab.Grooming doesn't get much easier than with a Lab, but the breed does shed — a lot. Buy a quality vacuum cleaner and brush your dog daily, especially when he's shedding, to get out the loose hair. Labs need a bath about every two months or so to keep them looking clean and smelling good. Of course, if your Lab rolls in a mud puddle or something foul, which he's apt to do, it's fine to bathe him more often.Brush your Lab's teeth at least two or three times a week to remove tartar buildup and the bacteria that lurk inside it. Daily brushing is even better if you want to prevent gum disease and bad breath.Trim nails once or twice a month if your dog doesn't wear them down naturally. If you can hear them clicking on the floor, they're too long. Short, neatly trimmed nails keep the feet in good condition and prevent your legs from getting scratched when your Lab enthusiastically jumps up to greet you. His ears should be checked weekly for redness or a bad odor, which can indicate an infection. When you check your dog's ears, wipe them out with a cotton ball dampened with gentle, pH-balanced ear cleaner to help prevent infections. Don't insert anything into the ear canal; just clean the outer ear. Because ear infections are common in Labs, also clean out the ears after bathing, swimming, or any time your dog gets wet. This helps prevent infection. Begin accustoming your Lab to being brushed and examined when he's a puppy. Handle his paws frequently — dogs are touchy about their feet — and look inside his mouth. Make grooming a positive experience filled with praise and rewards, and you'll lay the groundwork for easy veterinary exams and other handling when he's an adult. As you groom, check for sores, rashes, or signs of infection such as redness, tenderness, or inflammation on the skin, in the nose, mouth, and eyes, and on the feet. Eyes should be clear, with no redness or discharge. Your careful weekly exam will help you spot potential health problems early.
Personalize a colorful collar for your dog, or get her ready for adventure with a durable jacket. And when you’ve seen to all things practical, dress her up with playful accessories like bow ties and bandanas. Then browse our sturdy dog bowls, long-lasting toys, all-natural treats, and more to find the perfect fit, whether you’re treating a friend or pampering your own four-legged companion.
As a dog owner, you become more acquainted with another species’ bodily fluids than you ever wanted to. If a dog owner is really brave, get them this UV urine flashlight and let them find out exactly what they’re dealing with. Like the prospectors of old who flocked to the western mountains, the intrepid seeker of (liquid) gold knows the next bounty could always be right around the corner. Give them the tools to get the job done right.
Although not a new product, Canine Journal team members have used Embark and other dog DNA tests to better understand their rescue pups and are big fans. We think it’s the wave of the future and encourage you to give the gift of knowledge and health to your favorite furry friend this season. Embark is our #1 pick for best dog DNA kit (and they are having a big holiday sale through the end of the year!).