Labrador-Retriever.jpg
Breed Group Group 11: Gun Dog Breeds
Sub-group 11-C: Retrievers and Waterdogs
Origin Country England
Weight Males: 60-80 pounds. Females: 55-70 pounds.
Height Males: 22-25 inches. Females: 21-24 inches.
Other Name(s) Lab
Breed Type Pure
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Labrador Retriever

Breed Group Group 11: Gun Dog Breeds
Sub-group 11-C: Retrievers and Waterdogs
Origin Country England
Weight Males: 60-80 pounds. Females: 55-70 pounds.
Height Males: 22-25 inches. Females: 21-24 inches.
Other Name(s) Lab
Breed Type Pure
click here for FULL BREED STANDARD

Origins

Like the Flat, Golden, and Chesapeake Bay Retrievers, as well as the Newfoundland and Landseer breeds, the Labrador Retriever, or Lab, is a descendant of the now-extinct Canadian landrace, St. John’s Water Dogs. The St. John’s Water Dogs ranged from medium to large in size and were powerful, stocky dogs that roughly resembled the modern-day Labrador Retriever. The coats ranged from the smooth coat seen on Labs today, to the longer, thicker coats seen on modern-day Newfies and Flat-Coated Retrievers. Many of the St. John’s Water Dogs had white markings in a tuxedo pattern, or more extreme white markings no longer found in any of the descendent breeds except the Landseer.

There are records going as far back as 1662 that describe medium-sized, smooth-coated St. John’s dogs aiding fishermen and retrieving game. They were known to be well-trained, good-natured, and even-tempered dogs that accompanied their owners in their dories. These dogs were believed to be descendants of Irish, English, French, and Portuguese working dogs brought to the area by immigrants, fishermen, and other wayfarers. Given the task of swimming out fishing nets and retrieving birds for their hunting and fishing owners, they were renowned for their resiliency, intelligence, power, endurance, and trainability. They were known interchangeably as St. John’s Dog, Newfoundland, and Lesser Newfoundlands. This landrace reached its peak in the 17th century, after which their numbers dwindled. Many people favored the shorter-coated dogs, as the coat would retain less ice when the dogs emerged from frigid water.

During the 19th century, these dogs were brought from Newfoundland to England by the second Earl of Marlesbury. There, these dogs impressed the English with their retrieving ability and intelligence. Motivated by the English countrymen’s awe of the breed, the second Earl of Marlesbury founded the first breeding kennel for the breed. Having noticed the St. Johns water dogs hunting and swimming ability as well as their good disposition, English sportsmen began using retrievers to replace pointers and setters. Those imported from Newfoundland were considered the superior retriever type. The St. John’s Water Dog was also considered, by far, the best for any kind of shooting. These dogs remained a family favorite of the house of Marlesbury, with the third Earl of Marlesbury penning a letter to the sixth Duke of Buccleuch in 1887, which read, “We always call mine Labrador dogs and I have kept the breed as pure as I could from the first I had from Poole. …The real breed may be known by their having a close coat which turns water off like oil, about all, a tail like an otter.” Since then, breeders, recognizing their excellent qualities, crossed Labradors with other retriever strains—with the Labrador type nearly always being dominant. Their descendants were almost always called Labradors.

By the end of the 19th century, the St. John’s Waterdog had all but disappeared, and the Labrador dogs were becoming less prominent in their native Canada due to heavy taxation. Then, in an effort to prevent the spread of nonnative diseases such as rabies, the Quarantine Act of 1895 prohibited unlicensed dogs from being imported into Britain and also required a six-month quarantine. English Lab aficionados had no choice but to use the stock that they had from that point on. It was from this stock that the modern-day Labrador Retriever (as well as Flat, Golden, and Curly Coated Retrievers) was born.

Labrador Retrievers first appeared in British kennel clubs during the latter part of the 19th century. Retriever categories included the Smooth, Flat, and Curly varieties. Retrievers were eligible to compete with the variety they most resembled. By 1903, the Labrador had been established as a separate breeding strain and was granted a separate registration status. The first recorded yellow Labrador appeared in a litter in 1899. It is suspected that yellow Labradors were the result of interbreeding with dogs in the hound group, but since yellows existed when Labradors became a recognized purebred dog, the British Kennel Club recognized them. There is older documentation of liver (chocolate) St. John’s Water Dogs arriving from the breed’s country of origin when they were first imported to England. It wasn’t until World War I that the Labrador finally made its way to the United States.

Today, Labrador Retrievers are an iconic, all-around family and working dog. Their good-nature, even-temperament, and eagerness to learn make them ideal companions for almost any task. The breed was among the canine heroes that joined in the search for survivors and casualties of 9/11. They are everyday heroes to many people as they perform therapy work or greet their best friends at the door after a hard day of work. They are equally at home in a duck blind, riding in a farm truck, playing with children, or visiting patients in an elderly care facility or the pediatric unit of a hospital. The eyes of the Labrador Retriever have also become a dependable alternative to those without sight. Utilization as service dogs, companion dogs, and guide dogs has become commonplace for Labrador Retrievers. From its early beginning as a lesser Newfoundland or a lesser St. John’s Water Dog to its current popularity, the Labrador Retriever has inspired an incredible loyalty to the breed.

Breed Characteristics

Head: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size and in proportion to the rest of the body. The skull is broad across the top (measured in front of the ears) and is as wide as it is long (from the stop to the occiput). Somewhat chiseled, the bony supraorbital ridges below the eye are perceptible. A median furrow may be present. The occiput may not be conspicuous in adults. The cheeks and temporalis are smoothly muscled to denote strength and give the head depth and breadth, but should never appear protrusive or bulky. The head should never appear narrow, long, or wedge-shaped. The head is clean-cut and without excess skin or wrinkle.
Eyes: The eyes are medium in size and may be open-almond, diamond, or lemon-shaped. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes. The eyes should be medium to dark brown in black dogs and some yellow dogs, and hazel to amber in liver dogs and some yellow dogs. Eye rims are tight fitting, never loose or exposing haw, and are self-colored according to the coat. Eye rims lacking color pigment and hair are not preferred. Any signs of entropion or ectropion are incorrect for this breed.
Ears: The ears are medium in size, drop, and broad at the base, with the inner edge and tips hanging close to the head. They are set far back on the skull, and when alert, the front edges align with the topline of the skull. When in repose, they are slightly above eye level. The tips of the ears should extend to the inside corner of the eye when pulled forward. They are never large and hound-like, nor short and fly-away.
Muzzle: The muzzle is strongly developed, full, deep, and broad from base to end. Upper and lower jaws have good bone substance and are approximately equal in length. It is well-developed, never appearing snipy, narrow, tapered, or wedge-shaped.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black, or self-colored according to the coat. The nostrils are well-opened.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage and strongly muscled with a slight arch. The ideal neck length, from the base of the head to the withers, is equal to length of head from nose to occiput. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut and without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep and broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Body: The body is well-knitted and short-coupled. A true athlete capable of running and swimming long-distances, he should never appear obese, heavy, cumbersome, or bulky. Instead, the body is compact, solid, and of good substance, never racy or weedy. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads. The toes are well-padded for swimming.
Tail: The tail is a distinct feature of the Labrador Retriever breed. Set neither high nor low on the croup but as a natural extension of the topline. It is moderately thick from the base and throughout, tapering bluntly at the tip. The tail is carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, anywhere from above the level of the topline to a neutral downward position, or anywhere in between, however, it should never be tucked. The tail is of a medium length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. It is neither feathered nor brush. It is thickly furred throughout with dense short fur, giving it a rounded and broad appearance, roughly resembling the paddle-tail of the otter. For this reason, the Lab’s tail is referred to as an “otter tail.”
Movement: The Labrador Retriever’s movement is strong, powerful, effortless, and efficient. There should be no indication of rolling. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the centerline of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.
Temperament: The Labrador Retriever is well-known for his outgoing nature, even temper, friendly demeanor, family loyalty, and exceptional trainability. This breed has a strong will to please and an even stronger will to be next to his human. Never shy or fearful, a proper Labrador Retriever is gentle and accepting of people and dogs, and therefore, aggression toward either is not appropriate for this breed. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is especially incorrect for this breed.
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Breed Standard

BREED GROUP 11: Gun Dog Breeds

Proportions: Rectangular in proportion, with length of the body, measured from the point of the forechest to the point of the rump being just slightly greater than the height at the withers. The ideal body height-to-length ratio is between 5:4 and 10:9. Females may be slightly longer. The length from the point of the shoulder to the point of the rump is equal to or just greater than the distance from the withers to the ground. The Lab should never appear square and leggy, which impedes the dog’s trot and gallop, nor low and long, which shortens the stride. This dog should be kept, worked, and shown in hard-working condition, with the ribs being felt but not seen. Dogs in which the ribs that cannot be felt through the fat shall be penalized. The body is cobby and well put together, with sturdy substance and medium bone. Males should appear masculine, being more substantial in size and mass, while females should appear more feminine and slightly less substantial. Neither should lack overall type.

Head

General Appearance: Mesaticephalic skull-type, moderate in size and in proportion to the rest of the body. The skull is broad across the top (measured in front of the ears) and is as wide as it is long (from the stop to the occiput). Somewhat chiseled, the bony supraorbital ridges below the eye are perceptible. A median furrow may be present. The occiput may not be conspicuous in adults. The cheeks and temporalis are smoothly muscled to denote strength and give the head depth and breadth, but should never appear protrusive or bulky. The head should never appear narrow, long, or wedge-shaped. The head is clean-cut and without excess skin or wrinkle.
Expression: Intelligent, keen, friendly, active, and attentive.
Stop: The stop is definite and sloping, or it may form an almost 90-degree angle between the topskull and muzzle. The brow is well-defined.
Skull: The ideal muzzle-to-skull ratio is 1:1, with the topskull being equal to the muzzle.
The ideal muzzle-to-skull axis is parallel.
Muzzle: The muzzle is strongly developed, full, deep, and broad from base to end. Upper and lower jaws have good bone substance and are approximately equal in length. It is well-developed, never appearing snipy, narrow, tapered, or wedge-shaped.
Lips or Flews: The lips fit rather tightly, and cover the teeth and jaws. They allow for the muzzle to have a strong appearance without resulting in a narrow, snippy, tapered/wedged, or boxy appearance. They are never pendulous, or extending below the plane of the lower jaw.
Nose: The nose is well-pigmented and black, or self-colored according to the coat. The nostrils are well-opened.
Cheeks: The cheeks are smoothly muscled to denote strength and power, as well as give the face breadth. The cheeks are never coarse or chiseled.
Dentition and Bite: Forty-two strong, clean, white teeth. Bite may be level, scissor, or reverse-scissor. Contact must be made between the top and bottom incisors. Missing or broken teeth as a result of routine work is not to be penalized.
Eyes: The eyes are medium in size and may be open-almond, diamond, or lemon-shaped. There should be sufficient bone in the surrounding orbital sockets to protect the eyes. The eyes should be medium to dark brown in black dogs and some yellow dogs, and hazel to amber in liver dogs and some yellow dogs. Eye rims are tight fitting, never loose or exposing haw, and are self-colored according to the coat. Eye rims lacking color pigment and hair are not preferred. Any signs of entropion or ectropion are incorrect for this breed.
Ears: The ears are medium in size, drop, and broad at the base, with the inner edge and tips hanging close to the head. They are set far back on the skull, and when alert, the front edges align with the topline of the skull. When in repose, they are slightly above eye level. The tips of the ears should extend to the inside corner of the eye when pulled forward. They are never large and hound-like, nor short and fly-away.

Body and Tail

General Description: The body is well-knitted and short-coupled. A true athlete capable of running and swimming long-distances, he should never appear obese, heavy, cumbersome, or bulky. Instead, the body is compact, solid, and of good substance, never racy or weedy. Width at forequarters is approximately equal to the width at the hindquarters.
Neck: Moderate length to allow for proud head carriage and strongly muscled with a slight arch. The ideal neck length, from the base of the head to the withers, is equal to length of head from nose to occiput. The neck tapers smoothly from the deeper and broader body toward the head. The neck is clean-cut and without excess skin, throatiness, or dewlap.
Chest: Deep and broad, but never wider than deep. The brisket extends to the point of the elbows.
Topline: Straight and level from withers to croup. The back is broad, strongly muscled, and straight, yet supple. The loin is taut and may be flat and level or slightly arched, yet it is supportive. The back is never long, swayed, or roached.
Croup: Flat and level with the back or gently sloped.
Underline: Slight tuck-up present or the underline may run parallel to the topline. The underline is taut and firm, without any indication of sagging or excess weight.
Ribs: Long, well-sprung, well-laid-back, and oval-shaped, never barrel-chested or slab-sided.
Tail: The tail is a distinct feature of the Labrador Retriever breed. Set neither high nor low on the croup but as a natural extension of the topline. It is moderately thick from the base and throughout, tapering bluntly at the tip. The tail is carried in accordance with the dog’s mood and energy level, anywhere from above the level of the topline to a neutral downward position, or anywhere in between, however, it should never be tucked. The tail is of a medium length, with the tip of the last vertebrae extending to the hock joints when held down. It is neither feathered nor brush. It is thickly furred throughout with dense short fur, giving it a rounded and broad appearance, roughly resembling the paddle-tail of the otter. For this reason, the Lab’s tail is referred to as an “otter tail.”

Forequarters and Hindquarters

Forequarters: Forequarters are always in balance with the hindquarters. Forequarters are well-angulated with well-laid-back shoulder blades. Shoulder blades are approximately equal in length to the upper arm and forearm.
Elbows: Elbows are close to the body. The point of the elbows is approximately half the dog’s height at the withers.
Forelegs: Frontal View: Straight, of good muscle, of moderate bone, and parallel to one another.
Side View: The forelimbs appear straight with strong pasterns.
Pasterns: Never weak or broken.
Hindquarters: Upper thigh and lower thigh are equal in length, strong, sturdy, of moderate bone, and well-muscled.
Rear View: When viewed from the rear, the rear pasterns are parallel to one another.
Side View: Good angulation will allow the rear toes to align with the point of the rump or within one to two paw-lengths behind the point of the rump, with the rear pasterns remaining perpendicular to the ground and parallel to one another.
Stifle Joint: Well-angulated with a good bend to well-let-down rear pasterns.
Angulations: Angulation of hindquarters is always in balance with angulation of forequarters.
Feet: Oval to round, compact, with well-arched toes and tough pads. The toes are well-padded for swimming.

Coat

Skin: Well-fitted, yet supple. The skin should never obstruct the outline of the dog.
Coat Type: Consist of a dense, short, straight, close water repellant outer coat. Undercoat is dense and soft. Slight wave down the back is permissible. Texture is resilient, firm. Never woolly, coarse, silky, or feathering.
Coat Color or Pattern: CKC recognizes two color varieties of the Labrador Retriever breed: the standard color and nonstandard color variety.
Standard coat color variety: Solid colors of liver, black, and yellow. Liver includes chocolate, milk chocolate, and dark chocolate. Black is always jet black. "Yellow" is the name for any variation of the recessive red gene that includes any shade from pure white to fox red. A few white hairs on the chest and tips of the toes are permissible.

Nonstandard coat color variety: Solid colors of Isabella, grey, silver, and mosaic. Although it is rare, tan or brindle points are also observed in the non-recessive red Labrador Retriever variety.

Movement

The Labrador Retriever’s movement is strong, powerful, effortless, and efficient. There should be no indication of rolling. The characteristics of healthy structure are evident: when moving away, the forelegs and rear pasterns should remain parallel to one another. When viewing movement from the front, the forelegs should remain parallel, with elbows and paws moving neither in nor out. From the rear, the back pads should be visible when the rear legs are extended. As speed increases, the forelimbs and hindlimbs will converge to the centerline of gravity. From the side, the topline should remain firm and level. Good reach of movement in the front allows the forepaw to extend out in a line with the nose. The width between the forefeet when extended should be approximately equal to the width between the hindfeet when extended, indicating balance, good reach, and good drive. Dogs that exhibit any sign of breathing or locomotive difficulty shall be disqualified from the show ring.

Temperament

The Labrador Retriever is well-known for his outgoing nature, even temper, friendly demeanor, family loyalty, and exceptional trainability. This breed has a strong will to please and an even stronger will to be next to his human. Never shy or fearful, a proper Labrador Retriever is gentle and accepting of people and dogs, and therefore, aggression toward either is not appropriate for this breed. Any unprovoked aggressive or fearful behavior toward people is especially incorrect for this breed.

Faults

All dogs should be in proper healthy condition, free from disease or defect. Any departure from this description is considered a fault. Unless altered, all male dogs should have two fully descended testicles.