Characteristics and Temperament
The main characteristics of Labradors are their coat, tail, head and temperament. They have a double coat: a soft, downy undercoat that keeps them dry and warm in cold water and a hard outer coat that helps them repel water. Their tail, described best as an otter tail, is thick at the base and tapers to a narrower point. It should not be carried over the back nor should it have a curl to it. It should, however, be at exactly coffee table height and always be ready to swipe one clean. Their head is clean cut and somewhat broad, with hanging ears. Their expression is alert and intelligent and conveys a kind, friendly temperament.
Their best feature is their temperament. Labs are loving, people oriented dogs. They are happiest when they are with you. Labs are retrievers and will bring you things they find laying about your house or yard. They tend to be quite patient with children and wonderful family dogs. They are not guard dogs. They may bark protectively, but will generally not act more aggressively. Labs are wonderful people dogs, more likely to lick someone to death than hurt them. They tend to be stable, not easily upset by strange things or occurrences. They will take many things in stride.
In the U.S., there are two distinct "lines" of Labradors: field lines and show lines. Field line Labradors have been bred with an emphasis on field or hunting ability, and show line Labradors have been bred with an emphasis on conformation and temperament. There is some dissension between the two groups, with field people claiming that show lines have lost much of their hunting and retrieving abilities, and show people claiming that field lines do not much look like Labradors any more and lack correct temperament. The truth is likely somewhere in between. Dogs from field lines will generally have a lot of drive, and will often exhibit more energy. Dogs from show lines might not be as fast, but most are capable hunters, though not necessarily field trial material. Either type can make a pleasant companion for a day out of doors.
Labrador Retrievers are people- and action- oriented dogs, and can become bored if left to their own devices. Untrained, they can be unmanageable due to their size and enthusiasm. Unexercised, they will often turn to destruction or escape to alleviate boredom and excess energy. They require attention and love as much as food and water. Labradors are easy to train which makes obedience work a fun way to interact with your dog. Labradors also require plenty of exercise -- this is especially true since most Labs love to eat! Ensuring they get proper exercise, training, and attention will give you a happy, healthy Labrador.
Field and Hunting Clubs
Hunting Retriever Club (HRC)
United Kennel Club, Inc., 100 E. Kilgore Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49001-5592
National Shoot To Retrieve Association (NSTRA-GD)
226 North Mill Street #2, Plainfield, IN 46168, 317-839-4059
North American Hunting Retriever Association (NAHRA)
P.O. Box 1590, Stafford, VA 22555, Tel: 800-421-4026
North American Versatile Hunting Dog Association (NAVHDA)
Box 520, Arlington Heights, IL 60006
Quail Unlimited National Headquarters
P. O. Box 610, Edgefield, SC 29824-0610