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Lovable Labs

Which breed comes to your mind when you think of a lovable, majestic and ideal family pet? Yes of course, a Labrador Retriever, which is the most docile and reliable-natured dog for everyone. Istill remember the day when I went to a friend’s place for the first time. I knew she had a dog and she was full of praises for him. I was excited to meet him and when I barged into her home, I was greeted lovingly by a smart bark with an equally smart and elegant jet-black Labrador, with kind brown eyes that stole my heart away! I still remember the warm welcome he gave to a stranger like me and the aura of love and warmth that surrounded this beautiful creature.

Perhaps the most popular pet dog is Labrador Retriever, who loves the company of his master and is ideal for children playmate and family pet. This may be the reason that guide dogs for the blind and assistance dogs are Labrador Retrievers. They are very responsive to training. They can also be trained as drug detection dogs. As per Meenakshi Reddy of Maidens Kennel, a well-known breeder of Labradors, “A Lab is a strong, muscular and well balanced dog with powerful forelimbs. His genial nature, responsiveness to training and retrieving abilities are invaluable in assisting the disabled, while his gundog nose has been well employed in scent trailing for search and rescue or detection roles.”

Labrador Retrievers originated in Newfoundland. They were excellent, powerful swimmers and were admirably trained in retrieval. All these skills were equally complemented with their good temperament.

General characteristics

The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built and medium-sized dog. His head is broad and round. He has a wide skull, powerful jaws and a wide nose. His eyes are medium-sized, brown or hazel. His kind friendly eyes express character, intelligence and good temperament. His ears are fairly well back, neither large nor heavy, falling against the head.

His body is powerful and roundly built. His clean-cut neck, wide chest, well sunk and fully-arched sides and short, broad, powerful loins make him distinct from other breeds. His muscular limbs and round compact paws make him a pillar of strength.

His tail is very thick at the base, tapering towards the tip. It is medium in length with no feathering but completely covered with short, thick, dense hair, giving it a rounded, otter-like experience.

A Lab’s hair are short and dense, without waves or feathering, fairly rough to the touch. Their undercoat is weather-resistant that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. The coat of a Lab is black, yellow or brown (liver-chocolate). The yellow ranges from pale cream to reddish-brown (fox red).

The average height of dogs is 56- 57 cm while that of female dogs is 54-56 cm. The average weight of male dogs is 27 – 34 kg while that of female dogs is 25 -32 kg.

Temperament

Very agile, with an excellent nose and a great passion for water, the Lab steals everyone’s heart. They have a very stable temperament, making them an excellent family dog. Extremely active, confident and tenacious, this dog has a remarkable keen sense of smell. This breed has an even temper and is never aggressive. He is a faithful friend, who will adapt to any situation. Devoted and very obedient, this dog is very cheerful. He has a fantastic visual memory.

A Lab has a style of his own. He is a dog with a lot of substance. He is eager to please and is non-aggressive towards man or animal, making him friendly to children and pets. Labs will probably bark if a stranger approaches the home, but they are not aggressive guard dogs. He can be a calm house dog, playful yard dog and intense field dog, all on the same day.

Meenakshi feels that Labs are good tempered, easy to train, eager to please and devoted to their families. “They are easy to live with because they are considered the most trainable of all breeds. They are reliable with children and crave for affection,” she added.

Lab puppy

The Lab pup should be leash trained from the very beginning. He should be taught to sit on command to prevent him jumping on people in his desire to say hello. Here is a pup who will love to play games like fetching and using his nose to trace things out.

Upkeep

Labs are easy to maintain. They are active dogs who love to play games like fetch. They need a well-fenced yard with space to run. They need daily physical and mental challenges to keep them occupied as a bored Lab can be troublesome. Exercise in the form of retrieving or swimming is also welcome by them. Meenakshi suggests a good run or a long brisk walk.

“You can also play with them with the ball as they love to retrieve. Also, they love water,” she added.

Weekly or bi-weekly brushing will help to control moderate shedding. Meenakshi, however, recommends daily brushing to prevent shedding hair. She also recommends to clean their eyes and ears as well as paws. “Bath can be given once a month with a good shampoo,” she said.

Most importantly, they love human company and can be destructive if left alone for hours on end.

Health

Labs are known to gorge on food which makes them obese. Hence, they should be fed the right quantity. Meenakshi says that their love for food makes them obese, hence they should be given regular exercise and a planned diet to keep them fit.

Labs are prone to hip dysplasia, a malformation of the hip joint that ranges from mild to severe and can cause disability or pain. They have a life expectancy of 10-12 years.

On the whole, a Lab is a very accommodating dog, adjusting with your moods and your lifestyle. If you are in mood to play, jog or swim, your Lab is with you. If you wish to lie down and have a nice siesta, you will still find your Lab with you. Meenakshi feels that Labs will put up with almost anything from children, love their company and are tolerant to the point of saintliness, asking for nothing more in life than to be with the family. He is truly a dog for all reasons and all seasons.

(Inputs from Meenakshi Reddy of Maidens Kennel, Bangalore. She has been breeding and showing Labs?–?champion Labradors actually – for last 12 years. She also runs Pet Post, which is a one-stop shop for pet products. She can be contacted at Ph:23617135, 23610026, Mobile: 9844002627.)