UPDATED! Labrador Retriever: Breed of the Week
Are Labrador Retrievers Good City Dogs?
It’s hard to live in the United States and to have not encountered a Labrador Retriever.
According the to the American Kennel Club, the Lab has been the number one dog in this country for the past 25 years. Talk to any Lab owner and you will get a good idea why.
Labrador Retrievers are versatile dogs. They were bred in Newfoundland in the 1700s, and like their ancestors, the Saint Johns Water Dog, they were born to swim. Webbed feet and a powerful tail that makes a great rudder help Labs cut through the water better than any Olympic swimmer. They aided fisherman retrieve nets and catch any fish that escaped. Labs have what is known as a soft mouth and are great at retrieving birds from the water. Another more obscure job of Labrador Retrievers was to carry messages back and forth from boat to boat.
Despite their stellar reputation as aquatic jacks-of-all-trades, Labrador Retrievers almost became extinct in the 1880s. In fact, it was probably their popularity that caused their troubles. The Canadian government taxed the dogs and put restrictions in place, allowing only one Lab per household. Female Labs paid a heavy price during this period; they were taxed at a higher rate than males, encouraging many breeders to eliminate them from litters. Despite this dark period in Lab history, the breed survived, primarily in England.
The Kennel Club of England recognized them as an official breed in 1903.
(The Brits love their Labs! The fictional Lord Grantham of the PBS show Downton Abbey was a fan of the breed, he had three Yellow Labs over the course of the show, Pharaoh, Isis, and Tiaa. Pharaoh’s rear end famously opens the popular show’s credits!)
Male Labrador Retrievers are about 24 inches at the shoulder and weigh anywhere from 60 to 80 pounds. Females are a bit smaller. Labs love to eat so finding them at the upper end of their weight scale is not uncommon. They come in three colors: yellow, chocolate, and black. All sport short waterproof coats that need occasional brushing and bathing. They are also a healthy lot, with few diseases specific to the breed.
Do Labrador Retrievers Bark?
Today’s Labs are not known for their water work, but for their ability to adapt to just about any other job they’re taught. Labrador Retrievers do everything from search and rescue, helping disabled people, acting as personal assistance companions, sniffing for drugs and other contraband, and of course they make great hunting dogs.
They are among the brightest of dogs, ranking seventh when it comes to understanding new commands. They obey first commands about 95% of the time according to Stanley Coren, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia who studies dog behavior. That means it takes about five repetitions or fewer for them to learn new commands. That’s good news if you are considering a Lab to be your Urban Dog. You want your pooch to pay attention to you in the common areas of your apartment building.
Labs are not excessive barkers. UC Davis researchers Benjamin and Lynette Hart devised a chart ranking dogs by the likelihood of barking at inappropriate times. On a scale of one to ten — with one being the least offensive barkers and ten the most excessive barkers — they get a two rating. Click here for more on Urban Dog’s take on barking.
Their sweet lovable nature, their desire to please, and their loyalty make Labrador Retrievers great family pets. In fact, the only thing they are very not good at is being a watchdog.
With the proper exercise and training, the versatile Lab makes a great Urban Dog. As always, if you are considering a Labrador Retriever do your homework and make sure the breed is the right one for you. Seek out a reputable breeder when searching for your new puppy.
If you would like to learn more click here to read about the breed at the AKC website.
For tips on how to find a pet-friendly apartment in New York and other cities read Urban Dog’s guide. Big dogs pose a particular challenge, but don’t worry, you can find places that accept large breed dogs.