They might not fight crime or have any superpowers, but the Labrador, or Lab, is always the first dog to rush into any situation.
If there’s a BBQ where humans are clearly under threat of too much food, they’ll be there. If there’s a ball being thrown too far, they’ll be there. If there’s commotion in the park from children having a dangerous amount of fun, they’ll be there.
The Lab’s curiosity and friendly nature means that most humans have met a Lab in their life, and any who do will undoubtedly be taken by their lovable personality. But who is the lovable mutt behind the smile? This article aims to find out.
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The Labrador’s kind and honest nature comes from its ancestor, the St. John’s dog – a breed that loved swimming and would assist local fisherman with their hauls. The St John’s dog was crossbred with other breeds and exported from Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada to America and England, taking their hometown as their own name.
From their simple beginnings as dogs that loved getting wet and lending a hand to fishermen, Labs definitely deserve their own superhero capes due to their work ethic, love of all things and courageousness in the face of fear. The St John’s dogs must be smiling proudly from clouds on high at their heroic descendants.
Labradors are medium-large, with males weighing in at 29-36 kilograms and females weighing in at 25-32 kilograms. Their short coats come in a variety of colours, including black, chocolate brown, golden and pale yellow. They tend to shed twice per year or throughout the year in temperate climates.
Their long snouts, smooth heads, trim bodies and wagging tails are widely recognised throughout society.
The toes on their paws are slightly webbed, making them keen swimmers who love going for a dip. Their coats are also slightly waterproof, meaning they are quite agile and aren’t weighed down like other dogs in water. A bonus of this is that they don’t bring the beach back to the house after a swim.
Their love of swimming reflects the pure joy they have for life. With the playful attitude of a six year old at a birthday party fuelled by red cordial, Labs love exploring and getting involved in activities, and they will set to any task with gusto.
Their sharp noses make them great scent dogs, and they can easily hone in on a BBQ on the other side of the neighbourhood – which they’ll be more than happy to gate crash.
This enthusiasm and fearless investigating of animals and people may require training and a firm hand to make sure they don’t vanish as soon as they spot anything that gets their tails wagging (aka everything). It also does not make them the most suitable guard dog since they are more likely to invite a criminal in than they are to bare their teeth.
Labs will bark, often at invisible enemies; however, training can ensure they respond to commands such as “Shut up, you boofhead, it’s just me!” Generally though, the Lab is a quiet dog.
Young Labs have a serious level of childish energy which borders on being hyperactive, so training early on is recommended. Their energy levels simmer down once they mature (generally at three years).
A ball is a Labrador’s best friend, but once you start throwing, there is no such thing as “last throw”. Activities are a must for Labs as their energy and intelligence demand regular stimulation. Bored Labs will entertain themselves, and a few hours a week playing catch in the park will keep your backyard from becoming the set for a never-ending version of The Great Escape.
Golden retrievers vs Labradors
Broadly speaking, the golden retriever and Labrador are similar dogs. They’re more close cousins than entirely different breeds, with both dogs descending from the mighty St John’s dog. Their main difference is only fur deep.
|Coats||Long, thick and golden||Short, water resistant and in a variety of colours|
|Grooming and maintenance||High maintenance, daily brushing needed||Low maintenance, general grooming required|
|Temperament||Alert, friendly, intelligent and playful||Energetic, loving, intelligent and boisterous|
Because of their size, they tend to develop hip and elbow dysplasia, though no more than other breeds. Generally, the larger the dog, the more prone they are to dysplasia. Knee problems are an issue, and because of their active attitude, they’re likely to sustain any number of joint issues.
Other health issues that Labs may experience include the following:
- They can suffer from cataracts, corneal dystrophy and other visual impairments, which can be detected by a qualified vet.
- Muscle atrophy, autoimmune disease and deafness can set in later in life.
- Compared to other breeds, Labs are favourites to become obese, but it’s often not due to overfeeding, but to a gene mutation that just lets the Lab pack on the pounds.
Labs can also suffer from exercise-induced collapse, a syndrome where they don’t recognise that they’re tired. As a result, the run themselves ragged and end up collapsing at the end of the day. This can result in disorientation, weakness and even hyperthermia, so be sure you take regular breaks.
How much does treatment cost?
Unfortunately, any of the outlined health problems are only the beginning of the different bumps and bruises that can befall your dog. The table below is a rough picture of the treatment costs for a range of common conditions:
|Health problem||Average total claim|
|Epilepsy and seizures||$1,079|
Source: The Hollard Insurance Company (2016/2017)
Why you need pet insurance for your Labrador
While your Lab’s intelligence will hopefully keep it out of danger, its brave and cavalier attitude will also see it rush into danger if it feels it’s needed to save the day. A Lab’s curiosity and friendliness may also see it getting close to certain people or animals that it should stay away from (like snakes, aggressive dogs and cat people).
Like all dogs, your Lab is bound to end up at the vet. Should they develop a long-term illness or an injury that requires regular treatment, the bills that pile up make pet insurance seem like a no brainer. However, getting an insurance plan early is key as pet insurance providers typically don’t cover pre-existing conditions. Pet insurance is better as foresight than hindsight.
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