The origins of the Labrador are rather obscure but two types of dog were known in Newfoundland - a large heavy dog used to pull boats into land and a lighter, smoother coated variety used by fisherman to retrieve game and fish. They were both known as Newfoundland dogs and it was not until 1812 that the larger breed was known as Newfoundlands, and the smaller as the lesser Newfoundland or Labrador. In 1814 Labradors were taken to England where, in a book ‘Instructions to Young Sportsmen', the breed was described as ‘by far the best for every kind of shooting’.
An adaptable and devoted companion with a kindly nature, Labradors easily adopt the role of children's playmate or elderly persons pet. The keenness to learn and willingness to please make the Labrador an ideal choice as a guide dog for the blind. The puppies are placed with a family for the first 12 months of their life and then return to the Guide Dog School for an intensive training course. After graduation the dog is matched with a compatible owner and devotes itself to the safety of its owner.
The excellent sense of smell possessed by Labradors, coupled with their eagerness and agility, makes them suitable as bomb detection or drug sniffer dogs. These dogs are trained to detect certain substances and, by their behaviour, alert their handlers. To the dog it is all one big game of ‘hide and seek', although in the case of bomb detection dogs they save many lives.
The tail is very thick at the base, of medium length and gradually tapering to the tip, densely coated with short, thick hair giving a characteristic ‘otter’ tail. The head is broad with medium sized brown eyes expressing intelligence and good temper and ears hanging close to the head.
Although the Labrador is commonly referred to as the ‘golden’ Labrador, the colour is officially called ‘yellow’ and ranges from light cream through to a red fox shade. Other permissible colours are black, liver or chocolate.
The coat is a distinctive feature - short, dense without wave or feathering and with a fairly hard feel and a weather resistant undercoat.
A strongly built dog with a broad and deep chest, the normal height is 56 - 57 cm for males, and 54 - 56 cm for females.
12 - 14 years
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