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ACQUIRING A LABRADOR RETRIEVER


This image copyrighted by Jane Parton for MJLRC All rights reserved!

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Thank you for your interest in our breed. We hope this information will help you decide if the Labrador Retriever is the right choice for you and your family and, should you decide to get a Lab, guide you in your search for a suitable dog.

Many local clubs maintain listings of puppies and older dogs available from their members. These lists are aids for club members and prospective Labrador owners, but do not necessarily imply endorsement by the club.

  • Characteristics and Temperament


    The Labrador traces its origins back to Newfoundland, where fishermen kept what was referred to as the small Newfoundland or St. John's dog. There the dogs were used for hauling in nets and a variety of other tasks. The fishermen carried on a lively trade with England, and a favorite port was Poole in Dorset. Dogs accompanied the fishermen on these voyages and they came to the attention of the English, who soon found them unparalleled for hunting wild fowl. The earliest printed reference to the "Labrador breed" is found in the classic, "Instructions to Young Sportsmen in Al1 That Relates to the Guns and Shooting", written in 1814 by Col. Peter Hawker.


    In 1904, the Kennel Club of England, formally recognized the Labrador Retriever as a separate breed. The breed found its way to the United States by way of well-to-do families who obtained the dogs for use in the sport of hunting. The breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club (AKC) in 1914. Since that time, the Labrador's good nature and gentle disposition has increasingly led to its being kept as a family pet, and it is now one of the most popular pure-bred dogs in the USA. Today the Lab is used extensively as a hunting companion, a family pet, guide dog for the blind, and more.


    IS THE LABRADOR THE DOG FOR YOU?


    Deciding to own a Lab means making a serious long term commitment. Taking responsibility for another living creature demands time and expense. The Labrador Retriever has many fine qualities which have contributed to making it a very popular breed. What follows is an account of those fine qualities, along with some of the less commendable qualities of the breed. If you get a Lab, you should be prepared to accept the not so good along with the terrific.


    The Labrador is very people oriented. The Lab's fondness for humans will make a young Lab as likely to follow a stranger as you -- this is not a one man dog. It is just this quality which makes adoption of an older Lab a very reasonable option.


    The Labrador is smart. This is why Labs are so often used for therapy, detection and guide dog work. However, inexperienced owners sometimes neglect to train their new puppies. The result -- an intelligent 65 pound, strong, energetic, unruly animal accustomed to getting his own way. Most breeders strongly suggest you and your puppy enroll in an obedience class.


    The Labrador requires very little upkeep. The watch words are few, they are: coat, nails, ears, diet, and exercise. Coat -- bathe occasionally and brush as needed, more often during shedding season. Nails -- clip regularly. Ears -- check often, keep them clean and healthy. Diet-- feed a well-balanced, high-quality food. Exercise -- essential for good condition and easily accomplished with a dog that loves to retrieve.


    The Labrador has a wonderful temperament. This is generally true. Ill natured Labs are few and far between. However, like people, Labs can exhibit a wide range of dispositions. The Lab can be easy-going and quiet. The Lab can also be an energetic, bouncy dynamo. This is a very important point to discuss with the breeder. Ask questions, and be clear as to what sort of pet you want.


    The Labrador is 'soft mouthed'. Labs have been bred to retrieve game without damaging it. They love to carry things in their mouths, but like most puppies, will often chew anything they can find. They have been known to lazily munch on chair rungs, rugs and even walls. You will have to provide suitable items for the puppy to chew.


    In General. Labs come in black, yellow and chocolate. The LRC does not recognize "silver" Labradors. Yellows range from cream to fox red, and chocolates range from light sedge to very dark brown. There is no difference in personality among the different colors and a single litter can have pups of all three colors. Among Labs, both sexes are essentially the same in terms of disposition and trainability.


    SELECTING YOUR LABRADOR RETRIEVER

    So you have decided the Lab is the dog for you. Now is the time to take those steps to ensure that the animal you choose to share your life for the next 10 to 15 years is as close as possible to the dog you have in mind.

    Probably the worst possible first step would be to go look at a litter. All puppies are adorable, and your heart could overrule your head. DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Go to dog shows, obedience trials, or hunting tests. Read about the breed. There are many fine books available from libraries and book stores. (Refer to the reading list at end.) Talk to as many Lab owners and breeders as you can. Ask questions, questions, questions. Study the section on hereditary problems, so you know what to ask the breeder. Those questions could save you heartache and expense.

    Prepare your home and your family to welcome your new pet. If an area is set up for the newcomer and the family knows how to behave with the new pet, the transition will be greatly eased.


    SOURCES OF LABRADOR RETRIEVERS


    Serious Hobby Breeders: This is an excellent source of pure-bred Labrador puppies and adult dogs. This breeder is easy to spot. The serious hobby breeder:

    • Will ask you many questions about your previous experience with dogs and the environment in which you plan to keep your dog.
    • Will want to know what your expectations are and what your family is like.
    • Will have socialized and evaluated each puppy in the litter, have a very good idea about their individual personalities, and may recommend a puppy that matches your expectations.
    • Will participate in some dog organization such as a breed, obedience or hunting club. Ribbons, pictures or trophies may be in evidence.
    • Will have a clean well-organized environment for the puppies and older dogs. Some breeders may ask you not to handle the puppies since transmittable diseases are a serious problem with animals too young to have had all their shots.
    • Will ask you to have the puppy checked by your veterinarian to satisfy everyone that the puppy is sound and in good health.
    • Will provide you with health and inoculation records.
    • Will provide you with detailed instructions for the care and feeding of your puppy and encourage you to call if you have any questions.
    • Will provide proof that both parents of the puppies have been cleared for hereditary diseases. (See section on Inheritable Diseases.)
    • Will provide the puppy's three generation pedigree and registration papers. A limited registration" may be used for animals which are not intended to be bred.


    Professional Breeders: This person makes a living from involvement with dogs. Sometimes this breeder will specialize in selling field trained animals to hunters who do not have the time and experience to train a dog themselves. Be cautious here, since not all of these breeders put the kind of thought and care into the breeding of their animals as the above mentioned hobby breeder. Remember -- ask questions, questions, questions.

    Backyard Breeders: This person, for any of a variety of reasons, has decided to breed his or her female and raise a litter of puppies. The incentive may be to make money, get a second dog just like "Mom without paying for it, or provide an educational experience for the children. In any event, the breeding was unlikely to have been carefully thought out. The mother may not have been given good prenatal care. The puppies may not have been properly nourished and socialized after they were born. The father may have been selected for the simple reason that he lived in the neighborhood. With these litters, it is unlikely that the parents were screened for hereditary diseases. The puppies may come with AKC registration but may have little else to recommend them.

    Pet Stores or Puppy Marketeers: These are the worst possible places to find a puppy. Pet shops rely heavily on impulse buying, which is no way to choose an addition to the family. Here, puppies come from puppy mills and sometimes from local backyard breeders who fail to sell or can't be bothered to sell their puppies. In recent years, many puppy mills have sprounted up in the Lancaster P.A. area. Do not expect the puppies parents to have been cleared for hereditary diseases. Often they are sold with guarantees, at inflated prices to cover the cost of replacement. But what most often happens is, by the time a problem becomes apparent, buyers have become too attached to a pet to return it and are left with a sickly or crippled animal and enormous veterinary bills. Problems may also arise when a puppy spends as many as the first 3 months of its life without socialization. This is akin to raising a human infant in a ward with minimal human interaction during the formative years of its life.

    HEREDITARY PROBLEMS


    Hereditary problems are a fact of life with almost all dogs, including mixed breeds. In Labrador Retrievers there can be a number of health issues. These include: hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, eye disease (PRA and Retinal Folds), epilepsy and Tricuspid Valve Disease (TVD). Fortunately screening is available for some of these problems and a responsible breeder will test for these diseases.

    Hip Dysplasia: This problem exists in many breeds. Hip dysplasia includes a number of hip malformations which are believed to be influenced by hereditary, environmental and nutritional factors. X-rays are used to accurately diagnose this disease long before any outward signs are seen. Breeders will often x-ray an animal which is likely to be bred or used in field or obedience work at an early age. Currently, only after the age of two, is it considered possible to determine a dog is free of hip dysplasia. X-rays may be sent to the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) for evaluation. An "OFA number" will be assigned to a dog with a passing rating. Ratings can be found under a dog's name on the OFFA.org website. An alternative would be to obtain a letter of clearance from a board certified orthopedic surgeon or a university veterinary hospital. A dog with hip dysplasia may well lead a long, happy and useful life, but should not be bred.

    Elbow Dysplasia: (see OFA website for more info @ http://www.offa.org/ed_faqs.html)

    Eye Diseases: Labs are subject to cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and other eye diseases. A member of the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (A.C.V.O.) can perform an examination to uncover these problems. If an animal is free from these diseases, he will provide a certificate to be sent to the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) for issuance of a CERF number. Breeding stock should be examined annually. Animals with any evidence of these diseases should not be bred. A more recent gene test by Optigen can determine a dog's status for PRA.

    Epilepsy: There is not yet a test to detect the presence of this disease, therefore currently there is no certification available; however progress is being made towards developing a test. (See http://canine-epilepsy.net/) Epilepsy is not the only cause of seizures; other causes include trauma, poisoning and infections, just to name a few. Most cases are controllable. No dog with a history of seizures should be bred, both for it's own health and the health of any offspring.

    Tricuspid valve dysplasia: "A congenital heart disease resulting from malformation of tricuspid valve leaflets, chordae tendinae, or papillary muscles. These structural changes in the heart valves lead to varying degrees of tricuspid regurgitation and the clinical sign of a heart murmur." (see AKC Canine Health Foundation website for more info @ http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/your-dogs-health/disease-information/tricuspid-valve-dysplasia.htm


    Thanks to artist Jane Partin of Petersberg, VA for her drawing of our Labrador puppies.


    This article was prepared by the Mid-Jersey Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. We wish you the best of luck in your search for a puppy and hope you have many happy years with your new pet.


    SUGGESTED READING

    THE COMPLETE DOG BOOK, the Official Publication of the AKC. Pictures and standards for all AKC recognized breeds. How-to's of selection, training, and care of pure-bred dogs. (Howell Book House, Inc, 230 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169)

    THE NEW COMPLETE LABRADOR RETRIEVER, by Helen Warwick. A history of the breed along with practical information. Pictures. (Howell Book House Inc., 230 Park Ave., NY, NY 10169)

    THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER: The Dog That Does it All, by Lisa Weiss and Emily Biegel

    LABRADOR RETRIEVERS FOR DUMMIES (Paperback) by Joel Walton & Eve Adamson


    THE VERSATILE LABRADOR RETRIEVER by Nancy Martin


    TRAINING RETRIEVERS TO HANDLE by D.L. & Ann Walters


    TRAINING YOUR RETRIEVER by James Lamb Free


    HOW TO RAISE A PUPPY YOU CAN LIVE WITH, by C. Rutherford and D. Neil. (Alpine Publications, Inc., 1 901 S. Garfield, Loveland, CO 80537)

    RETRIEVER PUPPY TRAINING, by Rutherford and Loveland (Alpine Publications Inc., 214 19th St. SE, Loveland, CO 80537 (303) 667-2017)


    AGILITY TRAINING: The fun sport for all dogs by Jane Simmons-Moake

  • SUGGESTED WEB SITES


    The AKC Home Page at: http://www.akc.org.The AKC has a lot of information regarding the sport of Pure Bred Dogs, and dog ownership.


    The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.

    Copyrighted 1998-2013 by the Mid-Jersey Labrador Retriever Club,Inc. All rights reserved. You may download and print a copy of this file for your personal use. Further distribution must be with the explicit permission of the authors.


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