The Labrador retriever has been ranked the top breed for many years, according to the American Kennel Club.
Friendly, loving and very playful, the Labrador retriever has become one of the most popular breeds in the United States. Historically, this large "sporting" breed has been used to hunt and retrieve birds and only recently has the dog become known as a companion dog. The retriever is highly regarded for its good nature, easy trainability and intelligence.
History and Origin
The Labrador retriever hails from Newfoundland and not Labrador, as the name suggests, though both areas are located in eastern Canada. It is possible that geographic confusion led to the name. Exactly how the breed came to inhabit Newfoundland is not known. The first written report of the breed, a letter written by a traveler to this area, dates to 1822. Fishermen brought the breed to Britain in the early 19th century. Originally, the dogs ranged from a heavy-coated variety known as the Large Newfoundland to a smaller rough-coated variety called the Lesser Newfoundland or St. John's Dogs. The modern-day Labrador retriever probably descends from this St. John's Dog and the currently known Newfoundland breed from the Large Newfoundland.
The breed was not originally used as a companion dog. Instead, retrievers were bred exclusively as hunters, a job for which they possessed superior talents. The Labrador retriever was officially accepted into the English Kennel Club in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917.
Over the years, Labrador retrievers have become useful as guide dogs for the blind, deaf and other handicapped individuals because of their intelligence, trainability, well-rounded temperament, as well as their ability to get along well with people. They are trained as therapy dogs to comfort residents in nursing homes and emotionally disturbed children. The military and police force employ the breed for scent-discrimination to track criminals, drugs, weapons, bombs, and to find people buried in debris of earthquakes or other disasters.
Is this a dog for you?
The Labrador retriever is good-natured and gentle enough to live with children, though some breed lines have been found to be somewhat hyperactive. The breed will share the home with another dog if introduced and socialized at an early age but has a tendency toward jealousy. They are not the best watchdogs as they are not overly suspicious and might be won over by a friendly gesture of a stranger.