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The Complete Idiot's Guide to Labrador Retrievers
- 3 -
The Labrador Retriever Through the Ages
In This Chapter
- The history of the Lab in the United States
- The history of the Lab in England
- Ancient Lab history, such as it is
- The many ways Labs help us today
A book on Labrador Retrievers wouldn't be complete without a mini history lessonon their origin. Where did they come from? What forces and influences made them thedogs we know and love today? Just looking at a Lab will give you some clues aboutthe traits humans have been encouraging in them for centuries. Their relatively smallsize (compared to the prodigious Newfoundland dog), distinct muscle tone, hardiness,no-fuss double coat, strong jaws and agreeable disposition are all evidence of theiroriginal purpose, which was (and still is) to best help humans survive and thrive.
As with many breeds, the distant history of the Labrador Retriever is a bit murky.So just for fun, let's look at the history of the Labrador Retriever in reverse.That way, we'll start on firmer footing, with the part of the Lab's history we doknow becaus e it is well documented.
The American Kennel Club has ranked the Labrador Retriever as the most popular dog every year since 1991.
The Labrador Retriever in the United States
In 1997, the Labrador Retriever ranked number one in popularity with the AmericanKennel Club in number of purebred dogs registered, which is quite an impressive risefrom a humble American beginning at the start of the twentieth century. Back in 1917,the first Labrador Retriever was registered with the American Kennel Club, and tenyears later, only twenty-three retrievers of all types were registered (includingLabradors, Goldens, Flat-coated, Curly-coated and Chesapeake).
Field trials are special tests for certain breeds, including retrievers, spaniels, Beagles, Basset Hounds and Dachshunds. Each of these breeds was originally bred for a specific purpose, such as retrieving game, and field trials for each breed are meant to test an individual dog's ability to perform the function for which she was bred. Dogs can earn the title of Field Champion and Amateur Field Champion.
In 1920s America, sportsmen developed a fascination with a Scottish sport calledpass shooting. Desiring the authentic experience, many Americans imported both gunsand dogs from the British Isles. The Labrador Retriever quickly caught on as a skilledhunting companion. By the 1930s, these shoots had become field trials, and in 1931,the Labrador Retriever Club was incorporated under the laws of the State of New York.
Today, the Labrador Retriever is right at home on American soil. Perfectly suitedfor hunting and/or fishing expeditions in the frigid north, the steamy south or thearid west, Labs are as versatile and proficient at their many tasks as they everwere--maybe more so. These days, you'll find Labs doing far more than hunting andfishing. They work as service dogs of all types, from leading the blind to locatingexplosives to rescuing hikers from avalanches. But we'll go into that in more detaillater in this chapter.
The Lab in England
Most retrievers claim the British Isles as their original home, and who knows?The ancestors of the Labrador Retriever may have been brought from Britain to Newfoundland.We have no proof of this, but we do have proof of the Labrador Retrievers' illustrioushistory in Great Britain after they were imported from Newfoundland.
Many sources report that the dog known as the St. John's dog was brought to Englandon ships returning from Newfoundland in the early nineteenth century. The secondEarl of Malmesbury (among others) is said to have taken these dogs from Newfoundlandfor use on his estate at Hurn in Dorset, where wild fowl often fell into the waterafter being shot. The English aristocracy proceeded to develop the St. John's doginto what is now known as the Labrador Retriever.
One of the first to refer to the dog as a Labrador was the third Earl of Malmesbury,who wrote in a letter to the sixth Duke of Buccleah, "We always call mine Labradordogs, and I have kept the breed as pure as I could from the first I had--the realbreed may be known by their having a close coat which turns water off like oil and,above all, a tail like an otter."
Not all breeders were as scrupulo us as the third Earl of Malmesbury in keepingthe breed pure, however. The Labrador dog was frequently crossed with other typesof retrievers. Most descendants, usually resembling the original Labrador, were calledLabradors.
England's Kennel Club first recognized the Labrador Retriever as a unique andseparate breed in 1903. In 1905, they were classified as a variety of retriever.
In 1923, the honorable A. Holland Hibbert described the conformation of the Labrador Retriever in an article that included such descriptions as eyes "the color of burnt sugar [with] a generous affectionate aspect" and feet "the more cat-like . . . the better." He also noted that the shoulder height should be 21 to 23 inches, with bitches 2 or 3 inches less and an average weight of 60 pounds.
Ancient History of the Labrador Retriever
Let's look back even further, into the misty depths of history, to the place wherethe appearance of a dog suspiciously similar to our beloved Labrador Retriever wasfirst recorded. Most books on Labrador Retrievers note that the Lab originated inNewfoundland, not Labrador. That's a little like saying a dog originated in Florida,not Georgia. In 1949, Newfoundland and Labrador together became Canada's easternmostprovince, and both areas were known collectively as Newfoundland until 1965, at whichtime the province name was changed to Newfoundland and Labrador. (Just look at oneof their car license plates.)
Newfoundland proper is an island off the coast of Labrador; Labrador is part ofthe Canadian mainland. Yet both areas share similar geography, wildlife and climate.Both share many rivers, lakes and a rugged, irregular coastline. Until the twentiethcentury, both relied almost solely on fishing as an export.
The province called Newfoundland and Labrador is the seventh-largest province in Canada. It measures 156,649 square miles, including 13,139 square miles of inland water. The island of Newfoundland makes up 43,359 square miles of this space and is separated from mainland Labrador by the Strait of Belle Isle. Newfoundland measures about 325 miles from north to south and about 300 miles from east to west. Most of Newfoundland and Labrador is rocky and unsuitable for farming, with lots of coastline, making fish one of the province's few exports.
The probable ancestor of the Labrador Retriever was apparently first observedon the island of Newfoundland rather than the mainland. In any case, the climatewas cold, life was harsh and working hours for man, woman and dog alike were longand unforgiving.
However, before the Dorset Eskimos first settled in Newfoundland and began tofish, the area wasn't inhabited by any kind of dog--or at least, no evidence suggestsit was. Chances are, the ancestors of both the Labrador Retriever and the Newfoundlanddog were brought from elsewhere, probably from Europe by settlers and quite possiblyfrom the British Isles.
The settlers of Newfoundland, mostly fishermen, needed dogs for hunting (you caneat only fish so many days in a row!) and for helping on the fishing boats. It tookawhile before the smaller, short-coated, utilitarian dog so eager to please and soadept at retrieving was given a name that stuck. Called the Lesser Newfoundland (reflectinga previous belief that the Labrador Retriever was a descendant of the Newfoundlanddog), the St. John's Water Dog (St. John's is the largest city in Newfoundland) orjust plain retriever, these dogs were excellent hunters and could also fit in smallfishing boats. (In fact, one of Joel's favorite Labs used to love to retrieve fishfrom rivers and ponds--evidence of her ancestry, perhaps?)
Training your Labrador Retriever as a therapy dog, a search and rescue dog or in any other helping activity is good for your dog. Dogs like to have a job to do, and when the activity is performed with their human companions at their sides, Labs are in dog heaven. When considering a hobby, think of something that will involve your dog. Your relationship will be the better for it.
In 1662, the "small water dog" was described in the journal of W. E.Cormack, a St. John's native trekking across Newfoundland. Englishmen exploring thearea took note of the breed's many abilities and soon began to revamp their huntingparties by replacing their pointers and setters with retrievers. By the nineteenthcentury, the dog found her way to England and graced the hunting parties of the Englishgentry. By the twentieth century, Labrador Retrievers had made their mark in theUnited States. For a more detailed history, check out some of the books on the listof resources in Appendix B.
The Lab at Work
One of the hallmarks of the Labrador Retriever is her eagerness to please. ButLabs do much more than please their human companions. More Labrado r Retrievers serveas guide dogs than any other breed (between 60 and 70 percent of working guide dogs).Labs also serve as assistance dogs for the deaf and the physically disabled. Labsmake wonderful therapy dogs, brightening the days of hospitalized children and nursing-homeresidents alike. Lost in the mountains? Many Labs are adept at search and rescue,including specializations such as avalanche dogs. Labs are also great at sniffingout explosives and illegal drugs. What would we do without them?
A History of Help
After this brief look at Labrador Retrievers from the distant past to the presentmoment, one thing becomes clear: Labrador Retrievers know how to help us. From increasingour ancestors' chances of survival by aiding them in the hunt to easing the lonelinessand fear of a hospitalized child to rescuing a stranded mountain climber to providinglove and companionship as a family pet, Labs know what we need. Labs love to helpus and serve us, and they do it with consummate skill. The least we can do is learnall we can about how to make their lives long, happy and fulfilling. So keep on reading!
The Least You Need to Know
- The Labrador Retriever is the most popular breed in the United States.
- The Labrador Retriever was brought to England and further refined in the nineteenth century.
- The ancestors of the Labrador Retriever were first noted in Newfoundland in the sixteenth century.
- Labs are more than pets. They also make great guide dogs, hearing dogs, assistance dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs and explosive detection dogs.
- Labs have a history of helping humankind. We owe our pets healthy, happy and fulfilling lives.
Table of Contents
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Labrador Retrievers
Part 1 - Finding and Acquiring Your Practically Perfect Labrador Retriever
- Chapter 1 - Is a Lab the Dog for You?
- Why Do You Want a Lab?
- Great Lab Expectations
- Are You Meant for a Lab? A Self-Test
- Got the Time?
- Got the Energy?
- Got the Space?
- Got the Money?
- Chapter 2 - What Is a Labrador Retriever?
- What Makes the Lab Unique?
- The Breed Standard
- The AKC Standard
- The English Standard
- Must Your Dog Fit the Standard?
- How to Register Your Lab with the American Kennel Club
- Chapter 3 - The Labrador Retriever Through the Ages
- The Labrador Retriever in the United States
- The Lab in England
- Ancient History of the Labrador Retriever
- The Lab at Work
- A History of Help
- Chapter 4 - A Lab of Many Colors (and Types and Ages)
- Which Type of Lab Fits Your Life?
- Details, Details, Details
- Ages and Stages
- Chapter 5 - Where to Find Your Lab
- The Breeder Option
- The Rescue Option
- Other Rescue Groups
- Classified Labs: The Newspaper
- That Doggy in the Window: Pet Stores
- Chapter 6 - Picking Your Particular Puppy
- Refining Your Expectations
- Puppy Testing and Selection Procedures 101
- "But He Picked Me!"
- "But My Friend Told Me Never To . . . "
- How to Avoid Second Thoughts
Part 2 - The MRE System: Teaching Your Lab to Be Practically Perfect
- Chapter 7 - Managing Your Lab
- The Importance of Management
- Managing Puppy Behavior
- Managing Your New Adolescent or Adult Dog
- Chapter 8 - Relating to Your Lab
- You and Your Lab
- Be a Good Puppy Parent
- Chapter 9 - Educating Your Lab, Part One
- Your Canine Eliza Doolittle: Socialization
- Earliest Lessons
- How Dogs Learn
- Lab Basic Training
- Chapter 10 - Educating Your Lab, Part Two
- More Good Behavior
- Command Central
- Find ing a Good Trainer
- Does Your Lab Need a Behavior Consultant?
Part 3 - Keeping Your Lab Healthy
- Chapter 11 - Healthy Lab 101
- Lab at a Glance
- Anatomy of a Labrador Retriever
- Nutrition Basics
- Get Moving!
- Holistic Health Practitioners
- Chapter 12 - An Ounce of Prevention
- To Breed or Not to Breed?
- The Importance of Spaying/Neutering Your Lab
- Chapter 13 - Prevention, the Sequel
- Don't Bug My Dog!
- Some Beauty Is Skin Deep
- Those Pearly Whites
- Your Lab's Daily Routine
- Be a Boy Scout (Prepared, That Is)
- When Emergency Strikes
Part 4 - Your Lab, Your Life
- Chapter 14 - Your Lab at Home, at Work and at Play
- Your Daily Routine
- The Practically Perfect Work Companion
- When You Can't Bring Your Lab to Work
- Labs Just Wanna Have Fun
- All in the Family
- Chapter 15 - Around Town and on the Road
- Take Your Lab Along
- Your Vehicle of Choice
- Vehicle Safety
- Family Vacations with Your Lab
- When Your Lab Absolutely Can't Join You
- Chapter 16 - The Times, They Are a' Changing
- When You Move
- And Baby Makes . . . Four?
- Pet Number Two (or Three, or Four)
- Illness, Divorce, Death
Part 5 - Fun with Your Lab
- Chapter 17 - Obedience Is Bliss
- Your Good Citizen
- Obedience Is Fun!
- Chapter 18 - It's in the Blood: Hunting Tests and Field Trials
- Hunting Tests
- Field Trials
- Chapter 19 - Your Agile Lab: Agility Trials
- Jumpers With Weaves
- Chapter 20 - The Three F's: Flyball, Freestyle and Frisbee
- Freestyle: Gotta Dance!
- Frisbee: The Ultimate Retrieve
- Chapter 21 - Your Showstopper: A Guide to Dog Shows
- A Star Is Born
- The Ideal Lab Versus the Practically Perfect Lab
Appendix A - The Lab Lingo Glossary
Appendix B - Retriever Resources
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
This is truly the best book on training labs. We got our lab puppy Sept.99. I followed the guidelines in the book and by Dec.99 she was completely potty trained. The book made training easy. We're ready to get another labrador.