The Labrador Retriever ("Labrador" or "Lab" for short) is the most popular breed in both the US and the UK (based on registration). The modern Labrador Retriever is among the oldest of the modern "recognized" breeds. In fact, according to the AKC, pedigrees exist back to 1878. They are respected for their obedience, intelligence, and friendliness. These qualities explain why so many Labs are trained to be service or guide dogs.
Labradors are rather large with males weighing 60 to 80 lb (27 to 36 kg) and females 50 to 70 lb (23 to 32kg). Two types of Labrador Retreivers exist, the English and the America stock. English Labs are shorter and stockier than their American counterparts. No distinction is made by the AKC, but the two classifications come from different breeding.
Their coat may be black (most common), yellow, or chocolate (least common). Two sets of genes control color - one determines the coat color (black and yellow) and the other determines the nose color (black and pink/brown). The dominant gene in both cases is the black coat gene. Chocolate Labs are the result of a black coat color gene and a pink/brown nose color gene. Yellow Labs vary from white to light gold to fox red. Their fur is usually fairly short and straight, and the tail quite broad and strong.
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Temperament: Labradors are a well-balanced breed, adaptable to a wide range of functions as well as making excellent pets. Labradors generally are a mellow breed, but some lines (particularly those that have continued to be bred specifically for their skills at working in the field rather than for their appearance) are particularly fast and athletic. Most Labs enjoy endlessly retrieving a ball and other forms of activity, such as dog agility or flyball.
Care: Overweight Labs will have more health problems, including heart trouble and arthritis. Health problems associated with the Labrador Retriever include hip and elbow dysplasia and some eye disorders.
Training: The steady temperament of Labs and their ability to learn quickly make them an ideal breed for assistance dogs.