Labradors have a reputation as a very even-tempered breed and an excellent family dog. This includes a good reputation with children of all ages and other animals. 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. Their fun-loving boisterousness and lack of fear may require training and firm handling at times to ensure it does not get out of hand—an uncontrolled adult can be quite problematic. Females may be slightly more independent than males. Labradors mature at around three years of age; before this time they can have a significant degree of puppy-like energy, often mislabelled as being hyperactive. Because of their enthusiasm, leash-training early on is suggested to prevent pulling when full-grown. Labradors often enjoy retrieving a ball endlessly (often obsessively) and other forms of activity (such as agility, frisbee, or flyball).
The original Labradors were all-purpose water dogs originating in Newfoundland, not Labrador. Not only did the breed not originate in Labrador, but it also was not originally called the Labrador Retriever. The Newfoundland of the early 1800s came in different sizes, one of which was the “Lesser” or “St. John’s” Newfoundland—the earliest incarnation of the Labrador. These dogs—medium-sized black dogs with close hair—not only retrieved game but also retrieved fish, pulled small fishing boats through icy water, and helped the fisherman in any task involving swimming. Eventually the breed died out in Newfoundland in large part because of a heavy dog tax. However, a core of Labradors had been taken to England in the early 1800s, and it is from these dogs, along with crosses to other retrievers, that the breed continued. It was also in England that the breed earned its reputation as an extraordinary retriever of upland game. Initially black labs were favored over yellow or chocolate colors. By the early 1900s, the other colors had become more accepted. The breed was recognized by the English Kennel Club in 1903 and by the AKC in 1917. The popularity of this breed has grown steadily until the Labrador Retriever became the most popular breed in America in 1991 and remains so today.
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Labrador retriver ima skladnu i snažnu građu sa veoma istaknutim dubokim grudnim košem. Noge su mu kratke, a slabinski deo snažan i širok. Glava labradora je široka, a vilica veoma jaka. Oči su mu smeđe ili lešnik boje i srednje su veličine, a uši su blago zabačene unazad i padaju prema glavi. Usne ovog psa su mekane, a zubi snažni, pri čemu gornji sekutići pokrivaju donje. Labradori imaju karakterističan rep, koji je debeo u korenu i koji se postepeno sužava ka vrhu. Rep je srednje dužine i ravnomerno pokriven debelom, kratkom i gustom dlakom koja ga čini okruglim i zaobljenim. Taj rep je poznat i kao vidrin rep. Na šapama imaju takozvane plivačke kožice, pa su ovi psi poznati po svojim plivačkim i ronilačkim sposobnostima. Mužjak labradora je visine 56-57 cm, a postoje i primerci visoki čak 61 cm, dok su ženke visine 54-55 cm. Labradori su teški od 26 do 36 kg.