The warm and intelligent Lab is America's number one breed registered with the American Kennel Club. Even non-dog people can recognize a Lab, and artists and photographers have captured his image countless times — usually as the loyal companion, waiting patiently by his owner's side. Built for sport, the Lab is muscular and athletic. He has a short, easy-care coat, friendly demeanor, keen intelligence, and plenty of energy. Devotion to this breed runs deep; Labs are loving, people-oriented dogs who live to serve their families, and owners and fans sometimes liken their Labs to angels. The breed originated on the island of Newfoundland, off the northeastern Atlantic coast of Canada. Originally called the St. John's dog, after the capital city of Newfoundland, he was bred to help the local fishermen — hauling nets, fetching ropes, and retrieving fish that had escaped the nets — as well as to be a family dog. Today, most Labs skip the hard labor and spend their days being pampered and loved by their people. However, some Labs still serve as indispensable working dogs. The Lab's sweet nature makes him an excellent therapy dog, visiting homes for the elderly and hospitals, and his intelligence makes him an ideal assistance dog for the handicapped. He also excels as a search and rescue dog or as a retriever for hunters, thanks to his athletic build, strong nose, and courageous nature. And Labs have also become the breed to beat at dog sports such as agility and obedience competitions — especially obedience. There's one dog job that Labs are hopeless at: watchdog. In fact, owners say their sweet, helpful Lab is likely to greet an intruder and happily show him where the goods are stashed. Labrador Retrievers have proven their usefulness and versatility throughout the breed's history, easily shifting from fisherman's companion, to field retriever, to show dog, to modern working dog. One role has remained constant: wonderful companion and friend.
3. Children who grow up with dogs are not only healthier but they are also more well-adjusted human beings. Studies have shown that kids who live with dogs have stronger immune systems, fewer allergies and possibly even healthier microbiomes. Other research has revealed that kids raised with dogs feel more caring, happy, responsible and intelligent. And dogs love their little humans just as much as they love their big humans.

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Looking for dog gift inspiration? Based on our readers’ favorite picks over the course of the year, we selected a few top trending dog gifts for 2018. These choices run the gamut from magnets to mugs to some very unique options for the dog lover that has it all. (Dog tarot, anyone?) If those don’t strike your fancy, keep scrolling for links to breed-specific gift guides and much more.
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