In hopes that I can give my readers some insight into dog breeds’ personalities, I am featuring a couple of different breeds each week. I will give a little history about the breed, i.e., what they were bred to do, talk about their personalities, and provide advice on the lifestyle needs of the breed.

I have chosen the Labrador Retriever for the second post about dog breeds because they are a very popular breed, actually the most popular in the U.S. But they are just as misunderstood as the Pit Bull. Yes, really. Many people don’t realize it but Labs are the second-most surrendered dogs into shelters, partly because of there are just so many of them, and also because many people do not realize what they are getting into when they get a Lab. Read on to learn why.

Labs are classified in the dog group of retrievers, originally bred to work with hunters to retrieve game. Although they are called Labradors, they did not originate in the country of Labrador. They came from Newfoundland around the 16th century. They are water dogs, bred to retrieve fowl from the water after the hunter shoots them down. Because they needed to be out with the hunter for long hours working the whole time, Labs can be high-energy dogs. They are also very intelligent. Hunters needed dogs who were highly trainable to go out to the water, find the fowl, and bring it back. Retrievers have “soft mouths,” that is, they do not chomp down hard because if they did, they would injure the fowl.

Labs have happy, friendly personalities. They were bred to work side-by-side with hunters, so they are quite bonded to people. It is this nature that makes them great family pets. They make excellent walking and hiking companions. Aggression in Labs is not typical but, like any dog, with poor breeding, improper training as a pup, or use of punishment-based training methods, you may find aggression in Labs.

The reputation of Labs as family dogs has created such demand for them. Most Labs require as much exercise as if they are working with their hunting companions. This is a fact that many people so not know. They think of Labs as the dog who will sit quietly by the fireplace with them. Instead, the Lab may be incessantly dropping a tennis ball at your feet and ask you to throw it until your arm is about to fall off!

If Labs are confined in homes with nothing to do and not enough exercise, that is when they get into trouble. Several hours per day of playtime, walking or running may be required for some Labs. They also need to work their minds. If not, they get bored. Boredom breeds destructiveness and other behavior problems.

Labs can be large dogs, and the exuberant jumping and playfulness can be too much for some people, especially if they have small children. Labs are apt to have poor manners if they are not properly trained at an early age. They love to counter-surf (steal objects from the counters and tables), jump on people, and use their mouths inappropriately (nipping people).

Nothing is better than a friendly Lab, as long you know that you might have to dedicate several hours per day to exercise, play and training to keep the dog happy and out of trouble!