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Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever 

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There are two types of Labradors, the English Labrador and the American Labrador. The English bred lab comes from English bred stock. Their general appearance is different. The English bred labs are heavier, thicker and blockier. The American bred Lab comes from American bred stock and is tall and lanky. The double coat is smooth and does not have any waves. Coat colors come in solid black, yellow, or chocolate. There is also said to be a rare silver or gray color that is referred to by the AKC as a shade of chocolate. This color is controversial and some claim it is a Weimaraner cross, while others say it is a true mutation. The head of the labrador is broad with a moderate stop. The nose is thick, black on black and yellow dogs and brown on chocolate dogs. The nose color often fades and is not considered a fault in the show ring. The teeth should meet in a scissors or level bite. The muzzle is fairly wide. The neck is proportionately wide and powerful. The body is slightly longer than tall. The short, hard coat is easy to care for and water-resistant. The medium sized eyes are set well apart. Eye color should be brown in yellow and black dogs and hazel or brown in chocolate dogs. Some labs can also have green or greenish yellow eyes. In silver dogs the eye color is usually gray. The eye rims are black in yellow and black dogs and brown in chocolate dogs. The ears are medium in size, hanging down and pendant in shape. The otter tail is thick at the base, gradually tapering towards the tip. It is completely covered with short hair, with no feathering. The feet are strong and compact with webbed feet which aid the dog in swimming. 

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One of the most popular breeds in the USA, the Labrador Retriever is loyal, loving, affectionate and patient, making great family dogs.Highly intelligent, good-natured, very willing and eager to please, they are among the top choices for service dog work. They love to play, especially in water, never wanting to pass up the opportunity for a good swim. These lively dogs have an excellent, reliable, temperament and are friendly, superb with children and equable with other dogs. They crave human leadership and need to feel as though they are part of the family. Labs are easily trained. Some may be reserved with strangers unless very well socialized, preferably while they are still puppies. Adult Labs are very strong, train them while they are a puppy to heel on the leash, and not to bold out doorways and gateways before the humans. These dogs are watchdogs, not guard dogs, although some have been known to guard. They can become destructive if the humans are not 100% pack leader and/or if they do not receive enough mental and physical exercise, and left too much to their own devices. Show lines are generally heavier and easier going than field lines. Field lines tend to be very energetic and will easily become high strung without enough exercise. Labs bred from English lines (English Labs) are more calm and laid back than Labradors bred from American lines. English Labs mature quicker than the American type.

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Height, Weight 
Height: Dogs 22-24 inches (56-61cm.) Bitches 21-23 inches (53-58cm.)
Weight: Dogs 60-75 pounds (27-34kg.) Bitches 55-70 pounds (25-32kg.) 

Some males can grow to 100 pounds (45kg) or more. 

Health Problems 
Prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, PRA and eye disorders. 

Living Conditions
Labrador Retrievers will do okay in an apartment if sufficiently exercised. They are moderately active indoors and will do best with at least an average-sized yard. 
Labrador Retrievers are energetic dogs, delighted to work and play hard. They need to be taken on a daily, brisk, long walk, jog or run alongside you when you bicycle. While out on the walk the dog must be made to heel beside or behind the person holding the lead, as in a dog's mind the leader leads the way, and that leader needs to be the human. They will be in their glory if you give them a job to do. Gains weight easily, do not over feed. 
Life Expectancy About 10-12 years

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The smooth, short-haired, double coat is easy to groom. Comb and brush regularly with a firm, bristle brush, paying attention to the undercoat. Bathe or dry shampoo only when necessary. These dogs are average shedders. 
Once known as the "St John's Dogs," the Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the United States. The Lab is native to Newfoundland, where it worked side by side with fishermen catching fish that came loose from the lines and trained to jump into the icy waters to help pull in the nets. Specimens were brought to England in the 1800's by English ships coming from Labrador. The breed was crossed with setters, spaniels and other types of retrievers to improve their instincts as a hunter. The Labrador is highly trainable and is not only popular as a family companion but also excels in: hunting, tracking, retrieving, watchdog, police work, narcotics detection, guide for the blind, service dog for the disabled, search and rescue, sledding, carting, agility, field trial competitor and competitive obedience. 

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Gun Dog, AKC Sporting 


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Sicilianu Wrote:From a blog:

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Labrador pictus
June 25, 2012 by retrieverman
This is a Labrador retriever from France with what appears to have the somatic black spot mutation that appears in golden and Labrador retrievrs on occasion. It is not inherited, but the cells where the black spots are located do not have the e/e mutation that causes the yellow to red coat. Instead, this somatic muation makes the cells E/e, which gets expressed as black or liver. These dogs are sometimes called mosaics.

Alternatively, this dog may not be experiencing that somatic mutation. It might actually be a chimera, which happens when two zygotes combine. This dog could be made up of two distinct fertilized eggs– one that would become a black dog and one that would become yellow.

However, it’s much more likely that it is the result of the somatic muations. Chimeras of this type have not been found in domestic dogs.


This dog looks very much like an African wild dog, which is called Lycaon pictus (but should be called Canis pictus).  The title of this post comes from the African wild dog, for the coloration is so similar that one might be fooled into thinking that this is actually a Labrador retriever/African wild dog cross.

Though the pelage coloration is similar, it is caused by an entirely different genetic basis. African wild dogs inherit their “painted” coloration. If this Labrador were bred to another yellow Labrador, all of his offspring would be likely be yellow. The chances of him producing a puppy that will experience this mutation in the somatic cells are very low, and he would not be responsible for it if one did pop up. Somatic cells are not used in reproduction. Gametes are. This Labrador’s gametes are those of a normal black-skinned yellow Labrador.
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Feral Labrador and coyote form partnership

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March 28, 2011 by retrieverman
From the Duluth News Tribune:

People in the Piedmont Heights area started talking after the News Tribune reported last month about a black Lab taking down a deer in someone’s driveway.

Sue Hansen, owner of Hansen’s Auto Service on Trinity Road, said she saw the article and couldn’t wait to speak with customer Andrew Frielund when he came into the store.

“I asked why he didn’t write (a letter to the editor) explaining about that black Lab,” she said with a laugh. “He said he didn’t want people to think he was nuts.”

They assert that a black Labrador retriever is living a wild life in the woods. And that’s only the half of it. The other half is that the canine has formed a relationship with a coyote.

“Don’t laugh, because seriously, they exist,” Hansen said. “They were outside on the wood line of my house tearing up a deer about two months ago.”

“They are well-documented in the area,” Frielund added.

He’s seen them twice together in the woods near the antenna farm by Orange Street. He also has seen what he believes could be their offspring — an animal he calls “the creature.”

Bunter Knowles, who lives on Orange Street near the famed ice volcano, has seen the pair several times in the past few years.

In fact, he’s seen them out his window, the coyote sleeping while the Lab stands sentinel.

“There’s no question there’s been a pair of a coyote and a black Lab traveling together. … I’ve seen them 30 yards away with binoculars,” he said. “It’s quite a funny pairing.”

When asked about it Friday, Martha Minchak, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources assistant area wildlife manager in Duluth, said she wasn’t buying it.

“There wouldn’t be a Lab and coyote running around together,” she said.

And then she saw the photos taken by Steve Owen in 2008. He was able to sneak up on the pair as they were lounging in the backyard of his mother’s house at 2328 Springvale St.

“So, I stand corrected and obviously (the dog and coyote) haven’t read the behavior books!” Minchak wrote in an e-mail. “I have no real explanation other than the coyote must have been rejected from its pack for some reason and has obviously taken up with the Lab. It seems like it’s been a successful strategy for both of them if they are catching deer.”

She also said it was possible for the two to breed.

Owen said Friday he knows the Lab is alive and well because he last saw it on Monday.

“He was lying in the grass, sunning himself,” he said. “I didn’t see any coyotes with him.”

Owen said he doesn’t believe the Lab has a human home to visit.

“He was skittish enough the day I took their pictures,” he said. “As soon as the coyote and dog saw me, they went away. It wasn’t like he wanted to come down and look for a treat.”

With an abundance of deer in the city, Minchak also speculated that the dog was on its own — except for the coyote.

“It’s more like the Lab has gone over to the coyote side,” she said.

No one interviewed said they’d experienced any aggressive behavior from either animal, and Duluth animal control officer Carrie Lane said no one has ever reported the animals to her office, whether as a nuisance or a curiousity.

Knowles said he’s been out in the woods nearly every day snowshoeing and although he thinks he hears the Lab bark at his dog, they never approach him.

“I haven’t seen any damage by them so I wouldn’t have any recommendation to make to interfere,” Knowles said. “It’s something that’s unusual … but it’s not as if I’d try to break up a mixed marriage.”

Minchak concurred.

“Before I would have said (the two together are) something from Walt Disney movies, but now I guess I’d say it’s a classic odd-couple pairing,” she said.

She said she’d leave them alone because she didn’t think anyone would be able to rehabilitate the dog.

So there we have it: A Labrador has gone feral and has formed a partnership with a coyote. And the two are successfully hunting deer in Minnesota.

Amazing story.

I think this story puts another hole in some of Raymond Coppinger’s theories, most notably his theory that domestic dogs cannot learn to become successful predators of large game.

Coyotes are not major predators of deer. They normally aren’t big enough to really take on the large one.

But if a dog the size of a Labrador learned how to hunt a deer, it could provide the muscle that the duo needs to tackle larger prey.

The reason why most stray and free roaming dogs don’t become successful predators is that they have no reason to learn how to do so. It is much easier to scavenge off of our waste.

It has nothing to do with neoteny or perceived developmental delays.

It’s just easier to live as a scavenger.

For whatever reason, the Lab has chosen to hunt. Perhaps this dog had a very hard life early on, and it has no reason to trust people.

And the coyote just found a partner that isn’t super aggressive. Coyotes are more aggressive with each other than dogs and wolves are, and if a coyote could hook up with a relatively docile breed of domestic dog, it would have the ideal companion.

This story reminds me of The Plague Dogs by Richard Adams in which two dogs– a fox terrier and Labrador cross– escape from research facility in England’s Lake District. A fox called “The Tod” teaches the dogs how to be predators in that wild part of England.

All dogs are born with some hunting instincts and predatory motor patterns. The only thing humans do is refine them through context and training. That’s exactly what happened here. The Labrador’s learned to use its instincts and motor patterns to kill deer.

It’s not that far-fetched.

But par of Coppinger’s theory is that specialized working breeds– like retrievers– can never engage in a full predatory sequence. Their brains are so wired that they cannot stop doing the exaggerated retrieving motor pattern, and thus, they cannot learn to hunt and kill prey.

This story shows that to be a very tenuous assessment at the very least.

Most dogs can become fully wild again. They just need the context.
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  • ScottishWildcat

Faulty gene may help explain why food-obsessed Labradors top obesity charts

ABC Science By Dani Cooper
Posted about 5 hours ago

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PHOTO: Labradors have a reputation for being food obsessed (Chalabala/Getty Images)

If you have noticed Labrador pooches with a bit of a paunch, new research shows it may not be the owner's fault.

Key points
  • Labrador retrievers top obesity charts in the US, UK and Australia

  • Researchers analysed genes related to obesity in dogs and humans

  • Gene deletion connected with a two-kilogram weight gain
    Gene fault may help explain why Labradors respond to food rewards
Scientists have pinpointed a fault in the gene that should turn off hunger signals and makes food less of an obsession.

The finding published today in Cell Metabolism also suggests it is this food obsession that makes Labradors such good assistance dogs for those with disabilities.

First author Dr Eleanor Raffan, from the University of Cambridge, said Labrador retrievers had topped obesity charts in studies and surveys in the US, UK and Australia over the past 30 years and had been shown to be more food motivated than other breeds.

"As a vet, I see obese Labradors all the time and the breed have a real reputation for being food obsessed," she said.

"And whenever we see something that is more common in one breed than others, it is likely that genetics are to blame."

Obesity genes analysed

To test this belief the researchers initially analysed three genes known to be related to human obesity in 15 obese and 18 lean Labrador retrievers.

From this they pinpointed a gene known as POMC, which is an important part of the mechanism that turns down background hunger when the body has plentiful energy reserves laid down as fat.

The team then further analysed 310 Labradors, including 81 assistance dogs.

They found the Labradors were predisposed to have a deletion in the genetic code of the POMC gene which scrambles the end of the gene and hinders its ability to produce the neuropeptides associated with turning off hunger.

Dr Raffan said this led to increased food motivation and weight seen in affected dogs.

While not all dogs with the POMC deletion were obese, on average the POMC deletion was connected with a two kilogram weight gain.

The veterinary surgeon said it was not possible to undertake the study and control for pet owner behaviour and feeding routines.

However she said the findings were "more remarkable as we found the effect of this mutation despite the variability in how the dogs are managed by their owners".

"If owners are vigilant, it is possible to keep any dog skinny by carefully regulating diet and exercise.

"[But] our data illustrates that there is some hard-wired biology that drives dogs with the mutation to seek out food more than others."

Fault more common among assistance dogs

She said the study showed the POMC deletion was more common among assistance dogs, occurring in 76 per cent of these dogs.

In the general Labrador population the POMC deletion occurred in about 23 per cent of dogs.

Dr Raffan said while it could be a "quirk" of the data it could also be a clue as to why these dogs were more trainable with food rewards.

"A potential explanation is that the affected dogs are more willing to work for food than those without the mutation," she said.

"If so, they may be more likely to pass guide dog training since food rewards are commonly used to reward good behaviour there."

Dr Raffan said the study also had implications for human obesity.

"The dogs tell us general lessons about the importance of POMC in eating behaviour and obesity, importantly with relation to a part of the gene which is different in mice so has previously been hard to study.

"We know POMC is important to humans and finding out more may lead to better treatment of human obesity."

Journal Reference:
Raffan et. al. (2016) A Deletion in the Canine POMC Gene Is Associated with Weight and Appetite in Obesity-Prone Labrador Retriever Dogsdoi:10.1016/j.cmet.2016.04.012

Sequencing of candidate genes for obesity in Labrador retriever dogs identified a 14 bp deletion in pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) with an allele frequency of 12%. The deletion disrupts the β-MSH and β-endorphin coding sequences and is associated with body weight (per allele effect of 0.33 SD), adiposity, and greater food motivation. Among other dog breeds, the deletion was only found in the closely related flat-coat retriever (FCR), where it is similarly associated with body weight and food motivation. The mutation is significantly more common in Labrador retrievers selected to become assistance dogs than pets. In conclusion, the deletion in POMC is a significant modifier of weight and appetite in Labrador retrievers and FCRs and may influence other behavioral traits.

[Image: 1-s2.0-S1550413116301632-fx1.jpg] to this post:[Image: attach.png] A_Deletion_in_the_Canine_POMC_Gene_Is_Associated_with_Weight_and_Appetite_in_Obesity_Prone_Labrador_Retriever_Dogs.pdf (1.95 MB)
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Labrador study offers vets clues on why dogs' tails lose their wag

Date: August 1, 2016
Source: University of Edinburgh

A painful condition that affects dogs' tails may be more common than previously thought, a study suggests.

The research offers clues to potential causes of the illness -- known as limber tail -- which mostly affects larger working dog breeds, such as Labrador Retrievers.

Researchers say their findings are the first step towards preventing the distressing condition, which causes the tail to become limp and painful.

The team at the University of Edinburgh compared 38 cases of limber tail that were identified from owners' reports about their dogs' health with 86 dogs that had no tail symptoms.

Their goal was to gain insight into habits and lifestyle factors that might explain why some dogs are affected and not others.

The majority of dogs in the study were pets but those affected by limber tail were more likely to be working dogs, they found.

Swimming has previously been thought to be a risk factor for limber tail, which is sometimes known as 'swimmers' tail'. Some but not all of the affected dogs had been swimming prior to the onset of symptoms, the study found.

Dogs with the condition were more likely to live in northern areas, lending support to anecdotal reports that limber tail is associated with exposure to the cold.

Labradors that had suffered limber tail were more likely to be related to each other than unaffected dogs, which may indicate an underlying genetic risk.

Experts hope that further studies will identify genes associated with the condition, which could one day help breeders to identify animals that are likely to be affected. Over time, this could help to reduce the disease prevalence.

The symptoms usually resolve within a few days or weeks so many cases are not reported to vets. This may be why it has been so underestimated in the past. However, owners report that it can be very painful and distressing for the animals.

The study is the first large-scale investigation of limber tail and was conducted as part of the Dogslife project, which follows the health and wellbeing of more than 6000 Labradors from across the UK.

Dr Carys Pugh, who led the study at the University's Roslin Institute and Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, said: "We were surprised by how many owners were reporting limber tail to us but it meant we had the chance to do a detailed investigation.

"We have been able to add evidence to a lot of internet speculation about risk factors and the new findings relating to geographical region and family links give us avenues to pursue in understanding and avoiding the condition."

The study, published in the Veterinary Record, was funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust. The Roslin Institute receives strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.

Story Source: University of Edinburgh. "Labrador study offers vets clues on why dogs' tails lose their wag." ScienceDaily. (accessed August 1, 2016).

Journal Reference:
C. A. Pugh, B. M. de C. Bronsvoort, I. G. Handel, D. Querry, E. Rose, K. Summers, D. N. Clements. Cumulative incidence and risk factors for limber tail in the Dogslife labrador retriever cohort. Veterinary Record, 2016; vetrec-2016-103729 DOI: 10.1136/vr.103729

Limber tail is a condition that typically affects larger working breeds causing tail limpness and pain, resolving without veterinary intervention. It is poorly understood and the disease burden has not been well characterised. Data collected from owners of the Dogslife cohort of Labrador Retrievers have been used to describe incidents and a case–control study was undertaken to elucidate risk factors with 38 cases and 86 controls. The cumulative incidence of unexplained tail limpness was 9.7 per cent. Swimming is not a necessary precursor for limber tail, but it is a risk factor (OR=4.7) and working dogs were more susceptible than non-working dogs (OR=5.1). Higher latitudes were shown to be a risk factor for developing the condition and the case dogs were more related to each other than might be expected by chance. This suggests that dogs may have an underlying genetic predisposition to developing the condition. This study is the first, large-scale investigation of limber tail and the findings reveal an unexpectedly high illness burden. Anecdotally, accepted risk factors have been confirmed and the extent of their impact has been quantified. Identifying latitude and a potential underlying genetic predisposition suggests avenues for future work on this painful and distressing condition.

Attached to this post:[Image: attach.png] Cumulative_incidence_and_risk_factors_for_limber_tail_in_the_Dogslife_labrador_retriever_cohort.pdf (1.12 MB)
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'Bring it back,' but within bounds: Retrieval strains the forelimbs of dogs

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One of the dogs on the pressure plate. W1 = unimpeded walking without a weight; W2 = carrying a standard 0.5 kg dummy; W3 = carrying a 2.0 kg dummy; W4 = carrying a 4.0 kg dummy

Date: January 18, 2017
Source: Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien

Hunting dogs such as the popular breed retriever are ideally suited for retrieving birds or small game. However, the weight the dogs carry strains their locomotor system. A motion study by experts from the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna showed that the dogs tilt forwards like a seesaw when they carry the prey in their mouths. This can make already existing joint and tendon damage worse. Therefore, adjusted weights should be used for the training of puppies and adult dogs. Furthermore, the joints should be checked regularly by specialists. The study was published in the journal BMC Veterinary Research.

Originally, retrievers were not bred as family dogs but as dogs for work and hunt. They are so-called gun dogs which can be used to retrieve birds and small game such as rabbits. This ability is meanwhile also used in competitions in which the dogs only retrieve the dummies they are trained with from their puppy age. The same artificial weights are also used for hunting training.

An adult animal can carry loads of several kilos in its mouth. "But even if gun dogs have the required attributes, the additional weight is physically burdensome for them," said Barbara Bockstahler from the Clinical Unit of Small Animal Surgery at the Vetmeduni Vienna. Particularly the joints and tendons of the locomotor system are strained when dogs retrieve objects -- as if we ran while carrying a load. But it has been unclear so far if the weight of this load is spread on all parts of the locomotor system or if it causes a one-sided strain.

Movement analysis lab for dogs to give indication

The effects on the locomotor system have been analysed in a special movement lab with ten trained dogs. The researchers walked the dogs over a so-called pressure plate with or without loads in their mouths. "By using a pressure plate, we can measure the bottom-up ground reaction force," explained Bockstahler. This force is exerted back by the ground and equivalent to the force exerted when the weight hits the ground.

When measuring the ground reaction force without an additional load, 60 percent of the dog's weight are on the forelimbs and 40 percent on the hindlimbs. If one area carries more weight, the difference can be measured. Another parameter is the pressure distribution under the paws. "This is comparable to a human holding a weight in his hand, who slightly tilts backwards and therefore shifts his body weight to his heels," explained Bockstahler.

Weight lets dogs virtually tilt forwards

The scientists found out that the load in the dog's mouth causes the forces to increase, but particularly affects the forelimbs. In any case and with rising weight, the dogs became lighter on their hindlimbs. Carrying the prey had an effect similar to a seesaw. To illustrate this effect: If two children of the same weight are sitting opposite each other on a seesaw, it remains balanced. If an adult is sitting on one side, the seesaw tilts to this side and the child is permanently raised.

In the movement lab, however, this load test can only be carried out for walking dogs, not for running or jumping ones. Especially during the hunt, but also in competitions, retrievers move at higher speed. "Of course we cannot completely imitate such sequences of movements in the lab," explained Bockstahler. But the experts were able to make a projection based on the measured data about how the affecting forces will chance or increase when the dogs run or jump and, thus, effect the joints. Such a movement and gait analysis is also applied in human physiotherapy in order to identify deviations from normal gait patterns.

Regular checks and correct training are vital

In principle, retrievers are perfectly suited for carrying loads due to their physical capacities. Therefore, a healthy dog can withstand an adjusted load. When training dogs, that are still growing, trainers have to be careful to avoid consequential damage. If retrievers are trained for hunt or competitions, they should see a specialist regularly to check joints, tendons and muscles. This is particularly important for young dogs: regular checks can avoid damage. "In general, training with loads -- within bounds -- and using dogs as gun dogs is completely okay," said Bockstahler.

Story Source: Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien. "'Bring it back,' but within bounds: Retrieval strains the forelimbs of dogs." ScienceDaily. (accessed January 18, 2017).

Journal Reference:
Barbara Bockstahler, Alexander Tichy, Patricia Aigner. Compensatory load redistribution in Labrador retrievers when carrying different weights – a non-randomized prospective trial. BMC Veterinary Research, 2016; 12 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12917-016-0715-7


Retrievers are dogs particularly bred to retrieve birds or other small game, for the retrieval, the dogs are typically sent to the place where the shot game has fallen or to search the field for the wounded but still live game in order to return them to the hunter as quickly as possible. Examples of game animals are pheasants, mallard ducks and rabbits. For training, dummies with a variety of weights are used to simulate the retrieval of various types of game. The aim of this non-randomized prospective study was to investigate if peak vertical force, vertical impulse and paw pressure contact area are increased in the forelimbs when carrying different weights, and if the symmetrical weight distribution between contralateral limb pairs is disturbed. Ten actively working Labrador retrievers were walked over a pressure plate with or without carrying 0.5, 2.0 and 4.0 kg dummies. The aim of this study was to determine if vertical ground reaction forces and paw pressure contact area are increased in the forelimbs when carrying different weights, and if symmetrical weight distribution is disturbed between contralateral limb pairs.
Peak vertical force and vertical impulse were significantly increased in the forelimbs and decreased in the hindlimbs in all weight carrying conditions.
These results demonstrate the significant effects of carrying weight in the mouth on the ground reaction forces, which likely produce additional stress on the forelimb joints. Carry of game or a dummy is likely to alter the forelimb load distribution.

Attached to this post:[Image: attach.png] Compensatory_load_redistribution_in_Labrador_retrievers_when_carrying_different_weights.pdf (1.02 MB)
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Tackling the canine obesity crisis

By Dr Charlotte Brassey
Science writer
10 September 2017

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Could a genetic mutation explain some dogs' insatiable appetite?

When it comes to man's best friend, science may finally have solved the mystery of their gluttony - some Labradors, it seems, are genetically predisposed to being hungry.
That's according to scientists who were discussing their ongoing mission to improve our favourite pets' health at the British Science Association Festival in Brighton.
Several research teams in the UK are on a mission to improve canine health.
Researchers at the University of Cambridge have studied the appetite of Britain's favourite dog breed, and suggest Labradors are genetically at risk of becoming overweight.
Roughly a quarter of British households own a pet dog, and Labrador retrievers remain our most popular canine companion.
However, this stereotypically "greedy" breed often suffers size-related health problems.

Blame the owners?

"Obesity is a serious issue for our dog population," says Dr Eleanor Raffan from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science.
"It has the potential to have a massive impact on pet welfare."
In research supported by the Dogs Trust, Dr Raffan and her colleagues have analysed DNA from the saliva of Labradors across the UK. They found that particularly greedy individuals possess a gene mutation responsible for increasing their appetite.
"We found around a quarter of pet Labradors have at least one copy of this mutation in the gene," Dr Raffan explains. Their increased appetite manifests itself as a "food obsession", familiar to dog-owners as begging or scavenging for food.
In the past, the onus has been on owners to restrict the diet of their pets to prevent excessive weight gain.
But Dr Raffan's research suggests the propensity for large appetites, and hence potential obesity, is hardwired into some individuals.
"We hope to shift the paradigm away from owner-blaming" says Dr Raffan. "It's a bit more nuanced than just owners needing to be careful."

Freedom from hunger

Dr Raffan cautions against any attempt to breed this "greedy mutation" out of Labrador lines. While it might predispose the dogs to obesity, a strong focus on food may also explain why Labradors are so easy to train and are such loyal human companions.
"If we try to get rid of the mutation, we might find we change the personality of the breed, and that would be a real shame," she explains.
Yet their results raise an ethical conundrum. Owners and veterinary surgeons are responsible for providing five core so-called freedoms to animals in their care, including freedom from pain and disease, and freedom from hunger.
Obesity is a disease, and negatively impacts upon canine quality of life. "But equally, being hungry is a welfare issue," says Dr Raffan. "And these dogs are genetically hungry."
Dr Raffan hopes future research will improve the satiety of their diets, allowing a feeling of "fullness" without the potential for excessive weight gain.

Bearing the weight

Being overweight undoubtedly reduces a dog's quality of life, and can also affect their ability to cope with arthritis and other underlying joint disorders.
At the University of Liverpool, scientists are using state-of-the-art imaging technology to study diseases affecting the knee joints of Labradors.
Damage to the canine cruciate ligament, similar to the injuries commonly suffered by professional human athletes, is the most common orthopaedic problem seen in veterinary practices. Injury to the knee ligaments is also more common in heavier dog breeds
"We're trying to understand how the shape of the Labrador body and the way they walk might contribute to knee problems," says Prof Eithne Comerford, a specialist in musculoskeletal biology.
Using high-speed x-ray cameras, the researchers film their canine patients walking through the lab, and watch their knee bones slide and twist in real-time.
The team hopes to understand how walking contributes to the risk of ligament injury and rupture in Labradors, with the ultimate goal of reducing lameness and suffering within the breed.
"This data will also help veterinary surgeons and engineers design better treatments for ligament damage in Labradors, like customised knee implants," explains biomechanist Dr Karl Bates from the University of Liverpool.
Both research groups rely heavily on the good will of Labrador owners, both for collecting samples and entering their pets into experimental trials.
In addition to tackling diagnosed health issues, researchers hope to change the public's perception of what "desirable" traits should characterise our favourite breeds.
"There is a real danger when we breed dogs to be cuddlier and cuter," warns Dr Raffan. "I think people have seen so many overweight Labradors, they start to assume it's normal". 
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How Finn the yellow lab helped save an island of penguins
This dog was trained to sniff out pesky rabbits, and in the process he protected so much more.

April 5, 2018, 1:56 p.m.

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Finn the conservation dog helps protect endangered species. (Photo: Island Conservation)

If Old Yeller were transported to modern times, he might find a job saving wildlife. And his name might be Finn.

Two conservation groups — Chile’s National Forestry Corporation (CONAF) and Island Conservation — successfully removed the population of invasive European rabbits that was destroying native vegetation and fragile nesting habitat for the Humboldt penguin and Peruvian diving-petrel on two islands of the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve.

But they couldn't have completed the task without the help of a four-legged, keen-nosed friend, Finn — a yellow Labrador trained to sniff out burrows of the invasive rabbits.

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Finn the detection dog aids the field team in locating invasive mammals on Choros and Chañaral. (Photo: Tommy Hall/Island Conservation)

Dogs have become rising stars in the effort to detect invasive species, protect wildlife and assist scientists in their field work. Their amazing ability to sniff out specific scents has become an in-demand tool for researchers alike. In fact, dogs aren't just BFFs to humans, but to endangered species and habitats as well.

Finn is one such example of how dogs can make a big difference for conservation by speeding up searches or finding targets that would otherwise be impossible for humans to find. 
In this case, Finn played a critical role in restoring the habitat of penguins and petrels, sniffing out the island to ensure it was entirely free of rabbits.

The Humboldt penguin is considered vulnerable to extinction under IUCN's Red List, and the Peruvian diving petrel is considered endangered.

"The islands of Choros, Damas and Chañaral, which make up the Humboldt Penguin National Reserve, bathe in the productive, nutrient-rich waters of the Humboldt Current System. They are home to 80 percent of the world’s Vulnerable Humboldt penguin (Spheniscus humboldti) population and were once home to 100,000 pairs of endangered Peruvian diving-petrel (Pelecanoides garnotii)," states Island Conservation.

The rabbits ate the cacti plants, which provided shade for penguin chicks, and they also took over the burrows petrels use to nest, posing significant threat to the bird species.

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Finn on the hunt for invasive species. (Photo: Island Conservation)

Thanks to Finn and the dedicated team of people behind the conservation effort, the removal of rabbits from these two islands "marks the first protected area of its kind within the Chilean Protected Areas Network (SNASPE) to be declared free of invasive vertebrate pest species, an achievement that benefits native wildlife and the eco-tourism industry centered around them," according to Island Conservation.

Since completing the removal, plants have bounced back. Scientists have recorded 16 plants never before identified on the island! Meanwhile, the penguins and petrels have their habitat back.

Island Conservation calls Finn a "Wonder Dog", and no wonder.

"The smelling ability of dogs is an invaluable conservation tool," states Karen Andrew, who worked alongside Finn. "They are able to determine the presence of a rabbit with one sniff, often from long distances. Without them, we would be on our hands and knees in the tussock relying on our eyes to spot fresh rabbit scrapings or scats. Finn is trained to indicate the presence of a rabbit by scratching at the ground and is then rewarded with his favourite toy, a fun game, and lots of pats." 

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Chocolate Labs Are Less Healthy Than Their Black and Yellow Puppy Pals

By Yasemin Saplakoglu, Staff Writer | October 22, 2018 07:23am ET

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Credit: Shutterstock

The color of a dog's coat could be linked to its health — at least for one globally popular pet.

Chocolate Labrador retrievers tend to live shorter lives and have a higher rate of skin and ear diseases than their black or yellow-coated peers, according to a new study published yesterday (Oct. 21) in the journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. 

An international group of researchers examined data from more than 2,000 Labradors living in the U.K. in 2013. The data was collected as a part of research project called VetCompass, a collaboration between the University of Sydney and the Royal Veterinary College at the University of London. The group of around 2,000 Labs was randomly selected from a larger dataset containing more than 33,000 Labrador retrievers.

The researchers found that, within the sample set of the dogs they studied, the incidence of ear and skin disease was much more prevalent in chocolate Labs than in other Labs.

For example, rates of a common skin infection in dogs called pyotraumatic dermatitis — more commonly known as "hot spots" — were more than twofold higher in chocolate Labs than black and yellow Labs. Similarly, "swimmer's ear," or otitis externa, an infection of the ear canal, also turned up more often in chocolate Labs than in other colored Labs.

A Lab's fur color even seemed to be associated with how long the dog lived. The researchers found that non-chocolate Labs lived, on average, 12 years in the U.K., whereas chocolate Labs lived, on average, 10.7 years, a drop of more than 10 percent.

The researchers noted that the reason for these links — between fur color and dog health — are still unknown. Indeed, the finding "merits further investigation," the authors wrote in the study.

However, genetics plays a role, the researchers said.

"The relationships between coat color and disease may reflect an inadvertent consequence of breeding" dogs to be certain colors, lead author Paul McGreevy, a professor of veterinary science at the University of Sydney and chair of board of VetCompass, said in a statement.

A trait like a dog's fur color is dictated by the combination of two genes: one from the mother and one from the father. A gene can either be "recessive" or "dominant." The chocolate color in Labs is coded by recessive genes; this means that the puppies must receive one gene from each parent that codes for the chocolate color in order for the puppy to have chocolate-colored fur. (If the gene was dominant, the puppy would need only one gene to have the trait).

"Breeders targeting this color may therefore be more likely to breed only Labradors carrying the chocolate coat gene," McGreevy said. This restricts the gene pool, and the dogs in this smaller pool might be more predisposed to skin and ear conditions, which means their puppies are more likely to inherit them, according to the study.

It's unclear whether this holds true in other breeds, as well as in Labs around the world. Now, the researchers are conducting a similar study of Labs in Australia.

Journal Reference:
Paul D. McGreevy et al, Labrador retrievers under primary veterinary care in the UK: demography, mortality and disorders, Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2018). DOI: 10.1186/s40575-018-0064-x 


Labrador retrievers are reportedly predisposed to many disorders but accurate prevalence information relating to the general population are lacking. This study aimed to describe demography, mortality and commonly recorded diseases in Labrador retrievers under UK veterinary care.
The VetCompass™ programme collects electronic patient record data on dogs attending UK primary-care veterinary practices. Demographic analysis covered all33,320 Labrador retrievers in the VetCompass™ database under veterinary care during 2013 while disorder and mortality data were extracted from a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) of these dogs.
Of the Labrador retrievers with information available, 15,427 (46.4%) were female and 15,252 (53.6%) were male. Females were more likely to be neutered than males (59.7% versus 54.8%, P <  0.001). The overall mean adult bodyweight was 33.0 kg (SD 6.1). Adult males were heavier (35.2 kg, SD 5.9 kg) than adult females (30.4 kg, SD 5.2 kg) (P <  0.001). The median longevity of Labrador retrievers overall was 12.0 years (IQR 9.9–13.8, range 0.0–16.0). The most common recorded colours were black (44.6%), yellow (27.8%) and liver/chocolate (reported from hereon as chocolate) (23.8%). The median longevity of non-chocolate coloured dogs (n = 139, 12.1 years, IQR 10.2–13.9, range 0.0–16.0) was longer than for chocolate coloured animals (n = 34, 10.7 years, IQR 9.0–12.4, range 3.8–15.5) (P = 0.028).
Of a random sample of 2074 (6.2%) Labrador retrievers under care in 2013 that had full disorder data extracted, 1277 (61.6%) had at least one disorder recorded. The total number of dogs who died at any date during the study was 176. The most prevalent disorders recorded were otitis externa (n = 215, prevalence 10.4%, 95% CI: 9.1–11.8), overweight/obesity (183, 8.8%, 95% CI: 7.6–10.1) and degenerative joint disease (115, 5.5%, 95% CI: 4.6–6.6). Overweight/obesity was not statistically significantly associated with neutering in females (8.3% of entire versus 12.5% of neutered, P = 0.065) but was associated with neutering in males (4.1% of entire versus 11.4% of neutered, P < 0.001). The prevalence of otitis externa in black dogs was 12.8%, in yellow dogs it was 17.0% but, in chocolate dogs, it rose to 23.4% (P < 0.001). Similarly, the prevalence of pyo-traumatic dermatitis in black dogs was 1.1%, in yellow dogs it was 1.6% but in chocolate dogs it rose to 4.0% (P = 0.011).

The current study assists prioritisation of health issues within Labrador retrievers. The most common disorders were overweight/obesity, otitis externa and degenerative joint disease. Males were significantly heavier females. These results can alert prospective owners to potential health issues and inform breed-specific wellness checks.
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Labrador retriever most pup-ular US dog breed for 28th year

March 20, 2019 by Jennifer Peltz

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In this March 28, 2018 file photo, Labrador retrievers Soave, 2, left, and Hola, 10-months, pose for photographs as Harbor, 8-weeks, takes a nap during a news conference at the American Kennel Club headquarters in New York. The Labrador retriever is the American Kennel Club's most popular U.S. purebred dog of 2018. Labs topped the list for the 28th year in a row. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

Labrador retrievers aren't letting go of their hold on U.S. dog lovers, but German shorthaired pointers are tugging on the top ranks of doggy popularity, according to new American Kennel Club data.

Labs topped the list for the 28th year in a row. Yet there's been plenty of movement over time on the purebred pup-ularity ladder.

Here's a look at the 2018 rankings being released Wednesday.


After Labs, the top five breeds nationwide are German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. Rounding out the top 10 are beagles, poodles, Rottweilers, German shorthaired pointers and Yorkshire terriers.

Labs smashed the record for longest tenure as top dog back in 2013. Fans credit the Lab's generally amiable nature and aptitude in many canine roles: bomb-sniffer, service dog, hunters' helper, dog-sport competitor and patient family pet.

At No. 9, the German shorthaired pointer notched its highest ranking since getting AKC recognition in 1930. These strikingly speckled hunting dogs are also versatile—some work as drug- and bomb-detectors—and active companions.

"I think people are learning about how fun the breed is," says AKC spokeswoman Brandi Hunter.

The suddenly ubiquitous French bulldog remains the fourth most popular breed for a second year, after surging from 83rd a quarter-century ago.

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In this Feb. 15, 2017, file photo, Rumor, a German shepherd, poses for photos after winning Best in Show at the 141st Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, in New York. The American Kennel Club's second most popular U.S. full bred dog for 2018 is the German shepherd. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, File)


The rankings reflect a breed's prevalence among the 580,900 puppies and other purebred dogs newly registered in 2018 with the AKC, the country's oldest such registry. Some 88,175 of these dogs were Labs.

AKC says registrations, which are voluntary, have been growing for six years.

Estimates of the total number of pet dogs nationwide range from about 70 million to 90 million.


Beagles, now No. 6, can boast they're uniquely beloved. No other breed has made the top 10 in every decade since record-keeping began in the 1880s.

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In this March 21, 2017 file photo, golden retrievers Flirt, left, and Alistair are introduced as the third ranked breed by the American Kennel Club, in New York. The American Kennel Club's third most popular U.S. full bred dog for 2018 is the golden retriever. Labs topped the list for the 28th year in a row, followed by German shepherds, golden retrievers, French bulldogs and bulldogs. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

Why? "They're a good general family dog," lively, friendly, relatively low-maintenance and comfortable with children, says breeder Kevin Shupenia of Dacula, Georgia. Beagles also work sniffing out contraband meat and plants at airports, detecting bedbugs in homes and doing their traditional job: hunting rabbits.

"They have a sense of humor, and they're just characters," Shupenia says.


The most scant breed was the sloughi (pronounced SLOO'-ghee). The greyhound-like dog has a long history in North Africa but garnered AKC recognition only three years ago. It replaces the Norwegian lundehund in the rarest-breed spot.


Wonder where goldendoodles, puggles, or cockapoos stand? You won't find these and other popular "designer dogs" among the 193 breeds recognized and ranked by the AKC.

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In this Oct. 7, 2007 file photo, Lola, a French bulldog, lies on the floor prior to the start of a St. Francis Day service at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York, which included the Blessing of the Animals. The suddenly ubiquitous French bulldog remains the fourth most popular breed for a second year, after surging from 83rd a quarter-century ago. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg, File)

That's not to say they never will be, if their fanciers so desire. New breeds join the club periodically, after meeting criteria that include having at least 300 dogs nationwide and three generations.

Meanwhile, designer and just plain mixed-breed dogs can sign up with AKC to compete in such sports as agility, dock diving and obedience.


Many factors can influence a breed's popularity: ease of care, exposure from TV and movies, and famous owners, to name a few.

Popularity spurts can expand knowledge about a breed, but many people in dogdom rue slipshod breeding by people trying to cash in on sudden cachet.

Elaine Albert, a longtime chow chow owner and sometime breeder, is glad the ancient Chinese dog is now 75th in the rankings, after leaping into the top 10 in the 1980s. Albert recalls that she and other chow rescue volunteers were swamped as people gave up dogs with temperament and health problems, which she attributes to careless breeding.

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In this Feb. 13, 2012 file photo, Manchester, a bulldog owned by Eduardo Hernendez of Mexico City, gets comforting treatment after winning an award of merit in breed at the 136th annual Westminster Kennel Club dog show in New York. The American Kennel Club's fifth most popular U.S. full bred dog for 2018 is the bulldog. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle,File)

"I certainly wouldn't want (chows) to be number one, ever," says Albert, of Hauppauge, New York. "They belong where they are.... They're not for everybody."

On the other hand, aficionados of rare breeds sometimes worry about sustaining them.


Some animal-welfare groups feel the pursuit of purebred dogs puts their looks ahead of their health and diverts people from adopting pets. Critics also say the AKC needs to do more to thwart puppy mills.

The club says it encourages responsible breeding of healthy dogs, not as a beauty contest but to preserve traits that have helped dogs do particular jobs.

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In this March 21, 2017 file photo, handlers for Beagles Rossa, left, and Cash pose them for photos at an American Kennel Club event in New York. The beagle is the American Kennel Club's sixth most popular U.S. dog of 2018. Beagles might not top the list but can boast they're uniquely beloved. No other breed has made the top 10 in every decade since record-keeping began in the 1880s. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

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In this May 7, 2010 file photo, a group of poodles belonging to Russian poodle trainer Irina Markova take a break near the World War II Memorial in Washington. The poodle is the American Kennel Club's seventh most popular U.S. full bred dog of 2018. (AP Photo/Haraz N. Ghanbari, File)

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In this March 21, 2017 file photo, Talos, a Rottweiler, poses for photos as the American Kennel Club's breed rankings are announced in New York. The Rottweiler is the American Kennel Club's eighth most popular U.S. full bred dog of 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

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In this Feb. 8, 2004 file photo, Sky High Reflection, left, and her sister Sky Dreaming in Blue, get ready for competition in the 9-12 month puppy bitches category at the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America 2004 New York Specialty Show in New York. The Yorkshire Terrier is the American Kennel Club's tenth most popular U.S. full bred dog of 2018. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

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