Labradors are a well-balanced, friendly, and versatile breed, adaptable to a wide range of functions as well as making very good pets. As a rule, they are not excessively prone to being territorial, pining, insecure, aggressive, destructive, hypersensitive, or other difficult traits which sometimes manifest in a variety of breeds, and as the name suggests, they are excellent retrievers.
As an extension of this, they instinctively enjoy holding objects and even hands or arms in their mouths, which they can do with great gentleness (a Labrador can carry an egg in its mouth without breaking it). They are also known to have a very soft feel to the mouth, as a result of being bred to retrieve games such as waterfowl. They are prone to chewing objects (though they can be trained out of this behavior). The Labrador Retriever's coat repels water to some extent, thus facilitating the extensive use of the dog in waterfowl hunting.
Labradors have a reputation as a very mellow breed and an excellent family dog (including a good reputation with children of all ages and other animals), 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.
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 puppyish energy, often mislabelled as being hyperactive. Because of their enthusiasm, leash training early on is suggested to prevent pulling when full-grown. Labs often enjoy retrieving a ball endlessly and other forms of activity (such as agility, frisbee, or flyball). Reflecting on their retrieving bloodlines, almost every Lab loves playing in water or swimming.
Although they will sometimes bark at noise, especially noise from an unseen source ("alarm barking"), Labs are usually not noisy or territorial. They are often very easygoing and trusting with strangers, and therefore are not usually suitable as guard dogs.
Labradors have a well-known reputation for appetite, and some individuals may be highly indiscriminate, eating digestible and non-food objects alike. They are persuasive and persistent in requesting food. For this reason, the Labrador owner must carefully control his/her dog's food intake to avoid obesity and its associated health problems (see below).
The steady temperament of Labs and their ability to learn to make them an ideal breed for search and rescue, detection, and therapy work. Their primary working role in the field continues to be that of a hunting retriever.
Labradors are not especially renowned for escapology. They do not typically jump high fences or dig. Because of their personalities, some Labs climb and/or jump for their amusement. As a breed, they are highly intelligent and capable of intense single-mindedness and focus if motivated or their interest is caught. Therefore, with the right conditions and stimuli, a bored Labrador could "turn into an escape artist par excellence".
Labradors as a breed are curious, exploratory and love company, following both people and interesting scents for food, attention, and novelty value. In this way, they can often "vanish" or otherwise become separated from their owners with little fanfare. They are also popular dogs if found, and at times may be stolen. Because of this, several dog clubs and rescue organizations (including the UK's Kennel Club) consider it good practice that Labradors be microchipped, with the owner's name and address also on their collar and tags.
Labradors are a very popular selection for use as guide dogs. Labradors are an intelligent breed with a good work ethic and generally good temperaments (breed statistics show that 91.5% of Labradors who were tested passed the American Temperament Test.) Common working roles for Labradors include hunting, tracking, and detection (they have a great sense of smell which helps when working in these areas), disabled assistance, carting, and therapy work. Approximately 60–70% of all guide dogs in the United States are Labradors; other common breeds are Golden Retrievers and German Shepherd Dogs.
The high intelligence, initiative, and self-direction of Labradors in working roles are evinced by individuals such as Endal, who during a 2001 emergency is believed to be the first dog to have placed an unconscious human being in the recovery position without prior training, then obtaining the human's mobile phone, "thrusting" it by their ear on the ground, then fetching their blanket, before barking at nearby dwellings for assistance. Several Labradors have also taught themselves to assist their owner in removing money and credit cards from ATMs without prior training.
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