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The Labrador Retriever: Still the Favorite for Many

Three Loretta Labrador Retriever puppies.

The Labrador Retriever: Still the Favorite for Many

The Labrador Retriever has consistently been one of the most popular dog breeds in American (and the world, for that matter), only recently surpassed from the top spot by the rising French Bulldog.

Affectionately nicknamed, simply, the “Lab” by many, the breed is involved in everything from hunting to search and rescue to certain types of police work, just to name a few activities. More than anything else, this breed is one of most widely owned companion animals, known especially for the dogs’ family-friendly personalities.

Breeder Tom Smith is just one of millions of people with involvement in the breed. He operates the highly regarded Wildrose Kennels, which has a clientele filled with public figures like Ole Miss Head Coach Lane Kiffin and professional golfer Greg Norman. The Wildrose dogs are enjoyed by people throughout this country, but well beyond it as well.

“We are blessed to have clientele all over the world in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, and Thailand,” Tom reports. “So, we meet folks from every walk of life from all over the world and Wildrose is a place where everyone gets together and it is all about the dogs.”

Tom himself does not compete with the dogs in the kennel, but some of his puppy people have competed in numerous sports like Hunt Tests and Field Trials, with some making it to the highest of levels.

While the canines of Wildrose are largely geared to work out in the field, other Labradors have been very successful in the Conformation ring. The AKC dog shows are something that Juan Carbonell of Loretta Labradors has enjoyed and reaped the rewards of his efforts, with a dog in his kennel currently in the Top 50 in the Breed rankings. The show ring has remained Juan’s primary focus, though Labradors out of Loretta have competed in a variety of events.

And building his vision for his kennel is something he’s invested a lot of time in, breeding dogs that are stable from a health and temperament perspective, while also adhering as closely as possible to the Breed Standard.

“There’s definitely research of pedigrees, clearances, and identifying the individual characteristics and qualities of the dogs I want to breed,” Juan shares. “I strive as a breeder to breed the best I can, never forgetting type, soundness, temperament, athleticism, and the other hallmarks of the breed. Transcending upon and leaving a mark on the breed is undoubtedly the most important thing for me.”

Despite their overall difference in priorities as far as dog shows and dog sports go specifically, the ultimate goal of breeding a sound companion remains the ultimate goal of both Tom and Juan.

Health testing and OFA clearances are at the forefront of all of that. Tom says he tests all breeding stock for genetic markers such as EIC, PRA, CNM, and SD2. They also have a canine ophthalmologist check their dogs’ eyes annually, not just once to get them certified. It does not end there, though.

“Personality traits are also important when you are matching sires and dams,” notes Tom “We have a quarterly breeding meeting with all the staff to discuss what pairs to breed and to decide if we need to change the pairs based on how the puppies turn out.”

“We strive to produce the best genetics possible with the goal of zero genetic issues. We are very fortunate to have been in business for five decades, so we have heritage lines of dogs that are now in their fifth and sixth generation. That gives us a lot of predictability with our breeding program.”

Intelligence and utilizing the breed for what it is bred for is the ultimate way to keep any Sporting dog happy and mentally stimulated. For Labradors, a lot of that obviously comes down to that last part of their name: Retriever.

“Obedience is always the foundation for a great Sporting dog, adventure dog, or family companion,” Tom says. “We use a memory-based training program that builds in a natural delay for the retrieve which teaches the dog patience. I want my dog to understand not every bird is his.”

As one of the smartest breeds of dog in existence, excelling at tasks comes naturally to the Labrador. It’s something Juan has seen as well with a breed that simply “makes it easy.”

“The reality is that the Labrador, being so intelligent, does not require so much time to train,” according to Juan. “It is relatively easy—I do everything based on playing and quality time.”

Looking at the versatile skill set the Labrador possesses, it’s easy to see why America has been so attracted to the breed for so long. And for Juan, Tom, and others, that comes down to the breed’s No. 1 personality trait: the will to please. As Juan insists, “Making them a part of your daily life allows them to adapt incredibly fast. In the end, Labs will always want to please you.”