Why is the Labrador Retriever America’s Number 1 Dog since 1991?

Most popular breed of dog in the United States

The Labrador Retriever is in a unique position as the most popular breed of dog in the United States. The Labrador reigns as number one in popularity and has maintained this position since 1991. The Labrador Retriever is a friendly, outgoing, athletic dog that possesses lots of love to go around to the whole family. Labradors are typically very friendly with other dogs and are renowned for their versatility. They serve humans as companions, as service dogs that aid in mobility and in the physical and mental needs of their owners, and as working companions that are capable of drug detection, explosive detection, and working as retrievers—finding and retrieving game birds on land and in the water. Part of the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc. Mission Statement is to preserve the Labrador Retriever as a working retriever and promote its multipurpose function.

Labrador Retriever is a friendly, outgoing, athletic dog that possesses lots of love to go around to the whole family.

Most popular breed of dog in the United States : Labrador Retriever
The yellow coat color in the Labrador Retriever may appear to be intensely red.

During COVID, the demand for dogs and puppies as companions has increased dramatically. Fortunately, there are many breeders of Labrador Retrievers to fulfill the demand for the breed. Potential owners may find that wait list times are longer than in previous years, and finding the right breeder can be somewhat of a challenge. It is important that potential buyers are aware of the health conditions that can occur in the Labrador Retriever, and select a breeder who performs the required and recommended health tests that are part of the CHIC requirements for the Labrador Retriever. CHIC, the Canine Health Information System, serves as an open guideline for breeders and owners as a resource for test results. For the Labrador Retriever, the required tests are as follow: OFA hip radiographs, OFA elbow radiographs, CAER eye examinations, EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse) a neuromuscular disorder, and testing for the presence of the gene for dilute (DNA based D Locus results from an approved laboratory). Recommended additional testing is for CNM (Centronuclear Myopathy) a neuromuscular disorder, the prcd form of PRA, and a cardiac examination, preferably including an echocardiogram. Many breeders do additional testing on their breeding stock. Being the most popular breed of dog in the United States, the demand for puppies has led to many casual breeders deciding to produce a litter of puppies without the benefit to the dogs of this health testing.

The Labrador Retriever comes in only three colors; black, chocolate, and yellow. Blacks are all black. Chocolates are brown, and can vary in shade from light to dark chocolate. Yellow may range in color from fox-red to light cream, with variations in shading on the ears, back, and underparts. The intensity of the yellow color is dependent upon modifiers that affect the gene for yellow. Some of the yellow dogs may appear almost white, and some may appear to be as intensely red as a Setter. For many years in the conformation show ring, chocolates had a tendency to lack breed type and were rarely awarded wins. This situation has changed greatly and there are many lovey chocolate dogs in the show ring. Likewise, some fox-red dogs tended to lack breed type and were leggier and more hound-like in the head. This situation has also changed, and we now see beautiful fox-red Labrador Retrievers. Any other color—or combination of colors—is a disqualification. A small white spot on the chest is considered acceptable, but not desirable. Many chocolates do “sun burn” as they get ready to blow their coat; this should not be considered an abnormal coat color.

The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over-refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness.

What characteristics me Labrador Retriever the most popular breed of dog in the United States? It has been said that the Labrador Retriever is head, coat, and tail. Yes, these are breed characteristics and are very important. The Labrador should be a strongly-built, medium-sized, short-coupled dog, possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gundog. The physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient retriever of game, with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment. The neck should be of proper length to allow the dog to retrieve game easily. Distance from the elbow to the ground should be equal to one-half the height at the withers. The brisket should extend to the elbows, but NOT perceptively deeper. The dog should never appear low and long or tall and leggy in outline.

Most popular breed of dog in the United States : Labrador Retriever

The Labrador should have a short, dense, weather-resistant coat that feels fairly hard to the touch. The coat should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that protects from water, cold, and all types of groundcover. A slight wave down the back is permissible. Wooly, soft, silky coats and sparse, slick coats are not correct and should
be penalized.

The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gundog. Thus, structure and soundness are of great importance.

The tail is a distinguishing feature of the breed. It should be very thick at the base, gradually tapering toward the tip, of medium length, and extending no longer than to the hock. The tail should be free of feathering, and wrapped thickly all around with the short, dense Labrador coat, giving it a rounded appearance that resembles an otter’s tail. The tail should follow the topline when standing. While in motion, it may be carried gaily, but should not curl over the back. Both extremely short tails and long, thin tails are serious faults.

The head should be clean-cut, with a broad backskull and moderate stop, powerful jaws, and kind, friendly eyes. Full dentition is preferred, with missing molars and premolars considered serious faults. A scissors bite is preferred—a level bite is acceptable, but not desirable. Eye color should be brown in black and yellow Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolate Labradors. Eye color should contribute to a kind expression. The skull and foreface should be of approximately equal lengths. You will see many head styles in the conformation ring. Long heads and narrow muzzles are incorrect as are massive, cheeky heads similar to Rottweilers or Newfoundlands.


by Frances O. Smith DVM PhD DACT

Vice-President, The Labrador Retriever Club, Inc.

  • Frances O. Smith, DVM, PhD, DACT became a Diplomate of the College of Theriogenology in 1986. Since that time, she has been in private practice as a small animal practitioner, specializing in canine reproduction. Dr. Smith is one of very few board certified theriogenologists in private practice in the United States. Her expertise in genetic counseling, chilled and frozen semen, and reproductive infertility of the male and female canine is known throughout the US. Dr. Smith frequently speaks to breed groups, veterinary associations and students, and the general public. Dr. Smith obtained an Associate of Arts Degree from Normandale Community College and was accepted into the College of Veterinary Medicine in 1976. She obtained a Bachelor of Science Degree in 1978 and a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine Degree in 1980. Dr. Smith was offered a residency in Small Animal Reproduction at the University of Minnesota in 1980 where she worked with Dr. Shirley Johnston and Dr. Ray Zemjanis. She completed her residency in 1983. Her PhD was completed in 1984 with a thesis titled, “Cryopreservation of Canine Semen - Technique and Performance.” Dr. Smith grew up in a military family that bred German Shepherd Dogs. She breeds Labrador Retrievers under the registered kennel name Danikk. She serves on the Board of Directors of the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc., where she is the Health Committee Chair. She has served Minnesota as a member and President of the Board of Veterinary Medicine, and is the President of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals—the foremost animal health database in the world. She competes in hunt tests, conformation shows, obedience trials and, occasionally, field trials. She is an approved hunt test judge, and a nationally recognized lecturer and author. For fun, Dr. Smith rides horses, gardens, volunteers, and spoils her granddaughters.

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