America’s most beloved dog, as I have heard the labrador retriever called numerous times, is certainly the perfect definition of everything a dog should embody. Though I am biased, I have never met a person who isn’t completely enthralled and in love with a labrador upon meeting them. I decided to begin with the labrador because it is personally my favorite breed of dog and has a very special connection to me.
The lab was first bred in Newfoundland, and quickly became a hunting and retrieving dog, hence the name labrador retriever. The reputation of the lab as a hunting dog is still renowned today, but different types of labs have emerged to be bred for specific functions. Most labs are known in threes: yellow, chocolate, and black. As a whole, labs are one of the most active dogs there are. They love to run and swim and can often do both for hours at a time. However, as much as labs love to exercise, they love to eat. I can attest to this fact with my own lab, who can eat for days on end. Labs are also one of the most “chewy” dogs, especially as puppies. Anything they can pick up with their mouths, they will chew. My lab, Bella, ate five different remotes and some select ornaments off the Christmas tree as a puppy. She plunders around the house, looking for anything to gnaw on, and will always find something. We’ve learned to never leave leftovers on the counter and put up gates on the stairs. Labs are very nosy in this way.
In terms of training, labs want to please their owner. Whereas other dogs will pick and choose what they want to learn and when they want to learn it, labs will learn anything no matter when or where. When I was training Bella to swim, she was so eager to get into the water and picked up on it quickly. When I taught her basic commands, she learned them within the span of a week. Though I know this isn’t the case for all labs, it does seem to apply to most. Along with being so easy to train, they are also the easiest to love. Labs are pure family dogs. Around children, they are probably the most gentle dogs there are. Growing up, I had a yellow lab from when I was a baby until I was around six. Labs have a natural affinity for being able to love and wanting to be loved in return. We always joke in my house that Bella is a big baby. If we leave to go to the grocery store for twenty minutes and then we return, she acts as if we’ve been gone on a week vacation. She runs to the door with a toy and wags her tail so hard it actually hurts when it hits you, and makes a loud smack against the wall. Cuddling is probably her favorite pastime, as she will often climb into your lap if you’re on the couch, despite the fact that she’s seventy-five pounds. Around other dogs, labs are also very friendly, which is an important thing to many families. We have two small shih tzus along with her, and size never seems to be an issue during playtime. She is so self-aware of her size compared to the others, that she ropes back her own abilities in order to let the small dogs have the upper hand. If the small dogs ever have to go away to the groomer and we leave Bella behind, you can see her looking lost and genuinely upset without them. Labs have a compassion like no other, and are completely full of heart.
Again, I am biased because I do own one, but I am a firm believer that labs are one of the best breeds out there. Dogs don’t need to understand you or who you are, they just simply need to be there in order for you to love them and for them to love you. Though it may sound a bit extreme, Bella is one of the most precious things in my life and I couldn’t imagine who I would be without her.