Labrador Retrievers are one type of retriever and very possibly the most popular. They were originally bred to be bird dogs for waterfowl hunting. They loved the water and seemed to thrive and excel at going in the water and retrieving the game that was shot. To this day, the Labrador retriever still loves water and swimming.
Although the Labrador is a wonderful pet, both loving and affection, they also make excellent working dogs. In the United States, there are actually two lines of the Labrador retriever: the field line and the show line. The show line is used for show ring purposes and is bred for conformation and temperament. Needless to say, the Labrador excels in both these areas, and many owners have had the satisfaction of seeing their dog win a prize at one of these events.
The field line is bred for the purpose of field and hunting ability. The main difference between the two lines is that Labradors in the field line will exhibit a little more drive and energy, although the show line has plenty of energy as well.
Some of the work in the field that the Labrador does is symbolic of their name: retriever. They are great at hunting and retrieving the game after the kill. They are very easy to train due to their inbred hunting and retrieving drive as well as the intelligence they possess. Their temperament is excellent, and they very seldom show displeasure. When the Labrador retrievers were given the American Temperament Test, over 91% of the Labs passed. The American Temperament Test concentrates of the different types of temperament such as shyness, stability, aggressivement, friendliness and protectiveness with the owner in the case of a threat. Small wonder they are such popular pets.
Besides the basic hunting and retrieving work the Labrador does in the field, their great work ethic and intelligence have earned them many prestigious awards and challenging work tasks. One Labrador, Endel, as assistant dog, pulled his unconscious wheelchair ridden owner to a safe position when he was hit by a car. Endel then covered the man with a blanket, retrieved his cell phone and then went to a nearby hotel to attract attention to get help. This deed won Endel many acknowledgments and awards.
Labradors are used as assistance dogs such as guide dogs for the blind, hearing dogs for the deaf or a service dog for a disabled person. Service dogs also help care for seizure victims and are used as psychiatric service dogs. Psychiatric service dogs are used to help remind an individual they need to take medication or as a brace if they are dizzy, or simply to be alert to unusual or disturbing behavior.
Labradors are also used as therapy dogs to visit patients in nursing homes, retirement homes, hospices, etc. It has been proven that these types of patients benefit from the loving affection and attention they can receive from the dog. The dog must be gentle, affectionate and allow cuddling and petting for all sizes and ages of people, and the Labrador is the perfect dog for this job. Around 60-70% of all guide dogs in the United States are Labrador retrievers, a job that at one time belonged mostly to the German shepherd.