Posts Tagged ‘giant Labrador’

The dog on the left is obese. However, in America, we still like to breed our Labs bigger, even if they aren't overweight.

The Lab on the left is obese. However, in America, we like to breed our Labs larger, even if they aren't overweight.

Over the years, I’ve noticed something about pet-line Labradors.

People who market these dogs almost always offer two types.

One of these is the English type, which I have often heard referred to as the “Bentley.” These dogs are particularly sought after because they are derived from European show lines and are quite calm and placid.

In theory, of course.

Many of these dogs don’t live up to the hype of being super calm and some, like some golden retrievers, can be quite surly.

But of particular interest to me is the other way pet quality Labs are marketed: it’s gonna be a big dog!

Although most field and American show line Labs are in the 55-80 pound range and virtually all English Labs fit that definition, most of the Labs I see are in the 90 pounds or more range.

Large size does not have much utility for a working dog, and in the real world, smaller size does have its advantages.

I know of breeders of field line Labs that produce “canoe” Labs that are smaller than normal. The term comes from a possible linkage between these so-called “canoe dogs” that acted as retrievers for the native peoples of the Northeast and Eastern Canada. Speculatively, I have suggested that these dogs are related to the St. John’s water dogs and the Newfoundlands, which means they are possible ancestors of the retrievers. (Here’s a photo of a canoe dog. It looks like small Labrador with prick ears and a bushy tail.) Canoe dogs were about 30 pound or so in weight, and canoe Labradors tend to be in the 30-45 pound range.

The only reason to breed a super large Labrador is to sell puppies.

It’s also great for the ego.

I’m sure the conversations go something like this:

My Lab is bigger than yours.

Does it retrieve or listen to commands?

No. But he’s 130 pounds and built like an Angus bull.

I have looked at the histor of Labradors and other retrievers rather closely, and I can tell you with certainty that the St.John’s water dog, the ancestral Labrador, was never a giant dog.

Now, the other Newfoundland was historically used as a retrievers on estate shoots. In the nineteenth century, virtually all of the dogs in that particular breed were Landseers. They may have played some role in the development of retrievers, although their large size and slowness were always problematic.

However, I don’t think it’s exactly correct to think of these dogs as a model on which we could assume the conformation of the modern Labrador retriever. A big lumbering dog is by definition at a disadvantage as a retriever. It simply cannot swim with the speed necessary to do its work. It is also going to overheat more easily, simply because it is bigger. If one his hunting ducks, a big dog takes up more space on a boat or blind.

But none of this matters in the realm of selling pets.

Get a couple of guys bragging about the size of their dogs, and you soon have a perfect market.

Bigger is better.

It doesn’t matter that large size puts strain on the dog’s heart or make it more prone to various dysplasias as it grows.

Bigger is better.

I’ve noted this tendency exists in golden retrievers, but it is at a much lower level. I hope it stays this way, because goldens can’t stand any further fad breeding and remain viable as a strain.

However, it has happened to virtually all large gentle dogs that are in demand as family pets.

Does anyone seriously believe that St. Bernards always weighed 200 pounds?

If it happened to that breed, why couldn’t this happen to the retrievers?

Virtually all the pet Labs I see are huge.

It’s what people want.

I’m honestly suprised they haven’t made up a cock-and-bull story about the size of these dogs, something like the Roman Rottweilers or reconstructed dire wolf.

But maybe the desire to brag about size is enough to get people to accept such huge dogs.

These big Labs are so common, that people are often surprised when they find out how big their breed standard requires them to be.

It’s almost like you made something up or uttered the phrase “Nova Scotia Duck Tolling retriever.”

We’ve become so accustomed to seeing giant Labs that they now seem normal.

I hope for the sake of the dogs that we don’t continue to demand an increase in size.

Of course, serious Labrador people are going to breed normally sized dogs.

The pet people can just keep breeding ’em bigger and bigger.

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