Reprinted from the Labrador Handbook:
Authors: Liza Lee Miller & Cindy Tittle Moore
Characteristics of Labradors are their coat, tail, head and temperament. They have a double coat: a soft, downy undercoat that keeps them dry and warm in cold water and a hard outer coat that helps them repel water. Their tail, described best as an otter tail, is thick at the base and tapers to a narrower point. It should not be carried over the back nor should it have a curl to it. It should, however, be at exactly coffee table height and always be ready to swipe one clean. Their head is clean cut and somewhat broad, with hanging ears. Their expression is alert and intelligent and conveys a kind, friendly temperament.
Their best feature is their temperament. Labs are loving, people oriented dogs. They are happiest when they are with you. Labs are retrievers and will bring you things they find lying about your house or yard. They tend to be quite patient with children and wonderful family dogs. They are not guard dogs. They may bark protectively, but will generally not act more aggressively. Labs are wonderful people dogs, more likely to lick someone to death than hurt them. They tend to be stable, not easily upset by strange things or occurrences. They will take many things in stride.
In the U.S., there are two distinct "lines" of labradors: field lines and show lines. Field line Labradors have been bred with an emphasis on field or hunting ability, and show line Labradors have been bred with an emphasis on conformation and temperament There is some dissension between the two groups, with field people claiming that field lines do not much look like Labradors any more and lack correct temperament. The truth is likely somewhere in between. Dogs from field lines will generally have a lot of drive, and will often exhibit more energy. Dogs from show lines might not be as fast, but most are capable hunters, though not necessarily field trial material. Either type can make a pleasant companion for a day out of doors.
Labrador Retrievers are people- and action-oriented dogs, and can become bored if left to their own devices. They can be destructive when bored or frustrated. They require attention and love as much as food and water. Labradors are easy to train which makes obedience work a fun way to interact with your dog. Labradors also require plenty of exercise - this is especially true since most Labs love to eat! Ensuring they get proper exercise, training, and attention will give you a happy, healthy Labrador.
How are they with children?
As a breed, Labradors tend to be good with children. However, as with any dog, it is not a good idea to let puppies and children play unattended. Both puppies and children tend to be unaware of their own size and strength and could accidentally injure one another. Labradors aren't likely to intentionally hurt anyone, but could knock a child over when they thought they were playing. By the same measure, children can inadvertently hurt a puppy if they aren't supervised. As a parent of a young child and the owner of a young Lab puppy, realize that you will have to spend time teaching both the child and the puppy how to behave around one another.
Are there golden Labs? What is the difference between golden and yellow Labs?
Labradors come in three colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. Yellow Labradors are often mistakenly called "golden Labradors." The term yellow refers to a range of color from nearly white to gold to fox-red. The Golden Retriever is a separate breed from the Labrador, although there are similarities. Sometimes the term is used informally to refer to a Labrador/Golden Retriever mix.
Are there any other colors of Labradors?
No. Black, chocolate, and yellow are the only correct colors. While mismarked purebred Labrador's are possible, be wary of those selling "rare" Labradors of other colors at exorbitant prices. There are yellow Labradors that are so pale they appear white, but they are still considered "yellow" and will usually have some color, even if it is only on the ear tips. "White" (very light yellow) Labradors are not unusual nor rare and should not command a significant price hike. The same goes for "fox red" (very dark yellow) Labradors. "Silver" Labradors are purely a scam and are either crosses with Weimaraners or very light chocolates. An actual silver Labrador (a dilute black) would be treated as a mismarked dog and not have a high price.
Can you get yellow Labradors from black ones? And vice versa? What about chocolates?
Yes, you can get yellows from blacks and blacks from yellows. Similarly, you can get chocolates from blacks or yellows and vice versa. It all depends on what color genes the parents carry. The only absolutes are that if both parents are yellow, the resulting puppies are always yellow, never black or chocolate; if both parents are chocolate, you can get yellow or chocolate puppies butnever black ones.
Are there differences between Labs of different colors?
Aside from the color itself, there are no differences. Many people feel that black Labs are better hunters, yellow dogs are lazier, and chocolate dogs are hardheaded and stubborn. None of this is true. The reason is pure genetics. Coat color in normally colored Labs is determined by two genes unrelated to anything else about the dog. It is perfectly possible to get all three colors in the same litter, therefore the notion that there is a color based difference in temperament and/or ability is absurd.
Alright, so what is the nitty gritty on coat color inheritance?
Two sets of genes, not one, control a Lab's coloration. One set of genes controls whether the Lab will be dark (either black or chocolate) or light (yellow). Dark is dominant over light. Thus a Lab whose genotype is EE (homozygous dominant) or Ee (heterozygous) will be dark; only Labs that are ee (homozygous recessive) can be light.
The second set of genes only come into play if the Lab is dark (either EE or Ee). This set controls whether the Lab is black (the dominant trait) or chocolate (the recessive trait). Thus, a dark dog (ie. EE/Ee) that is BB (homozygous dominant) or Bb (heterozygous) will be balck, while the only way a dog can be chocolate is for it to be dark (EE/Ee) and bb (homozygous recessive).
So now, the possibilities for black dogs are EEBB, EEBb, EeBB, or EeBb. The possibilities for a yellow dog are eeBB, eeBb, or eebb. And the possibilities for a chocolate dog are EEbb or Eebb. Remember that puppies will get one E/e from the dam and one from the sire, as well as one B/b from the dam and one from the sire to make up their complete "code". If you had two parents that were both EeBb (black in appearance), you can get all three colors in the resulting litter! Furthermore, when you realize that a pair of yellows can only give their puppies the ee combination, you understand why two yellows only produce yellows. In a similar fashion, two chocolates can only bequeath bb to their puppies, so two chocolates can never produce a black puppy.
The eebb is an interesting case, as this is a yellow dog with chocolate pigmentation on its nose and eyerims. A dog that is bb always has this pigmentation. Under the current standard, a yellow with chocolate pigmentation is disqualified. This has not always been the case, and one can find Champion liver nosed yellows in older breed books.
If the Lab is mismarked, for example Black and Tan, or brindled, there are other alleles present in that dog's makeup.
What is a Dudley?
This is a yellow Labrador with chocolate pigmentation (eebb). It can also refer to a Lab with absolutely no pigmentation on the nose or everims (all pink in color). but in actuality, the is extremely rare, and probably a genetic abnormality.
But I see some Labradors with a pinkish nose.
Yes, this happens with many breeds. It is called "winter nose" or "snow nose." Many yellow Labs will have dark noses in the summer that fade somewhat in the winter and repeat the cycle the next year. It is not understood why this happens. You can see it in many northern breeds such as Huskies and Malamutes as well. This is not considered a fault in any of these breeds and is not penalized. To differentiate between Labs with faded noses and Dudleys, check the eyerims and gum tissue of the dogs. A Dudley will have only light pink or tan skin; the other dogs will have black pigment in these areas.