The Amazing Labrador

According to the American Kennel Club and the Canadian Kennel Club, the Labrador Retriever is the most registered breed in the United States and in Canada. He is playful, loving to people and hardworking. The Lab can be counted on as a true friend anytime, anyplace, and is highly respected for his accomplishments in many jobs:


Guide Dogs

A Guide Dog provides mobility and independence to the visually-impaired. Some of the qualities required to make a good guide dog are: a quiet and calm disposition, a high level of initiative, a high level of concentration while working, the will to work, as well as a strong desire to please.

The most successful guide dogs often come from lines bred specifically for these traits and the most common breeds used in assisting the visually-impaired are Labrador Retrievers and Golden Retrievers. Their intelligence, size and temperament make them ideal guide dogs.

In Canada, all provinces have adopted specific statutes to grant guide dog users the right of access. In most provinces, the statutes specifically state that no special conditions, terms, or fees can be imposed on a guide dog user because of the presence of a guide dog.

For more information, see the Working Dogs section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.

Hearing Dogs

Hearing dogs alert a person who is deaf or hearing-impaired to sounds. They create a safer and easier life for their handler by alerting them to such sounds as the doorbell, the telephone ringing, a baby crying, the smoke alarm, passing traffic, or an alarm clock.

Hearing Dogs are trained professionally for a minimum of three months. They are trained to recognize, then physically alert or lead their handler to the source of the sound. They must be trained in basic obedience skills, focused and non-aggressive.

For more information, see the Working Dogs section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.

Service Dogs

Service Dogs need to have the confidence and gentle nature of a guide dog but also have a strong retrieving instinct. These dogs are trained to assist those with mobility limitations through a wide variety of tasks such as turning light switches on and off, opening and closing doors, retrieving items, pulling wheel chairs. Relatively new are programs training "specialty" dogs to detect the onset of seizures in those suffering with epilepsy as well as assisting with other specific conditions or diseases like Parkinsons and Autism.

National Service Dogs has been training Labrador and Golden Retrievers to assist the parents of children with Autism. They were the first Canadian Assistance Dog School to successfully pair dogs with children who have Autism. Clients as young as five have been matched with dogs specifically trained to meet their specific needs and challenges.

For more information, see the Working Dogs section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website, as well as the following links:

Social and Therapy Dogs

The benefits of human-animal interaction have been clearly proven and Social and Therapy dogs come in all shapes and sizes, including Labradors. Several organizations promote the training of dogs just for visiting or "meeting and greeting" at schools, nursing homes, rehabilitation centres and hospitals. A Therapy Dog provides comfort and companionship. Animal-assisted therapy is accepted as a therapeutic intervention which promotes positive and beneficial health effects. A dog can often work wonders in bringing happiness or comfort where other therapies have failed. People who have shown no interest for living can suddenly reach out for the friendly paw of man's best friend.

No specific training is required for Therapy Dogs, however they must be certified, have basic obedience skills, have a love for people, be well socialized, even-tempered and submissive.

For more information, see the Working Dogs section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.

Detection and Police Dogs

Labs have worked as messengers, Red Cross aides and as mine detectors during times of war.

As mine detectors, dogs are now being used for their very acute sense of smell, allowing them to be trained to detect traces of explosives and to locate trip wires.

They are trained as Accelerant Detection Dogs to search a fire scene. These dogs sniff out traces of gas or other flammable liquids in arson situations. Arson Dogs are invaluable because they can pinpoint traces of arson more efficiently than any electronic detection device. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 accelerant detection canine teams operating in the United Sates alone. The Calgary Fire Department uses a pure bred black labrador retriever named Velvet.

Labradors are also trained to detect narcotics, oil or gas pipeline leaks, explosives/weapons/ammunition, and toxic waste, as well as illegal foods and plants that travellers try to smuggle internationally.

In the same way that dogs are trained to sniff out narcotics, they are also successfully used to detect explosives. These heroic dogs save lives by quickly searching out buildings.

Drug traffickers are finding increasingly sophisticated ways of hiding drugs for transport. The scenting ability of the Police Drug Dog often provides the only hope of locating illegal narcotics. Drug Dogs have proven so successful that they now work in many airports, bus stations, border crossings, and sea ports. These dogs are trained to sniff out drugs, then alert authorities by either scratching at the surface near the source of the smell or sitting down next to the source. Such a signal from a sniffer dog gives police probable cause necessary to search luggage or vehicles.

For more information, see the Working Dogs section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.

Search and Rescue

Several breeds are trained as Search and Rescue dogs (SAR dogs) but they all must go through extensive training and the natural retrieving instincts, endurance, scenting ability and "team" mentality of the Labrador Retriever makes him a prime candidate as a SAR dog.

The SAR dog is a multi-purpose dog trained for tracking, open-area searches, article recovery, as well as searching for missing persons in collapsed structures, avalanches, or landslides for example. In addition, these dogs can also be used for the recovery of cadavers on land or underwater.

SAR dogs can be trained to detect the scent of shed skin particles from humans, dead or alive, and follow this scent to its source from long distances. "Air scent" dogs depend primarily, but not solely, on airborne scent in their search. The term "trailing" dog generally refers to the ability to "scent discriminate" or find a particular person. The dogs are taught the necessary skills as a "game" of increasing difficulty, in partnership with their handler.

SAR Labs must have a strong "play" drive, be agile and friendly and have a strong bond with their handler to perform this demanding work.

For more information, see the Working Dogs section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.

Dog Sports and Activities

Labs are natural retrievers and active sporting dogs who enjoy a challenge and having a job to do. There are several dog sports and activities where you can see a Lab in action, including the Show ring, Obedience competitions, Agility, Field Trials, Flying Discs, Long Jump, Freestyle, as well as modeling and in the movies. See the Clubs, Sports and Activities section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website for further details on these and other activities to get involved in with your Lab.

Companion

Last but not least in this listing, the Labrador Retriever makes an excellent companion. With his pleasant disposition, his desire to please, his outgoing nature, his trainability, he makes a wonderful friend and family member. He is playful, loving, hardworking, people oriented, kind and patient with children.

No wonder he is the most registered breed at the CKC and AKC!