The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds in the United States, owing to its even temperament, high intelligence, and clean, attractive appearance. The ancestor of the modern Labrador Retriever came from the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, in the form of the St. John's Water Dog.
"Water Dog" is an apt name for the Labrador retriever even now, as webbed paws and an oiled coat make them well suited for swimming in water. This, combined with their high fetch drive, led to their use as hunting dogs, and earned them the "retriever" portion of their name.
There are two distinct types of Labrador Retrievers - American and English - with the American version being taller and thinner than its cousin from across the pond. The two types share the same temperament, projected lifespan (10-12 years), and pet health concerns. Both are very active dog types, and can be dominant if they are not exercised regularly or given a job to do.
For owners of a Labrador Retriever, there are a number of common pet health issues that they must be aware of. The breed is susceptible to hip and elbow dysplasia, which occurs when a hip or elbow joint develops irregularly. This is far more common in purebred Labs than those of mixed stock; but their active nature, combined with long and fragile legs, can make this a severe problem.
Labrador Retrievers are also at risk for knee problems, such as bow-shaped knee joints, which are known as luxating patella. Labs can also suffer with eye issues, including cataracts and retinal atrophy, as they age. Most of these conditions are not life threatening, but any owner that wishes to breed their Lab should consult a vet before proceeding.
Two other concerns for Labs are: ear infections, due to the size of their ears and the potential for moist air or water to become trapped; and obesity, if they are not properly exercised.