With the purchase of a purebred dog, one can usually have an idea of how that individual will act. Although there are differences within an individual, the temperament of the puppy or dog usually mirrors something similar to that of the breed’s standards.
But how exactly does a breed have a common standard in temperament? A study presented by Dr. Stanley Coren of Psychology Today talks about several pure dog breeds that were bred together in hopes of proving that genetics and temperaments have a relation.
What they were able to find is that genetic control did indeed determine the characteristics found in the breed, including temperament.
This was especially true for those bred with the same background, or breed, with only a tiny unpredictable trait thrown in from time to time.
So, breeders that continue to breed Labradors that are true to the breed’s standard should continue seeing puppies with similar temperaments.
In a nutshell, the temperament of the Labrador Retriever is described as friendly, well-mannered, energetic, and eager to please. Are these traits found in Labradors of the past, or is it a current standard?
The History of the Labrador Retriever
According to the Dog Blog, the breed has been found to have first originated in Newfoundland sometime in the early 1500s. The lovable lab we know today did not exist during this time in history.
Instead, water dogs were bred with Newfoundlands, creating a new breed altogether, the St. John’s Water Dog, or Lesser Newfoundland.
The St. John’s Water Dog was medium-sized and stocky. They had white patches on areas such as the feet, chest, and muzzle.
They were favored by fishermen, retrieving fish that had fallen off the fishing line. They were described as being intelligent, hard workers.
Eventually, this breed was brought to Labrador, Canada, thriving as a retriever, show dog, and companion. The popularity increased until they were used in the United States, earning the name “Lab” and being chosen for their loyalty, prey drive, and dynamic nature.
Looking at the evolution of the St. John’s Water Dogs into the present Labrador Retriever, it is easy to see that the temperament of this breed has been carried throughout history.
How Does the History of the Breed Affect Present Temperament?
Looking at the roots of a dog breed can give you a good sense of the companions in our homes. Even though certain dogs do not participate in their original purpose, they still possess qualities belonging to their ancestors.
For instance, take a Border Collie. This breed was an avid herder, having a high energy level to keep up with the flocks and farmers. But even a house Collie of today has been known to require mental stimulation and a good deal of physical activity each day.
The Labrador Retriever’s intended purpose was to help make fishermen’s lives much more accessible. The temperament needed for this job still exists in the Labs that find comfort lounging around in our homes.
What is the Temperament of a Labrador Retriever?
Looking at the desired standard for a Labrador Retriever, the American Kennel Club labels an ideal dog to display a temperament that is kind, outgoing, and easy to control.
They are also eager to accept and reward, always wanting to please their owner.
In terms of acceptance of others, the Labrador should be accepting of both animals and strangers. A dog representing these standards also should showcase its intelligence and gentle nature.
Any dog not possessing these temperamental traits is considered “not a Labrador” by the American Kennel Club.
What Determines Dog Temperament?
The word “temperament” refers to how a dog will react to stimuli they face daily. There are a few considerations when determining what temperament your Labrador is likely to have.
Petcha reveals how temperament can be developed depending on various interactions and backgrounds.
Genetic material: as we talked about earlier, the Labrador was bred with certain temperaments in mind, thus being passed down to living relatives
Environmental factors: when a puppy first comes into the world, they face several impacts from its living situation. This might mean that a puppy who is the leader of the litter may be bolder than the others.
Life challenges: Another factor is the experiences a puppy has to deal with in the first few weeks of birth. These interactions can subtly impact the dog’s temperament further down the road.
How Do I Find a Labrador With a Good Temperament?
The best way to find a Labrador Retriever close to the breed’s standard is to find a reputable breeder. Someone who chooses to raise Labradors and continue the legacy of healthy, well-mannered dogs is a good candidate for your next companion.
Make sure to avoid puppy mills or breeders that only want to make a profit as their dogs often do not have a resemblance to the St. John’s Water Dogs.
How Do I Choose the Best Temperament?
There are a few things that you can use to test the personality of a potential puppy that you find in a litter. To be confident in your decision, ask the breeder about your possible pet’s quirks provided by Rover.
- How well does the puppy behave towards the breeder and people it does not know?
- Does the dog respond well to new objects that might be nerve-wracking?
- Is the puppy particularly protective over food or toys?
For an idea of how puppies are tested in terms of their temperament, watch this YouTube video presented by Canine Coaching.
Some breeders perform a series of small challenges, such as the ones shown to gauge the litter’s personality and temperament.
The temperament of the Labrador has been highly influenced by its original job. Working alongside fishermen for the day made this dog a lovable, hardworking partner who was eager to please.
To find your next Labrador, be sure to find a breeder who wants to uphold the standards set by the American Kennel Club so that you can have a happy, healthy Lab, both physically and emotionally.