An Expert’s Concern over Labrador Retriever Standards
Last week we wrote a post that compared the US Labrador Retriever standard over the past 50-60 years. The change in the standard and the photographic evidence is quite dramatic – check our post if you didn’t see it. Our concern is that by awarding show championships to “heavier” dogs, judges are unwittingly contributing to the Labrador weight and obesity problem as breeders react to the judging by breeding more overdone dogs and in turn, the general public sees these heavier champions and thinks that bigger and fatter is better.
We continue to pursue this matter and have identified a number of the US Labrador Retriever Club (LRC) members, judges, concerned breeders and show dog owners that we will be contacting. We hope to gain their perspective on the direction the breed is heading and how they feel about the health of the animals. Our goal is to get a call-to-action movement started so that the trend towards overdone, overweight, squat Labs can be turned around and the focus returned to the health and functionality of the breed.
One very significant source we discovered was this video interview from Dr. Frances O. Smith, DVM, PhD., for Retriever Life. Dr. Smith’s interview is really worth watching for all of us who love the breed and want to see the health and vitality of this wonderful sporting dog upheld and honored.
Who is Dr. Smith you ask, and why should we listen to her? Well, let’s take a look at her credentials:
“Dr. Smith breeds Labrador Retrievers under the registered kennel name Danikk. She serves on the board of directors of the Labrador Retriever Club, Inc, where she is the Health Committee Chair. She is the President of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animal (OFA) – the foremost animal health data base in the world. She competes in hunt tests, conformation dog shows, obedience trials and occasionally field trials. She is an approved hunt test judge. She is a nationally recognized lecturer and author. She has served Minnesota as a member and President of the Board of Veterinary Medicine.”
She is a credible expert, and while she doesn’t appear to speak directly for the LRC in this interview, there is no denying that her opinion in this matter as a member of the Board, a veterinarian and Labrador breeder carries (or should carry) considerable weight.
In this interview, Dr. Smith discusses the development of the ‘types’ of Labradors (American and British or field and conformation) and how the standard has evolved away from the tasks for which Labs were originally bred. She expresses concern over the tendency towards heaviness and shortened leg length of the conformation dogs and issues a warning that breeders should guard against dogs being so overdone that they are no longer able to function as intended (i.e. hunting & retrieving).
She expresses equal concern over field dogs being too sleek and showing a lack of substance resulting in potential joint issues and the possible loss of the Labs critical waterproof coat.
These ‘fall-aways’ from the standard as Dr. Smith calls them are avoidable if more responsibility was shown by breeders and judges towards moderation rather than breeding and judging to extremes. (1)
In another piece, Smith once again calls out the interpretation of the standard, not the standard itself, saying the fault lies in “this idea that if one wrinkle is good, then 12 wrinkles is better. If a 4-pound Chihuahua is good, then a 1-pound Chihuahua would be spectacular.” (2)
She admits that the day has passed where we will see a Dual Champion Labrador again in the US. This is truly a shame because dogs such as Briggs that we pictured in our post last week was a gorgeous example of a Labrador. The last US Dual Champion Labrador Retriever was in 1984, Dual CH Hiwood Shadow from Kerrybrook shown in this photo. Gorgeous, isn’t he?
Thirty years is a long time. As caring and loving owners and admirers of Labradors, our goal should be to return the dog to it’s former ‘glory’ and restore its ability to be a Champion in the ring and in the field. That starts with an emphasis on the health and fitness of the dog.
Our research into this issue has lead us to uncover overwhelming evidence of many breed’s ‘breeding programs’ gone awry and the quest for ‘beauty’ supplanting the health of the dogs. Our perspective on what’s happening to the Labrador is fairly tame relative to what is happening to other breeds. We will continue to write about and follow this story and share with you our findings.
NOTE: Our research and commentary expressed here is relative to US-based Labrador Retriever standards, shows, judges, etc. While many of you joining the conversation are from other countries, and we welcome you, please note that our standard may or may not be the same as yours and you may or may not be experiencing the same issues. Please feel free to voice your concerns and join our cause.
(1) What is a Labrador Retriever, Retriever Life, 2013
(2) The Purebreed Paradox, The Humane Society
Please visit our Fitness, Food and Health sections for more information on keeping your dog fit and healthy.