Labrador retrievers, whether yellow, black or chocolate, are without question a popular dog breed. In 2003, with 154,616 total registrations in the American Kennel Club, labs were again the most registered breed a title they have held continuously since 1991.
"I don't think you could find a better dog anywhere," said Caren Cross of Kasilof. She breeds champion hunting and show labs and currently has 12 adult dogs, plus numerous puppies.
Cross has kept many breeds of dogs in her life, but about five years ago she became a die-hard lab lover.
Her son had a black lab for a companion, but the dog died in a car accident. She began the search for another lab to fill the void and found them difficult to find on the peninsula.
"That's when I decided to start a small kennel with just a couple of dogs," Cross said. She's been hooked ever since.
"They have such super-neat personalities," Cross said. "They're just great."
The fishers of Newfoundland used the dogs to retrieve fish that fell off hooks and to help haul fishing nets.
Labs were outstanding water retrievers from both marsh and open water, a skill that continues in the breed today.
"They're very good working dogs and they love to hunt," said Cross. "My son left one in the truck once while hunting, and the dog practically went through the windshield to get to a downed bird."
She said she brings her group of dogs to the beach for their favorite pastime playing fetch.
"They'll go over, under, through whatever it takes to bring that stick back," she said. "They love it. We've even got one that brings the paper up daily. He always very proud of himself."
According to Cross, despite their natural talent for hunting, labs also make wonderful family pets that are great with children.
"They're very lovable," she said. "My grandson plays with them and sometimes even falls asleep hugging them. The dogs seem to enjoy it."
The labs' good hunting skill and pleasant disposition make them popular pets, but they're also intelligent and energetic pets. They crave companionship and excitement and they don't do well when left home alone for hours.
"They always want to go and do things," said Cross.
Her dogs, like many labs, often find their own entertainment when left alone. She has one dog that knows how to open and close doors, and recently learned how to lock and unlock them.
Much to her chagrin, the dog has been known to lock her out of the house for what she tongue-in-cheek believes was payback for leaving and not taking the dog with her.
For those willing to put up with coming home and climbing in a window, labs can make wonderful companions, but should always come from reputable breeders.
The popularity of this breed lends itself to abuse. Labs can have autoimmune problems such as eye and skin anomalies, deafness, hip and shoulder dysplasia and other problems.
Many would-be dog breeders looking to turn quick profits often disregard genetic concerns, which can lead to pain and suffering for both pets and owners later down the road.
"It's standard procedure to have all dogs tested by a veterinarian to ensure their health," said Cross about her puppies.
Joseph Robertia is a reporter for the Peninsula Clarion. He has worked with wildlife and domestic animals for more than 10 years as a veterinary technician, a zoo keeper, and most recently as a zoologist for the Wildlife Conser-vation Society. He welcomes any pet-related questions or story ideas, but please none of a veterinary nature. Ideas and questions can be sent to his attention by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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