In the early eighteenth century, two popular breeds existed in Newfoundland (Canada) – the Greater Newfoundland and the Lesser Newfoundland. The Labrador Retriever emerged from the Lesser of the two. To make up for this lowly label, he quickly became the most popular dog in Newfoundland and was warmly welcomed by his cousins, the Brits, where he shed the original name for his new one. A little later in the mid-1800’s, the Golden Retriever emerged, a combo of a golden coated Retriever and a touch of the Tweed Water Spaniel. Because there can be a sense of competition between Goldie and Lab owners, some might argue about who really is a native of Britain. But both breeds are so popular today in the U.S., that it seems they are really at home here.
The Lab has been the most popular breed in America for many years. The Goldie doesn’t do too badly, following in fourth place. Because of their popularity, these breeds are at risk for overbreeding and extreme inbreeding (remember, first cousins musn’t marry), thus creating new health and personality problems. Inbreeding often exacerbates bad qualities and hides good ones. Hip dysplasia can be so magnified that a three-month-old puppy will show signs. Many inbred dogs die unnaturally young and are lucky to make it to seven or eight years old. The importance of supporting reputable breeders is clear and one might secretly hope that those who are making Frankenstein Goldies and Labs will be set upon by their creations.
That said, most Labs and Goldies in the U.S. are wonderful examples of their breeds. They share much in common – both were bred to retrieve things, especially fowl and sometimes a cold glass of beer. Both are bred to swim well, to locate a target and to bring it back unharmed which makes them ideal for picking up small hamsters and guinea pigs. Both are even-tempered, very human-friendly and dog-friendly, and are excellent with children. Goldies and Labs are very playful creatures and any owner will tell you that they don’t reach adulthood until about two years old (and in some ways, they never do). They are also very oral and like to stick things in their mouths such as a ball, a toy or your hand. Training is essential with Goldies and even more so with Labs as they are easily distracted when young and tend to think all life is a game where they do something annoying and you chase them.
You might think that the only difference between a Goldie and a Labrador Retriever is their coat. Goldie’s have a dense undercoat and a thick, longish, wavy outer coat in varying shades of gold. Labs also have a dense undercoat but their outer coat is short and straight. It comes in yellow, black and chocolate. But there’s more that separates these two cousins and there are pros and cons for each breed. Some dog owners feel Golden Retrievers have a more even temperament than Labrador Retrievers, partly due to Labs being kept as outside hunting dogs in the early years and Goldies being kept in the house. Labs tend to be a bit more active than Goldens and have a longer adolescence.
But don’t get your knickers in a twist – both breeds have many commendable qualities as any Golden or Lab owner knows. The Lab might want to get a new press agent, though, as Golden Retriever dogs are beating them in movie appearances. And both breeds better watch out because it’s rumored that the Chihuahuas have connections and are bidding for the number one spot next year.