The Labrador Retriever: Australia’s Favourite Assistance Dog and Pet

An Assistance Dogs trainer spends time with a retired dog

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most well-loved dog breeds in Australia. Perhaps it’s because this breed is not only friendly and gentle as a pet but also makes great Assistance Dogs for people with disabilities? Whatever the case is, today we’re looking at why they’re so adored, where to buy Labrador puppies, what their history is, breed health tips and much more.

Find out more, here.

A chocolate Labrador enjoys some water fun at the poolside, something this dog breed is known for enjoying

Where did the Labrador Retriever breed originate?

The Labrador Retriever has been developed into the breed we know and recognise today as one of the world’s favourite dog breeds in Britain, Australia and beyond. But its journey doesn’t start there, or here. The early version of the breed, known as the St. John’s water dog, was brought to Britain from Canada on trading ships.

The region of Canada where this dog breed’s story starts is called Labrador, hence the name. Labrador is part of the province known as Newfoundland and Labrador. Once the St. John’s water dog arrived in Europe, it was bred with British hunting dogs to create the Labrador Retriever.

In those early days the breed was bigger in size but just as talented at carrying things in its mouth very gently (it’s been said they can carry an egg without damaging it). The dog would ably assist fishermen carry in their haul. Any fish escaping the nets would swiftly be captured and brought back by these loyal water loving dogs.

Do Labrador Retrievers love water?

One of the reasons Labrador Retrievers were so good at aiding fishermen is their love of water. Unlike most other dogs, they have webbed feet and even sport a tail that slightly resembles an otter’s tail.

Additionally, this dog breed sports a waterproof or water resistant fur coat. The coat is both slightly oily and dry and creates a protective layer that keeps it warm – even in water, even in winter!

A helpful safety tip to remember is that even if your dog is water loving, ensure they have proper dog pool training and always supervise them in the water.

assistance dog training is in progress with this golden Labrador about to cross a street

One of several wonderful Assistance Dog breeds

Certain dog breeds are known for having the right trainability and temperament to become Assistance Dogs. These include Golden Retrievers, Poodles and German Shepherds among others. However, the most popular Assistance Dog breed is the Labrador Retriever!

Find out more about the amazing disability support work that Assistance Dogs do with these great guides:

It takes up to two years for Labrador puppies to gain the special skills needed to become Assistance Dogs helping people with disabilities with daily tasks. The costs involved in doing this can be up to $60,000 – a cost which Assistance Dogs Australia covers so that clients can get their dogs free of charge.

Blue Badge Insurance sponsors Assistance Dogs Australia by making a contribution from every active policy.

A Labrador Retriever smiles to show affection

Is a Labrador Retriever a good family dog?

Not only is the Labrador Retriever a firm favourite here in Australia, it holds the same position in the hearts of Kiwis and many other countries around the world.

This dog breed makes a loveable family dog because it enjoys being in the company of adults, children and other pets. While it thrives on plenty of outdoor time, this breed also needs time spent indoors. Like all dogs, it needs to have adequate socialisation and training from puppyhood.

This dog breed is well known for being easy to train and being highly adaptable. It’s very intelligent, friendly, gentle and good-natured. This is a dog that’s known for its ability to smile!

Just be aware of its curious nature because unlike many other dogs that dislike strangers, the Labrador Retriever is a dog breed that will happily greet just about anyone and go off exploring on its own. This means it’s easy for a Lab to get lost or be stolen.

A chocolate Lab is one of six Labrador puppies in a litter

Buying Labrador Retriever puppies safely

When you’re looking at buying Labrador puppies, getting your purebred pedigree dog safely and through the right steps is important. You’ll need to know you’re buying from an ethical dog breeder to ensure you don’t get scammed or fall prey to supporting puppy farms.

Familiarise yourself with these terms to understand why it’s important to buy Labrador puppies from ethical breeders.

What are puppy farms?

Puppy farms are also known as puppy mills. They’re places that breed dogs for money and money alone. As a result, dogs are often kept in small confines or even caged with little or no socialisation or exercise. Unfortunately this means they can be undernourished and over-bred with no regard for their welfare.

What are puppy scams?

Puppy scams trick you into paying for a puppy that either isn’t the one you expect to get, or you pay up and don’t receive any puppy at all. Scammers rely on people mail-ordering dogs, purchasing without ever visiting and seeing them in person first.

What are ethical dog breeders?

Ethical dog breeders are breeders that are invested in breeding healthy dogs and litters. They do routine health screenings on their breeding dogs so that no hereditary diseases are passed from parent to puppy. They make sure their breeding dogs and puppies are happy and healthy, physically and mentally. These types of breeders are usually members of national kennel clubs, like Dogs Queensland, for example.

Steps to take to find an ethical dog breeder in Australia

Now that you know what puppy farms and puppy scams are, you can avoid these. Follow the six steps to find an ethical dog breeder when buying Labrador puppies and keep yourself out of strife. Of course, another way to avoid being scammed is adopting a dog from a shelter.

You might not know whether your puppy is a pedigree dog breed, but if it looks and behaves like a Labrador then that’s often referred to as ‘purebred’. Many people have dogs that aren’t pedigree (meaning they don’t have dog papers that reflect their heritage) but still display familiar purebred dog characteristics.

A couple smiles lovingly at their pet dog, sitting between them.

Labrador Retriever health needs

Labrador Retrievers are prone to hereditary health conditions such as hip dysplasia and, in particular, obesity. That’s because most Labradors are missing some or all of the POMC gene – a gene that helps regulate appetite.

Obesity is one of the biggest health issues that pets face at the moment. It makes dogs (and cats) more prone to chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart problems and musculoskeletal issues.

According to the University of Sydney, chocolate coloured Labradors have a 10% shorter lifespan than yellow or black and are also more likely to have some health conditions in their lifetime. If you have this dog breed, that’s a good reason to have a pet insurance or Assistance Dogs insurance plan in place.

Here are more key facts about this dog breed:

Lifespan10 – 12 years
Coat colourYellow, black and chocolate
HeightMales, 57–62 cm / Females, 55–60 cm
WeightMales, 29–36 kg / Females, 25–32 kg
Litter sizeAround 5 to 10 puppies
CoatShort, dense and waterproof
A little girl tries to stop her Labrador puppy from over eating

Pet friendly reading

Whether your canine companion is an Assistance Dog, therapy animal or pet, we’ve rounded up some useful pet articles from our big blog library:

Assistance Dog and pet insurance

A pet plan costs a little each month but when pets get sick or injured the unexpected vet bills can be crippling. If you’re wondering whether pet insurance is worth it for pets and Assistance Dogs, the answer is yes. Both purebred and mixed dog breeds can have accidents and illness, and there are many common hereditary (genetic) conditions too.

Having pet insurance helps cover a range of vet bills, including fees for diagnostics, treatments, overnight hospitalisation at the vet clinic and more. It’s a lot like having human health insurance – but for your pet. It helps to cushion your pet and your pocket.

Plus, if you hold a valid disability parking permit Blue Badge Insurance gives you up to 15% on pet insurance and 25% off Assistance Dog Insurance. Your Labrador Retriever (or other dog or cat breed) will smile, knowing you’ve got them covered.

Click below to start your quote today.

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