Page 342 - ShowSight - November 2019
P. 342

                Labrador Retriever Q & A
 “The Labrador Retriever is the most sought after breed to work as guide dogs and therapy dogs as the temperament lends itself to be the most adaptable to the owner’s needs.”
Erin McRobb & Diane McClurg continued
At what age do we start to see definite signs of show-worthiness? We start to look at the puppies running in the yard as soon as five weeks. We may not put them on the table to evaluate as I think puppies running in the yard certainly give a different look and per- spective. Show worthy puppies can start as early as six weeks and as late as ten weeks, if you are choosing some and placing others in pet homes. I have changed my mind when choosing a puppy as late as the day before a pet family comes to pick up the new family member.
We then grown them up and do basic clearances to see if it will be worth the time and money investment to make them a show dog completely. Even as late as a year—with clearances—we may decide to place a dog as it isn’t quite what we were looking for.
Can the breed’s hard-headedness can make them difficult to train? Most of the labs we have bred aren’t hard headed. In fact very few that we have bred have been difficult to train. Labradors are easy going, willing to please, biddable, and ready to do a job for their owners. (I think we may be on a different level for this ques- tion.) Labradors shouldn’t be hard headed at all.
Diane: The Labrador Retriever is the most sought after breed to work as guide dogs and therapy dogs as the temperament lends itself to be the most adaptable to the owner’s needs.
What is the most important thing about the breed for a novice to keep in mind when judging? There are a lot of different types in the Lab ring. Find a mentor with a type you prefer and learn. Learn- ing also means looking at other breed to learn proper movement and structure. Trust your mentor—they have been doing it a long time and probably have encountered nearly everything.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater—look at the whole picture. There will be some things you can forgive and some thing you know you cannot stand to look at—those are the moments you will learn the most.
My ultimate goal for the breed? My personal goal is to breed and own (and handle if I can) one of our own dogs to BIS and BISS status. We have bred, owned and shown dogs to BISS, but have not achieved a BIS.
My favorite dog show memory? I have three actually. Winning best junior at the Lab national under breeder judge George Bragaw. That win qualified me for my first trip to Westminster. Then win- ning BISS from the 12-18 class with a bitch we had bred, owned, and handled. The third being the most proud breeder moment—we took a yellow boy to the Labrador Retriever Club of the Potomac. I showed him to a class win. It was at that moment that I realized as I was showing him I was in a ring full of people I looked up to and helped mentor me and my mom to where we are now.
Diane: My favorite dog show memory is at the first Labrador Retriever Club National show held in Arlington Texas in 1989 where we showed our first Lab, Aquatdots Good Golly Ms Molly, as a puppy and she made the cut to the last six puppies in large sweep- stakes and regular classes under “ famous’ breeder judges—it was a thrill like no other to the novice dog show exhibitor.
I have bred and shown Labra- dor Retrievers for 45 years. I am proud to have bred and owned over 75 champions, including multiple group winners and plac- ers. I have shown multiple BISS Labradors as well as having many Labs win points at specialties. I am proud of the Champion Master Hunter that I bred, along with the SH’s, JH’s, and multiple Obedience titled dogs, and the many hunting and companion dogs that I hope have brought
fun and happiness to their owners. I have judged Labrador Retriev- ers, Golden Retrievers, Flat-Coated Retrievers and Norfolk Terriers since 2004.
I live in Conifer, Colorado. What do I do outside of dogs? Noth- ing! My husband and I own a boarding and grooming kennel and have for almost 29 years.
Do I feel the breed’s popularity helps or hurts the breed in the long run? With regard to the popularity of Labradors, Labs have been very popular for several decades, so that is nothing new. Labs are so versatile that it really isn’t surprising. Labs as a breed excel in field work, scent work, obedience, as service dogs, guiding the blind, tracking, police work such as finding drugs or accelerants, and they are just the best family pets. Being popular helps a breed like Labradors because there are lots of them available for the many jobs they’re good at. On the other hand, this popularity can also hurt the breed when less than critical breeders produce lots of poor quality puppies that are easily sold to the unsuspecting.
How has the breed adapted to civilian life? Labs will really find a job if left to occupy their own time. In order for them to be the best dog they can be, they need training, exercise, and inclusion in the family. A Lab’s natural inclination is to please and serve (such as retrieving a bird and giving it to the handler). This natural instinct of a retriever is the basis of pretty much all the jobs that Labs are trained to do. In the home, this retrieving and wanting to please makes for a fun and involved family pet. The Lab’s willingness to please makes him relatively easy to train.
What about the breed makes them an ideal companion? With proper socialization and training, a Lab can be the perfect family dog. Most Labs are and should be friendly, biddable, and able to get along with children and other pets. It goes without saying, however, that puppies do not come pre-trained; they can be teenagers for a long time. Labs are big and, as they can be very strong for their size, early and continued training is essential for a long and happy family relationship.
What special challenges do Labrador breeders face in our cur- rent economic and social climate? In my opinion, every serious dog
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