The Labrador Retriever (simply Labrador, or Lab for short) is one of several kinds of retriever, a type of gun dog. Even-tempered and well-behaved around young children and the elderly, Labradors are athletic and playful, and are the most popular breed of dog by registered ownership in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States (since 1991). A favourite assistance dog breed in these and other countries, Labradors are frequently trained to aid blind and autistic people, act as therapy dogs, and perform screening and detection work for law enforcement and other official agencies.
Dog breeds are groups of closely related and visibly similar domestic dogs, which are all of the subspecies Canis lupus familiaris, having characteristic traits that are selected and maintained by humans, bred from a known foundation stock. The term dog breed is also used to refer to natural breeds or landraces, which arose through time in response to a particular environment that included humans, with little or no selective breeding by humans. Such breeds are undocumented, and are identified by their appearance and often by a style of working. Ancient dog breeds are some of the modern (documented) descendants of such natural breeds.
Dog breeding is the practice of mating selected dogs with the intent to maintain or produce specific qualities and characteristics. When dogs reproduce without such human intervention, their offsprings' characteristics are determined by natural selection, while "dog breeding" refers specifically to the artificial selection of dogs, in which dogs are intentionally bred by their owners. A person who intentionally mates dogs to produce puppies is referred to as a dog breeder. Breeding relies on the science of genetics, so the breeder with a knowledge of canine genetics, health, and the intended use for the dogs attempts to breed suitable dogs.
Humans have maintained populations of useful animals around their places of habitat since pre-historic times. They have intentionally fed dogs considered useful, while neglecting or killing others, thereby establishing a relationship between humans and certain types of dog over thousands of years. Over these millennia, domesticated dogs have developed into distinct types, or groups, such as livestock guardian dogs, hunting dogs, and sighthounds.
The St. John's water dog, also known as the St. John’s dog or the lesser Newfoundland, was a naturally occurring dog breed from Newfoundland. Little is known of the types that went into its genetic makeup, although it was probably a random-bred mix of old English, Irish and Portuguese working dogs. The number of St. John's water dogs started declining by the start of the 20th century. By the early 1980s, the breed was extinct.
The Golden Retriever is a large-sized breed of dog. They were bred as gun dogs to retrieve shot waterfowl such as ducks and upland game birds during hunting and shooting parties, and were named retriever because of their ability to retrieve shot game undamaged. Golden Retrievers have an instinctive love of water, and are easy to train to basic or advanced obedience standards. They are a long-coated breed, with a dense inner coat that provides them with adequate warmth in the outdoors, and an outer coat that lies flat against their bodies and repels water. Golden Retrievers are well suited to residency in suburban or country environments. Although they need substantial outdoor exercise, they should be housed in a fenced area because of their instinctual tendency to roam. The dog sheds copiously, particularly at the change of seasons, and requires fairly regular grooming.
The breed is a prominent participant in conformation shows for purebred dogs. The Golden Retrievers' intelligence makes it a versatile breed and allows it to fill a variety of roles – common ones being guide dog for the blind, hearing dog for the deaf, hunting dog, detection dog, and search and rescue participant. The breed's friendly, gentle temperament means it is unsuited to being a professional guard dog, but its temperament has also made it the third most popular family dog breed (by registration) in the United States, the fifth most popular in Australia, and the eighth most popular in the United Kingdom. Golden Retrievers are rarely choosy eaters, but require ample exercise (of two or more hours a day). The breed is fond of play but also highly trainable; Augie, a Golden Retriever from Texas, holds the world record for the most tennis balls held in the mouth by a dog.