Although some are highly energetic, Labrador Retrievers are often thought of as having a happy-go-lucky or easy-going nature, Their calm nature combined with their athletic tendencies and stamina originally well suited the breed to be hunting dogs, and now allows them to become service dogs primarily in search and rescue and disability assistance. However, as with other working breeds, the athleticism of the pet Labrador Retriever requires physical and mental stimulation in the family environment. They will enjoy retrieving items such as tennis balls or floating toys that provide the necessary stimulation while taking advantage of the Labrador Retriever's excellent swimming ability. Labrador Retrievers are commonly quite food motivated, which facilitates learning and training, thus furthering the dog's bond to the family. Rewarding the dog with food for dropping a retrieved item can also help reduce the dog's tendencies for retrieving items not intended for play.
The Labrador Retriever can trace its roots to the coast of Newfoundland, Canada. The breed dates back to at least the seventeenth century when they were known as the "Lesser Newfoundland." The breed is believed to have descended from the extinct "St. John's Water Dog" which was a cross between native water dogs and the Newfoundland. Labrador Retrievers were initially trained to retrieve fishing nets from the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Fisherman brought them to England in the nineteenth century where they were lauded for their swimming, retrieving and hunting skills. The Earl of Malmesbury is believed to have coined the name Labrador in order to differentiate them from their Newfoundland ancestors. During the 1800's, a heavy dog tax in Canada and quarantine laws in Britain drastically cut the number of Labradors in the U.K., but a good breeding program replenished the stock. Labrador Retrievers were recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1903 with the first pedigree recognized dating back to 1878, making it one of the oldest recognized breeds in existence.