With the right type of training, a black Labrador retriever will bring back a downed bird just as well as a tennis ball. Getting into an eating competition with one probably isn't a good idea, and you might be embarrassed if you attempt to out-swim one.
Unlike some breeds that have an aloof personality and don't care for strangers approaching them, such as German shepherds, black Labs are more likely to run up to someone with their tongue hanging out and tail wagging. They might sound off with a few barks first, but they're not a protective breed. Choose a black Lab and you won't only have a happy-go-lucky dog on your hands, you'll also have an intelligent one. According to the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point, in 1994 100 American Kennel Club judges rated 110 breeds based on their intelligence, and they ranked Labrador retrievers seventh overall. Because of their high intelligence, black Labs learn commands in fewer repetitions than many other breeds.
If you need motivation to exercise, a black Lab will give you that motivation. Not only do they hate sitting in the house all day, they often act out and find themselves in trouble if they don't have some way to release their energy. Without daily walks -- or a few a week if you have a large yard -- your couch cushions could become victims of a bored Lab.
Dark as a starless night sky, black Labs usually mature at around 2 feet in height and fill out between 55 and 75 pounds. Females tend to fall on the lighter side of the spectrum. Their coat may be short, but they need frequent grooming to prevent littering your floor with a layer of hair. Labs have broad heads that match their thick bodies. Their webbed feet make them natural swimmers, and if you were to only see a Lab's tail in the water, you'd think you were looking at an otter cruising by. Labradors' color is determined by genes. Because the black gene is dominant, it is the most common color for Labs.
Hip and elbow dysplasia and progressive retinal atrophy top the list of health concerns for black Labs. Unless you bring home an older Lab, you won't see evidence of the debilitating problems until your pup reaches at least 3 or 4 years old in most cases. Both hip and elbow dysplasia make movement extremely difficult, and affected Labs often require surgery. Progressive retinal atrophy eventually leads to blindness and sometimes just in a few months after symptoms appear. Taking home a black Lab from a reputable breeder lowers the risk of the aforementioned health concerns, but doesn't eliminate them. One health concern that does rest in your hands is obesity. Labs don't care what other dogs think about them, and they'll eat out your entire fridge to prove it. Keeping treats to a minimum -- primarily handing them out during training -- and only feeding as many cups of dog food as the manufacturer recommends helps keep a Lab at the appropriate weight.
- black lab stare image by Scott Slattery from Fotolia.com