The Labrador Retriever was ushered into this world around the 16th Century by early Newfoundland settlers who started to breed the dogs specifically fora good working dog, and a dog that would be an excellent human companion. Labradors share their ancestry with a few other varieties of dogs, and are a hearty blend of English, Irish and Portuguese working breeds. What is interesting is that these other dog breeds are also the foundation for many dogs we all so love. The first ancestor of the Labrador Retriever is the Poodle, and believe it or not, has been an integral part of such other breeds as the Husky and many Spaniels. With their high intelligence and ability to keep a clear unattached approach to work and life, the Poodle is a valued member of Team Lab.
As we dive into the whole concept of retrieving and working within water, the next ancestor of the Labrador is the beautiful and focused Portuguese Water Dog. These dogs know when to work and when to rest. And when they go to work, they really go to work. Because of this forebear, Labrador Retrievers are known to be very focused, intelligent and brave. They weather conditions better than most other dogs and that is exactly what they were bred for. For example, Labradors will jump without hesitation into frigid waters to retrieve fishing nets. They do this more easily than other dogs because “the Labrador’s coat repels water to some extent, thus facilitating the extensive use of the dog in water fowl hunting.” As for the rest of the Labrador ancestry, take a dash of Irish Setter, a hint of Collie, and a cup of Mastiff…..let all that brew for a few centuries, and we have the fully bred and magnificently constructed Labrador Retriever we know today!
As part of that construction, the Labrador did not start off at the height and weight we are now familiar with. When Labs originated, they were smaller, longer, and leaner, but very agile. They had short smooth hair which served them well because it was less likely to be covered and tangled in ice when coming out of those frigid waters. The webbing between their toes, that still exists, makes them excellent fearless swimmers. Their ability to have no fear is something we can all learn from. Fear has been the killer for human beings since the beginning of time, and the calm even spirit of the Lab, who remains in the moment while abandoning fear, is a crucial aid for anyone who calls the Labrador Retriever their dog. Over time, Labs have come to the aid of humans in other ways as well. Because of their strong work ethic and need to be close to people, their work to aid the human population is extraordinary. Labradors are frequently used in this and other countries as therapy dogs, to aid the blind, to assist autistic individuals, and are often called upon by law enforcement for screening and detection work.
Now that we have a better understanding of the Lab’s history and origin, we must educate ourselves as to what this all means for those who love and would like to improve their lives while being a constant companion to the Labrador. All work and no play can make us all a little nuts, but if we have a Labrador Retriever, the goal of achieving balance is closer than we think.
LITTLE KNOWN FACTS
Approximately 60-70% of all guide dogs in Canada are Labradors.
Along with the Leonberger, Newfoundland, and Golden Retriever, the Labrador is used at the Italian School of Canine Lifeguard.
Labradors have a great sense of smell which helps them when working in the areas of hunting and tracking. I thought it was just the Hound group – it appears that Labs are not too far behind!
THE ENERGETIC CONNECTION
We often wonder what draws us to various human beings as well as to animals, in particular to your dog! To begin with, we do know a few things about the Labrador. That is, this is a mild mannered, hard working, sweet dog that can be the ultimate family dog. A Labrador’s mind energy has the capacity to be very even keeled and completely fluid under just about any circumstance. Specifically, they can take care of their human companions and take care of business all at the same time, with love and generosity that is very clear, easy and effortless. Quite a catch I would say!
In looking at the simplicity of the dog’s origin, we should also look at how the Labrador Retriever was first bred to be a hunting, swimming and the ultimate retrieving dog. These initial breeding traits are the real energy we want to harness and get back to. Because, in essence, we are drawn to various dogs for reasons we do not readily comprehend on a conscious level, and that unconscious attraction is the level I want us to play in! Over time, however, the Labrador Retriever has been bred and re-bred, and now is offered in a variety of colors: chocolate, black and tan. Along with the Labrador’s metamorphosis, comes the energy of human beings who’ve had such a heavy hand in altering their very nature. Hmmm…what does that mean for all of us who have a Labrador living in our home or who are looking to get one?
The Labrador Retriever craves both the beautiful companionship of a human being as well as the alone time to recoup and restore the quiet calm that comes so naturally to them. Unfortunately, in this day and age, Labrador Retrievers have become so caught up in an energy that sways their initial quiet intention and their true energetic flow. They have forgotten that rest is just as important as getting the “job” done. Sound familiar to some of you? If it does, you probably have found a Labrador Retriever and the Lab has found you. I am a big believer in harnessing simpler less obstructed energy in order to get clear and connected to ourselves and to our animals. Finding that clear unobstructed energy in the Labrador Retriever will help us understand what that connection really means, and how it reflects upon us and our union with them.
Understanding this will allow all of us to truly love this delicious breed. What else can we learn from this gentle spirit to take our connection to the next level? Let’s travel together and take a look at what we can understand on a much deeper level about what draws you to the Lab and the Lab to you!
As society expands and energy moves more swiftly, we find that we can become caught in behavior patterns that create static energetic blocks that slow us down on a daily basis. To that, I have found that the Labrador has been given a greater purpose beyond running into cold oceans to retrieve nets, or into an open field to catch fowl. Yes this is a hunting dog, but the Labrador is also a people dog with the responsibility to teach us how to equally obtain that beautiful balance of work, play and rest that is inherent in their nature.
I believe that when Milan Kundera said, “Dogs are our link to paradise. They don’t know evil or jealousy or discontent. To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring -- - it was peace,” he was talking about a Labrador.
Unfortunately, because of the human condition, we have turned the peaceful simplicity and purity of the Labrador’s nature into a very complicated mixture of issues. Specifically, I have heard various complaints from their human companions that Labrador Retrievers now have increased anxiety, problems with abandonment, thyroid issues, hip dysplasia, boredom, epilepsy, enlarged heart, weight issues and, in some cases, depression. Present day Labradors have strayed from their original intention and have started to become more prone to anxiety than ever before. This is where I see hints of their Collie and Poodle ancestors which are extremely bright breeds but don’t always know what to do with the rapidly changing and accelerated energy of our human world. All that strong primal need for mind and body movement becomes so overwhelming that they can’t process it as fast as it is received. When looking back in history, it is interesting to see how certain destined moments arise. The Retriever was meant to evolve not so differently than his highly intelligent ancestors.
Another evolutionary change can be seen in the Labrador’s eating habits. Labs are known for being hearty eaters, but have gone from eating because they are hungry or need energy to work, to now eating anything and everything all the time whenever they can! I hear how these dogs first eat all their food, and then look for anything to drop from the table onto the floor. You name it and they will eat it! That is a neurosis that exists not only in the
Labrador but is present in human beings as well. Through years of conditioning, neurotic energy is transferred from human beings to their animals, and has transformed them. In the examples given, Labradors have gone from eating fully with intention to becoming virtual trash compactors; and from being simple gentle dogs to having acquired anxiety from their human companions. All these neuroses have taken them away from their true purpose and out of being in the moment. This does not occur in all cases as I have worked with and loved many Labrador Retrievers that are not obstructed by the human condition. But unfortunately I have seen the unobstructed Labrador less and less, and it has begun to worry me.
When I speak to and work with the energy of these wonderful dogs, I find they are pleading to get back to a much simpler mind. As the human companion attracted to the Labrador Retriever, we should dedicate ourselves to helping them do just that. In so doing, they help us accomplish the exact same goal for ourselves. The unconscious becomes conscious, and “playing with your dog” on this level now takes on a whole new meaning. Our relationship has been transformed!
“Perhaps one central reason for loving dogs is that it takes us away from this obsession with ourselves. When our thoughts start to go in circles, and we seem unable to break away, wondering what the future holds for us, the dog opens a window into the delight of the moment.”