Why Are Labs & Retrievers Cross Bred for Service Dogs?
Labrador Retriever Traits
- Labradors are part of the retriever family with a specific set of desirable traits for a service dog. The phrase "just happy to be here" sums up a Labrador retriever's personality. A very athletic dog full of energy and enthusiasm, a Lab is an agreeable and stable dog that is friendly with everyone. Many Labs tend to have a bit of stubbornness and independence, which is manageable with standard obedience training.
Golden Retriever Traits
- The other most desired retriever, by far, for crossbreeding with Labs are Golden retrievers. Goldens are remarkably friendly dogs--even more so than Labs--with a cheerful disposition, forgiving nature and playful spirit. Bred originally to fetch fallen fowl during hunting, this breed of dog will happily play fetch for hours. Hunting dogs have the distinct need to be with their humans as much as possible, which makes it great for someone who wants a constant companion whether watching television on the couch or hiking a local trail.
- The Golden Labrador is a hybrid or crossbred dog from the Labrador retriever and Golden retriever. Crossbreeding tends to moderate specific traits distinct to one breed and enhance traits shared by both breeds. The Golden Lab is a friendly, energetic dog that is eager to please and loves retrieving. Generally, the Golden's sometimes over-friendly tendencies are moderated, but the retrieving instinct, common to both Labs and Goldens, is very strong. The high energy and demanding athleticism of the Lab is moderated with the Goldens' need to be with its human at all times. This creates a calmer dog more willing to accept both long days of commuting and activity at work or school, as well as a lot of time indoors sitting and lying down while its handler goes about her business.
- Service dogs are required to perform many tasks, sometimes fairly complicated in nature. Retrieving items, bracing a fallen handler, guiding someone along a busy sidewalk are all common tasks people with disabilities may require of their service dog. The Golden Lab is sturdy and athletic, strong enough to pull up to around 100 pounds and comfortably brace themselves to help a fallen person lift himself. Their controlled friendliness and eager to please disposition makes training them to be well behaved in public straightforward. The retrieving instincts from both Labradors and Goldens are distilled into a strong need to retrieve in Golden Labs, which aids in training them to open doors, retrieve medications or phones and an array of other retrieving tasks with greater ease than with other breeds or hybrids. This is vital for someone who is blind or wheelchair-bound since the dog must retrieve everything from socks out of a drawer to money from a purse to assist them.
- Purebred dogs have a reputation for health problems due to the matching up of defective genes. Crossbred dogs, such as the Golden Lab. have a smaller chance of inheriting deformities and genetic problems. A greater variety of genes in the DNA allows a better chance at a stronger immune system as well, sometimes referred to as "hybrid vigor." All of this is vital for a service dog because a human is depending on it for maintaining an active life. If the dog is strong and healthy, the human handler can more reliably depend upon its service for a longer duration without worry for the dog's well-being.