Lots of good advice above regarding the specific issues outlined in OP's post. I would just reiterate that any breeder be vetted for things like -- what health testing do they conduct on their breeding stock? Are they proving their dogs in any venues (show ring, hunt tests, etc.), are they active in the Lab breed (meaning involved in any of the local AKC-affiliated Labrador clubs). Labs, like many breeds of dog, have certain conditions/diseases to which they are prone. Any breeder you are looking at should be able to provide written proof or proof via the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals database that their dogs have been tested for all the common conditions known to Labs and have passed those tests -- or if they are found to be a carrier, that the breeding itself is to another dog who is not a carrier or affected.
How does one research Health Clearance?
Orthopedic Foundation for Animals
These are the commonly known issues in Labs:
Orthopedic -- hips and elbows of breeding stock should score Fair, Good, or Excellent for hips and be graded Normal for elbows to try and avoid producing dysplastic puppies
Eyes -- breeding stock should be checked yearly by a veterinary opthalmalogist
Heart -- TVD, test should be conducted on breeding stock via echocardiogram; affected dogs can die of congestive heart failure
DNA tests: CNM, EIC, prcd-PRA (affected dogs usually go blind eventually)
If you are considering a breeder whose dogs are not listed on OFA, but they claim they have passed all these tests, ask for the written proof. Written proof is not something from a regular vet -- they will be test results from specialists listed above or from DNA testing labs. If your breeder is telling you they know their lines, their vet says their dogs are healthy, they don't need to do these tests, they are likely not the kind of breeder who is going to produce the specific type of dog you are looking for.
Also, if the breeder produces or advertises "rare" colors (silver, champagne, charcoal), they are not a reputable breeder.
The Labrador Retriever parent club in the US recommends these tests (more info here): Canine Health Information Center: CHIC Information
Also, you might want to look at the sites for your local Labrador club, which are Labrador Retriever Club of Greater Boston (LRCGB: Home) and Labrador Retriever Club of the Pioneer Valley (Labrador Club Labrador Breeders Labrador Puppies, Black Chocolate Yellow Pioneer Valley Ma Ct - L.r.c.p.v. - Springfield, Ma). There are many longtime, well-respected Labrador breeders in the Northeast. No need to get a puppy from a commercial breeder or backyard breeder.
Ditto the advice about breeders proving their dogs in trial or show (though it sounds to me like you want more of a conformation / "English" type than a field / "American" type—keep in mind that these are just names for types, and both are fully Labs): if a breeder is not breeding for trial or show, they are breeding to sell.
So what's wrong with "breeding to sell?" When I started researching breeders, I'd never have thought this was a problem. Or rather, it never would have occurred to me at all. I thought, "I don't want a 'show dog'—I'm not going to show it! I just want a properly bred, healthy, nicely tempered Lab!"
But that's the thing. And I entirely ask any breeder here to correct me if I am wrong.
When you breed for show or trial, you think very carefully about everything, because you are hoping to produce your next champion. You will probably keep one, possibly two (as a backup) pups, and you are trying to create your dream dog: perfectly sound and healthy, exquisite conformation, solid temperament. If ou are breeding a field Lab, for trials, you want a dog with high energy and strong drive. If you are breeding for show, you want a lively, proud dog, not a skittish or shy one, and maybe one that won't run off at the sight of a bird. Both are excellent goals—but they are different goals.
The breeder we chose (and who I think is wonderful) breeds conformation / show Labs that are both beautiful and beautifully tempered. Because our breeder is breeding for her own program, all the dogs are beautifully bred and with full health clearances. That's what you want.
Well bred dogs are so well bred that people can recognize the lines. I know the one dog in my neighborhood who comes from our breeder—people often mistake our dog for him—though he's a gentleman of about 7 years old, and she's a 20 month old girl—the line is so recognizable. I've had people stop me in the park and say "Oh, is she a XX dog? She's beautiful!"
And yes: she's beautiful. But my main concern is her health, and her temperament. And that's why you go with the best breeder you can find.
You will do well by doing the research. Good luck, and have fun on the journey!
Hidden Content Hokule'a ("Hoku") / b. 06.08.15
OFA hips and Elbows, passing scores.
Echo cardiogram of the heart, to rule out breeding a dog with any heart defects. A big one for Labradors is TVD (Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia) which is a malformation of the leaflets of one of three of the heart valves. The new "Advanced Cardiac Database" test screens for more than just TVD. http://www.offa.org/pdf/ACA_Announcement.pdf
Annual eye exams for all breeding dogs.
Daos mentioned the DNA testing, and currently for Labradors is prcd-PRA, (progressive rod cone degeneration-Progressive Retinal Atrophy), EIC (Exercise Induced Collapse), CNM (Centro Nuclear Myopathy), DM (Degenerative Myelopathy), and of course free of the dilute gene, which is foreign to purebred Labrador Retrievers.
The good thing about the DNA gene tests, is you KNOW if the dog carries the gene or not, and you can breed a carrier to a clear, or even an affected to a clear, and not produce affected puppies.
When you breed without these gene tests, and don't know the status if the parents, it's a lot like Russian Roulette. The other tests, like the OFA hips and elbows, and heart, you can still produce heart defects, and hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia, because they are polygenic, (multiple genes are involved) and we do not have a DNA test for those yet, so we do the best we can with the information and x rays, but you can hedge your bets against it with the data and family history.
Many of us work long hours and are gone from home for a long time. There are ways around that with a puppy. Lunches at home, dog walkers, puppy or doggy daycare. If you are honest with yourself and can and WILL put in the time, care, and effort for a puppy or young dog regardless of the breed, then go for it! I personally think labs are great we have two labs from two different breeders. Both were fairly easy to crate train and potty train. Both are smart, willing to learn, happy, stable dogs. We have done a ton of training classes with both and it has really paid off.
One of our dogs is very......happy. He is energetic, spirited, unafraid, outgoing, LOVES people and animals, is a social butterfly but is very sweet. We spent months working on proper training and socialization and redirection. We worked at both physical and mental sports. He was never a problem dog, but we spent a lot of time and money on training. At one point when he was about 10 months old we were in a class with three females that all went into their first heat cycles within weeks of each other. Mav lost his mind and I was getting frustrated. Our trainer just said something to the effect of we're doing a great job and Mav has come a long way. At this age, many people with a dog like him would've just dumped him at a shelter so we should be proud of his accomplishments.
My point is, if you can handle the dedication and know there can and will be setbacks, go for it. If you don't get a duplicate of your neighbors dog and are ok with it, go for it. If you get a pup that is too energetic for your parents or their Yorkie but you're willing to work at it, go for it. If your pup is a hellion and gets crazy and nippy with your kids, but you and they are all committed to training and working together to form the perfect dog go for it. If you can honestly go into this knowing that, even after tons of training, your lab will never be the perfect dog but will be perfect for you, then go for it.
Good luck and have fun!
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I do not think the breeders i referred to can compete. i have seen 5 of them so far. one has serious shoulder surgery on both front ones, the others are smaller and more towards the canoe labs you see on some ads. they are smaller and a bit round . They all have amazing temperment though. All sweet and cuddlers as per there owners. They are also the smallest English labs i have ever seen. They also lack the prey drive compared to gigi. But Gigi has alot of prey drive. The only 2 labs i see comparable prey drive are the 2 field american labs i have encountered.I told my MIL they are smaller and sweeter with low drives if she absolutely wants a pup.
I been directing my MIL to go for a breeder older dog or even a rescue. Its her retirement companion. She is 62 will walk a few miles every day with the dog and will keep the dog active. but need it to be alone for a few hours a day when she is out and about..Also friendly with kids and our dog/cat. I show her how much work gigi took in the first year even though she is a lab/shepard mix. she is coming around the fact . Her last dog was a cockier spaniel who lived till 16 so she has not had a dog for 3 yrs so its been a while since she had a puppy and over 35 yrs since a lab.
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