Labradors were originally bred to be hunting dogs. They were trained to accompany hunters of all different types and retrieve game that they had shot. Currently, only some Labradors are used as hunting dogs. Many Labradors are enjoying their lives as family dogs and only hunt tennis balls during a game of fetch. Due to their good nature and intelligence, these dogs are incredibly versatile and make outstanding pets to anyone that can keep up with their constant energy.
According to the American Kennel Club, Labradors were bred to withstand hours of work in the field with their owners retrieving game, have a stable temperament and are not easily excited. All breeders that register their Labradors with the American Kennel Club must strive to have all of these characteristics present in their dogs.
Physically, Labradors are bred to be large dogs. Their height at their withers should be about 22-1/2 inches to 24-1/2 inches for males and 21-1/2 to 23-1/2 inches for females. Males are bred to be 65 pounds to 80 pounds and females are bred to be 55 pounds to 70 pounds. Labradors are bred to be strong dogs. They are expected to be in proportion and extremely muscular. In fact, in order to show Labradors, they are required to be in working condition without any extra fat on their bodies.
Labradors are bred to be black, yellow, or chocolate. Though other color combinations do exist, these were not intentional and are not breed standard. A small white patch of hair on the chest is not intended by breeders, but it is still acceptable to the American Kennel Club for a dog with a white parch of hair on the chest to be in a dog show.
Labradors are supposed to be able to walk and run fluidly and with grace. Labradors are bred so that when the dog runs towards you, there is no sign of it having its elbows out. Quite the opposite is true. Labradors are bred to have their elbows close to their bodies during movement. This makes them better retrievers.
In terms of temperament, Labradors were bred to be strong, stoic dogs. They are bred to be independent and outgoing. The American Kennel Club does not approve of mature Labradors that are shy towards people or even the least bit aggressive. Labradors are bred for their intelligence. This breed of dog is generally so intelligent that it needs to have a job to do to stay busy. This is why they were originally used for hunting and retrieving. If a Labrador is not kept busy with a job to do, the dog will very likely grow to become incredibly bored. A bored dog is a destructive dog. The dog does not destroy things to be mean or spiteful, but because it is bored and needs something to do. This, obviously, is not an intended characteristic, but rather a byproduct of the intelligence that Labradors are bred for.