Is Your Lab Becoming Less Loyal and More Lonesome?

Any reputable dog breeder will tell you: great retrievers come from great genes. That's why they don't haphazardly mix dogs and pray the litter produces fine hunters.

Instead, through rigorous hunt tests, trials, field prowess and health clearances, a breeder will meticulously pair a male and female to create the next generation of bird-crazed duck dogs.

At least, that's the idea.

labs-are-family-dogs


On paper, genetics are simple, but it's not that cut-and-dried. There are no guarantees. Breeders know that by pairing the best of the best, they have the greatest chance of creating puppies that express the same desirable traits exhibited by their parents — color, size, biddability, nose and drive, for instance — while also eliminating the possibility of suffering from genetic ailments such as hip dysplasia, and eye or thyroid problems.


However, as they juggle all these aspects, invariably something can slip through the cracks. In the case of hard-charging, high-horsepower field-trial Labs, it's one trait that may be the most desirable among owners: a loving disposition.

I've heard more than one breeder say, "you can't have it all." There's no such thing as the perfect retriever, and if you're looking to gain in one area, you'll likely lose in another. If the goal is to win ribbons or pass tests, and if speed, stamina, and the ability to win are the only things put into context, it's not unlikely that other qualities may be inadvertently brushed aside.

Researcher Linda Van Den Berg investigated aggression among golden retrievers — yeah, those dogs that pretty much epitomize "man's best friend."

Her goal was to discover whether impulsive aggressive behavior was inherited in those few goldens who exhibit it and if so, isolate the gene responsible. Van Den Berg found impulsive aggression is easily passed on, although she was unsuccessful in isolating the exact gene responsible.


Yes, aggression can be bred, even by accident. It's easy to forget that the loving, obedient dog by your side was, many, many generations ago, a wild canine. Through selective breeding, humans have molded companions that run the gamut of functionality and form.

And while we continue to perfect upon these biological marvels, it's not unlikely that those natural, wild instincts we've tried to beat into submission won't come crawling back into dominance if left unchecked.

It's ironic, really, that one of the most revered qualities of Labradors might be getting bypassed and even overshadowed; it's the opposite for breeds with aggressive reputations, such as Chesapeake Bay retrievers and German wirehaired pointers.


Reputable Chessie and wirehair breeders are well aware of their ingrained dispositions, and go above and beyond to assure temperament is at the forefront when pairing for prospective litters.

The truth is, aggressiveness can be a factor in any breed. It's up to breeders, and especially dog owners, to research and pick the dogs that best fit their family and hunting styles. After all, even with a few months of waterfowl season, a retriever is a family dog first.

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Swedish Duck Hunt

Swedish Duck Hunt

Kevin Steele takes part in a family driven duck hunt in Sweden.

Arkansas Snow Geese

Arkansas Snow Geese

Wildfowl Editor Skip Knowles took this short video showing all the Snow Geese flying. Let's just say, he had a very good hunt!

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call.

Picking a Puppy

Picking a Puppy

Wildfowl contributor Mark Romanack shares advice about choosing your next retriever.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during 2019, company CEO Charlie Holder shows off the limited edition Yentzen Classic aimed at commemorating the life and times of company founder Jim 'Cowboy' Fernandez. With a special autographed box and a laser engraved call body, the Cowboy Classic is a perfect way to honor the legacy of the 1959 world duck calling champ and inventor of the double-reed duck call. Calls

Cowboy Fernandez Commemorative Yentzen Classic Duck Call

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

As Groves, Texas duck call maker Sure-Shot Game Calls celebrates their 60th anniversary during...

Jim Orth needed'a simple blind for hunting Lake St. Clair. A staffing recruiter and outfitter from How-To

Building a Duck Boat Blind on a Budget

Mike Marsh - May 10, 2016

Jim Orth needed'a simple blind for hunting Lake St. Clair. A staffing recruiter and outfitter...

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full line-up of women's waterfowl hunting gear for 2019. From warm and moisture wicking base layers to water and windproof outer layers, this is a complete system for women who love to chase fall and wintertime ducks and geese across the four flyways! Clothing & Waders

New SITKA Women's Waterfowl Lineup for 2019

Lynn Burkhead - January 28, 2019

SITKA Gear waterfowl product manager Jim Saubier shows off the Bozeman, Montana company's full...

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer.

Of course, it Boats

8 Best Mud Motors for 2016

David Hart - May 26, 2016

Let's face it, that old mud motor from two years ago isn't cuttin' it any longer. Of course,...

See More Trending Articles

More Retriever

Are you asking enough of your retriever? Maybe your good gun dog could be great. Retriever

Reach Your Duck Dog's Full Potential

Tom Dokken

Are you asking enough of your retriever? Maybe your good gun dog could be great.

Make time for these three drills every month, and watch your pup prosper. Retriever

3 Duck Dog Drills to Practice Every Month

Tom Dokken

Make time for these three drills every month, and watch your pup prosper.

Times have changed, and so has the size of our retrievers.  Retriever

Size Versus Drive in Hunting Dogs

Tom Dokken

Times have changed, and so has the size of our retrievers. 

Keep your retriever sharp in the offseason. Retriever

Waterfowl Workouts: 3 Summer Duck Dog Drills

Tony J. Peterson

Keep your retriever sharp in the offseason.

See More Retriever

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Get Digital Access.

All Wildfowl subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now