To Coat Or To Overcoat


 COAT – The coat is a distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever. It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand. The Labrador should have a soft, weather-resistant undercoat that provides protection from water, cold and all types of ground cover. A slight wave down the back is permissible. Woolly coats, soft silky coats and sparse slick coats are not typical of the breed and should be severely penalized.


The precise wording of the breed standard as the law of the land laid down by the presiding authorities, the AKC/LRC  for the correct coat on a Labrador Retriever.


The first sentence from the dictum refers to the coat being a “distinctive feature of the Labrador Retriever”. The word, “distinctive” from the American Heritage Dictionary reads: “serving to identify, to recognize as being different, setting apart”.


So, from the first passage, we will assume that the Labrador Retriever’s coat is like no other dog’s coat and can readily be recognized as belonging to that breed and not to be confused with another breed’s coat.


The second sentence from the breed standard reads, “It should be short, straight and very dense, giving a fairly hard feeling to the hand”.




No mistaking the wording of the above 2 sentences. Nowhere is there visible anything about huge, thick, plush, long, open coats! Looking at some of these OVERCOATED dogs that we see in the ring today, I am reminded of a conversation I had back in the 80’s with George Bragaw, renown Labrador Retriever breeder, judge and authority on all that concerns the breed.


He made a statement that I hold very true to my perception of this wondrous breed.

“If looking at a Labrador Retriever and any part reminds you of another breed, then it is not a well put together specimen of the breed”.


A very logical enough statement and not all that hard to implement if taken to task; look at the overall profile of the dog and if anything is out of the ordinary for the breed, then “Houston, we have a problem!”


Well, Houston we have a very serious problem with the interpretation of the very simplistic wording from the first paragraph of this article. Two words come to the forefront here when looking at many of the dogs that are being put up, especially by the breeder-judges from up north, UNSHORT and UNDENSE, the exact opposite of the breed standard.  Long, thick plush coats are the order of the day over correct conformational dogs with SHORT DENSE coats!

Indeed a major problem exists, however having been around for well over 3 decades, I know how the pendulum swings. The process nonetheless is painful to watch as we go through the outward strokes of the swing. How much plusher does it get before the shift back to the middle is anyone's guess, it probably will start to swing back to normalcy when Labradors and Golden Retrievers get mixed up by the breeder/judges for being the same breed! Remember the Rottwieler-headed Labradors that were so painful to look at 8 or 10 years ago? Well that trend reached the outward stroke of the swinging pendulum and came back to a more moderate look, a Labrador that looks like a Labrador!

Over-coating is not the only characteristic in flux at the present moment, there has also been a shift towards heavy bone from some sectors of the country. At a recent dog show, I looked into the ring and looked at a Labrador that reminded me of an elephant! It brought George to mind and his remark about a dog looking like the breed he was supposed to be and not remind you of another breed, let alone another species! Well, this is another subject and maybe another opportunity to express my opinion on yet another subject!



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