Heads...do they "define" a labrador?
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Thread: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

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    CaliforniaLabLover's Avatar
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    DefaultHeads...do they "define" a labrador?

    Kindof going into a new "body part" thread...one that has briefly been discussed before here I think... I would like to open up the conversation on heads since we all have varying opinions on how a labrador head should look according to the standard. There was some conflict in the rearends thread about heads being "lab" or "non-lab" according to the standard. That reminded me of an experience I had last year...

    One of my mentors and friends attended a UKC show last summer with me to kindof "see what it was all about" (there aren't many of these in CA). When sitting around aaaallllll day long (it was hot and miserable), we had the chance to see a couple of the dogs who were competing in labradors. One of them, my mentor actually questioned whether or not it was a flattie or a labrador based on its head, slight structure (very similar to a FCR), and coat. Either way, it was not a good representative of *either* breed based on the written breed standards of any kennel club I've ever read. (It took WD/BOW in one of the shows, by the way...or the UKC equivalent to that)

    From the AKC labrador breed standard (I'm sure you've all read this numerous times):
    The most distinguishing characteristics of the Labrador Retriever are its short, dense, weather resistant coat; an "otter" tail; a clean-cut head with broad back skull and moderate stop; powerful jaws; and its "kind" friendly eyes, expressing character, intelligence and good temperament.
    Head
    Skull - The skull should be wide; well developed but without exaggeration. The skull and foreface should be on parallel planes and of approximately equal length. There should be a moderate stop-the brow slightly pronounced so that the skull is not absolutely in a straight line with the nose. The brow ridges aid in defining the stop. The head should be clean-cut and free from fleshy cheeks; the bony structure of the skull chiseled beneath the eye with no prominence in the cheek. The skull may show some median line; the occipital bone is not conspicuous in mature dogs. Lips should not be squared off or pendulous, but fall away in a curve toward the throat. A wedge-shape head, or a head long and narrow in muzzle and back skull is incorrect as are massive, cheeky heads. The jaws are powerful and free from snippiness the muzzle neither long and narrow nor short and stubby.

    Nose - The nose should be wide and the nostrils well-developed. The nose should be black on black or yellow dogs, and brown on chocolates. Nose color fading to a lighter shade is not a fault. A thoroughly pink nose or one lacking in any pigment is a disqualification.

    Teeth - The teeth should be strong and regular with a scissors bite; the lower teeth just behind, but touching the inner side of the upper incisors. A level bite is acceptable, but not desirable. Undershot, overshot, or misaligned teeth are serious faults. Full dentition is preferred. Missing molars or pre-molars are serious faults.

    Ears - The ears should hang moderately close to the head, set rather far back, and somewhat low on the skull; slightly above eye level. Ears should not be large and heavy, but in proportion with the skull and reach to the inside of the eye when pulled forward.

    Eyes - Kind, friendly eyes imparting good temperament, intelligence and alertness are a hallmark of the breed. They should be of medium size, set well apart, and neither protruding nor deep set. Eye color should be brown in black and yellow Labradors, and brown or hazel in chocolates. Black, or yellow eyes give a harsh expression and are undesirable. Small eyes, set close together or round prominent eyes are not typical of the breed. Eye rims are black in black and yellow Labradors; and brown in chocolates. Eye rims without pigmentation is a disqualification.
    Now, compare this to, say, the golden retriever standard (which is probably by far one of the most defined standards I've ever read...check out the entire standard sometime at http://www.grca.org/StandProgs/standard.htm -I feel like even though it says many of the same things as "our" standard, the wording leaves the standard for goldens much *less* up to personal opinion- thoughts?):

    Head -- broad in skull, slightly arched laterally and longitudinally without prominence of frontal bones (forehead) or occipital bones. Stop well defined but not abrupt. Foreface deep and wide, nearly as long as skull. Muzzle straight in profile, blending smoothly and strongly into skull; when viewed in profile or from above, slightly deeper and wider at stop than at tip. No heaviness in flews. Removal of whiskers is permitted but not preferred.

    Eyes -- friendly and intelligent in expression, medium large with dark, close-fitting rims, set well apart and reasonably deep in sockets. Color preferably dark brown; medium brown acceptable. Slant eyes and narrow, triangular eyes detract from correct expression and are to be faulted. No white or haw visible when looking straight ahead. Dogs showing evidence of functional abnormality of eyelids or eyelashes (such as, but not limited to, trichiasis, entropion, ectropion, or distichiasis) are to be excused from the ring.

    Ears -- rather short with front edge attached well behind and just above the eye and falling close to cheek. When pulled forward, tip of ear should just cover the eye. Low, hound-like ear set to be faulted.

    Nose -- black or brownish black, though fading to a lighter shade in cold weather not serious. Pink nose or one seriously lacking in pigmentation to be faulted.

    Teeth -- scissors bite, in which the outer side of the lower incisors touches the inner side of the upper incisors. Undershot or overshot bite is a disqualification. Misalignment of teeth (irregular placement of incisors) or a level bite (incisors, meet each other edge to edge) is undesirable, but not to be confused with undershot or overshot. Full dentition, obvious gaps are serious faults.
    When looking at the labrador breed standard with reference to heads, it really does seem to leave a lot of it up to personal preference...which perhaps is why we see such a wide variety of dogs doing well in the ring (especially comparing all-breed to specialty dogs)? There are several points which I can imagine in my mind exactly what is meant by the wording, but most of the rest of the standard (eye shape, etc.) is very limited in "direction" if you will.

    If the breed standard is written to where someone from another planet can, without seeing a specimen of the breed described, draw a picture of what that breed looks like according to the standard's description alone (which is how I've been told a breed standard *should* be), how many "forms" of labrador heads would different people draw according to the labrador standard and still be well within said standard?

    Just thinking "outloud" and hoping for constructive criticisms and feedback about this very broad (no pun intended) subject.

    ~Julie, Rogue, Monty, and Eddy~

    "The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue." -Anon

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    CaliforniaLabLover's Avatar
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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    One other thought that intrigues me...
    I would guess that virtually EVERYONE here would be able to look at a piece of jewelry with a labrador head on it, and know EXACTLY what breed is depicted...not necessarily based on what we have at home, but what the "generic" labrador head looks like. Others have tried to put together labrador pendants that look like rottie heads or labrador trailer-hitch inserts that look like beagle heads, but these aren't typically going to be correct according to most labrador breeders or judges. How would we better define what a "typical" labrador head looks like in our written standard?

    Oh, and by "generic" (not as in "plain," but as in "everyone knows what it is") I am thinking something like this-
    http://www.tundradesigns.com/dogjewe...rretriever.asp
    To me, while perhaps not "ideal," there really isn't any way to think that this is anything *other* than a labrador retriever?

    Again, sorry to be so verbose...just in one of those "pondering" moods, I suppose. LOL

    ~Julie, Rogue, Monty, and Eddy~

    "The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue." -Anon

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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    I don't know if this is going to make any sense, but I can tell that I like a head without knowing exactly why. I know I like a wider rather then tapering muzzle, and I like a lot of skull plate with a definite stop. And I know I really hate a domed head, and don't like the look of a zipper, no matter what the head structure.

    I have a bumper magnet on my car that says "Labrador Retriever" (creative I know) and it is the ugliest labrador I have ever seen...and I laugh everytime I load the groceries. (what an awful sloping croup, unparallel planed head and fine boned labrador example she is!)

    That said, with my Roo girl, I have been taught several lessons in patience in regards to her head. Once a very scarey and overdone beastie she was, and now, the beautiful gal she has become, has only taken near to three years!

    This was her at 5 months...good grief! And yesterday in my signature. They look like completely different kids!

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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    I don't know if this is much help either, but I think perhaps the standard does leave certain things open to interpretation for a reason or on purpose. Kind of like I said in the "other thread", how boring would it be if everyone's "ideal" was exactly the same or if that "ideal" was so clearly defined as to be handed right to you? There would be no challenge in attempting to breed that "ideal" because every dog would be exactly the same.

    I guess, myself, I'm glad such things have a bit of a window for interpretation. It certainly makes things A LOT more interesting and challenging, doesn't it? Breeders spend a good portion of their lives chasing what they think of as their "ideal". This is part of what makes a good, responsible breeder (breeding for a specific purpose). If everything was the same, well then, anyone could breed the "ideal" Labrador. Perhaps the writers of the standard were thinking after all...

    Just my 2c

    Edited to add: I do agree that you should be able to tell that a dog is a Labrador though; perhaps not your or my personal "ideal" but a Labrador.
    Darcy Litzinger
    Kinderwood Labradors
    Piper, Faith, Mocha & Pink

    In Loving Memory:

    HIT UCD Bel Air Blue Chip Of Kinderwood CD RE JH CGC "Blue" 06/25/06-04/26/10

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    CaliforniaLabLover's Avatar
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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydogz2much
    I don't know if this is going to make any sense, but I can tell that I like a head without knowing exactly why. I know I like a wider rather then tapering muzzle, and I like a lot of skull plate with a definite stop. And I know I really hate a domed head, and don't like the look of a zipper, no matter what the head structure.
    Boy, what I've seen around here in the 5-month range makes Roo look like she has an incredible head at 5 months...it certainly looks like she has the "wider rather than tapering muzzle" for you, lack of a zipper, and "a lot of skull plate with a definite stop!" I was laughing at the label you gave that photo- "scary head." LOL What were you so worried about? She looked like she was well on her way to a nice head from the get-go.

    Quote Originally Posted by luvmydogz2much
    I have a bumper magnet on my car that says "Labrador Retriever" (creative I know) and it is the ugliest labrador I have ever seen...and I laugh everytime I load the groceries. (what an awful sloping croup, unparallel planed head and fine boned labrador example she is!)
    Is it this one?

    If so, I have thought the same thing, and actually have this sticker, but the lab was cut out of it because I was embarrassed to drive to my lab club meetings with *that* on my car, so it just reads "Got Labs?" LOL Definitely not a great example of a labrador. I've since seen much better on these stickers!

    Quote Originally Posted by LabLady101
    I don't know if this is much help either, but I think perhaps the standard does leave certain things open to interpretation for a reason or on purpose.
    I get the feeling that The AKC Parent Club (The LRC, Inc.) is actually led and quite dominated by a group of people who are very field-trial oriented. This is especially after it seems that its members received a book distributed that was "sponsored" by The LRC, Inc that had a number of anti-conformation-dog sentiments within its pages this past year.

    When this breed standard was revised through The LRC,Inc, I think it was left open to personal interpretation quite purposefully because they probably didn't want to be told that perhaps they weren't adhering to the standards they helped to write. JMHO- I hope that those who have been in the breed longer chime in here to voice their thoughts on this.

    The other thing that The LRC did was have each and every member sign an agreement that stated they wouldn't advertise any dog as a "Champion" without at *least* a WC behind his/her name as well, in an attempt to stick with the "all-purpose, working labrador" (ie- brains and beauty). I think that, while this is a great idea (and one that, as an LRC member, I intend to uphold), I also think it is extremely hypocritical...if under the membership rules, the conformation CH has to earn at least a WC to advertise its incredible title, then I think that a JH/MH/ or yes, a FTCH should have to earn at least a CC to advertise its incredible title as well.

    Anyhow, just my thoughts and questions about all of this...

    ~Julie, Rogue, Monty, and Eddy~

    "The reason a dog has so many friends is that he wags his tail instead of his tongue." -Anon

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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    Julie, your lab is much more "Lab like" then mine, I will have to scan it for you! It's hideous!

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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    I do not like the look of Field Labs. I think they have to long of a muzzle and the stop slopes too much. I find that they are wirey (not necessarily coat, but body style). I like a big block style head and well defined eyes. I also love the "Otter" tail, because I think it defines the breed.

    http://www.woodhavenlabs.com/english-american.html

    That website basically shows the difference between the two better than I can explain. If the "English" type Labrador is what I like, than so be it. I think they appear more capable of doing the job they were bred to. And isn't that the whole idea of selective breeding?

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    Tatyana is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    I think the standard is "loose" in some areas for several reasons. First, human language is not precise; as a lawyer, I deal almost every day with contracts, statutes, precedent caselaw that is usually written by smart and educated people who try to make it precise, but consistently fail because of the limitations in our language. There are as many interpretations of "moderate" for example as there are people interpreting it.

    Second, I believe there should be certain variation in the standard to allow for "building" a functioning dog (Labrador in our case) suited to our circumstances. MRW is one of her books was talking how when she judges, she might select a dog that was leggier than what she preferred in her kennel if there was a purpose behind this legginess, ie, different terrain. Taking this back to the head topic, the standard is very wishy-washy about the length of the muzzle ("he muzzle neither long and narrow nor short and stubby"). I think one has to decide based on function of the dog what length of muzzle is "ideal." Most Labs (of yesterday or today) can pick up a duck of a pheasant, IMO, which is what the Lab is supposed to do. But if in your area, you hunt to snipe or doves, then a Lab can do just fine with a shorter muzzle. However, in my area, many people hunt Canada geese, which are very big birds. Having longer jaws/muzzle make it easier to pick up and carry birds of such large size, so the "ideal" muzzle for a Canada geese hunter would be longer (than average I guess).

    I think this is how interpreting the standard should work in the ideal world and why there is some variation built in. I think most parts of a dog's/Lab's body can and probably should be adjusted to a certain degree to allow the dog to function most efficiently in its terrain. Eventually, the deviations to fit the terrain will become so pronounced that you might as well call the dog a new breed, which quite a few believe happened with Labradors. I still believe that we have one breed with some extremes. I think both sides should make steps in trying to bridge the gap with WC and CC requirements going in the right direction. But somehow, it seems that there is no cross-over of people between show and field. Time and money are a big factor I think, which is unfortunate.

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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    Quote Originally Posted by CaliforniaLabLover
    Quote Originally Posted by LabLady101
    I don't know if this is much help either, but I think perhaps the standard does leave certain things open to interpretation for a reason or on purpose.
    I get the feeling that The AKC Parent Club (The LRC, Inc.) is actually led and quite dominated by a group of people who are very field-trial oriented. This is especially after it seems that its members received a book distributed that was "sponsored" by The LRC, Inc that had a number of anti-conformation-dog sentiments within its pages this past year.

    When this breed standard was revised through The LRC,Inc, I think it was left open to personal interpretation quite purposefully because they probably didn't want to be told that perhaps they weren't adhering to the standards they helped to write. JMHO- I hope that those who have been in the breed longer chime in here to voice their thoughts on this.

    The other thing that The LRC did was have each and every member sign an agreement that stated they wouldn't advertise any dog as a "Champion" without at *least* a WC behind his/her name as well, in an attempt to stick with the "all-purpose, working labrador" (ie- brains and beauty). I think that, while this is a great idea (and one that, as an LRC member, I intend to uphold), I also think it is extremely hypocritical...if under the membership rules, the conformation CH has to earn at least a WC to advertise its incredible title, then I think that a JH/MH/ or yes, a FTCH should have to earn at least a CC to advertise its incredible title as well.

    Anyhow, just my thoughts and questions about all of this...
    I do agree that field dogs should be required to earn a CC, just as conformation dogs are required to earn a WC. I won't dispute that, it's only fair.

    Now, I'm not trying to get everyone riled up and believe me I'm not "picking on" conformation folks, but you do need to consider a few things. Implying that the revision was written by field people to benefit themselves, well that's probably a far cry and inaccurate. I mean, take a look at the membership of the LRC (and particularly around the time of the revision), what was the membership more composed of- field or conformation folks? I tend to lean towards that the membership is comprised of more conformation folks (as it still is) because for some odd reason most field folks look at the LRC as a "show people's organization/club" and therefore membership to that organization as unneccessary- don't ask me why, they just do (I'm not saying it's right, and I personally don't look at it that way, but they do). Could be why field dogs aren't currently required to have a CC- because there isn't very many field folks who are members, and the requirements for a WC are for LRC members only. If the members of the LRC want to band together to change that, then by all means, do it- I'm all for it! Although, it most likely won't do any good if the field folks aren't members and won't join, right?

    Now, I'm not saying that there are no field folks who are LRC members, but they are fewer and far between than you would think. I do wish more field folks would join as they would be just as much an asset as the conformation folks, and then the CC rule would definately be of benefit. Perhaps, more of the extreme field folks could also learn a thing or two by gaining membership. I'm probably preaching to the wrong choir here though.

    I've also never heard of the "booklet" that supposedly was handed out to LRC members that contained "anti-conformation sentiment" (you're the first to mention it). Just what does "anti-conformation sentiment" imply? That, perhaps, there were a few things to work on or keep in check? I suppose that would be taken as criticism of conformation folks even if none were implied...I don't mean any criticism myself, but I do think that perhaps things are taken the wrong way by a lot of folks- and therefore they "fly off the handle" and immediately start chanting that it's "anti-conformation sentiment" before they actually look into the issues presented. I'm just saying that is a possibility...and I'm not for or against either side of the issue. I'm just presenting a possible reason for those types of feelings.

    Those are just my thoughts. I do think that folks did see what was happening with the breed and therefore revised the standard to prevent it from going further in that direction- a direction that was never intended in the original standard. Yes, the standard says "medium sized". However, I hardly think by "medium sized", they intended Labradors to be the size of say Cocker Spaniels or Shibas- hence the revision. Maybe they did go a little overboard (I don't prefer a dog at the top of height scale either), but maybe that's the failure of human nature- more is better?

    Edited to add: Great post Tatyana! I'm working on doing both conformation and field (yes, it's expensive- particularly on the field side! $50-65 to enter a hunt test, not to mention the training equipment $$$$, compared to about $20-25 to enter a show) so, to me, there should be fairness to all (WC and CC requirements). It's also why I like that our standard does leave some things open to interpretation- and therefore variation.
    Darcy Litzinger
    Kinderwood Labradors
    Piper, Faith, Mocha & Pink

    In Loving Memory:

    HIT UCD Bel Air Blue Chip Of Kinderwood CD RE JH CGC "Blue" 06/25/06-04/26/10

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    Tatyana is offline Senior Member
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    DefaultRe: Heads...do they "define" a labrador?

    Ears should ... reach to the inside of the eye when pulled forward.
    I love MRW's explanation of the length of a Lab's ear in one of her books: it should be long enough to wipe eye gunk off using the dog's ear. She had a couple explanations like that which I thought were just wonderful. So, I guess using that reasoning, it's less of a fault to have a slightly longer ear than a slightly shorter ear.

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