The Emperor’s fat dog: Everyone can see what’s wrong with the Labrador, except dog-show people

February 15, 2014

Social media has turned “spectating” into an activity in which you’re watching an event with your fingers on your smartphone, ready to tweet or post your most witty or blistering observation marked with the appropriate hashtag. Often the online commentary is more interesting than the on-air commentary, and sometimes it’s even more interesting  than the event itself.

In recent years I’ve certainly felt that to be true about the Westminster Kennel Club dog show, which has already shown itself to be fertile ground for parody thanks to Christopher Guest’s “mockumentary,” “Best In Show,” with Guest himself showing the Bloodhound in this clip:


Runner-up  has to go to humorist Merrill Markoe‘s tone-perfect brief takedown of the show, “White Women in Knee Length Skirts Group.”



What neither Guest nor Markoe (both dog-lovers, it should be noted) ever did is mock the dogs, who are for the most part just going along with the whole affair in the good humor and sense of participation that’s part of what we love about dogs. The dogs are there because we want them to be there — or at least, their owners do — and that kind of makes it unfair to mock an individual dog. Saying a certain breed is a hot mess (:::cough::: Bulldog::: cough :::Pekingese :: cough :::cough:::) is fair game, especially when some breeds have been bred by fashion’s dictates to the point when they make hot-house orchids look hardy. But picking on an individual dog? Not cool. Not cool, indeed.

labWhich brings me to the Best of Breed Labrador at Westminster, or as the wags on social media quickly named her, the “#Flabador.” Also, “#Fatador,” And those were two of the nicer comments I saw.

Fat Labradors have become commonplace in the American show ring, with the ascent of so-called “English”-style Labradors. American show Labs split with American field Labs years ago, with the show breeders favoring a bigger-framed, stocky dog. Only in recent years, though, have fashions in the show ring favored enhancing that stocky look with actual fat — or at least looking the other way when that’s what happens.

Yes, the Brits got there first. I attended the premiere British dog show, Crufts, a decade or so ago.  There are typically more than 20,000 dogs showing over the four-day run, and since Crufts requires the dogs to be on display when not competing (it’s what’s called a “benched” show) you get a really good look at lots and lots of dogs. I was standing with a top expert in my own retriever breed (Flat-Coated) watching the Labrador competition while we talked. Many of the dogs seemed overweight to my eye, but my British cohort assured me that they were normal for the breed.

“You think that’s a good thing?” I asked her.

“Absolutely not,” she said. “It’s appalling.”

That’s exactly the word that came to mind as I watched the Westminster Best of Breed Labrador in the Sporting Group competition. Her appearance was … appalling.

Look, I’m pretty sure that dog is very nice, and I would probably like her if I met her. I have a very soft spot for retrievers, after all. And I know that her breeder/owner loves her and is very proud of her. But …  what sort of crazy blinders do you have be wearing to think that dog is a splendid example of a working retriever? This is not about judging a hog for the dinner table. The Labrador is — or is supposed to be — an athletic working dog with the stamina for long days in the field.

angusI watched the poor dog’s fat roll around her frame as she was moved for the judge, and saw her panting with the exertion of trotting around a green carpet. Really? It is bad enough that show Labradors have been bred for frames that resemble prize Angus bulls, but to value the addition of fat on top of it? What collective madness has taken over the brains of people who breed Labradors for the show ring?

Interestingly enough, a study of Labrador retrievers is the benchmark for much of what we know about the impact of excess weight on health and longevity. Last year at the Western Veterinary Conference I heard a presenter from the veterinary college at North Carolina State University say that obesity-triggered arthritis kills more dogs than any other health problem. Since I had just lost a dog to cancer, I raised an eyebrow at that. But he made his case: Dog-owners put their dogs down before their time because they can’t stand to see their pets so painful and crippled. That’s what arthritis does to dogs, and being overweight or obese is one of the biggest factors contributing to the early onset of arthritis.

Keeping dogs 10 percent below “ideal” body weight adds two years to a Labrador’s life, and even more time when you look at extending their ability to stay active and pain-free.

While the social media mocking of this dog continued, I was alternately horrified, saddened and angry, thinking back to that presentation.  The Labrador is the No. 1 dog in the nation, and what is the message show breeders are sending hundreds of thousands of Labrador owners? Veterinarians can tell you, because they deal with it every day: People who think fat is normal on a Labrador, and are positively shocked when their veterinarians tell them they are killing their dogs with food.

Killing your dog with food. Yes, you are.

Please, please spare me the nonsense about Labradors needing that extra weight as insulation when swimming in cold water.  Field-line Labradors don’t look like that, and they’re in and out of cold water every day. The Westminster Labrador hasn’t even a minor field title, and a look at her sire’s pedigree shows nothing but show ring wins (and lots of them).

In the last decade or so the show ring Labradors have gone in completely the wrong direction, farther and farther away from their fit, field-line cousins. A few minutes looking at show-ring dogs from 10, 20 or 30 years ago will prove to  you that they didn’t always look like this, and that’s even before the current fad of overfeeding them to make them look ever stockier began. And it’s not just this dog, by any means: At a recent local show, the first I’d been to in a few years, I was as shocked by the fat Labs there as I was when I first encountered the phenomenon in British show ring.

Here’s what will change this: No ribbons, ever, for dogs who are overweight. Every ring, every weekend, everywhere. A few months of that topped by a Westminster where the breed-ring judges show every fat dog the door would put an end to this sorry trend right away. The dogs won’t mind, and their owners will get the message. And that’s a big win for all dogs.

#nofatdogs. Now there’s a hashtag I can get behind.

Filed under: ethical breeding,media,veterinary medicine — Gina Spadafori @ 11:23 am


  1. And just think, Gina, those same judges also judge flat-coats.

    Comment by Debbie — February 15, 2014 @ 11:55 am

  2. Great article Gina. I’ve thought that for years about labs. Very sad for the breed. Judges are going to have to stop the insanity.

    Comment by Cindy Zelbst — February 15, 2014 @ 12:53 pm

  3. Judges technically cannot stop this. They can — and should — withhold awards from overweight or unfit dogs. But they can’t do a thing about rewarding the “prize bull” body type — that’s the breed standard.

    The Labrador club will have to do that themselves. Not sure that’s gonna happen.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 15, 2014 @ 1:22 pm

  4. What about the show standard for German Shepherds?

    Comment by Deb — February 15, 2014 @ 2:06 pm

  5. I know a champion Lab breeder, and am constantly telling her that her dogs are too fat… Isn’t the point of conformation to prove that the dog is able to do the job they were bred for? Those Labs can’t hunt or retrieve without being winded, and don’t even THINK of asking a conformation-champion German Shepherd Dog to herd. It is truly sad to see the ruination of perfectly good dog breeds, all in the name of greed. I am thinking that if judges don’t put up crippled or fat dogs, they simply won’t be asked back to judge. Sickening.

    Comment by Linda — February 15, 2014 @ 2:25 pm

  6. I couldn’t agree more! My only concern is the mind set of the owners/handlers that will starve their dogs to get them show ready quickly.

    Comment by Paula — February 15, 2014 @ 2:35 pm

  7. This is excellent. I groom dogs, and sometimes, you get one on the table that you know was a show prospect a breeder could not find a home for….but then we have people showing dogs that have obvious luxated patellas, or are very out of shape, out of coat, trimmed where they should not be…and this is why people who don’t know the fancy just can’t take us seriously.

    Comment by Robyn Michaels — February 15, 2014 @ 2:45 pm

  8. I was so glad to see this article as I could not believe the lab in Westminster was so heavy.
    And not just labs. I used to have a Bassett Hound and belonged to the local club. I left when too many people told us we were starving our dog. Some of the people got nasty about it too. According to the vet our boy was at a perfect weight and he almost made 15 with NO health issues.
    I like the suggestions made for the AKC to police itself

    Comment by Elizabeth — February 15, 2014 @ 3:00 pm

  9. Wow! I agree fat isn’t cool. Judges should not reward dogs that do not fall within the breed standard. I was disheartened a few years ago when I entered a very typed pembroke into their first show only to be dwafted by the other competitors in the ring. They were huge. Sad that we(Americans) breed big to be bigger or small to be smaller missing the point of the job they should be capable of doing. If you want a monsterly big lab I suggest a well bred newfee!

    Comment by Kelly miller — February 15, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

  10. It’s not only USA-problem that the showlabs are fat, it’s common in Europe too. Makes me sad.

    Comment by arja — February 15, 2014 @ 3:30 pm

  11. That is why I like my breed….we have a very large number of dual champions and hunt test titled dogs. Happy our national club works hard to keep our Brittanys dual dogs….many of the Brittanys that showed at Westminster this year either have a field title, field points, or have parents or grand parents that have/had field titles…either field trial or hunt test. :-)

    Comment by Lora — February 15, 2014 @ 3:40 pm

  12. Just look at how the “show ring” has deformed the spine of the German Shepherd in recent years! Appalling!

    Comment by Rocky — February 15, 2014 @ 5:01 pm

  13. My lab looks like the lab in the story and when he is at the vet he says he expected to feel fat on my dog but was surprised to find that he was all muscle. The leaner appearing labs I know do not have the rudder tail, blocky heads and extra loose skin on the neck that my “British” lab has.

    Comment by Mary — February 15, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

  14. As I’m from the UK, please be aware that ‘English’ Labradors are not all like this. We have the same split between working and show, with pet bred coming somewhere in between. In fact, I would say that our show bred labs are not as overdone as those seen at Westminster, even though, as a working Labrador owner, they are not to my taste.

    Comment by Jenny — February 15, 2014 @ 5:04 pm

  15. I have the English lines of Labradors who do agility and they do not look like the fat Show Labradors. They have the block heads and more bone than the hunting lines but they are not fat. They are well muscled and extremely athletic. Go to an Agility Trial or Hunt Test and one will see labradors in optimal condition to be very athletic and fit. I am often asked what breed of dog I have and I reply a Labrado Retriever. Most say, they don’t look like the ones on TV and I reply, this is how they should look. The breed clubs and judges are they ones that are promoting the fat labradors.

    Comment by Diana — February 15, 2014 @ 5:21 pm

  16. That is NOT the breed standard!! The breed standard even includes a drawing of the ideal Labrador and it looks nothing like the Lab that just went Best of Breed at Westminster. The sire fills that like a very short legged, overweight dog choose to ignore the standard, as do many judges.

    Comment by Sharon Potter — February 15, 2014 @ 5:38 pm

  17. What about the German Shepherd??? These slopping backed dogs that have wobbly back legs that are on the hocks and feet that are splayed. This is not a working dog let alone a healthy dog. This is crazy. At least the fat dog can loose weight. Thank god for the breeders that are maintaining a straight back GS. No I am not a breeder, I don’t even own one but if I do it will be one that can support its body properly.

    Comment by Carolyn — February 15, 2014 @ 5:51 pm

  18. The Bull Terrier people are no better. There was a HUGE support for Rufus, the colored Bull Terrier who won @ Westminster a number of years back – that dog had so much flab, his chest jiggled when he moved!!! A disgrace. I guess its easier for a dog to be fat rather than fit…

    Comment by Kathy — February 15, 2014 @ 6:11 pm

  19. And when you go to the sporting ring you see super thin dogs very often. It is sad that so many are judged at the wrong end f the lead. Reason I stopped showing. I bred to the standard,watched a cow hocked sway back dog win over my girl.Now that might sound petty like I am a sore looser. No that same judge had dumped that same dog just 2 months before and told the owner your dog is cow hocked! So to get the points said owner paid a well know handler and good friend of said judge to show the dogs. and said dog who was last place same judge 2 months previous won a major to finish it’s champinonship!

    Comment by Gayle — February 15, 2014 @ 6:15 pm

  20. I beg to differ Gina, chunky is NOT the breed standard. A fit working condition is the breed standard. This showring stuff is insanity.

    Comment by Rondi Potter — February 15, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

  21. During Westminster the TV commentators were remarking that no Lab had ever won Westminster, and that the breed was the number one breed for the past 20 years. I commented to my husband that it was because the breed is shown too fat. That was before the Lab showed on the screen. It truly is unfair to present the breed like this in dogshows.

    Comment by Lynn Scheffner — February 15, 2014 @ 6:19 pm

  22. Thank You for a well written article. I have sporting dogs (not Labs) that are always scrutinized if they are overweight. Too many times with my females(usually during false pregnancies) have a tendency to put on a pound or two, which usually comes off after they are done. The judges usually comment “One to many trips to the cookie jar”. I very rarely enter a dog or bitch in any thing less than show condition which means weight, coat, muscle and mind are ready for showing. I to as a sporting dog exhibitor was appalled a the site of the lab moving with its top line rolling from side to side with the show of fat. Sorry for the public to see that. Lets hope the media will help shame the breeders to do something.

    Comment by Jay — February 15, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

  23. My yellow Lab is a healtny, rangey 90 pounds. Two cups a day, limited dog treats, a happy boy.AKC makes a joke of canines with their standards. Best of Show said it all.

    Comment by Brian Harwood — February 15, 2014 @ 7:31 pm

  24. How sad that overweight dog was Best of Show. I’m sorry but the Judge should be sanctioned for picking a dog that overweight. No matter how fabulous the breed standard was, being overweight is not “breed Standard” The dog should have been disqualified, not given a prize! Shame on the owner….

    Comment by Debbie — February 15, 2014 @ 8:16 pm

  25. I would have to agree with you Gina. I used to show Labs. When they imposed a height standard, they managed to do away with the fit working dual titled show labs. Today’s show labs no longer have the leg and neck required to work a field or carry a goose. It was shortly after the imposed height standard that the remaining show breeders began equating fat with bone. I now show Flatcoats and pray common sense and love of the breed will prevent a few people in the upper politics of the breed from ruining them.

    Comment by Mary — February 15, 2014 @ 9:10 pm

  26. The rolling fat was the first thing that caught my eye on the Labrador Breed winner – and it really is a shame because that is a lovely girl under all the pudge.

    Comment by Julie E — February 15, 2014 @ 9:14 pm

  27. I have, as you can possibly imagine, made a TON of new friends this week by saying exactly what I think of this poor dog’s owner and every judge who ever failed to dismiss her from the ring for appearing in obese condition.

    The show Lab breeders have been crawling out of their crisco jars to explain how that dog is perfectly fit and all muscle and exactly what the standard calls for and those horrible field Labs are just ugly and don’t have enough insulation to ever do the work that they actually do and that the show dogs actually don’t do.

    There are two possibilities, for every owner who has stuffed her Lab (or Rottweiler) full of cookies to achieve the winning level of obesity and for every judge who has rewarded the owners of obese dogs:

    The person knows perfectly well that the dog is in a dangerously unhealthy condition and just doesn’t care as long as he or she gets something out of it.

    The person has a mental illness, an inability to see what is right in front of him: we’ll call it body-image-dysmorphia-by-proxy.

    So which are you, Flabbador apologists: evil or crazy?

    I wanted to kidnap that poor, sad winning Poodle, shave her to the skin (especially getting rid of that rubberbanded topknot that was yanking her eyes closed) and then throw a ball into a muddy pond for her a million times.

    I also want to abscond with that Lab and get her on a diet of lean meat, green beans, and swimming/treadmill for the next year, and get her to a healthy weight.

    I’ve done it before with a dog who was abused with foodlove; took him from 95# to his fit, lean, 45# in about eight months. He did not look as fat as that Lab bitch!

    I’ve also put weight onto underweight dogs, some skeletally underweight. They were a lot healthier than the morbidly obese one, and recovered from their experiences much more easily.

    But most of their owners were charged with animal cruelty, while the people who will gavage a dog in order to win a damned ribbon walk free.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — February 15, 2014 @ 9:25 pm

  28. I love the English style labs, However the Labradors in the show rings and what I have been seeing the last several years are discusting. I am on couple of lab lists and people talk about their labs weighing 95 to a 110lbs. My English girl is beautiful she has a blocky head a stout body and is solid Muscle @ years old she weighs 53 lbs and can retrieve a ball non stop for 2 plus hours…. I am discusted by a lot of the labs, I don’t like the look of the field labs nor do I like the crazy wild energy. I wish breeders would go back to the TRUE STANDARD OF THE LABRADOR RETRIEVER………as it is getting harder and harder to find breeders who produce nicely built Labradors.

    Comment by pat — February 15, 2014 @ 11:41 pm

  29. Theres plenty of “show people” just as appalled. And talking about it.
    The impact is greater than a single event and is indicative of a larger problem in the sport. When judges award what is not correct, it gives others the impression that this is the ideal This is what they should be producing and promoting because this is what wins. It causes untold amounts of damage over generations of dogs.
    judges, if you don’t have the fortitude and integrity to make the correct calls in your ring, no matter who it may upset, you don’t deserve to be standing there. You need to reevaluate your ability to objectively grade to the standard neforen you even consider evaluating another exhibit.

    Comment by dannielle — February 16, 2014 @ 6:04 am

  30. Don’t tar all show people with the same brush, there are plenty of us who can see that the dog is fat! We had the same problem last year at Crufts, nearly all my showing friends agreed tha the RBIS yellow Lab was fat! It’s just a few giving the rest of us a bad name as usual.

    Comment by Lucy — February 16, 2014 @ 7:57 am

  31. I read after the last Westminster a comment by a judge (sorry don’t know the name) that “we judge what we are brought” Somehow that logic does not work for me.

    Comment by Terry D — February 16, 2014 @ 7:57 am

  32. Did you put your hands on the dog? With a proper double coat you can’t see muscle. The famous labrador Buzz, who won many best of breeds, groups, and shows just turned 15. My specialty winning Lab, her mother, and her son all hunted with me, including full day 500 bird pheasant shoots. And they looked just like this Lab from ringside. You are making judgments only on what you see and ASSume.

    Comment by Nancy — February 16, 2014 @ 8:49 am

  33. Plenty of show people were commenting on how fat many of the dogs were at Westminster this year.

    Comment by Will — February 16, 2014 @ 9:15 am

  34. For anyone who is saying their Lab is 90 lbs. and perfectly healthy: no, just no. Unless that dog is 26 inches or above at the withers which a Lab shouldn’t be (although they sometimes turn out that tall). And no way can any dog, “British style” or not, look like the dog pictured and be all muscle like the post above states. Vets don’t want to drive away clients, so they keep their true thoughts to themselves. Or they’ve never seen a truly fit Lab because they are so few and far between.

    For those who don’t like the field Lab look and temperament either, I’ve seen some very nice looking and acting Labs in the obedience ring recently. They *are* out there. They often aren’t advertised, however.

    Also, people, AKC doesn’t set breed standards. The breed clubs do. The judges can only judge what is put in front of them. So it still goes back to the breeders and exhibitors.

    Comment by Deanna — February 16, 2014 @ 9:24 am

  35. I went to a show yesterday to watch the Labs. I sat there thinking those dogs were disgusting.

    I left my own “english” sytle Lab home because I’ve had it with AKC shows. I’ve owned “english” sytle Labs for nearly twenty years now. Each one has had at least a champion sire. The one who passed away last year was the offspring of two champions. I kept her lean and fit with a daily walk and appropriate amounts of food. When she passed away at 14.5, she was the last one from her litter to die. I now have a 13.5 year old male and he’s still going strong. BTW, his sire won Best of Breed at Westminster the year he was born. My youngest is now 5 and he’s a lovely example of what the breed used to look like. My Labs have all been athletic, working dogs.

    The reason I’ve had it with dog shows is that you can’t take a dog like mine into the ring and win. They stand out like a sore thumb when they’re in working condition. The judges CAN’T place these dogs above the others because that would be inconsistent. When there are 4 fat dogs and one working weight dog in the ring, guess which one doesn’t get a ribbon? At a local show, my youngest dog was placed behind a fat dog in a class. As the judge handed that handler her ribbon, I heard her say “You have a lovely dog, and I never saw him move”. That dog did not trot around the ring one single time!

    I don’t think a Labrador Retriever is going to win BIS at Westminster in my lifetime. It’s sad that judges are being presented with overweight, short dogs with splayed feet, short necks and straight shoulders. What’s even sadder is that they can’t (or won’t) reward a nice dog when they see one.

    Comment by Beth Baily — February 16, 2014 @ 9:27 am

  36. To folks with the “you can’t tell a dog is fat unless you put your hands on him” brand of self-delusion:

    I just arrived at the Western Veterinary Conference, with a few thousand veterinarians from around the world. Tell ya what: I’m going to show as many as I can pictures of these Labradors and ask them what they think about their weight.

    If I can find even ONE veterinarian who thinks she or he is looking at a dog who is at the right weight, I’ll let you know. But don’t hold your breath.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 16, 2014 @ 11:20 am

  37. I wish there was a “like” button for posts. ^^Like^^ (Gina’s reply.)

    Comment by Deanna — February 16, 2014 @ 12:33 pm

  38. The reason the Lab is #1 in popularity is because of their temperament and nature. People who are obsessed with competition put this fabulous breed at risk. A Labrador Retriever should be able to retrieve on Saturday, show on Sunday and play with the kids/ lie quietly at your feet in the evenings. Certainly Buzz is a great example of this. Congratulations Kathy!

    Comment by Sue — February 16, 2014 @ 2:01 pm

  39. I have 3 Labs from a hobby breeder. Having watched her show her dogs in Conformation part of the “fat” Lab problem is the judges. They will put an obviously over weight dog up over a healthy specimen. Some of the hogs that are in the ring is amazing. They need to have a scale at the rings. If your dog is 5# over the breed standard, you don’t get to show.

    Comment by Mike DeLorey — February 16, 2014 @ 3:52 pm

  40. I have to say that I watched the breed judging via the video on the computer. I must say that was my first reaction to the placement was that the winner was quite portly or as most are saying FAT. I have an English style lab (new to labs I have mainly Dobes)love the Lab people, they are real. But have to agree as a former racehorse trainer that overweight is not good for an athlete or working dog…..very hard on the joints!!!! I did think that the winner was lovely though. So whoever makes these decisions as to what is currently fashionable in the breed ring remember that the labs are in the sporting group and are bred to retrieve not just eat and sit the couch!!!

    Comment by Linda Blom — February 16, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

  41. When I saw the pathetic photo of that fat dog, it immediately reminded me of way too many of the captive and zoo big cats I’ve seen. Same line of fur below the belly which contains….fat. It’s a dead giveaway when a wildlife artist paints an animal like the one at the link that they don’t know what a real wild big cat looks like (trim and well-muscled; no line of fur/fat) and are simply sticking a captive animal into a habitat.

    And I didn’t have to “put my hands” on the animal to figure that out. You can see it with house cats, too.

    This animal is the cat equivalent of a slug.

    Comment by Susan Fox — February 16, 2014 @ 6:48 pm

  42. “If you haven’t had your hands on the dog you can’t tell if its fat if it has a true double coat”

    You just keep fooling yourself, if thats what it takes to let you sleep at night after deliberately putting your dog’s health at risk by keeping them at that weight!

    I own a Tibetan Mastiff. I don’t care HOW thick your Lab’s coat is, he’s got nothing on my TM’s coat. If a dog is obese it shows, no matter HOW thick the coat is. A double coat moving with a dog’s gait doesn’t hide rolls of fat jiggling, or an over-weight dog panting hard after the short down and back!

    Comment by Ruth — February 16, 2014 @ 9:05 pm

  43. Without being there I cannot comment on the lab being fat or discredit the judge for placing her based on a picture and not being able to put my hands on her. What I noticed about the winning dog is what appeared to be a tight proper coat, otter tail, a tail I did not see with most of the other labs. I did some showing and the judges said they seldom see the correct tight water resistant coat and otter tail anymore(the hall mark of the breed). As as far as being fat – I have seen some super muscular dogs who just looked fat until you put your hands on them. The judges have to take into consideration many factors when evaluating a dog. Head, coat, tail, condition, bite, teeth, feet, even ear length and so on. As far as the girl who won – I did notice she had likely whelped a litter or two and you could tell by her underside – another consideration for the judge. Look at the picture again where you can see an obvious change on her underside as a result of lactating, it makes her look fatter. Try to look at her profile without it, you may see a different dog. I am not saying the judge was right – just that I can’t say she was wrong. Without being there or getting your hands on the dog you really cannot say.

    Comment by Julie — February 16, 2014 @ 9:33 pm

  44. I was delighted to read this article after my comments on facebook on the Labw winning at Westminster got me shot down in several quarters States-side. The article sums up the situation perfectly. There’s nothing more to add. It’s just sad that the judge was so poor at her job – in the close up video one sees her hand lost in rolls of fat as she tried to assess the conformation hands-on – it was her job to pick a healthy dog. She didn’t And when you look at the Potomac winners – same problem. Sad, sad, sad that the two major Lab outings have such a rotten turn-out.

    Comment by Leith-Ross, Felicity — February 17, 2014 @ 4:22 am

  45. Here’s the breed standard:

    General Appearance
    The Labrador Retriever is a strongly built, medium-sized, short-coupled, dog possessing a sound, athletic, well-balanced conformation that enables it to function as a retrieving gun dog; the substance and soundness to hunt waterfowl or upland game for long hours under difficult conditions; the character and quality to win in the show ring; and the temperament to be a family companion. Physical features and mental characteristics should denote a dog bred to perform as an efficient Retriever of game with a stable temperament suitable for a variety of pursuits beyond the hunting environment.

    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.

    Above all, a Labrador Retriever must be well balanced, enabling it to move in the show ring or work in the field with little or no effort. The typical Labrador possesses style and quality without over refinement, and substance without lumber or cloddiness. The Labrador is bred primarily as a working gun dog; structure and soundness are of great importance.

    So, yes, if the judges actually went by the breed standard, the fatadors would never win in the ring.

    Comment by Kate McDuffee — February 17, 2014 @ 10:05 am

  46. A friend of mine who does field work with her Flat-Coated Retriever and maintains titles at Both ends of the dog’s registered name was told by a judge in the ring her dog was too thin. JMHO, seeing the dog shortly after the show I thought is was in perfect working condition.

    Comment by Alyce Spoto — February 18, 2014 @ 7:29 am

  47. Regarding Julie’s comment about the dog’s condition being due to post puppies and a saggy underline.


    I took this photo into photo shop and cloned out her titties. By the way, if anyone cares? this photo’s been edited as it is by the photographer. They’ve cloned out the handler’s foot. There may be other changes, I don’t know, but on zoom in Photoshop, that one is pretty clear. I thought at a casual glance that her foot was just behind the dog’s leg, but there should be a shadow and there’s not.

    Here’s a link, by the way, to the version with the underline cleaned up –

    You can still see this dog is carrying a lot of extra weight on her neck (or she has a really ugly neck and throat). The ‘rolls’ on her back look like coat to me, but the ones at the base of her neck and withers pretty clearly aren’t.

    Her tail, to me, looks groomed, not necessarily ottery. That’s a hands on thing, moreso than weight.

    Comment by Cait — February 18, 2014 @ 8:16 am

  48. Rosie here has had two litters, the most recent six months ago.

    You can’t see her titties until she sprawls and points them skyward. And there’s virtually no mammary tissue development at this point, six months on.

    Know why?

    Because, although she is not as lean and muscular as her ideal at this moment — and we will get back there, no mistake — she ain’t morbidly obese.

    Since she isn’t morbidly obese, her breast tissue and nipples are up where they belong, not pushed down and outward by a load of belly fat.

    Comment by H. Houlahan — February 18, 2014 @ 12:20 pm

  49. Cait, I’m not seeing any cloning by the photographer. In order to post the photos quickly, there is very minimal editing (or more likely, none).

    Comment by Blue — February 18, 2014 @ 9:54 pm

  50. Eh, having watched a number of show photographers who have the on-site setup? There’s a lot more cleanup then most people think.

    I really do think that foot is cloned out. I could be wrong, but doing something like that on a nice background like the checked green carpet at WKC is not a slow thing at all.

    Comment by Cait — February 19, 2014 @ 8:27 am

  51. I’m a professional photographer, and I’ve photographed many dog shows and events. I know what’s involved and how hard those photographers worked all day! I just hate to see it implied that they were doing anything dishonest, especially when there obviously hasn’t been any retouching done for these photos.

    Comment by Blue — February 19, 2014 @ 10:06 am

  52. WOW. So glad to read this post. We’ve been waving the banner over on our blog this week too and getting lots of the same good & bad feedback. Some of your commenters here so truly get it. We are all about health & fitness of our dogs and say the same thing frequently about people killing their dogs with food. It’s shameful. We plan to continue this fight going to LRC, AKC and wherever else we need to go. Hope you and your followers join us. Please check out our post, When Did Overweight Labs Become the New Normal:

    Comment by Slimdoggy — February 19, 2014 @ 2:03 pm

  53. Love your two clips too…Best in Show = great movie

    Comment by Slimdoggy — February 19, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

  54. I attended Westminster 10-12 years ago and while watching the Sporting group, commented that the Labrador reminded me of a beautiful fair entry, in PIGS. Short legs, fat swinging under the dogs’ legs…sheesh. The breeder of the Lab was sitting ahead of me and gave me dirty looks for my observations (she said she was the breeder) but did not contradict me. I have toy dogs and if they are overweight, they are not considered for awards….why not in other breeds?

    Comment by Meg Peifer — February 20, 2014 @ 9:47 am

  55. No matter how much weight I take off my “show” labrador … he will never look like a field labrador. I get comments all the time that “he is fat”. He is in great shape and we do all kinds of activities together including S&R and when he is in full coat, I get the most criticisim! When he blows his coat, I get the “Oh look he has lost weight”! and he has not lost weight but coat. I often ask people to feel the leather on his ear, it is about 1/4 of an inch thick. My Jack Russel, which most of you will agree is also a short coated breed has an earflap that feels like paper! These are true cold temperature water dogs. Thick skin and dense coats. I cannot find skin on my lab, the outer hairs and down to the undercoat is inches! The Labrador Bitch at Westminster is in full coat, and a mature bitch. She is lovely.

    Comment by char — February 22, 2014 @ 7:41 pm

  56. It’s not about your dog having to look like a field Labrador. No one expects a Mastiff to look like a Greyhound, but it’s reasonable for both dogs to be shown fit and at normal weight, and not to pant frantically when moved for the judge.

    Everyone in the entire world can see that show Labradors are overweight, except, apparently, people showing winning show Labradors.

    As for the Westminster bitch, try looking at the video with your blinders off. That isn’t a “full coat” rolling around her frame — it’s fat.

    Comment by Gina Spadafori — February 23, 2014 @ 9:23 am

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