Head shape?

Discussion in 'Labrador breeding & genetics' started by Teller's mom, Jan 6, 2018.

  1. Teller's mom

    Teller's mom Registered Users

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    So a college friend of mine lost her dog to a road accident a while ago and she's finally going to get another, she grew up with labs and is thinking about getting one. I told her I'd be willing to aid in her search if she wanted and she agreed. She doesn't intend to show or hunt with the dog so she's not looking at lines strictly dedicated to working or showing. I've stressed the importance of health clearances and made sure she will only consider kennels who run the complete litany of screenings, include a health contract, and lifelong guarantee, etc. The other day she told me that she ideally wanted to find a lovely, 'blockheaded' dog and I just sort of stared lol. In the States this term gets thrown around a lot by both breeders and the public, usually when paired with 'English' lab but I've never really understood what it entails. Yes, I've looked at the standard and seen labs in the ring but what exactly does a blocky head look like, cheeks, muzzle, stop, skull shape? Does it just refer to width, substance, and size? What's the alternative, i.e. what would a lab without a blocky head look like?

    Naturally I've read just about every English vs. American lab article there is and most of the pictures are at either end of the spectrum, the extremely bulky looking show dogs and the working labradors with hound-like features (huge ears, thin face, snipey muzzle, very light build). Clarification on the in between, please?

    I asked her for some examples and their heads seemed more overdone than blocky or only blocky because the dog in question was overweight but she also said she liked T's head too? I've always been fond of that part of him although it's plenty large size-wise (in contrast to his teeny-tiny ears lol), it is nowhere in the same category as the pictures she showed.

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    And, my boy:

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  2. snowbunny

    snowbunny Administrator Forum Supporter

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    Hi, in my opinion, the trend for show dogs in the USA is, indeed, towards overdone - they're too heavy, too broad in the head so they look more like a Rottie and with over-exaggerated chests. Teller has a slightly broader head than some working lines dogs (my two are very houndy).

    This dog has a nice block head. Loch Mor Romeo, who won BOB at Crufts in 2013. You can see he's far less jowly (Mastiff-looking) than many of the American show dogs. He has a nice intelligent, almond-shaped eye, happy features, a good sized ear (sorry Teller!) where the point will reach to the eye. A nice breadth of head. Length-wise, the snout is the same length as the top of the head and there is a pronounced stop.

    romeo 17.6.11.jpg
    2013_RLA_BOB.jpg
     
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  3. Oberon

    Oberon Moderator Forum Supporter

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    The dogs in those pics (apart from your boy!) are pretty much at the chunkorama end of the spectrum. Personally I’d say they are far too stocky and are also way too droopy of skin (round the jowls and eyes). But if that’s what your friend wants then, well, it’s her dog. The yellow second from the top is the only one I’d give a second look at.

    You can definitely find dogs with nice heads that are squared off and sculpted looking and that aren’t heavy and cumbersome. To me this is a pretty bitch, in the show style but not heavy: https://www.dogzonline.com.au/breeds/profile.asp?dog=35508
    And a nice boy: https://www.dogzonline.com.au/breeds/profile.asp?dog=70904
     
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  4. Oberon

    Oberon Moderator Forum Supporter

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    Romeo’s head is still too broad and heavy I reckon.... Eyes should be sort of a diamond shape rather than an almond shape. He does have a kind looking expression though and his face isn’t too baggy (unlike the American dogs above).
     
  5. JenBainbridge

    JenBainbridge Supporting Member Forum Supporter

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    If you showed me those pics (apart from the one of Teller who is gorgeous!) I would have thought they were labs crossed with rotties or mastiffs rather than pure breed labs.

    I don't think my Stanley has a particularly blocky head. It's quite little with quite a long nose.

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  6. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog Forum Supporter

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    Really interesting! Yes, I agree that the photos your friend sent you are definitely the American-type show lines - which ironically they call "English". In my own search for a dog in the UK, several breeders told me that they are bringing American dogs into their lines as the trend is going towards the blockier heads and that's what they can get by pulling in the American lines just a little. Also the American lines tend to have longer legs with the blockier heads, whereas the English show lines tend to have shorter legs. So confusing as what the English call "American type" is essentially what the Americans call "English type". o_O

    Personally, with my background as a Rottie person (and an American, lol), I do like the looks of the photos from your friend, but they don't look like Labs to me. They look like Lab-mastiff crosses. The choccie almost looks like a Lab and Dogue de Bordeaux or Neapolitan mix. They also look like they'd all, to a one, be very drooly! :D

    I don't know what breeders are doing in the US (I'm assuming you and your friend are in the US), but I saw several breeders in the UK during my recent search who are trying to breed dogs with the plusses of both show and field, with the resulting dogs looking like a lean show dog - still the larger head, but slightly longer legs and a leaner build.

    I understand the blocky head love of your friend, however, as I tend to lean that way myself. The caveat I'd put on looking for a breeder who is producing dogs that look like the photos she sent you, is this: breeders who breed for one feature generally do so at the detriment of everything else. This is true whether the aim is coat color, "0/0 hips", head size, etc. What gets compromised is temperament, coat quality, joint health, etc. For example, just looking at that choccie, I'd already worry about getting into mastiff-type issues like entropion or gastric torsion. Almost certainly these dogs would also have the mastiff-type issue of much shorter life span than your typical Labrador.

    But if she loves dogs with this look, would another possibility be to look directly at breeds that are actually meant to look this way instead of a Lab? Many mastiff breeds have lovely temperaments that may suit her really well and she could find an ethical breeder who works to improve overall health, temperament and conformation of the breed instead of just focusing on head size. I personally can't deal with the shorter life span, but otherwise i'm a huge fan of many of the mastiffs, especially Old English and Spanish.
     
  7. Xena Dog Princess

    Xena Dog Princess Registered Users

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    Agreed, all of those American dogs (minus the first yellow) look like every other mastiff cross. It's sad the direction that many breeders are taking.
     
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  8. Teller's mom

    Teller's mom Registered Users

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    @snowbunny - Yes, thank you! I see a lot of 'show' type labs where I live and I doubt if I've seen a single one under 55 kg. It's sad, really, because building them broader and heavier can't be good for their joints or health. :(

    Hahaha, yes, Teller has rather pitiful ears. It's as though his head grew and his ears stayed puppy-sized lol. It doesn't help that he usually carries them high so they look even smaller. I can almost get them to the corners of his eyes! :p I still love his big ol' head, though.

    Romeo is a pretty dog, yes, better proportioned than most American show champs.

    @Oberon - I think she mainly wants a dog with more robust features than some of the field lines. One thing I can say for the one on the top is what a tail! That thing is like a log. What gorgeous dogs! I will pass those pictures onto her and see what she says.

    @JenBainbridge - Stanley looks very dapper. His head doesn't look extremely small to me and he has a nice stop. When I think long nose I think something like:

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    Do you have more pictures of him? Btw, I see he holds up his ears in nearly the exact same way Teller does!

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    @Emily_BabbelHund - Although the American standard allows for dogs up to 24", 2" taller than the British standard, a lot of show breeders here are going for shorter and shorter legs.

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    Both dogs who competed at Westminster recently.

    Lol, who doesn't like drool? I love when Teller comes over and drips water from his flews onto my book/hand/computer/phone. ;) But you're right, those dogs look like they'd be constantly flinging spittle left and right. You're also right about the dangers of overly selective breeding. I advised my friend to make sure she visited with the parents and other dogs at the kennel before putting down a deposit so she could evaluate temperament for herself.

    That's actually a good point. I'll pose that to her, although it crushed her to lose her rescue, Willy, early so she too might take issue with the short lifespan. Speaking of mastiffs, I met a lovely English pup appropriately named Goliath :D the other day. 5 months old and the same height as Teller. Not sure I'd want to pick up after that dog lol.

    Hopefully she can find what she's looking for without having to go for a mastiff wearing a lab suit.
     
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  9. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog Forum Supporter

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    Again, that's really interesting! Especially when a couple of UK breeders seemed to think that bringing in US dogs was the way to get longer legs. Isn't it crazy this whole breeding thing anyway? Honestly, you talk to 10 different breeders, you get 10 very different idea of what the 'correct' dog is!

    Actually, I don't mind drool at all unless it's on a dog with a beard. I looked at Spinoni (Spinonis?) as a possibility for me and could not get over the wet, stinky beard! But my first Rottie had enormous flews and when he shook his head, the drool would literally hit all four walls and the ceiling. When I repainted my whole house five years after he passed, I was still finding places where he'd left his mark and I was sad to be covering it over.

    Yes, this is me as well albeit for different reasons. It also affects how I look at older rescues who otherwise are great dogs. For me the mastiff size is an issue as well - hard to fit one under an airplane seat as I did with Brogan and need to be able to do with the next dog! :)

    If gastric torsion and size weren't issues, I'd have a Swissy (Greater Swiss Mountain Dog) as to me they are the closest to the old-fashioned Rotties that I know and love in terms of temperament and body type.

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  10. Teller's mom

    Teller's mom Registered Users

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    A majority of the big winning CH show dogs have short, stubby legs. There are some dogs with moderate conformation in the show pool as well. I have to think they are importing these dogs? At any rate it's good if a breeder is trying to lengthen the legs a bit. I know labs are supposed to have a built, stocky look but I can't see those two Westminster dogs moving very well through a field or getting hauled up into a small duck boat. Teller weighs 80 lbs (the upper-end of the weight spectrum for males) and he has much less substance than these dogs; it would be a pain to drag him into a duck boat but those dogs look like they weigh much more, someone would have a sore shoulder after an afternoon hunting.

    Don't get me started on beards! Oh my... I have a 16-year-old Shih Tzu in addition to Teller and her beard is foul. She's constantly getting it matted and caked with food and is at an age where she doesn't like to be groomed or fussed over. I couldn't even imagine a beard on a dog Teller's size or larger. What if they have a fascination with eating poo? It goes in the beard. They find something lovely and dead on a walk to munch on? In the beard! I'd have nightmares about where that thing had been every time one put his wet beard on my knee.

    Teller sometimes drools when he's on a particularly intriguing trail then he shakes his head and flicks a rope of it across his muzzle. Other than that he does not drool. Well, except that time he licked a toad. Thankfully one lick was enough to prevent him from picking it up in his mouth; I just washed his mouth out thoroughly and monitored him for the rest of the night. But toads are always scary because they're almost all poisonous.
     
  11. Ski-Patroller

    Ski-Patroller Cooper, Terminally Cute Forum Supporter

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    When I started out, I preferred the blockier Show style Labs, but my preference has changed over the years to the field style dogs. Our first Lab Ginger, was more field than show, and our second Tilly, looks like a show lab, Though her dad was definitely a field style dog and her mom was a Master Hunter, but looked very English. Cooper is definitely a field style dog, with a big head but longer nose, bigger ears, much longer legs, and a lot deeper chest compared to her waist. She generally looks like the most athletic of all of our dogs, though all of them could run and swim fast when they were young. Tilly is only 21" at the shoulder, and one time she jumped from the ground to the top of a Pet Smart Check out counter, to check out the treats stored in the counter top.

    We always use life jackets on our dogs when they are swimming from our boat or canoe, because it is the only way we can get them back in the boat. I have to stand up and lift by the handle to get them in.
     
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  12. Emily_BabbelHund

    Emily_BabbelHund Longest on the Forum without an actual dog Forum Supporter

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    I'd also looked at Giant Schnauzers in my dog search and thought there were great except for the darn beards. I asked a couple breeders if it would be ok to just clip the beard short when you were having the rest of the dog clipped. I thought they'd look quite handsome that way.

    The looks I got back upon asking that question were pure horror. As if I'd said I would take one of their puppies and put them in a stew pot. The answer I got back several times: "But...but...then they'd look like a LABRADOR! If you want a Labrador, just get a Labrador!"

    So I thought maybe they had a point and here I am. :D
     
  13. Teller's mom

    Teller's mom Registered Users

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    @Ski-Patroller - Luckily Teller is tall enough to easily reach the counters at pet stores and get to the treats. Cooper sounds like she has the same body as Teller, he's very solid in the chest but has a dreadful tuck-up. Ah, the life vest! We used to use one on our 15 lb Lhasa/Shih Tzu cross because she would literally jump from the bow into the water when we had anchored out. Who would have thought that a lap dog could like water so much?

    Teller is pretty good about coming back when swimming. I sometimes get nervous when the crew teams are out or racing because we have to time his retrieves or geese chasing in between boats coming and going. For the most part he has good recall on the water. Although there was this one time where he swam across the river (it's about 200 ft wide but with strong currents) to play with some dogs on the other side! He was completely deaf to the whistle and my calls and then right at dusk he decided to return like it was no big deal. I suppose it's good that there's trust between us but still... On the walk back to the car he was uncharacteristically good, though: loose-lead walking, ignoring squirrels, settling quietly in the car, etc.
     
  14. Ski-Patroller

    Ski-Patroller Cooper, Terminally Cute Forum Supporter

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    Yea. Cooper (25" at the bum) could reach the treats standing on the floor, but Tilly actually jumped all the way up on a 30" high check out counter from the floor. She never looked like a gazelle, but looks are deceiving.
     

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