Labs were bred in Newfoundland to help fisherman haul in nets, and there's a reason the breed has been America's most popular for 26 consecutive years. This is an all-around awesome dog that checks every box: athletic, gentle, loyal, good with kids, and smart enough to do anything.
Weight: 55-80 lbs
Best Qualities: They are born with an instinct to retrieve and swim, an aptitude to be trained, and a strong desire to please. No wonder so many guide and bomb-sniffing dogs are Labs.
Drawbacks: Labs are famously prone to hip and elbow problems, so make sure both the mother and father have been X-rayed for genetic joint issues. Also, silver Labs may be advertised, but any color besides yellow, black, and chocolate indicates crossbreeding.
What to Do With Them: Labs can do everything, with one liability: lack of endurance. "They tire quicker than some other dogs," says Bryan Barrera, of DC Dog Runner, "but they give it all they've got."
Buyers Guide: A good starting point is the Labrador Retriever Club. Wildrose Kennels, an Orvis-endorsed breeder in Mississippi, specializes in English labs, which are generally smaller (50 to 70 pounds) and often have more stamina than the standard American version.