I want a Labrador with a BIG HEAD!! (But do you know what to look for besides just size?)

For 34 years now, I’ve heard thousands say to me, “I want a Lab with a BIG HEAD!! “ or… my favorite…”I want a block-headed lab!” (And I’m thinking, “Uh….no, you don’t want a ‘stubborn pet!!’ Ha! Sorry—it just sounds so funny to me)

But is it all just about just SIZE? (sorry) Or is also about also including the muzzle size/shape and eye set, dome of head, “stop”, and ear set—and are the ears balanced correctly with the entire head? (There was one bloodline we had a few decades ago that use to have ears occasionally that were a “tad” too short—to my eye as a show breeder at least, but maybe not to the pet person.) So we even have a way to measure if the ears match the balance of the overall head, and breed to be sure even the balance of the expression is pleasant.

The description of the Labrador head is pretty broad in the official AKC Breed Standard (https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/labrador-retriever/)

“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.”

So, when considering the entire “headpiece,” as we refer to it in the conformation AKC event show world, you need to consider more things than size to get the wonderful, full expression of the Labrador Retriever that you want to look at every day. That “you walk on water” look that melts you every time.

Some large-headed labs can be “overdone” (I know, hard to imagine) to the point that they look like they will fall forwards—remember, that’s not always best for the dog in the long-run as ‘form’ will either meet or ‘hinder’ function and we want our dogs to move correctly to preserve their joints and bones long-term.

Some have large skulls with tiny, yet thin muzzles, not even able to hold a bird in their mouth (as ‘form must meet function’ when considering the overall breeding of a Labrador). We are passionate about preserving the integrity of the breed.  Some labs may have a ‘big head, yet have a ‘hard look’ to the eyes—they are not soft and kind as I feel anyone expects from a Labrador. Some will look at head before even looking if it is in balance with the rest of the body (picture big huge head and no “bone” in the rest of the body to match it) It’s all about BALANCE, expression AND size for the ultimate “headpiece” (now that you are all talking “lab speak”! Congratulations!) Feel free to pursue the photos on our website to find examples of proper Labrador Retriever standard.

EXPRESSION:  This is something that, when judging, I will look at carefully if its down to two dogs that I’m trying to put in placement at a match, or if I’m judging ringside at a Labrador Specialty or all-breed show. That EXPRESSION wins me over in the end after I’ve ensured that the dog shows every other bit of conforming to the breed standard.

With the broad description given in the breed standard, we have a lot of lea-way within it for many types of heads and expressions. Within the breed you will see all types of “styles” of heads or build or looks amongst different breeders. They may all conform to the breed standard but we all have a “type” that may typify our kennel and make us “recognizable.” Us breeders all have our own personal preferences, for sure.

A picture, they say, speaks a thousand words. I’ll post some pictures of a variety of Labrador heads:

7 Comments

  1. Thanks for the information! I’ve learned a lot!

  2. Thanks. Very informative .

    1. Always love your willingness to share your knowledge and experience Donna…I know a lot about the breed, but always learn much from you. Thank you!!

  3. Great information, love all your dogs💕

  4. The expression in my labs eyes when he is looking at me for something he wants gets me every time! I love that eye to eye contact 🐶

  5. Thank you for this informative document

  6. Something I hear all the time about my EML Labs is how they have the best disposition and kind eyes. From the Kennel and Vet to the Delivery carriers and Various vendors who service our home , no one has ever been fearful of our two Labs who greet everyone with that famous Labrador smile!

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