Labrador owners have always known their breed is a greedy one – but now science is backing this up. A study published this week claims that around one quarter of these dogs have a special gene mutation, which causes them to have an increased appetite. This makes them incredibly trainable – but also makes them much more likely to be overweight. On average, a Labrador with this mutation is 4 pounds heavier than one without.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, 72% of Labradors that work as assistance dogs have the gene, as they are specially bred to enjoy working for rewards.
Principal Research Associate for the study Dr Giles Yeo said, “Labradors make particularly successful working and pet dogs because they are loyal, intelligent and eager to please, but importantly, they are also relatively easy to train.
“Food is often used as a reward during training, and carrying this variant may make dogs more motivated to work for a titbit.”
Interestingly, this gene isn’t found in other breeds of dog, with the exception of the closely related Flat Coat Retriever. It’s no surprise then that Labradors are particularly prone to the podge, with the highest levels of canine obesity.
Obesity in dogs is bad news; just as in humans, it is linked to an array of dangerous health problems, such as heart disease, different cancers and diabetes. But carrying the gene needn’t be the guaranteed path to an unhealthy life – Labrador owners just need to be able to resist those begging brown eyes!
The study was originally published in Cell Metabolism.