The Labrador Retriever standard was changed recently. The new standard describes the Labrador Retriever as a medium-sized dog, giving the appearance of a dog that is strong, muscular and active. The head, which includes a very specific kind and friendly expression, the coat and the tail are the breed’s three outstanding characteristics.
However, the head, coat, tail and temperament, all worn on the correct body or frame, are what give you the complete Labrador Retriever. Though temperament is not a physical trait, it is the essence of this breed. The Labrador’s kindly temperament is visible in his warm eyes as well as in his body language. If any of these things is missing, you do not have a Labrador.
The head of a Labrador Retriever is one of the breed’s most distinguishing characteristics. It should not remind you of any other breed. If it reminds you of a Coonhound, a Great Dane or some kind of Terrier, then it is not a correct Labrador head. The Lab has a fairly broad back skull and a nice stop. The stop connects the skull to the muzzle, and the eyes are set into the stop.
The skull and muzzle run on practically parallel planes. The head should not have big, heavy, apple cheeks or flews that are too pendulous. The head should have a neat, clean appearance unlike the sloppy or drooling look that is appropriate for a Saint Bernard. The muzzle should be strong and never snipey looking. The nose should be wide with well-developed nostrils, for that keen sense of smell.
A Labrador Retriever should have what is called a “scissors bite,” where the top front teeth come down right over (actually touching) the bottom front teeth, just as the blades of a pair of scissors cross each other to cut something. A level bite, where the top and bottom meet at exactly the same place, is acceptable but not desirable. Labradors should have full dentition and should not be overshot or undershot, where there is a gap of one-eighth to one-quarter inch or more between the top and bottom jaw.
Either of these conditions or a wry mouth (crooked jaw) would make it harder for the dog to carry game. However, if your dog is a family pet, it probably will not matter if his bite is not perfect. A Labrador Retriever will probably never miss a meal.