Originally a duck retriever and fisherman’s assistant in the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic, the Labrador Retriever has become a cherished companion animal. With hallmark traits that include a gentle demeanor, eager-to-please attitude and athletic ability, it’s easy to understand why the Lab is consistently is ranked as the most popular dog breed.
Labrador Retriever Facts
This medium-sized pup, known for that friendly Labrador Retriever temperament, as well as their kind eyes, weather-resistant coat and “otter” tail, come in three hues. The average Labrador Retriever weight is usually between 65 and 80 pounds for males, and 55 to 70 pounds for females.
- Breed Group: Sporting
- Height: Males, 5-24.5 inches; females, 21.5-23.5 inches
- Weight: Males, 65-80 pounds; females, 55-70 pounds
- Life Span: 10-12 years
- Coat: Short-haired, double coat
- Color: Black, yellow and chocolate
Labrador Retriever Characteristics
Labrador Retriever History: Friends of Fisherman
Labrador Retrievers come from Newfoundland, a large island off the icy north Atlantic coast. Coupled with the neighboring mainland of Labrador, it comprises Canada’s most eastern province. During the 16th century, the dogs (initially called St. John’s water dogs) retrieved ducks and helped fishermen by hauling in nets and retrieving fish that would fall from the lines.
When English noble sportsmen imported the dogs to England during the early 19th century, the breed started to rise in popularity. The British standardized the breed during the late 19th century, and in 1903 the Kennel Club (in England) gave it official recognition.
The American Kennel Club (AKC) registered the Labrador dog in 1917, and it has maintained its billing as most popular breed since 1991. Today the Labrador dog works in service and therapy, search and rescue, law enforcement and drug and bomb detection, as well as being a cherished companion animal.
At press time, there are more than 1,720 Labrador Retriever breeders registered on the AKC’s website, with the price for Labrador Retriever puppies ranging between $1,000 and $2,500. More important than how much a Labrador Retriever costs, though, is the breeder’s reputation, how the puppy was raised and whether the dog was checked and certified by a veterinarian. Alternatively, adopting a Labrador Retriever from local animal shelters and Labrador Retriever rescues are always a solid option for potential pet parents.
What Does a Labrador Retriever Look Like?
The medium-sized Labrador Retriever weighs 55-80 pounds and stands 21.5-24.5 inches tall (males are usually larger and taller). The Lab is an athletic, energetic breed whose characteristics are consistent with a history as a cold-water retriever dog. It also explains why these pups generally have an affinity for swimming.
This breed’s webbed feet give them an advantage in the water, allowing them to swim quickly. The otter-like tail—thick at the root and tapered at the end—acts like a powerful rudder, beneficial for making turns in the water. The dense, short coat has a soft, weather-resistant undercoat, allowing these dogs to spend ample time in cold, icy water.
Labrador Retriever colors come in three varieties: black, chocolate (light to dark brown) and yellow (from light cream to a fox-colored red). Although the black Labrador Retriever was the original accepted variety, yellow Labrador Retrievers and chocolate Labrador Retrievers are also accepted by the AKC.
The breed also boasts kind and alert eyes, which are usually brown in black and yellow Labrador Retrievers, and hazel or brown in chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The ears are well-proportioned and hang down.
There are a few distinctions between English and American Labrador Retrievers. Originally bred for field trials, American Labs are typically more energetic, and whereas the American dogs are leaner and have longer legs, the English pups have blockier heads.
Labrador Retriever Temperament: Eager-to-Please Pups
Labrador Retrievers’ high intelligence and willingness to please makes them standouts in the field as hunters, in the home as companions and as service dogs who guide the blind as well as search for and rescue victims of disaster. Overall, the Labrador Retriever temperament can be defined as sweet, outgoing and eager to please, making this breed arguably the most popular today. The “soft mouth” designed to retrieve game without damage also means these dogs are among the least likely to become aggressive.
So, if potential pet parents are wondering, “Is a Labrador Retriever a good family dog?” they can rest assured that these gregarious dogs often love everyone. They have a reputation of being great family dogs who love kids and tend to bond with the whole family. Additionally, Labrador Retrievers are good with other dogs and pets, including the neighborhood animals, oftentimes. They don’t make good watchdogs because they’re likely to love burglars just as much! In fact, Labs can become so demanding of attention, they may pester you for affection. Their distinctive tail is likely to always be wagging—so hard that it might even bruise you from happiness!
Keeping Labrador Retrievers Healthy: 5 Issues to Watch Out For
Due to their popularity, Labrador Retrievers have some genetic conditions due to inbreeding and breeding unhealthy dogs. By recognizing Labrador Retriever health problems early on, you can seek treatment earlier and potentially avoid big veterinary bills or unnecessary suffering. Avoid Labrador Retriever health problems by purchasing a puppy from a responsible breeder who has papers to show that the dogs they breed are healthy. Always inspect breeding facilities and breeding dogs, and never buy from a distance online seller. If you opt for Labrador Retriever adoption, be sure to get as much medical history that the rescue group or shelter is able to provide.
Labrador Retrievers are known to develop joint dysplasia in the hip, shoulder and elbow, which can predispose them to early onset arthritis.
Skin Allergies and Infections:
Skin allergies and infections are common in Labrador Retrievers, and are related to flea, food and/or environmental allergies. Allergies and infections cause hair loss; itchy, red skin; and excessive scratching.
Allergies, ear structure and a love of swimming can predispose Labrador Retrievers to developing recurrent outer ear infections. Ear infections cause itchy, red ears that have an odor and increased ear wax.
Labrador Retrievers can develop genetic eye disorders, including cataracts, retinal disorders and eyelash disorders. While most ocular conditions in Labrador Retrievers can be treated, most can be avoided if you purchase puppies from breeders who certify their dogs to be free of ocular disease.
Obesity affects millions of Labrador Retrievers in the United States and around the world. Fortunately, this is a disease that pet parents can control or avoid completely by providing proper nutrition and exercise.
Caring for Your Labrador Retriever Dog
Wondering how to care for a Labrador Retriever? Labs need daily exercise and good nutrition to thrive. They love to learn new behaviors and require moderate grooming. With the appropriate care, the average Labrador Retriever life span can reach 10-12 years.
Do Labrador Retrievers shed a lot? It depends on the time of year. Labrador Retrievers have a double coat and will shed small amounts year round. Twice a year they “molt” and shed heavily. To reduce shedding, brush your Labrador Retriever regularly once or twice a week, and daily during the heavy shedding times. Using a comb or tool, like the FURminator deShedding Edge Dog Brush, can reduce shedding. Bathing a Labrador Retriever, unless the dog is heavily soiled, is not recommended more than once a month. Shaving a Labrador Retriever is not recommended.
Proper nutrition helps promote health in your Labrador Retriever. Since obesity is common in this breed, knowing how much food to feed a Labrador Retriever is as important as what to feed a Labrador Retriever. Studies show that Labrador Retrievers will live longer and have fewer problems with disease, including arthritis, if they are kept at a healthy weight. Be sure to find out from your veterinarian what is a healthy weight for your Labrador Retriever.
Adult Labrador Retrievers benefit most from eating a complete and balanced large-breed dog food. Large-breed dog foods, like Royal Canin Large Breed Adult dog food, are uniquely formulated to support the bone and joint needs of large-breed dogs.
It is very important to not overfeed Labrador Retriever puppies because puppyhood obesity can predispose dogs to health problems. Feed your Lab pup an appropriate amount of large-breed puppy food, like Purina Pro Plan Focus large breed puppy food. Use the feeding chart on the bag as a guide, or ask your veterinarian how much to feed your puppy.
If you choose to cook at home or feed raw, consult with a veterinary nutritionist to formulate a complete and balanced diet. Learn more about raw dog food diets here.
Labrador Retrievers are smart and active dogs who require daily mental and physical exercise. At least 45 minutes of exercise, whether it is brisk walking, running or playing fetch is a must for adult Labs. Try playing with toys that promote activeness and exercise, like the Chuckit! Classic Launcher. Most Labrador Retrievers love to swim as well.
Labrador Retriever puppies need less-strenuous exercise than adults; ask your veterinarian for exercise recommendations for your puppy. Chewing is also an important mental exercise that can be supported by giving your Labrador Retriever safe things to chew. Kong toys are excellent chew toys that can be stuffed with treats.
Training Your Labrador Retriever
Labs are extremely intelligent, biddable dogs, which typically makes Labrador Retrievers easy to train to perform all kinds of tricks and commands.
Labradors are very food motivated, so it’s recommended to use the Lab’s treat-drive to reward training sessions. Reserve a special treat for these Labrador Retriever training sessions to make your pup extra receptive to training time. (Just be sure to lock treats away in a secure cabinet or these smart canines will help themselves!) Also, remember that Labs like attention nearly as much as treats, so the yummies don’t need to be large. Aim for fingertip-size treats to prevent upsetting your dog’s healthy appetite and keeping them slim for their athletic lifestyle.
Training your Lab puppy early helps them learn how much fun training can be and sets them up for eager training throughout their life.