- AKC recognized in 1917
- Lifespan: 12 - 14 years
- Size: Medium
- Energy: High
- Recommended Dog Kennel for Labrador: 42" dog crate*
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Table of Contents
Labrador Retrievers consistently rank as the most popular dog breeds in the United States and it is not hard to see why.
Sweet, friendly, and fun, Labs are the all-American dog, paws down! They are also very well-loved in Canada, the United Kingdom, in many other countries around the world.
Due to their loving personalities and intelligence, they are frequently used as therapy dogs to help people who are diagnosed with autism or as a guide dog for the blind.
They also can assist in detection and screen work with law enforcement agencies as well as making an excellent search and rescue dog.
To round it out, they are also a favorite breed for waterfowl and sport hunting.
Its expressive character, good temperament, friendliness, and intelligence makes Labradors one of the most popular family companions ever.
This breed was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1917. They are classified in the Sporting Dog Group.
They are high energy and are a medium-large breed in size.
Labs are classified as retriever-gun dogs which is one of the three types (retrievers, pointing breeds, and flushing spaniels).
As the name implies, Retrievers...retrieve once a bird or other prey has been shot. They are meticulously trained to do so without damage to the bird or animal.
They are, therefore, bred to be “soft mouthed”. They are also bred to be obedient and eager to please. This trait that has been bred into this breed makes him coveted as a family member, best friend, hunting, and service dog.
As far as the early heritage of the Labrador Retriever goes, their roots go back to the St. John’s Water Dog. There were several events that led to the slow demise of this breed in Canada which was a policy for sheep protection in Newfoundland and a rabies quarantine in the United States.
In the 30’s several noblemen imported some of this breed from Newfoundland to Europe to be used as gundogs and for water-fowling.
By the 1880s, three noblemen collaborated together and created the breed we now know as the Labradors which was the official origination of the Labrador Retrievers we know today.
Interestingly, some Labs today sport the markings of the St. John’s Dog which is a slight white spot on the chest (called a medallion) or an occasional white hair on his muzzle or feet (known as tuxedo markings).
Labs are often described as friendly, outgoing and active. While they were bred to have those characteristics for the purpose of hunting, it works out great for their more popular roles in modern times like being excellent companions who will hike up a mountain with your then curl beside you on the sofa that very night or dogs that will gently lead a blind person or a family dog that’s trustworthy to be around young children.
Their lifespan is usually between 12 and 14 years.
Labs have a dense weather-resistant coat that keeps him from getting cold when he gets in water during the wintertime which is a very feature for a waterdog to have.
Because it is interwoven, his coat is conducive for swimming. It is short in length, straight but not wiry, and tends to be a little dry yet oily.
Chocolate, yellow, white, black and silver, Labradors come in all different colors although the only “acceptable” colors are yellow, black, and chocolate.
White labs may range to even having a slight red tint to them. Silver Labs are not accepted by the AKC but they are in some other major dog organizations around the world.
The hair on his head is clean cut with a broad back skull and a medium length muzzle.
Jaws hang in a graceful manner and curves back just a bit. His eyebrows are slightly accentuated and his eye coloring is hazel or brown. His eyes are expressive and are lined in black, or should be.
Lab ears are set just above his eyes and his ears hang close to his head. The tail of a Labrador is fairly broad yet quite strong which is useful to propel him when swimming.
These dogs are bred for swimming right down to their toes. Their toes are webbed which makes them even faster in the water and also acts like a snowshoe of sorts, a big help to keep snow from painfully balling between their toes.
Labradors are powerful - strongly physically built with an athletic look about them. Males usually weigh in around 65-80 pounds and females run around 55-70.
They are equal in distance from tail to withers and from the ground to withers. Males typically stand 22 ½ to 24 ½ inches high and females, about 21 ½ to 23 ½ inches.
Specialized breeding has brought about two Lab bloodlines. The English version of Labrador Retrievers is different than the United States versions.
Also known as “Conformation” dogs, the English type is a show dog whereas the type from America is more of a working dog.
Show dogs are heavier with bodies that are a little shorter and their tails and coats tend to be slightly thicker. They are also calmer in nature, as a rule.
Working Labs from America are higher energy and rightly so for they are field dogs whereas versions from England are bred for their coloration and other characteristics for showing.
Labs from America are a little taller and thinner with longer legs and lithe bodies, hence making them more agile. Their heads are narrower and their muzzles, longer.
Both English Labradors and those from America are excellent with people although the calmer of the two may be more fit to be around young children. Their differences mostly lay in their physical appearance and in their energy levels for the most part.
The AKC does give a little allowance for the difference but some of the official clubs and organizations don’t. There is also controversy among breeders. Some classify them in their specializing field type, though not all as others adamantly do not agree with this classification.
Despite the differences in the two varieties, Labs are easily recognizable, especially with their sweet faces and kind eyes. They are also prime candidates to be designer (crossbreed) dogs since they have such a good nature.
Labradoodles, Afadors, Boradors, Bassadors, Boxadors, Chabradors, Cavadors, Corgi Lab mixes, and Doberman Lab Mixes are some of the many crosses associated with the Lab.
It is recommended to provide feed formulated to medium-sized breeds that is appropriate for the energy level of your Lab.
It is highly recommended to discuss your dog's feed with your veterinarian and/or breeder in order to determine the size and frequency of meals in order to ensure a healthy, long life.
Lab puppies are usually bounding with energy. Your vet may recommend several small meals per day initially.
Labs can be sensitive to some foods so be sure to mention any itching, swelling, or vomiting.
Since Labs, both adult and puppies, are medium to high energy dogs, you’ll want to make sure his food includes plenty of protein. Your vet will most likely advise a good, high-quality food that will provide enough and other nutrients he needs as well.
Labs can be little pigs. They burn off a lot of calories romping about and playing as pups and later, working or playing as adults, and they certainly have been known to become obese, especially when their daily exercise needs are not being met.
For this reason, it’s best to limit his treats and in-between meal snacking. Labs should boast a trim hour-glass shape.
One more note is if your Lab has itchy, flaky skin, you may want to talk to his vet about the possibility of adding fish oil to his diet.
It is also important to ensure that clean, fresh water is always available.
Labs typically only shed about twice a year, in the spring and fall. Some, however, shed the whole year round.
Much of the rate and frequency of their shedding depends upon the climate where they live. Those who live in very warm areas tend to shed continually.
It’s recommended that you brush your Lab’s hair once a week to keep his double coat shiny and his skin healthy. Doing so will also help keep shedding to a minimum. An occasion bath is a must as well.
It’s best to use a hypoallergenic shampoo on him since Labs’ skin is known to be sensitive. Make sure you don’t bathe him too often as this will dry his skin out.
Don’t forget to brush your Lab’s teeth to keep his teeth and gums clean and healthy. Once a week or more is ideal.
Use a doggie toothpaste and either a dog toothbrush or your finger. If you get a nice canine-friendly toothpaste flavor, this sweet dog will probably help you brush them.
Labrador Retrievers have fast nail growth and as such need regular trims using a nail clipper or grinder.
Overgrowth of nails can cause splitting and cracking. Their ears can build up wax and other matter.
To avoid infection, it is recommended to regularly check and clean around the opening but not inside their ears.
This can be done with a large ball of cotton wool moistened with veterinarian-recommended ear cleaner or warm, previously boiled water.
Be sure to keep their ears dry as Labs are naturally prone to have ear issues.
It is important for Labrador Retrievers to get a lot of exercise. Despite their sometimes laid-back nature, they require plenty of exercise to stay healthy.
Remember, Labs were initially bred for the physically demanding and arduous task of retrieving for game hunters.
Exercise helps their hearts and muscles stay strong and fit and keeps their minds alert too. Plus, especially with pups, you’ll quickly learn that if a Lab doesn’t get his energy out, he’s apt to get into mischief.
Although it depends on the nature and age of your Lab, it is generally recommended to give adults between 45 minutes to 90 minutes of active exercise each day.
If your dog still has a lot of energy left over, bump the routine up a bit. Some Labs are more naturally high strung than others.
Examples include swimming, jogging, playing fetch and similar activities that provide more intensity than a light walking speed.
For puppies approximately 5 minutes per month of age until fully grown is sufficient. For aging Labradors, it is important to monitor their health more closely for signs of sore joints and other health problems.
Collapse during exercise is a real threat as is often caused by a medical condition that is not uncommon with Labs. Consult his vet immediately if such a thing happens.
Regularly vet check-ups will help determine the appropriate levels of exercise.
The lack of sufficient exercise can lead to disobedient behaviors, excessive barking, and other destructive behaviors.
It can also lead to weight problems, hip and elbow damage, heart disease, higher blood pressure and a higher incidence of diabetes.
In addition to his routine, daily walks, you’ll want to add some spice to his exercise like agility exercises. This dog loves to hunt so hide-and-go-fetch games are awesome to play with him.
He also adores swimming so when the weather permits, if there’s a place where he can swim, let him. He was bred to swim and it will give him both physical exercise and mental stimulation, fulfilling his purpose.
Especially when he is young and inexperienced, keep a watchful eye on him in the water. He is such a swimmer, he very well may venture out across the lake or into the ocean. His abilities or endurance have no limits as far as he’s concerned.
Brain games are also vital for Labs. They are very intelligent and need the challenge.
Pet Crates Direct recommends the 42" dog crate* for most adult Labs. Most models also come with a divider that allows puppies to grow into space.
A crate with dimensions of 42” length x 28” width x 31” height or 42” length x 28” width x 30” height will work well for your Labrador.
The crate you choose should be suitable for your dog’s needs without being too large.
Labrador retrievers are very social active animals. A dog crate will help you keep your dog away from mischief when you are not around to monitor its activities.
Click here to learn about the best dog crates for Labradors.
Have some toys in the crate for it to chew on to prevent it from chewing on the crate. When you are around, play with it and encourage it to have fun.
Be sure to keep an eye on it as they are known to play themselves to exhaustion.
Adult male Labrador Retrievers stand between twenty-two and twenty-five inches and they weigh an average of sixty to eighty pounds.
Female adults, on the other hand, weigh between fifty and seventy pounds, standing at a height of twenty to twenty-four inches at shoulder height.
Known as some of the sweetest breeds of dogs that the world has to offer, these dogs are very loveable and they aim to please.
This nature coupled with their high levels of intelligence makes them quite easy to train.
Training your Labrador retriever puppy is of the essence as they are filled with high amounts of energy which can be used in destructive behavior where your dog is not well trained.
As a result of this energy, these dogs do well in surroundings filled with activity.
Labradors make such good companion dogs, you might be tempted to think they were bred for that reason alone.
But, in considering the Lab’s personality and temperament, it’s important to remember what he was really designed to do...hunt!
Labs are very versatile and can fit into life on the farm with ease but can also be in small spaces as long as they have plenty of exercise because they are active dogs.
Still, recalling the things for which this dog was bred for will help you make sure you give him the ultimate care and understanding.
Hunting, fetching, and swimming is what makes Labs tick. They love to roam and need ample exercise.
They are also used to problem-solving because that was a skill that was required. They thrive on learning new things and recalling the information they already have.
Labs tend to be quite proud of themselves when it comes to using their intelligence.
Another thing Labs treasure is pleasing those they love. They simply can’t get enough of it.
This made them good hunter and retrievers and make them excellent companions, family dogs, and service dogs too.
It’s a quality that, when embraced, makes them one of the best dog breeds on the planet.
If you are thinking about getting a Labrador Retriever and have children, you’re in luck. Labs are awesome with kids.
The English, show-type dogs, with the larger heads and bushier tails, are somewhat favored as being great fits with small children.
Both types of Labs usually do well with other household pets, even cats though they might try to give chase until trained differently.
Although Labs are almost perfect, they aren’t quite. One tendency they often have, mainly as pups, is that they love to chew.
They also do it when pent-up or when they are not getting their energy out.
Labs also can be a little much when young as far as their activity level goes. They are considered to be medium-high in activity levels and some, especially the working variety from America, can teeter on the very active side.
If yours does, you’ll need to increase his exercise. There’s no way around it if you want a well-behaved dog.
Labs seem to linger in their adolescence stage. They act like puppies for longer than most dogs.
It is adorable, though some behaviors can be unwanted like them tearing up or chewing things. You’ll need to address these behaviors in a kind, yet assertive, manner.
Being left alone is not on a Lab’s favorite thing list, in fact, far from it. Many suffer from separation anxiety.
You’ll know if yours is, by the way, he chews everything up or cries without stopping. This dog breed is best with a family where someone is home much of the time.
During the hours that no one can be with him, crating may be the best solution.
When you work with your Lab and not against him, taking his roots into consideration and also taking advantage of his trainability and teach-ability, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better dog.
Compared to most breeds, these dogs are quite healthy and if you take good care of them, chances are that they will not develop most health conditions that other dogs suffer from.
Examples of diseases that your Labrador Retriever could suffer from include but are not limited to cataracts, epilepsy, cold tail, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia.
Getting your dog from a good breeder lessens the chances of such diseases if they are hereditary.
Labs are generally healthy dogs with a fairly long lifespan. But, because they are purebreds, there are some medical issues they are prone to that you’ll want to keep a good eye out for.
One of the most prevalent is Patellar Luxation, a condition that is much like a dislocated kneecap. It occurs when a dog’s patella, or kneecap, becomes dislodged from the groove of the thigh bone in which it is supposed to fit into.
The condition can be quite painful and can cause limping and inability to walk altogether. If your Lab is showing signs of having this problem, see his vet immediately.
Canine Hip Dysplasia is another problem of the joint Labs are apt to get. It can be present at birth as a deformity of the joints or can come about through environmental issues like jumping too much.
It can also develop through excessive wear and tear. In this condition, the hip doesn’t properly fit into the joint which causes pain, limping, and possible lameness. If your dog is favoring one leg or is limping or unable to walk, have him checked by his vet.
Shoulder Dysplasia is also a common condition among Labs. Again, have your dog checked if he exhibits signs of this condition.
Having hot spots is not uncommon with Labs. Also known as a Pyotramatic or Moist Dermatitis, this condition is one that involves a certain area of skin that is inflamed and infected. It is moist and may ooze and is often reddish and painful. You’ll definitely want to consult his vet for treatment.
Allergies are on the list to watch for in this breed. He is prone to have skin irritations like allergies to soaps his bedding is washed in or to shampoo or soap used in his bath.
He may also be sensitive to rolling or laying in grass. There are a multitude of skin allergies a Lab may have and they may also be allergic to food so be careful if you change up his diet in any way.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is caused by the cartridge grows abnormally in a dog. It can occur in any joint within his body where two bones come together and there is movement allowed between them.
This condition can be due to an abnormality at birth or one that is developed or can be caused by damaged incurred.
Diabetes is a medical woe that Labs can be afflicted by. If your dog is acting differently such as becoming tired and lethargic in between meals or is excessively thirsty, it would be a good idea to have him screened.
Hypothyroidism is a very real problem seen in Labs. Gaining weight without eating more or exercising less is a sign as is becoming very lethargic and not wanting to exercise.
See his vet at the first sign of this problem. A change in diet and possible medication may be recommended.
Muscular Dystrophy in Labs is, sadly, a possibility. It is an inherited muscle disease that is progressive and is a non-inflammatory degenerative muscular issue where there is a deficiency in dystophyin which is a membrane protein of the muscle. It is most noted in newborn pups or in dogs that are not yet one year old.
Another eye-related condition is called progressive retinal atrophy.
Although the list of Lab-related medical issues to watch for may seem excessive and overwhelming, they do tend to be a healthy breed.
But, if one of the conditions should arise, being aware and getting prompt help is always the best measure so he can get fixed up and back to being his awesome self again.
Labradors are generally very active and social animals.
Their social nature makes them ideal for the indoors because if you leave them in the yard alone, they will get bored and they will find ways to keep busy that are destructive, such as digging up your flower beds.
Though activity levels vary depending on the type of retriever you have, it is important to keep them active.
Exercising your dog on a daily basis helps it manage its stress levels and improves on its overall well being.
Take it for a walk or a jog for at least half an hour on a daily basis. This kind of exposure not only helps it release some of its energy but it will also expose it to different people and surroundings, making it more sociable.
Do not take puppies out for walks until they are at least a year old. Instead of walks, get your puppy a few toys to keep it busy indoors.
When it comes of age, you can go out on long walks. Labs are workaholics and as such, it is important that you put an end to their games to prevent them from exhausting all their energy during play.
Labrador retrievers are like any other retrievers and they are happy to have something to carry around in their mouths.
Get your dog a toy which it can carry around and chew on when they get bored. They chew a lot and having toys near them prevents situations where they might chew on your clothes or furniture.
Having a dog crate enables you to contain your retriever when you are not around to monitor their chewing behaviors.
Due to their sweet nature, you might think that it is not necessary to train them. Do not make that mistake.
These dogs are full of energy and without the right training, that energy will be put into negative uses.
They are easy to train and have been known to excel in obedience contests. To start off the obedience training, you can enroll your puppy in a kindergarten where it will be taught how to interact with other animals.
You can opt to train your dog on your own and as you do this, use methods that use positive reinforcement for work well done as opposed to punishing your dog for getting a command wrong.
In this way, your dog will learn faster and the two of you will get to bond during the process.
Have an identification tag on your retriever as they are known to take off in the event when they sense something exciting nearby, such as food. This will help you find your dog easily.
Labrador Retrievers are one of the easiest breeds to train. That’s why they are used so much as service dogs.
They are smart, eager to please, and are naturally inclined to listen and obey for that stems back to their breeding. Not only were they taught to fetch a fallen fowl or small animal but to bring it back without damaging the bird or animal.
Potty training should be fairly easy with a Lab puppy but getting his attention is the trick. Lab pups are busy, busy, busy. It may take a few tries and some patience but he will no doubt master it in due time.
Socializing at an early age is a must. This breed is a lover and usually takes quite well to humans but there are exceptions, mostly with those who were never socially trained.
Even friendly Labs -can be a nuisance if not properly trained. They need to be taught not to jump up on people and not to wear their welcome out by being pests.
Be sure to take your pup to all different types of settings like where there’s a lot of noise and a lot of people as well as to places of solace too. Expose him to various animals and different kind of people.
Basic obedience will be a key training. Learning when enough is enough during playtime, when to sit, how to behave, etc. will make this breed shine.
He already has the ability, you as his alpha pack leader must bring it out though just as his hunting owners did in the days of old.
Labs on a leash can be a little hairy. They are fast walkers so you’ll have to nip his tendency to try to lead in the bud. You’ll also need to teach him not to try to socialize along the way.
He’ll want to stop and say “hello” to every dog and human he crosses paths with and may try to chase a cat or kid on a bike. He’s harmless but his unruly desires could cause harm to him or to others so train him good walking manners right off the bat.
Positive reinforcement is always in order for Labs. They wear their hearts on their sleeves so there’s no need to scold or talk harshly. He aims to please so just letting him gently know he missed the mark is sufficient correction.
By plenty of praise and a few treats now and then, Labradors will be doing all they can to achieve all you have laid out for them...simply because they love you.
Advance training is definitely on the agenda if you have a Lab that you want to help reach his full potential in life. Dogs sports, agility training, and even service training are all areas he excels in when challenged.
If you are not a natural born trainer or do have the time, patience, or desire to learn to advance your training skills, you might do well to consider hiring a trainer for him. It’s a shame to see such trainable talent go to waste in this breed.
Bathing your lab depends on how clean your dog is.
For dogs that prefer to stay indoors, a bath every two months should do the trick. However, if your dog loves to play in the mud, it goes without saying that the baths will be more frequent.
When bathing your dog, be on the lookout for sore ears and eyes, a change in the coloring of the fur and any other symptoms that may be indicative of sickness.
Labrador Retrievers shed a lot of fur and you should brush it daily to prevent it from shedding all over the house.
Oral hygiene should also be practiced by brushing your dog’s teeth at least twice a week to prevent the build-up of plaque and development of gum disease.
When feeding your dog, take into account your dog’s level of activity so you don't end up giving it too much food.
The more nutritious the food you give your dog, the less amount of food it will need to get full.
Measure out the amount of food to give your dog and feed it twice a day. When feeding a puppy, you should consider foods with low-calorie content. This prevents your puppy from growing at a rate that could be damaging to its bones.
Labradors love to eat and you will catch them trying to get food from garbage. Ensure that you do not leave food lying about as they will eat it.
They grow obese very fast if they are allowed to eat at will and this can bring about some serious health complications.
Is a Lab Right for Me?
Who could pass up the precious smile of a fuzzy little Lab? They are “all that’ in a dog...and more. But, is a Labrador Retriever a good match for you and your family? They are for many people but...they aren’t for everyone.
Labs can be high strung, especially those from America, working dog, variety. They can be a handful. They are certainly trainable but...you have to be willing to put the time and effort in to do so otherwise, they can be an unruly mess.
Do you own slippers you don’t want to be chewed up? If so and if you are getting a Lab puppy, you might want to put them away. One of the few naughty habits this breed has is excessive chewing.
Of course, you will train him NOT to chew or to chew only his toys and treat bones, but...until you do correct the action, know that nothing is safe.
Exercise is a must for this kind of dog. He was brought into existence for the purpose of retrieving as well as a hunting dog. He won’t be at his best if not amply exercised.
If you are not willing or are not able to tend to his exercise requirements, or don’t have a back-up who can, then this dog is one you’ll need to pass on. He simply must have his exercise and his mental stimulation as well.
Are you willing to train this dog? A good dog is a terrible thing to waste. He is so highly trainable, it would be a sin just to stick him in the backyard. If you are willing to train him or have him trained, however, the stars are the limit.
Do you have children? If so, yay! This dog loves children and has been proven to be great with them.
If you are getting a Lab from America, you’ll want to keep a closer eye on his interaction with the children because he’ll be a little more enthusiastic when playing with them.
If you have considered all the things having a Labrador Retriever entails and are still sure this breed is good for you, congratulations. There are few dogs that can even come close in comparison for being all-around awesome dogs.
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