Labrador Retriever Dog Breed

Chocolate Labrador Retriever
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  • Other names:
  • Lab
Overview

The labrador retriever is often the most popular purebred dog in North America (according to dog registrations). Originally bred to be a useful working dog, the lab's friendly attitude and hard working behavior has made it one of the most recognized and well-known dogs in the world.

Labrador retrievers have a strong desire to please and are extremely intelligent dogs. This has not only made them perfect companion dogs, but also ideal hunting dogs, assistance dogs, search and rescue dogs, as well as the top choice for many other jobs.

Labrador Retriever Breed Details

Breed Specs
TypeLifespanHeightWeight
Purebred10-12 yrs.21-24 in.55-80 lbs
  • Friendliness
  • Overall
  • Family Friendly
  • Kid Friendly
  • Pet Friendly
  • Stranger Friendly
  • Maintenance
  • Easy to Groom
  • Energy Level
  • Exercise Needs
  • General Health
  • Shedding Amount
  • Behavior
  • Barks / Howls
  • Easy to Train
  • Guard Dog
  • Playfulness
  • Watch Dog
  • Ownership
  • Apartment Friendly
  • Can Be Alone
  • Good for Busy Owners
  • Good for Novice Owners
  • Intelligence
* The more green the stronger the trait.

There are many Labrador facts, but you should understand that these dogs are first and foremost hunters who are also great gun dogs. If they are not regularly used for hunting, they need a similarly strenuous job that will keep them mentally and physically stimulated. They are splendid pets for families seeking their first dog. To be at their best, however, these dogs do require a fair amount of responsibility. Understanding the many Labrador pros and cons will help you understand if this is the right dog for you.

Here are some facts about Labrador Retrievers that will help you decide if you want one of these dogs:

PROS

  • Highly trainable
  • Loves other dogs
  • Great for older kids
  • Coat is easy to clean
  • Excellent hunting dog
  • Perfect for highly active lifestyles
  • Gets along well with most non-canine pets

CONS

  • Love to get dirty
  • Frequent diggers
  • Massive shedders
  • Not hypoallergenic
  • Requires a lot of exercise
  • Prone to separation anxiety
  • Fair amount of health problems
  • May take up to three years to mature
  • Females typically blow their coats twice annually
  • Huge popularity means lots of unscrupulous breeders
  • Must be supervised around very small or young children and toddlers

Labrador Retriever Breed Description

The labrador retriever is a large breed dog. They are well built and have an athletic and muscular body which makes them useful for many jobs. They have a short coat which makes them easy to groom.

Labs are notoriously friendly dogs and are often called one of the worst watchdogs in the world due to their friendly behavior towards complete strangers. The breed is devoted to their family and will serve their owners without hesitation regardless of the task. The lab's sweet and gentle nature make them ideal therapy dogs and their high intelligence makes them good assistance dogs as well.

Originally the labrador retriever was bred to help local fishermen re-capture escaping fish, haul nets, and retrieving ropes. These instincts are still strong with labs as they are still very fond of water and enjoy swimming.

Labrador retrievers are family oriented dogs. They desire to be with their masters all day. They are excellent with children and are friendly with other household pets as well.

Labrador Retriever Breed History

The history of Labradors is a colorful story. The Labrador Retriever origin is one that starts not in Labrador but in Newfoundland. Canada, a region owned by England until after WWII, was considered in general geographical terms by the gentry across the drink. As such, Labrador and Newfoundland were lumped together by the English.

Labs are believed to have come from the St. John's Dog, a Newfoundland-area "breed" which had been around since the 16th century. Those dogs were used to retrieve fish. Over time they were crossbred with dogs imported from Portugal, England, and Ireland. In turn, a semi-breed emerged, and that was called — in turns — the Newfoundland and Greater Newfoundland. These dogs were believed to have been produced when mastiffs and the French St. Hubert's hound dog were introduced to the breeding.

In 1807, these dogs were exported to England and used as hunting dogs. In 1887, the Earl of Malmesbury — an Englishman — conceived the name "Labrador." Although that earl kept his Labrador Kennels well-stocked with the dogs until his death in 1841, the breed nearly died out in England during the 1880s. Just before he died, the earl and two dukes — of Buccleuch and of Home — managed to save the breed. The two dogs (named Ned and Avon) given to the dukes are said to be the ancestors of all British Labs alive today. Avon sired puppies with liver coats and may be responsible for many of the American Field Champion Labs with the chocolate gene.

In the early 20th century, the Lab finally made its way to the America. The AKC registered its first Labrador retriever in 1917. If you are wondering, Where do yellow Labs come from?, it may be either Ben of Hyde (from kennels of a British officer, Major C.J. Radclyffe) or Kinclaven Lowesby, the first yellow Lab that was AKC-registered and was done so in 1929.

Labrador Retriever Appearance

The Labrador face is easily recognizable, as this breed is said to be the most popular dog in the world. This medium-sized, strong and balanced dog is also one of the most popular for cross-breeding. The Labrador coat is both loved and loathed: loved because it is easy to groom and loathed because it is one of the least hypoallergenic dog coats out there. There are some differences in show and working versions of the Lab as well as between the English and American Labradors.

The Labrador head, which is broad and box-shaped, is set with strong jaws, expressive eyes and large ears that flop down. They are strong throughout the body from the chest to both the front and rear legs. The neck is a bit long but also strong. The long legs end in webbed paws. Then there are Labrador tails, which are as distinctive as the other end! The dog's thick, strong tail is medium in length and called an "otter tail" as they use it to guide them in water.

The Labrador coat is short-haired, dense and somewhat hard to the touch. (There is a soft undercoat too, but it is not seen but felt.) It is a highly weather- and water-resistant coat that tends to be oily without looking slick. Labrador features can resemble a seal, and when they are in the water, it is easy to see this resemblance.

Labrador Retriever Coloring

Labrador Retrievers have only three basic colors: black, chocolate and yellow. There are shades within these, and there are bizarre and rare hues and odd markings, but all of them remain based in the only three colors that Labs come in. No matter the color, hue or markings, they do not make a difference with these dogs' temperament or otherwise.

Most Labs are solid black. Sometimes they can have a lighter hue that makes them look like a red Labrador. With chocolate, the hues range from light tan to a dark brown with. The yellow Lab can come in a wide variety of shades and may be called an even wider number of names: gold Labrador, Labrador red fox, champagne Labrador, and even white Lab. Whatever names are given to this color, they are still considered yellow Labs by kennel clubs such as the AKC.

Some of the rare color patterns that may occur are splashing, the black and tan Labrador, and the very rarely seen mosaic. Breed standards of all established kennel clubs discourage them, and they are not easily found.

Labrador Retriever Size

Lab size is different with males and females. A male full grown Labrador weight will be from 65 to 80 pounds whereas the mature female Lab weight will only be 55 to 70 pounds. The typical male Labrador height is around 22 to 24 inches. Female Labs are just a slight bit shorter and stand from 21 to 23 inches.

These dogs are medium in size but can become quickly overweight if allowed to overeat. Having a Labrador weight chart handy will help you to understand if your full grown Labs have a healthy height/weight ratio.

Average Adult Height

21-24 in
*Height is measured in inches from the front paws to the top of the shoulder while the dog is standing on all four legs.

Average Adult Weight

55-80 lbs

Labrador Retriever Variations

The types of Labrador dogs can be vexing to explain. Some people say that the types of Labs are explained as English and American, whereas other people may say that these two basic variations are best labeled as "show" and "working" dogs. (An alternative to the show/work styles is sometimes called "conformation" and "field" types.) Regardless of how they may be labeled, these two primary varieties of Labrador retriever are the universally accepted ones.

The English type Labrador (aka show/conformation) is touted as easier to train and apparently ideal as hunting dogs suited for family life. They also have a more blocky head that is one of the key features of the breed. The American type has longer legs, may be leaner and is said to be better for experienced hunters who tend to be somewhat professional.

While there are no real coat variations, breed standards do acknowledge — and refuse to accept — wooly, shiny and silky coats. Still, the wooly or long hair Labrador does exist and is somewhat desired by dog lovers. This "type" is said to have a strong St. John's water dog influence, and they are rather rare. All Labs have double coats. The one difference is that the English variety has a more dense coat than the American style Lab.

Coat color can sometimes be the way people describe the varieties of Labs. This is not generally accepted, but it is often enough discussed that you should know it. More about coat color can be found elsewhere on this page.

As for mini Labs or miniature Labradors, there are no such things. These would not be purebred dogs unless they were genetically defective or runts — neither of which is desirable. Some backyard breeders (BYBs) breed Labs with dwarfism and sell them as teacup Labradors.

Labrador Retriever Temperament

The Labrador temperament is legendary: this breed has frequently placed first in the most popular dog list published by the American Kennel Club. This very amicable, loyal and trustworthy dog is sensitive, keen to make friends and extremely good for kids of all ages. They may have a superior sense of smell and are excellent trackers, but they are not suited to be guard dog work.

The Labrador characteristics include a curiosity that will prompt roaming, digging and, especially in female Labs, independence. These Labrador traits are not bad, and can be directed to be helpful later in life and when they work. The focus they exhibit when working should be understood and managed rather than ignored or curbed. They should be given a regular task to use their ability for agility.

As these dogs are very sweet, so too must they be trained very gently. As puppies, they are rambunctious. They are also slow to mature and may take up to three years before they calm down. They should not be yelled at or treated harshly when they do get overly playful, as they can quickly develop anxiety — which will affect their temperament, ability to work and health.

Labrador Retriever and Children

A Labrador and kids is probably the quintessentially American scene, and the Labrador as a family pet is a great choice. These dogs love to swim, will love noisy and playful children and tend to be tolerant of rambunctious play. Labs have great patience and can be gentle too.

With Lab puppies, or with very small children such as toddlers, you should supervise closely. The puppies of this breed can be extremely boisterous when playing. When full-sized but still immature (8 months to 2 or 3 years), they can be clumsy and might accidentally knock over toddlers. they mean no harm, but they should be watched.

When it comes to Labradors with children, you basically can't go wrong!

Labrador Retriever and Other Pets

Labradors and cats can get along swell if they grow up together. This ideal picture is rarely the way things work, however. Many times it is a Lab puppy "intruding" on an adult cat's turf, or a playful kitten that needs to be adopted by an older Lab. When this occurs, you should make sure the cat doesn't become hostile or that the dog doesn't see the cat as a game animal to be "retrieved." There are many guides on how to make sure that Labs and cats can be friends — or at least live with each other peaceably enough.

When it comes to dogs compatible with Labradors, other Labs is the best choice. Again, that is not always possible, and yet there should be no worries. Labs tend to be great with other dogs, and they will love to play, swim and, if possible, hunt with other dogs.

Labrador Retriever Photos

Below are pictures of the Labrador Retriever dog breed.

Yellow Labrador Retriever in the Snow
Yellow Labrador Retriever
Chocolate Labrador Retriever Puppy
Black Lab in the Grass
Chocolate Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever Hunting

Living Requirements

Owning a Labrador is often advertised as being the best dog you can get for your family — but it comes with a fair bit of responsibility. Apartment living is not recommended unless it's a big space and you can take your lovely Lab out for long daily walks as well as frequent dog park visits. They aren't meant to be left outdoors, but they need to be outside a lot.

A lot of people are sure to ask, Are labs hypoallergenic? This breed is probably the least hypoallergenic dog, unfortunately. They have double coats and their coats secrete a lot of oil due to them having a history of jumping into cold water to retrieve fishing nets. This can be alleviated somewhat by a quick and gentle wiping down with a damp cloth. Still, there will be a lot of shedding, a lot of dander, and possibly a lot of Labrador allergies.

Separation anxiety is another unavoidable possibility if you have a Labrador as a pet. They may acquire this anxiety for a number of reasons. If the dog is a rescue, there is a greater chance of this malady as the dog may have been abandoned. Your daily departure might trigger a concern in the dog that, like the previous owner, you too will never return. Or it could be that she is bored because she doesn't get enough exercise, outdoor activity or play time.

Either way, there are steps that can be taken in advance to lessen the possibility of separation anxiety as well as to deal with it if it happens. There are many guides you can find in books and online to help with preventing this problem. There are also dog behaviorists that can help in extreme cases. Having professional help may seem expensive, but replacing the furniture is sure to be far more costly!

Random Details

Along with being excellent hunting dogs that can specialize as gun dogs and for retrieving water fowl, there are many Labrador Retriever uses. They are one of the most used dogs for therapy, seeing-eye and autism support. They are highly prized by police departments, military, and other government agencies for their ability to detect. Some have been trained to recognize unconscious persons, perform actions that result in such a person being placed in a recovery position and then executing other actions (such as cell phone and blanket retrieval, barking where people were most likely hear it, etc.) that save lives. Most remarkable, however, may be the Lab's ability to be trained to smell for cancer.

Other fascinating facts about Labs:

The Led Zeppelin song, "Black Dog," is literally about a black dog which happened to be a Lab wandering about in the studio. When the band was recording, they impulsively named the song because of the black dog about which no one knew but which now basically everyone knows!

A painting of a particularly famous Lab (responsible for every chocolate Lab ever), Peter of Faskally, was sold by Bonham's in New York in 2011. Apparently, a private collector purchased it for somewhere between $60,000 and $80,000.

Labrador Retriever Health

Labrador Retrievers are a fairly healthy breed of dog. They do have a couple of significant non-inherited problems, but these can be prevented with close supervision and a carefully managed diet. These dogs love to eat, and they are also historically accustomed to retrieving things — and this can mean they eat things that are not edible, safe or good for them. Even with food, they must have a strict diet or they will eat until they are obese. The other issue is warm weather and heat exhaustion, as these dogs won't stop until they are physically unable to continue. They are used jumping into very cold water, and they have double coats that may not allow them to understand how hot it is.

Some of the inherited problems you should test for and watch for signs are:

  • Deafness
  • Cataracts
  • Hip dysplasia
  • Luxating patella
  • Elbow dysplasia
  • Retinal dysplasia
  • Corneal dystrophy
  • Hereditary myopathy
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)


The average lifespan for Labrador Retrievers is 10 to 12 years, but recent surveys have found some that have lived for up to 19 years.

  • Acute Moist Dermatitis
  • Bloat
  • Cataracts
  • Cold Tail
  • Ear Infections
  • Elbow Dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Myopathy
  • Osteochondrosis Dissecans
  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  • Tricuspid Valve Dysplasia
  • View all 12...

Labrador Retriever Breed Recognition

The following dog breed registries and organizations recognize the Labrador Retriever as a dog breed:

  • American Canine Registry
  • American Kennel Club
  • America's Pet Registry
  • Australian National Kennel Council
  • Canadian Canine Registry
  • Canadian Kennel Club
  • Continental Kennel Club
  • Dog Registry of America Inc.
  • Federation Cynologique Internationale
  • Kennel Club of Great Britain
  • National Kennel Club
  • New Zealand Kennel Club
  • North American Purebred Registry, Inc.
  • United Kennel Club
  • American Canine Association, Inc.
  • View all 15...

Labrador Retriever Breeders

Interested in the Labrador Retriever? Contact a breeder below:

Breeder Name
Beech Hill Labradors
Bad to the Bone Pointing Labs
All breeders with 'Quality Breeder' recognition have met our Quality Breeder Requirements.
* Please note - we are not endorsed or affiliated with any of the breeders listed above. However, we do our best to only list reputable and established breeders.
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