A Labrador : The Right Dog For You?

Are Labradors really great family dogs?

Do they make ideal pets for every home?

Or are they more suited to some families than others?  Most importantly, is a Labrador the right dog for you and your family?

We help you answer the question: “Is a Labrador the right dog for me?”

Are you ready for a Labrador?

There is a lot of information on this website about how great labradors are.

And obviously we think that they are brilliant!

But not everyone feels the same way.    A labrador is not the right dog for every family  and the best time to discover this fact is before you commit to owning one.

Check out the following and discover if you are ready to have a labrador share your home!

Time and exercise

An adult labrador needs regular exercise.   Just like people,  dogs need to keep their cardiovascular system and muscles healthy through regular use.Is a labrador the right dog for you?For minimum fitness every adult labrador that has access to a garden should also have a minimum daily walk of at least half an hour.

And a longer and more vigourous exercise session (1-2 hours) at least three times a week.

If you don’t have at least this much time to spend outdoors with your dog in all weathers,  a Labrador is not the right dog for you.

If you live in a flat,  you will need to take your labrador out far more often than this in order for him to empty his bowels and bladder, stretch his legs and get some fresh air.


Training your labrador and teaching him some basic manners is vital.   Big dogs must learn not to jump on people, barge toddlers over, snatch, bite or generally behave unacceptably.  And like all dogs they must be trained to come when they are called.  See our recall training centre for more information

This all takes time and effort.

Labradors take up space in your house and garden

Labradors are relatively large dogs.   An adult male may weigh as much as 80lbs.   They are also fairly lively dogs,  especially in the first couple of years,  and take up quite a bit of space in your home.

The crate your lab will need as a puppy,  will be large and may dominate your kitchen for a year or more.   This will not look pretty.

A part of your garden will be used for labrador toilet purposes and you will need to pick up, and dispose of,  his faeces on a daily basis.   Puppies and bitches  will wee on your grass and this may make brown circular patches on your lawn.

Some young labradors are extremely fond of digging and are quite capable of constructing a sizable crater in your flower beds if left unattended outdoor.  These things need to be considered if you are a keen gardener

Labradors smell!

Labradors are one of the stronger smelling breeds of dog.  Their coats have a natural ‘doggy’ smell which is stronger when they are damp.   Some of us are quite partial to this smell.   Others are not.

Dog shampoo can help, but bathing only temporarily reduces the Labrador odour,  and it also removes the coats natural waterproofing.  So you should not bath your labrador in the winter if he is likely to go swimming.

Labradors are attracted to water and mud, and preventing a labrador from swimming may be difficult for you.

You will not notice the smell of your labrador after a while,  but rest assured if you own a labrador, your house will take on a distinct aroma which your non-doggy friends will be aware of.    If this bothers you,  a labrador is not for you.


Labradors have a very dense undercoat which they deposit on your carpets about twice a year.  Usually in spring and autumn.

You can hasten the shedding process a little through grooming,  but it cannot be avoided entirely.   Even with frequent vacuuming, you will have hairy carpets,  and hairy clothes for several weeks.


All dogs cost money,  and small dogs may eat proportionately more food per pound of body weight.   However,  there is no doubt that it costs more to feed a seventy pound labrador,  than it does to feed a fifteen pound terrier.

Veterinary costs these days can be horrific and for any dog, you will need to budget for veterinary insurance.    The cost of certain accessories,  leads, beds etc,  are all usually higher in larger sizes.

Family agreement

It only takes one member of a family that is really unhappy with any aspect of these facts of labrador life,  to cause real stress and disruption.

Are all your family in agreement that they are happy to live with a labrador for the next ten to fifteen years?   If not,  you may want to reconsider.

You really want a labrador!

If we haven’t put you off,  and you really do want a Labrador,  you might like to read Choosing the right dog  next, to discover how to find your perfect friend!

How about you

If you already share your home with a labrador, is there any advice you would like to offer  a prospective labrador owner,  about the reality of living with a lab?   Share your thoughts in the comments below

Photograph of labrador Barney taken by Andy Adams and published with kind permission of Carole Batchelor

More information on puppies

Happy-Puppy-jacket-image1-195x300For a complete guide to raising a healthy and happy puppy don’t miss The Happy Puppy Handbook.

The Happy Puppy Handbook covers every aspect of life with a small puppy.

The book will help you prepare your home for the new arrival, and get your puppy off to a great start with potty training, socialisation and early obedience.

The Happy Puppy Handbook is available worldwide.


  1. My family and i are looking to adopt a lab we have found one we like and he is 13 months old. The only problem is the that both my parents work full time 3-5 times a week and my brother and i have school. We have a large fenced property that we would be able to leave the dog during the day with plenty of shelter from the sun. Do you think that a dog aged 13 months would be able to spend that much time by itself. My mother walks 1hr every morning with 21/2 hour walks every weekend. I also run most evenings.

    • It’s a contentious topic Gemma, and there are many different opinions on this one. If you are going to keep your lab outdoors he needs constant access to a safe, dry, draught proof kennel – away from direct sunlight. And a secure exercise area. Depending on what the climate is like in your location this can achievable. In the UK many working dogs are kennelled this way and provided they are well exercised and have company this doesn’t usually cause any problems. However, a single dog kennelled alone may well bark and howl all day. So that is something you need to consider. You might also like to read this article – http://www.thelabradorsite.com/combining-a-labrador-puppy-with-full-time-work/

  2. I have had my girl Diva, a black lab, for about two months and let me tell you she is a hand full. I already had a dachshund mix and he needed a friend. I have trained both basic things like sit, leave it, come when called and other things. Let me tell you about our Diva. She is just a hyper little girl. She jumps on everything and everyone, chews up anything in the way and by that I mean everything (especially my hands), and her being a puppy does not help since puppies have very very sharp teeth. I love her to death but she is a work in progress. Also it’s getting warm here so she is shedding like crazy. Hair everywhere!! Another thing, when she is left alone with my other dog (Buckey) they both get into trouble. This means they will do anything possible to try and escape the back yard, and I mean anything. Hopefully she gets better and calms down as she gets older. Good luck with your labs!

    • I have had labs for many years and none of mine have smelled bad. This may be due to the diet your dog has. I have never used a crate, don’t like them and I do not think they are good for any dog. My dogs have never chewed things either, not even their own toys. Spend time with your lab and you will be rewarded.

      • Jinny,

        Could not agree more we have had Grouse our black male lab for 4 years now he has never chewed a thing got him when he was 11 months old from a gamekeeper when he said he was no use for the gun he just wanted a home he is the most brilliant dog anyone could wish for he just wanted a family he goes everywhere with us but if we have to leave him in the house on the odd occasion for an hour or two we give a good walk before and after and give him his little talk Grouse look after the house! no cage no closed doors he has complete run of the house and he fully understands and just finds a spot to sleep I think on one of the beds but put in the time with a dog especially labs( I am biased of course) but you will be rewarded also diet is all important forget about the fancy stuff Grouse has porridge and cod liver oil after his early morning walk and wet dog food sometimes with mixer later in the day

  3. On shedding fur: I bought a small iRobot vacuum cleaner on Amazon.com and I have to say it DRASTICALLY cut the fur in the house. It just automatically turns on every day and runs for about an hour. I still vacuum once a week but it is much easier. Anybody with a lab needs hints on how to make life easier…

  4. We have a five year old male Labrador called Charlie, he has been with us since he left the litter. I would recommend a Labrador but there are several things to bear in mind the most important is exercise, we are lucky to have a large garden whose flower beds are full of holes(I can live with that, no problem) my husband who is retired and very fit takes the dog out four times a day for a minimum of five miles each time, our vet tells me Charlie’s heart is very strong due to all the exercise. Labradors are funny, loyal and loving but do need time and commitment.

  5. I found our labrador puppy very hard work. She seemed to need so much attention. She is 11 months old now and its getting easier. I think I was accidently rewarding her for being lively. Anyway the shedding is manageable, she is now very good on walks, needs 4 a day. Chews if left for more than an hour or so but that can be managed by very long walk first and kong. Barks a bit too much but am working on that. Otherwise lovely dog.

  6. I love labs and want one very badly. However, I want to ensure that I’m going to be a good owner. I’m good with everything in this article, but I am a musician (drums being 1 instrument that I play). I play in my house a little bit every day, and it can sometimes be loud. Would a Lab be able to deal with drums and music in the house every day? I appreciate any feedback.

  7. Hi pippa.
    I got a lab female. She is now 8 weeks old.
    But she is not healthy enough just 1.75 kg.
    I want to know about her meals.
    What feed should I give her(royal canin or other)
    What should be the time interval between meals and what quantity?
    Seeking a reply as soon as possible :)
    Thanku for such a beautiful and helpful website.

  8. Additional notes on TAZ. I have a tap on/off lamp on my nightstand. When he needs to go out in the middle of the night, he found whimpering doesn’t always work – so he turns on the darn light! I have a large crate. We even used it twice, in the back of my pick up. He’s NEVER lived in a crate. H slept on the throw rug at the foot of my bed until he was big enough to get in the bed. As I live alone, I potty trained him in the living room on hard wood floors. Started using “puppy pads” but soon found out the “geriatric people bed pads” are a little larger, are cheaper per box and have more pads per box. Since he completed toilet training, in the past 3 years he has peed once inside and pooped once inside. Both times were my fault. Both times were in the living room, on the spot where his training pads used to be!

  9. We have a 9 month old Dudley lab that stays home for 5 hours at a time and does great. We do leave her in a wire very large crate. Can’t trust her quite yet with our 2 cats. She just loves to play! I will also say they need lots of exercise. I didn’t know how much until we got her. After having her, we will always have a lab! We love her!!

  10. Hi Pippa,
    I’m thinking about getting a lab. I want an intelligent dog but also one who won’t mind being on his own for upto 5 hours a day, 4 or 5 times a week. Apart from this, walking for an hour a day and longer 2 or 3 times a week as you recommend shouldn’t be a problem. What do you think?

    • i had choc lab for 15 yrs. i was single for 11 of those. shadoe was left alone for 10 hrs a day…when a puppy he destroyed the place, but at age of 1 yr..he was wonderful by himself

  11. My wife and I had two labs, one with papers and one taken from a pound by a family when she was a puppy and put back into a pound when committed the crime of growing up. These were two dogs with the best traits of any dog. I would say they are the best dogs possible, taking into account brains, loyalty, gentleness, dependability, being protective without being badly agressive, fun, loving,

  12. I have a 70 days old male lab and he just bite every one in family. he just dont listen to us and to toward the stranger how came to home. I just dnt understand that why he is not playing with us else he play with ever stranger :-(

  13. Very sound advice – my labs taught me much of this. Can I just add a contrary opinion? All the pros and very few of the cons are present with the German shorthair. When my last lab went up the Golden Stairs I was too upset to think of another one; the memories were too strong. A friend had a gsp and I tried one of those. A fantastic companion. So, if the article has put you off – look at the pointer as an alternative

  14. Nobody seems to have mentioned the absence of lie in’s…not sure if it’s Lab related but if you like a snooze on a weekend forget it. Get up, let me out and give me my breakfast – then he goes back to bed for an hour while I down several coffee’s and try to come round for our 8am walk!

    • My labs alarm when he came home with us at 9 months from a rescue was 5.30am!!. Luckily I have managed to push it back to a slightly more realistic 6am:). If I want a long lie I need to get up, dressed and hike him for an hour then make his breakfast and me a cup of tea go back upstairs and then he’ll quite happily snooze by the bed while I get back into bed and try to pretend I’ve had a long lie

  15. My black Lab mix, TAZ, weighs in about 110. He’s 34 months old, has between my house and my neighbors, about 5 acres of lawn and 50 acres of woods to run in. He travels in a mix matched pack. He’s the biggest of the 3 Stooges. Curly is a 50 pound Hound, and Mo is a 20 pound Border Collie Bitch. They get more exercise than they need by the most extreme rules.
    Yes, he sheds. I’m in my late 60s and have found a solution to his shedding. I have a cleaning lady in every other week. :-) Bathe him??? Tried that twice. Puppy soap (liquid) and water just roll off him – gee – I wonder why? Swimming – I took him to the Bluestone River once, 2-3 feet deep, fast running, and cold. He wouldn’t get in it. Smell???????? I’ve noticed when he’s wet, but so what… Playful? He plays tug of war whenever he finds someone dumb enough to hold the other end of his rope and he plays fetch with a 3# hunk of firewood! When I’m on the computer, he’ll, sometimes, get under the desk and nap – other times he’ll push me away from it so we can play. He sleeps in my bed and takes up almost half of it – sometimes he sleeps on the side of the couch opposite to wear I am, sometimes he’s next to me using my thigh for a pillow, and sometimes he thinks he’s a lap dog. I’m a combat vet with PTSD, I didn’t get him as a service dog, nor have I trained him as one, but he is one. He’s smarter than I am (and I have a 150+ IQ) and he serves as a burglar alarm, car alarm and always lets me no when strangers are in the yard. He likes the FedEx guy, hates the UPS guy. All in all, he just makes me laugh and keeps me happy. I wouldn’t trade him for a 4th wife.

  16. A couple of things that have come as a surprise for a first time lab owner are (i) separation anxiety (a big problem & probably life long), (ii) Leo does not respond to treats, in fact if there is any such thing as a diet conscious, calorie counting lab, then I have him – Leo!! He has his set portions of food and does not eat a morsel in excess of that even if it is meat, (iii) They are very very smart dogs, when I tell Leo to go out, he sits where he is, I tell him to come, he runs in the other direction, I tell him to sit and he goes to some other place and sits – I’ve started using reverse psychology nowadays, he has a deliberate defiance / disobedience streak in him.

  17. Namaste, I am rakesh from india. I have one year old black lab. We give him food twice a day but he always look hungry. is it okay or he needs to be fed thrice a day. Although he is healthy and little bit overweight.

    • Hi Rakesh, it is normal for Labradors to be hungry. They are greedy dogs. If he is overweight do not be tempted to increase his food. You can divide his daily ration into three if you wish, but it probably won’t stop him looking hungry. Check out How to feed a Labrador

  18. We have had our black lab, Molly, for a year now, from a pup. I don’t think anyone or anything prepared us all for the world of dogs!!! We love her so much and is part of the family, but she chews, not to bad on fur shedding, barks, loves attention all the time, recal not the best (prefers jumping in lakes or chasing rabbits)!, pulls on lead (so takes us for a walk), luckily we got insurance as she’s had a knee problem which prevented her from walking for about 4 months when she was a pup!! Just getting back to normal now! You can put her food down and she walks away but loves eating the horse poop in the paddock!! The rule if its on the floor it’s the dogs is true!! We have been through numerous pairs of shoes and she frustrates the hell out of us. But saying all that I wouldn’t be without her and her doggy ways x

  19. I have a wonderful black lab of three years old, She is a joy to have except for one thing we can not stop her eating other dogs feaces when we take her out for a walk. We live in the country and i dont want to have to keep her on a lead all the time any suggestions would be very welcome !!!!!

  20. Labs are beautiful dogs and are easy to train, but repetition is the key.

    As a puppy we took Pepper out every 2 hours for a wee and to the same place every time. Obviously you can lengthen the time as they get older until they tell you when they need to go. We hung a bell from the back door and rang it every time we went out with her, now she does rings it with her nose so we know she needs to go out.

    Take them out in the car from an early age. They won’t get frightened or sick as they get get used to travelling.

    When she’s was young we had her sit or stand and we checked her paws eyes tail and teeth every day, and then gave her a brush. Use a soft brush at first and you’ll find they really love to be brushed. Pepper loves the pampering now!

    Always have toys available, they will not chew the house up if they’re not bored. Have lots of toys but only give them two or three at a time and rotate them with other ones every few weeks. This keeps them from getting bored with them. Also, always have something available to keep their teeth and gums healthy like a natural deer antler. They will chew for hours on this especially if you have to go out.

    We give Pepper a chew every lunch time but we hide it in the house. She sits and waits until its hiden then we tell her to go find it. It may take her half an hour but she absolutely loves it. Go easy at first though!

    Most important for me was that we have a good mannered dog. So no snatching, or being possessive and Pepper must sit and wait while her food is being prepared before she can have it.

    Oh. Don’t forget exercise and love too!

  21. Oh forgot to mention she’s obsessed with tennis balls, we bought her a box of 50 once for Christmas and tipped them out onto the bed, she went crazy!

  22. We inherited a beautiful black labrador, originally a working dog, she has adapted really well to becoming our pet and took the birth of our first child in her stride. Fern was our first dog and surprised us with the amount of exercise she neeed(up to 6 hours day). She’s knocking on a bit now and we get away with 2 hours now, and 4 on a weekend. She’s a wonderful dog and by far the best friend I’ve ever had, great with the kids and 5 years on playfull as the day we got her! I love her to bits!

  23. We have just got a 9 month old lab from a rescue centre. She is absolutely adorable & loving but very mischeivious. She loves nothing better than to pinch absolutely anything & run off. I must say that is the only thing that we really need to try & stop her doing. We are so glad we got her & our Poodle cross loves her

  24. I have a black lab cross….He is just the most wonderful, loving, playful dog. I think the movie should have been name Eat, Play, Love….after my sweet boy. I will say, however, he is water and food obsessed. We had to buy a life jacket for him because he will swim in the pool until he is so exhausted he starts to go under. In addition, he is food obsessed. Had to buy a locking plastic bin for the dog food because if he has any access at all, he will eat himself to death. He also likes to counter surf, so no food on the counters without an adult present…ever! Other than that, he is a fabulous addition to our family…he, the GS/Akita and the cat….all rescues. It’s a happy, hairy household and I will absolutely adopt another lab or lab cross in the future!

  25. We have 2 black labs that are totally different, the older one comes from a line of working dogs and is calm, laid back, never chewed, hates muddy puddles, loves lakes and rivers and was a dream to train. The younger one comes from show lines, and is hyper, chews everything, rolls in every muddy puddle she can find, pinches socks, underwear, towels and has wrecked the garden, also training is a nightmare with her, she just turns a deaf ear but, in her favour she is the most loving dog I have ever come across so, like us they all have their characters and you can never assume that all labs have the same temprement.

  26. I have 4 yellow Labs, two 5 year old girls,one -4 year old girl and one- 2 year old boy all are rescue apart from Daisy who we had as a pup. Am i the only lucky owner to not have smelly Labs !!! no one says my house smells, and one visitor was surprised to see my dogs return from a walk with my other half she said ” but your house doesn’t smell”, i have wood floors downstairs which helps general cleanliness and odours from wet muddy feet and all my dogs are fed a natural RAW diet, no kibble in our house! this i think is the main reason for my dogs not smelling i dont get trouble with ears, or coat condition and they get bathed as needed which during the winter is at least twice a week when a nice muddy puddle is wallowed in. Hair, ok is an issue ,well i do have 4 but i use a Furminator for undercoat and a zoom groom rubber brush for top coat, once a week everyweek and when in seasonal molt twice a week ,my Dyson gets a good work out lol. Our garden is also lovely as ive taught all 4 to toilet on an area of patio at the bottom of our garden which can be hosed off and disinfected everyday, this i must say has been the best thing i ever trained them to do as i can enjoy my lawn without burn marks or at worse just mud which is what it was getting like a few years ago, it was’nt too hard to teach them to toilet where i wanted as our numbers grew from 1-4 i just wish i had done it from scratch with Daisy from a pup, it would have saved several years of trying to seed the lawn every few months. I would always have more than 1 dog at any given time but maybe not two pups at the same time as training needs to be focused on, we had our second lab when Daisy was 11 months, Jess was 11 months herself when we got her, Daisy and jess were 3 when we adopted Inca after fostering her and our boy Finlay was 5 months when we chose to adopt him after having fostered him for a rescue i volunteer for . In all 4 dogs we have only had 1 remote chewed, a pair of sunglasses nibbled and 1 dog bed nibbled on, lucky again ? nope if you dont want it chewed dont leave it lying around! crate training is a must with pups and exercise tailored correctly to the age of the dog, not too much when young as no matter how great the breeding standard of your pup if you over exercise up to 12 months you will have environmental induced conditions such as OCD a pre cursor to Arthritis or even muscle and ligament problems. Over all enjoy your dog and dont make it like hard work, put into place things to make your life easier like big old bath sheets by your back door for wet feet, a good boot liner to the boot of the car to save the interior, good strong leads, good quality food ( if not RAW then research the best you can afford), and most of all include them !! you had them for a reason, they will love you unconditionally forever even if your breath smells you are guaranteed lots of kisses.

  27. We have had two Labs and two retrievers.I have never had a destructive Retriever and only our first Lab was a bit of a pain to train.That was because she was our first and we were unsure.I have now got my last boy .He is sixteen months old and a real gem.He has never barked and is gentle and quiet.He doesnt chase after other dogs and doesnt have one ounce of aggression in him.We have always kept him well excercised and never leave him for more than a couple of hours at a time.Ours is a Fox Red.he really is a joy to us and I am sure he will give us a good few years of loyalty and companionship.A truly fantastic breed,I am not that fussed about the hair and he is worth getting the vac out!!

  28. Chewing ! Labs experience the world through their mouths ! It can take time especially with puppies to reinforce the fact that the skirting board/door/banister is not for them to chew. Our house still bears the scars from our chocs chewing when young. That said our fox red never chewed …but be prepared .

  29. Great article – a few things I would add are:
    my labs shed fur year round. Yes it’s worse in Spring but because they are indoor dogs and I keep this house quite warm there is ALWAYS hair being deposited everywhere. Also coats do vary – I have one lab whose hair is quite coarse so it doesn’t stick to clothes, the other has the sort of fine hair that takes a lot of brushing off so just because you’ve had a lab before don’t automatically assume you know what to expect from the shedding!
    What no one told me about was the dust. If you’ve never owned a dog before you prepare yourself for hair but not the black dust that makes the house look grubby all the time. I keep my dogs in the kitchen and have to wipe down surfaces at least twice a day and certainly before I use them.
    There really is a lab smell, I thought it was dog smell when I first got Barney and it reduced a lot when he was neutered but when I went to Crufts I could tell I was in the lab section by the scent!

    • Yep, I can usually tell the minute I step through the door if a labrador lives there. And good point about the dust, I think spaniels are even worse for this, their longer coat traps more particles and then sheds them when the wriggle or scratch! No point us being houseproud is there. :)