Labrador Retriever Life Span – How Long Do Labs Live?

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labrador lifespan - how long do labs live

The average Labrador Retriever life span is 12 to 12.5 years.

Although a recent study suggests that chocolate Labs live shorter lives, at 10.7 years, than black and yellow Labradors.

There are many factors that influence life span in Labs. These include diet, healthcare and management, and inherited diseases.

Read on to look at these factors, and how you can influence them.

‘Labrador Life Span was written by our founder, best-selling author Pippa Mattinson. To get Pippa’s weekly free training tips just drop your email into the box below’

Labrador Retriever Life Span FAQ:

So we’ve answered how long do labs live on average. But this isn’t a guaranteed Labrador lifespan for every dog.

Some Labradors live a good deal longer than twelve. But some unfortunately don’t even make it to ten.

So what controls how long your Labrador will live?

And how can you influence your dog’s life span so you can spend the best and happiest years together?

What Controls Labrador Retriever Life Span?

There are two key categories of factors that influence your Labrador’s life expectancy. And the life span of any dog.

  • One is the genetic information you dog has inherited from his parents.
  • The other is the events that happen to your dog during the course of his life. Through puppy hood to old age. Things like accidents, injury, and disease.

How Long Can A Labrador Live?

Life span statistics for dogs are often wildly inaccurate and based on outdated information.

But luckily we no longer need to guess. We can give you accurate Labrador life span information, as we now have data from scientific studies.

What They Show

In the UK, two surveys were carried out in 2004 and 2013.

The earlier study showed the median age of death in over 500 Labradors was 12.25. The later study gave a median age at death in a group of over 400 dogs as 12.5 years.

A bigger and more recent study published in 2018 looked at over 30,000 Labradors. This one found a median longevity of 12 years in Labradors overall.

So the average Labrador lifespan seems to work out at around 12 years.

Is This Changing?

But there is some good news. There is evidence that the Labrador lifespan might be increasing.

One recent study, although it only looked at 39 dogs, suggested that the average could be getting closer to 14 years. So maybe our original answer to the question “how long do Labradors live?” is changing!

The longest lived Labrador we can find official confirmation for was over 19 years old. And you’ll find plenty of reports in the comments section below of readers’ Labradors living over 15 years.

So, can you help your dog to reach these high numbers?

Let’s look first at the genes that control how your dog looks and behaves. And which set broad limits to the life span of your Labrador.

Genes & The Labrador Retriever Life span

Every purebred Labrador inherits a number of Labrador characteristics that he will share with all other pedigree Labradors.

labrador retriever life span

These genes don’t just control his coat color, the shape of his ears, and the length of his tail. They also control aspects of his temperament and susceptibility to disease.

Labrador Body Shape

To some extent Labradors are lucky. They inherit a basically sound conformation or body shape.

They don’t have very long spines or short legs that can cause back problems. Their bodies are nicely proportioned and designed for athletic ability – running and jumping.

Labradors have not been bred with shortened faces that can cause breathing problems or small skulls that can damage their brains.

Nor do they have excessive skin or a massive amount of fur. This is great because a good body structure makes a dog naturally healthier than a dog with poor conformation.

Temperament and Labrador life span

Genes also control some aspects of a dog’s behavior. And his ability to carry out certain tasks, like running and hunting, or fetching things.

labrador life span

Temperament, including tendency to fearfulness, is influenced by genes. But it is also strongly influenced by environment. One study showed that fear and anxiety has a negative effect on life span in pet dogs.

And some dogs are euthanased for aggression or behavior problems. So temperament is also a factor to consider when looking at life span.

Some dogs inherit a number of favorable genes that improve their chances of good health – reduced risk of cancer for example. They then pass these favorable genes on to their puppies.

How Inherited Diseases Affect Labrador Retriever Life Span

While Labradors are relatively healthy, there are diseases in the breed that can influence how long a Labrador will live. It will also affect how healthy each dog will be during that lifetime.

For some of these diseases, hip dysplasia for example, and CNM, we have tests that can (and should) be carried out on adult dogs before they are used for breeding.

To find out which tests your puppies parents should have undergone, check out our health screening article here.

For other diseases, some cancers for example, we don’t have tests. We just know that in some cases, Labradors may be more susceptible than some other breeds of dog.

A 2004 study showed that 31% of Labradors die of cancer. Which is slightly higher than the rate of cancer in dogs overall.

Lifespan and Inbreeding

Like all pedigree dog breeds, there are certain genetic diseases that have become established within the Labrador breed. This is due to breeding between dogs that are closely related.

The average coefficient of inbreeding for Labradors is 6.5%. This is higher than the level (5%) at which we start to see the adverse effects of inbreeding in dogs.

Another factor influencing longevity in dogs is size. This is another area where Labrador are slightly disadvantaged.

How Size Affects Labrador Longevity

Little dogs live longer than big dogs. This is one of the quirks of nature that we don’t entirely understand.

Of course, there are many exceptions to the rule. But in general the longevity of dogs is quite strongly linked to body size.

This is the reverse of what we often find when we compare large species of mammal. The elephant for example, with smaller species – such as the mouse.

When we look at individuals within a single species, in this case the domestic dog, being larger seems to be a disadvantage.

As a medium to large dog, size is therefore a limiting factor in the lifespan of your Labrador. In short, the average Labrador is probably never going to live as long as the average toy poodle.

You can find out more about your Labrador’s growth and size in this article.

If you are interested in different longevity of different breeds there is quite a bit of data on the Kennel Club website

Do Purebred Labs Live Longer?

How long do Labradors live if they’re purebred? The outer limits of your dog’s potential life are also limited to a certain extent simply by the fact he is a pedigree dog.

A study published in the Veterinary journal in 2013 showed that mongrels live on average 1.2 years longer than purebred dogs.

This doesn’t mean that your Boxador will definitely outlive your neighbor’s pedigree Lab. It’s all about averages.

If you are unsure whether your Labrador is purebred or a pedigree dog, check out this article.

lab lifespan

Comparing Pedigree Dogs

When we consider pedigree dogs as a whole, there are differences in longevity between the breeds. Not just in terms of size, though this is important.

There are also differences between different breeds of a similar size.

Sometime shorter life spans are linked to poor conformation.

Many very tiny dogs have hormone problems, brain problems through skull compression, and a range of other health issues.

In comparison, Labrador conformation is pretty healthy.

Let’s take a look now at that topic we mentioned at the beginning of the article. The recent discovery that Chocolate Labs live shorter lives than their black or yellow cousins.

Labrador Retriever Life Span & Coat Color

For a long time it was believed that coat color had no influence on Labrador life expectancy.

With the exception of color dilution alopecia in silver labradors, it was thought that inherited diseases were not linked to any particular color or type of Labrador.

A recent study of over thirty three thousand dogs has thrown that assumption into doubt.

It shows us that black Lab life expectancy and yellow Lab life expectancy is around 12.1 years.

While chocolate Lab life expectancy is quite a bit shorter at 10.7 years.

We don’t know exactly why this is yet. But the Chocolates in that study were more prone to ear and skin problems. This included self-inflicted “hot-spots” as a reaction to irritants like fleas.

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And we don’t know if the two main Labrador ‘types’ differ. So we can’t tell you if English Lab life expectancy differs from American Labs.

The study was a very big sample of dogs. So it is likely that the results represent the wider Lab population as a whole.

How Long Will My Lab Live?

Apart from your ability to be selective over the parents of your puppy, genetic factors are largely outside your control.

But as your Labrador grows and matures, there will be life events that happen to him which may influence his life expectancy. Some of these are events that you can control.

Let’s take a look at those now.

Accidents & Roaming

Many dogs die each year in accidents. And many of those could have been avoided.

Accidents are far more common in dogs that are allowed to spend time outdoors unsupervised.

Fencing your property (or a small part of it) securely will help to prevent your dog from roaming. Plus, training him to come quickly when you call will help you to bring him to you in an emergency.

Neutering

At one time is was believed that neutering increased life expectancy.

One of the reasons that some older studies show a higher death rate for dogs that have been neutered is because if dogs are not properly controlled. Those that have the urge to mate will roam further from home and have more accidents.

Recent studies have however linked neutering to some serious health issues including joint disease and cancer. Both leading causes of illness and death in Labs.

The neutering issue is not clear cut any longer. We recommend you read our extensive information on neutering before having a male dog castrated or a female dog spayed.

These two principles – training and control – will help to ensure your dog lives out his allotted years to the full.

Recall is fundamental for most Labradors safety. So make sure that you take the time to teach him to come when he is called. Whatever distractions may be surrounding him.

Vaccination

In some parts of the world there are still many serious diseases that kill unvaccinated dogs and puppies on a regular basis.

Serious infections and diseases have the potential to kill your dog. But they also have the potential to make him generally less healthy should he survive them.

So, where you live, and whether or not you vaccinate your dog may also affect his longevity.

Probably the biggest single influence though, that you can control with regard to both your dog’s longevity, and his enjoyment of life, is his bodyweight.

Overfeeding

Obesity is increasingly common in dogs generally and in Labradors in particular. It is a direct result of overfeeding.

Labradors are greedy and friendly dogs that are very good at persuading people to hand over the treats, and to refill that food bowl.

Added to which, many Labrador parents find it hard to judge how much their dog should have to eat. And whether or not he is overweight.

We can help you with that.

Check out our guide to Labrador weight to make sure your dog is at the right weight for best health.

It’s important that you don’t slavishly follow feeding guidelines on packets. But feed your dog according to how he looks and feels. That article will help you.

Labrador Retriever lifespan
If you have a greedy Lab then you might find a slow feed bowl helpful, like this one

What Do Studies Say?

Studies have shown that reducing calorie intake in dogs, can increase life expectancy by a significant amount.

This isn’t really surprising when we consider the health impact of obesity.

But it is a message that is being ignored by a great many dog owners.

A study published in 2003 showed that Labradors are capable of maintaining a consistent lean body mass throughout their lives.

Resist Those Puppy Eyes

There is no “tendency to getting fat” in the breed as many people mistakenly believe.

There is only a “tendency to eat a lot and be very good at persuading people to provide food”.

You have the keys to the food cupboard and you need to resist your dog’s charms.

Keeping your dog slim can help him live a long and comfortable life. It can defer the onset of, and reduce the impact of, conditions like arthritis in older dogs.

Elderly dogs that retain their youthful waistline have a more active and happy retirement.

Being firm about the quantity of food that your dog eats each day will also help to ensure you have the benefits of his company for the longest time.

So, Is Longevity In Dogs Inherited?

Yes, to a certain extent, it is clear that longevity is inherited. In that some dogs will have an inherently higher potential for long life than others.

But it isn’t the whole story.

  

Being a Labrador, being purebred, being a largish dog, all go against your dog when it comes to life expectancy.

On the other hand, being athletic, good tempered, and well structured go in his favor. So, for these reasons, the Labrador falls into the medium range of life expectancy when compared with other dogs.

You Can Help Your Labrador Live Longer

There are some dog breeds that are longer lived than our beloved Labs. And quite a few that are much shorter lived.

You can help to influence your dog’s longevity to a certain extent.

If you are choosing a puppy, choose his parents wisely.

Make sure that they are health tested and bred by a responsible breeder.

Look for a co-efficient of inbreeding that is below 5%.

Consider choosing a black or yellow Lab. And make sure the parents have great temperaments, and have been well cared for.

Socialize your puppy thoroughly when you get him home. So that he is confident and views the world as a happy, friendly place.

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Above all, keep your dog slim. Really slim.

When you look into those pleading eyes, make sure you don’t give in to your dog’s request for second helpings.

How Long Do Labs Live On Average?

So let’s recap how long do Labs live? On average Labradors live to around 12.5 years, and this life span may be increasing.

Some individual Labradors live a good deal longer.

Train, socialize and supervise your dog and make sure he is properly fed and well exercised throughout his natural life.

With loving care, a visible waistline, and a little luck, your friend could live into his teens and be with you for many years to come.

More Information

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.

Do you have, or did you have, a Labrador that lived a very long time? Tell us about your Labrador Retriever life span experiences in the comments box below.

Other articles that might interest you

References and further reading

  • Adams et al. 2018. Evidence of longer life: a cohort of 39 labrador retrievers. Veterinary Record.
  • Adams et al. 2010. Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice.
  • O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal.
  • Selman et al. 2013. Ageing: It’s a Dog’s Life. Current Biology.
  • Kimberly Greer et al. 2007. Statistical analysis regarding the effects of height and weight on life span of the domestic dog. Research In Veterinary Science.
  • James Kirkwood. 1985. The Influence Of Size On The Biology Of The Dog. Journal Of Small Animal Practice.
  • Kaeberlein et al. 2016. The dog aging project: translational geroscience in companion animals. Mammalian Genome.
  • Speakman et al. 2003. Age-related changes in the metabolism and body composition of three dog breeds and their relationship to life expectancy. Anatomical Society.

Find out what controls how long your Labrador will live. And how can you influence your dog’s lifespan so that you can spend the best and happiest years together

The Labrador Site Founder

Pippa Mattinson is the best selling author of The Happy Puppy Handbook, the Labrador Handbook, Choosing The Perfect Puppy, and Total Recall.

She is also the founder of the Gundog Trust and the Dogsnet Online Training Program 

Pippa's online training courses were launched in 2019 and you can find the latest course dates on the Dogsnet website

488 COMMENTS

  1. My Chocolate Lab is 12 and 4 months. I love that boy to pieces. He is healthy, but he has hip displasia since he was 2 years old. But that has not slow down my boy. He runs, swims etc. i just dont run with him even though he would love it. I hope my boy stays with me at least to 16 .. i cannot imagine life without him. Everytime he gets sick i have a hard time containing tears at vet even though It end ups being not that serious

  2. Nellie (Black Lab) will be 16 next month she had both knees replaced when she was 10. She walks 3 times a day and is strong as a horse-regular Vet visits and shots all her life. She is in better shape than me.

  3. our dog has developed lumps all over were tested fatty lumps vet sad.
    he now has one near anus . vet said its the causeof not being castrated.
    im scared t do this as hes 12 in may.
    hehas some artheritis butdoes well. aany ideas what else e could have
    to help with these lumps

  4. Just lost my yellow “Luke” 14 yrs 3 months. My best friend. We are totally heartbroken. Just got a new puppy black this time. Forgot the work involved with a baby. He’s perfect and will have a wonderful life

    • Paul S- Was it hard for you to get another puppy? How long did it take you to be able to do that? I lost my girl nearly 5 weeks ago, and I feel like I will never be ready to get another.

  5. I lost my beloved yellow lab, Sonoma, on February 28, 2020, of lymphoma. She was 13 yrs, 7 months and 9 days old. She was amazing – my baby, my best friend and the most incredible companion anyone could ever ask for. She had the best temperament of any dog I have ever seen or known. I miss her terribly. My heart broke the day she died.

    • Hello Phyllis, Sending you love and strength! I hope you find some comfort in the fact that Sonoma is no longer suffering!

      I have a 13 year and 10 month old labrador, Spike, who is suffering from an enlarged heart. He was diagnosed a year ago but has responded very well to medication. The thought of losing him gets more and more real by the day but I take pride and in the fact that we have been able to take care of him and give him a happy, long life! You should be proud too!

  6. my black lab mix died of bone cancer at age six! She had no symptoms and I had no way of knowing how sick she was. I put her to sleep rather than subject her to amputations and chemo. I still miss her, but I believe in rescuing another dog as soon as possible. Cricket wouldn’t want me to be alone.i think dogs have limited life spans so that we can adopt at least three or four in our lifetimes. Imagine how many would be homeless if they lived 75 years. There’s a plan for everything, and this was her journey.

  7. I lost my beautiful chocolate lab just a few weeks ago. She was 13 years 3 months and 1 day. I loved every minute of her life with us and am truly heartbroken she’s gone, but feel so privileged to have known her lovely, happy self.

  8. My black and chocolate Labs were 15 years old I when they died two weeks apart last spring. They were loved, spoiled rotten and missed each and every day.

  9. My yellow lab, Scooter, died a year ago at 18 years old! Truth! Best dog I have ever had. I miss him desperately. I bought him the best dry foods and made his wet food myself, using a book on that subject that had recipes. He thrived! I also walked him and his sister (who died the year before… She was Heinz 57 and lived to 16 years).

    • I lost my Black American male Lab last July. I never had a male dog before or such a devoted dog. My heart was broken the day he died. I haven’t gotten another Lab yet, but soon. I also have a female Golden Retriever, The two dogs were buddys. He was my first dog that i took to dog obedience school. He was easy to train. When my grandchildren were having there picture taken, Cody would go over and be by the kids to have his picture taken also. Cody was his name, Cody was 12 1/2 when he died. When i had to put him down, the Dr and nurses who helped me to get him inside, told me that he was very much loved and that Cody loves me very, very much. I new I loved him, i never thought about how much he loved me!!!!

  10. My beloved Chocolate died at nearly exactly 10.7 years (he was short by about 15 days). That was 3yrs ago, & my heart still aches!
    Why, oh why, Buddy, did you have to follow the charts when it came to longevity??
    No longer by my side, forever in my heart! ❤️

  11. Losing a beloved dog (even to old age) can be a very traumatic experience. In my view, there aren’t too many things worse than that. This experience influences my choice of a dog breed, given how I don’t want to be separated from my canine buddy.
    However, the lifespan of over 12 years is fair enough for me.

    Anyone else shares the same thought?

  12. I’ve had many Labs over the years. One made it to 15 and another to 15 1/2. Both were pretty healthy their entire lives. Only age ran them down. I’ve also experienced some health issues with my other 3. Two were diabetic although it was controlled. The final one developed a brain tumor and made it to about 9 1/2. All 5 were yellow Labs. I’ve been fortunate in a sense that all of them made it to at least 9 years. I hope the next one I get will make that 15 year mark as well.

  13. I guess I was one of the lucky ones. I used to have a black lab, and she lived to be 15 years old. I don’t know how many months she survived beyond 15 years because she was found as a lost puppy sometime in the spring, and I didn’t meet her until she was several years old, but she died a natural death in early October of 1989.

    She had her share of health problems: a bout of severe flea allergy one year, a couple of minor surgeries to remove growths (a papilloma on one leg, and a little tumor in an ear), and arthritis during the last few years of her life. Overall, though, she was healthy and happy, and much loved by many people.

    She lived with me for the last several years of her life and, with the exception of work, I took her nearly everywhere I went. This was before leash laws went into effect, and she was well trained, so she was free to walk around where she chose, but never wandered farther than to a neighbor’s house. We went on lots of long walks together, especially along the beach at a local river, and she got to run and play to her heart’s content. I think her happy lifestyle contributed to her longevity, but of course her life wasn’t nearly long enough for me. She was my best friend, and losing her was devastating. I’m glad I had her in my life, though, and I like to think that I gave her a good home where she lived her final years in comfort and knew she was loved.

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