Labrador Retriever Lifespan – How Long Do Labs Live?


The average Labrador Retriever lifespan is 12 to 12.5 years. Although a recent study suggests that chocolate Labs live shorter lives averaging 10.7 years, so significantly less than black and yellow Labradors. There are many factors that influence lifespan in Labs. These include diet, healthcare and management, and inherited diseases. Today I’m going to look into these factors with you, and share how you can influence them to help your dog live longer.


Watch cute Labrador puppies growing up!
‘Labrador Lifespan 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’

Your Stories

There are over five hundred comments posted on this article, some of them sad, some of them happy, all of them about Labradors that have been, and still are, very much loved. Check them out at the bottom of this article, but make sure you have a tissue handy!

What Controls Labrador Retriever Lifespan?

Obviously ten 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?

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Life span statistics for dogs are often wildly inaccurate and based on outdated information.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

Labrador Lifespan Surveys

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 Labrador Lifespan Getting Longer?

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 & Labrador Retriever Lifespan

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

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 lifespan

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.

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.

labrador retriever life span

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.

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.

labrador life span

How Size Affects 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.

Labrador 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.

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.

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.

Color vs Lifespan

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. 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 Impact Labrador Lifespan

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.


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.

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.


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 Decreases Labrador Lifespan

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.

Hungry Labrador 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.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

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. 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.

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


  1. My first lab was a black lab Samoyed mix. He was a big boy. He came to me when he was 4 yrs old I think and lived to be almost 15, he was 4 months shy of his 15th, but I should have put him down sooner because his hips had gotten so bad that at the end he was not active. HE would come outside with the other dogs but he would stop and lay down just after getting outside where he could watch me and the other dogs. It’s bringing a tear to my eye now as I remember him at the end. It was very selfish of me to keep him around that long and will never do that again. HE was a happy boy and I think happy dogs live longer too. My current boy is all lab, he’s black with a soft brown color on top of his feet, not sure if he was bred with black and brown parents or not. HE was found wandering around in the woods with his brother I think. HE is now 3 months shy of his 14th bday and is now having hip issues, so what I learned from the first boy with hip problems will guide me in determining Charlies near future. Charlie is also a very happy boy so I have to weigh his happiness and his hip problems to determine his longevity. That is by far the worst part of parenting dogs at the end of their life.

  2. I had a Lab/Shepard Mix her name was Ebony. Ebony just crossed the rainbow on August 19, 2023. Ebony was 16 years old, some believe she was closer to 17 years old. She was the best dog ever. At the end she suffered from seizures and had hip and joint pain. She was a trooper until the end.

  3. Oh, I love the comments here! Just looking up stuff on Black American Working Labs out of further curiosity about them. I have a Black American Working Lab from a breeder that is now 3.5 years old. He is the love of our lives, although sometimes, a lot of work! Work in that if I had known how much they shed and require exercise wise, may have thought about a different dog, but given that, I wouldn’t trade him for “all the tea in China”… He is intelligent, well mannered (except when he gets his little defiant moments when he doesn’t want to stop playing ball or coming from the outside) and never “runs off” or leaves our sides. We take him EVERYWHERE we go, on EVERY trip, EVERY hotel that allows pets -he takes to nice white hotel beds like a “duck takes to water”… LOL. He is an indoor dog when it comes to sleeping (has two dog beds, one in our bedroom, one in our living room), but has a HUGE backyard and nice front yard… We’ve spoiled him in that he gets everything we do… NO FOMO here!! LOL! He’s a “rock star” wherever we go, people want to pet him, love him. He’s a jewel -so loveable and so darn smart! He communicates to us about everything… When his water bowl is low, he makes a certain sound about that, when he wants more food (of course, with Labs, always MORE FOOD), he’ll take his paw and pound on the floor to tell us that, when he wants to go outside, he’ll pound on the floor or scrape door to tell us that!! When he wants attention, when we are watching TV, he’ll steal the controller to make us chase him… or steal the couch pillows… When he wants to cuddle, he’ll do that too and/or do what we call a “funny bunny” (which he knows what that means) where he lies on his back and puts his feet up… A real character! I love him more than I can say even though I’ve spent nights having to get up at 12 midnight to wash him because he chased our neighborhood skunks and got sprayed!! Anyway, the only thing I want to express here for people considering a black lab… great dog, one you and your family will love forever, but just be aware that they take some work!! They need exercise daily, they will chase skunks and get sprayed, they will shed heavily (get your vaccum ready!), but given all that, they will be the most loving, memorable companion/family member you will ever have in your lifetime!

    PS To Joan: I feel for you and know what it is like to have to put down a buddy, I’ve had to do it in my lifetime and it SUCKS!! I had a Beagle, 14 years old, that had congestive heart failure, I was ready to lay my visa down to pay for a $10k surgery… I had a wonderful Vet that explained to me (and he could have made that money), he may not even make it through the surgery and if he does, it will be a horrible situation for him going forward, you will literally have to lift him every time he needs to “go outside”… He finished it by saying… “you keeping him alive is not for him, but for you… It would be horrible to perpetuate his pain”… I revere this Doctor! Most would have taken the money as I was more than ready to pay it, but his comment brought it in to perspective for me! G

  4. Hello, I have rescue and adopted a yellow mix which I call “Butter Boy” nickname or Muggies his given.He was a dream come true as I had always wish for and wanted a lab for a pet and companion. Now I have one! He is the love of my life. We have fused, kissed, played, tickled, chased, and slept with our little boy. He is a one year old grown dog now but still is bouncing around the house. He brings us so much joy, love , love bites and spity hands as he always has my hand in his mouth. He hugs me and hugs me with a love bite on my ear lobes. I have the rest of my life with him and my husband and I can not stop kissing him. He loves the pool and on 4th of July this year, made his maiden voyage into our pool and swam successfully. We are so proud of him. He has be watching our two Dalmatians playing jump and fetch the doggie foot ball. Now he brings back the other side of the football along with his adopted sister, dolly. So precious!I’m looking forward to the years that I will spend with my beautiful boy, Muggies or Butter Boy.

  5. Have had several Lab mixes, now have a purebred. I prefer the mixes overall, but would not exchange my current Sofi for one, for sure. The longest living Lab so far was about 18 and was unable to walk or squat, so it became necessary to have the vet do euthanasia – but even then, my Bobby sat up and leaned into my hand. It took a second dose to ease his psin for good. Even the Vet was upset. The second one was a mix we got from a neighbor when their smallish, shaggy-haired terrior-mix had “unexpected” pups. BJ, short for Blackjack, turned out to have definite Great Dane features – he was waist high to me (5’6″) at a year old, and didn’t stop there. He was mostly an outside dog (we live on a farm), but we had a special “bed-shed” for him in the garage, with a “run” to an outdoor pen for his nighttime potty needs. I used to dance with him, his front paws on my shoulders, around the garage before putting him to bed at night. Unfortunately, BJ got a small tumor on his rump at age 7; the Vet removed it and he seemed fine until almist 2 years later, when he went downhill very fast and died. We picked up our current lab, Sofi, 9 weeks later – and learned she had been born the same day BJ died.
    I like to think a part of his spirit lives on in her.
    Looking forward to a big reunion at the Rainbow Bridge when it’s my time.

  6. My last Labrador, a full-blood black American Labrador, lived to be 16.5 yers old. His son, my current Labrador, is now 11 and he is plenty active and filled with fun and games, tho he loves to sleep in my lap whenever he gets the chance. My current Lab was sired when his daddy was just 16 years old