how long do Labs live” is a popular question, and Labrador Retriever Life span is what we are going to look at in today’s article.
It isn’t surprising that you want to find out about your Lab’s life span. After all, when you have found the perfect friend, you want to know that you are going to have him for the longest time!
And if you are thinking of buying a Labrador, you want to know he is going to be around to share your life for at least the next decade.
Many people will tell you that the average life expectancy of a Labrador is ten to twelve years.
But some Labradors live a good deal longer than twelve, and some unfortunately don’t make it to ten.
So 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?
What Controls Labrador Life Span?
There are two key categories of factors that have power or influence over your Labrador’s lifespan, and over the lifespan of any dog.
- One is the genetic information that each 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.
Let’s look first at the genes that control how your dog looks and behaves, and which set broad limits to the lifespan of your Labrador.
Labrador Genes & Lifespan
These genes don’t just control his coat colour, the shape of his ears, and the length of his tail.
They also control his behaviour and his ability to carry out certain tasks, like running and hunting, or fetching things.
And to some extent, his lifespan
We don’t know exactly how this works, but most likely it is because some dogs inherit a number of favorable genes that improve their chances of good health – reduced risk of cancer for example – and then pass these favorable genes on to their puppies.
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 lifespan in pet dogs.
So this is a factor that may straddle both categories
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 are they encumbered with excessive skin or a massive amount of fur. This is excellent because a good body structure makes a dog naturally healthier than a dog with poor conformation.
Factors Affecting Labrador Life Span
On the other hand, like all pedigree dog breeds, there are certain genetic diseases that have become established within the breed due to breeding between dogs that are closely related.
Added to which the simple fact of being both pedigree and a fairly large dog, as well as being ‘a Labrador’ all helps to limit the potential lifespan of your Lab in some respects.
On the other hand, an amiable relaxed temperament may work in your Lab’s favor. But let’s look a little closer at the issue of size.
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 something of 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.
If you are interested in different longevity of different breeds there is quite a bit of data on the Kennel Club website
Do Pedigree Labs Life Longer?
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.
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 lifespans 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.
And sometimes shorter lifespans in a breed are linked to inherited diseases.
How Inherited Diseases Affect Your Labrador’s Lifespan
While Labradors are relatively healthy, there are diseases in the breed that can influence how long a Labrador will live and how well or 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.
Black Lab Life Expectancy
So what is black lab life expectancy? Or chocolate Lab life expectancy, or yellow Lab life expectancy?
Or even English Lab life expectancy for that matter?
These are common questions and the answer to each is the same.
The life span of your yellow Labrador is unlikely to be any different from a black Lab lifespan, or a chocolate one.
As far as we know, with the exception of color dilution alopecia in silver labradors, inherited diseases are not linked to any particular color or type of Labrador.
And Lab lifespan is not influenced by the color of your dog.
Your English or bench bred Labrador is likely to live just as long as your American or field bred Labrador.
Provided you exercise him well and don’t let him get fat.
Lifestyle & Life Expectancy
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, and some of these are events that you can control.
Accidents & Roaming
Many dogs die each year in accidents. And many of those accidents 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 and training him to come quickly when you call will help you to bring him to you in an emergency.
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.
Not only do serious infections diseases have the potential to kill your dog, they also have the potential to make him generally less healthy should he survive them
Therefore, depending on where you live, 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.
Obesity is increasingly common in dogs generally and in Labradors in particular and 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 optimum 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.
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. There is no “tendency to getting fat” inherent 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 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 youthfull 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 that 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 and 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 the parents have great temperaments, and have been well cared for. And 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.
How Long Do Labs Live – A Summary
Labradors have a middle of the range potential for lifespan and you can influence that potential
Train, socialize and supervise your dog and make sure he is properly fed and well exercised throughout his natural life which should span a good ten years or more.
With loving care, a visible waistline, and a little luck, your wonderful friend will live into his teens and be with you for many years to come.
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 him in the comments box below
References and further reading
- Colin Selman, Daniel H.Nussey, Pat Monaghan. “Ageing: It’s a Dog’s Life” Current Biology 2013
- Kimberly Greer et al. “Statistical analysis regarding the effects of height and weight on life span of the domestic dog” Research In Veterinary Science 2007
- James Kirkwood. “The Influence Of Size On The Biology Of The Dog” Journal Of Small Animal Practice 1985
- Matt Kaeberlein, Kate E. Creevy, Daniel E. L. Promislow “The dog aging project: translational geroscience in companion animals” Mammalian Genome 2016
- J. R. Speakman, A. Van Acker, E. J. Harper “Age-related changes in the metabolism and body composition of three dog breeds and their relationship to life expectancy” Anatomical Society 2003