The Labrador Retriever breed is outgoing, friendly and enthusiastic. Labradors have a medium sized physique, short coat, floppy ears and soulful eyes. They are a gentle clever breed that need attention, training and love. They make great pets, show dogs, and working, hunting, therapy and service partners. Today we’ll look at the pros and cons of Lab puppy characteristics for your family, kids and lifestyle. We’ll share tips on adopting, buying, raising and caring for your yellow, black or chocolate Labrador Retriever companion dog. From growing baby Labrador Retriever to a healthy, happy adult Lab. We’ll learn how to increase lifespan, and keep them fit through diet, nutrition and exercise. We will also help you pick an English or American Lab type and color, manage grooming and shedding, and train that high energy personality and those active breed traits into a perfect family pet.
- What is a Labrador Retriever?
- How big are Labrador Retrievers? Size, weight and height.
- Labrador Retriever grooming, coats and colors
- Diet, exercise and health
- Labrador Retriever training
- Buying or adopting a Labrador Retriever puppy
- Labrador Retriever pros and cons
Labrador Retriever dogs might not be ideally sized apartment or lap dogs, but this is the ultimate family pet for many people’s lifestyles. Generally good with kids, other dogs and cats, they are a good first time dog owner choice and generally healthy too. Today we will look at Labrador history, size and types. Finding out all about Labrador Retriever temperament, behavior and health. And those unusual colors like champagne, charcoal and silver Labs. We’ll look at dealing with separation anxiety, destructive behavior like chewing, and how to avoid these issues to begin with. We’ll unlock the Labrador Retriever’s fascinating past, and help you enjoy a happy future together.
What is a Labrador Retriever?
Labs are popular family pets, but they have a strong working background. And many pet Labrador Retrievers are still also working sporting dogs today! Due to being bred to work well with their human handler, they are incredibly clever and cooperative.
- Labrador Popularity: No. 1 of 193 breeds on AKC.
- Historical Purpose: Sporting.
- Labrador Retriever Weight: 55 to 80 pounds.
- Lab Temperament: Friendly, active, intelligent.
The Labrador Retriever has had a well earned place as one of the most popular pedigree breeds for years. From a rich history as a working companion to finding their place in modern homes around the world, this lively, dog makes friends wherever he goes.
This is a medium-sized breed that grows to between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall, weighing up to 80 pounds as an adult. The Lab comes in three main colors: chocolate, yellow, and black. But, there are also some interesting variations of these.
Labrador Retriever History and Origins
Labradors Retrievers have an amazing history. The Labrador came from humble beginnings as a sporting companion. Their ancestors worked alongside fishermen in Newfoundland, Canada.
The breed was brought to England by visiting nobles in the early 1800s. English breeders then continued to standardise the breed. But although the Lab started as a working breed, it is now the most popular family dog in America for many years running.
Labrador Retriever Size and Build
Labrador Retrievers were bred to carry out a job, which required them to be strong and athletic. They needed to be able to run for long distances while carrying game, and to cope well in the water too.
They are between 21.5 and 24.5 inches tall, and weigh up to 80lbs. Their shape and structure varies a little between English (show) Labs and American (working) Labs. But they tend to be well-proportioned dogs with broad heads and long legs.
Labrador Retriever Coat Colors
The Lab coat officially comes in three colors. They can be black, yellow or chocolate. Black Labs are the most common, with chocolate and yellow Labs being a little less frequent.
Although these three colors are the only official colors, there are a huge amount shades and genetic variations. Yellow Labs are also found in fox red, golden and white shades. And then there are the dilute genes! These make the standard colors more pale, and result in charcoal, champagne and silver Labs.
Lab Grooming and Shedding
One important part of Labrador ownership is grooming. As these dogs tend to be rather prolific shedders. The right brushes, a good vacuum cleaner and a regular cleaning routine will help you to stay on top of it. Although they have a short coat, the Labrador Retriever needs brushing at least once a week. This will help you to keep on top of their heavy shedding. It’s fine to bathe them just when they are mucky from playing.
Are Labrador Retrievers Hypoallergenic?
Labs are not hypoallergenic. They shed a great deal, and produce lots of allergy inducing dander in their coats and saliva.
Typical Labrador Retriever Temperament
Labs are well known for being friendly dogs that crave human company. They do not tend to have aggression problems, provided that they are well socialized and bred from friendly parents. Most Labs are confident and friendly. But some can be nervous, so make sure to socialize from a young age.
The issues most owners have with Labs are to do with over friendliness and too much enthusiasm. Running off to greet strangers, jumping up and chewing are big issues that some families contend with. Fortunately, training from an early age can help a lot with running away and jumping up. And chewing can be managed with toys and distractions.
Are Labrador Retrievers Good for Families?
Labrador Retrievers make great pets for active families, who are around for much of the day or are able to put in place effective cover plans during the working day. Although generally good natured, Labs can be quite bouncy and pushy and knock over very small children or the frail.
They do best in a home that has someone in the house for most of the day, and where they get lots of short training sessions as well as a significant period for exercising. With the right training and environment, a Labrador Retriever will make an excellent pet.
Labrador Retriever Training Tips
Due to their history as cooperative working companions, Labs are fortunately fairly easy to train. If you know what you are doing, of course! The best way to motivate a Labrador is through food. Although some dogs will happily work for praise alone, food is always a winner with a Labrador Retriever. Positive reinforcement methods are used by all the top dog handlers now, and are the best way to form a strong bond and have a well behaved dog.
How Much Exercise Do Labs Need?
Training is not just to teach your dog new skills, it’s also a great source of exercise. Labradors are lively dogs that need plenty of physical as well as mental stimulation. It will keep them happy, but will also help them to stay healthy too. They need daily exercise. Especially to avoid becoming overweight.
Labrador Retriever Health Problems
While Labradors are a relatively healthy breed, they do have some problems that they are more likely to suffer from than some other breeds. Fortunately, many of these can be avoided or reduced through good health testing of breeding pairs. Here are some conditions you will need to be aware of if you are thinking of buying a Labrador puppy:
- Hip Dysplasia
- Elbow Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Cranial Cruciate Ligament Disease
Labrador Retriever Diet
Feeding your Labrador Retriever is an important part of their care. You’ll ideally want to use a high protein, high fat, low carbohydrate food. The fewer fillers the better. Follow the instructions on the packet for amounts, because these vary from brand to brand. If you feel your dog is looking too skinny or a little overweight, you can then adjust this amount to suit their physique.
How Long Do Labrador Retrievers Live?
Labrador lifespan is on average around 12 to 12.5 years.
Famous Labrador Retrievers
The popularity of this breed is seen in the number of famous owners it has! Some of the celebrities that own this breed include:
- Drew Barrymore
- Bill Clinton
- Kevin Costner
- Mary Kate Olsen
- Gwyneth Paltrow
- Anne Hathaway
- Prince Charles
Labrador Retriever Pros and Cons
Although Labradors are undeniably lovely dogs, they do have their downsides. Let’s compare their pros and cons.
Their intelligence means they are easy to train with modern positive methods, and their eagerness for food means it won’t be hard to keep them motivated. Health testing means that you can hope to avoid or reduce the risk of all the most common Labrador health problems.
They are generally very friendly to other dogs and people. Plus, they are often good with cats if introduced carefully or brought up in their company. They will love you with all their heart, and want to spend as much time in your company as possible.
Labradors are energetic and so need lots of exercise, although not too much when they are puppies to keep their joints healthy. They do have some potential inherited disorders, so you will need to buy your puppy from a breeder that has made sure both parents have great health tests.
You will have to work hard to keep your home fur-free and dedicate lots of time to training to prevent unwanted behaviors such as jumping up or pulling on the leash. They will also probably want to meet and greet everyone, and every dog, they see whenever you leave the house. They can also be prone to separation anxiety.
Rescuing a Labrador Retriever
Rescuing an older Lab is a great way to bring a new dog into your home for some families. You will be able to meet your adult dog and get to know their personality and make sure that it matches with the environment you would be able to provide.
There are some potential pitfalls with rescuing so be sure to check out our extensive Labrador Retriever rescuing guide here before you take the leap. We have a few rescue centers at the bottom of this guide. But, you can also find an extensive list of Labrador rescue organizations on the link above.
Finding a Labrador Retriever Puppy
These days a good Labrador Retriever breeder is relatively easy to find, if you know what you are looking for! Although you will probably then need to go on a waiting list until their next litter arrives, because they are in high demand.
The best Labrador breeders health test both parents. They will be happy to show you clear certificates for PRA, a recent eye test and great hip and elbow scores. The breeder might also have tested for the dwarfism gene.
Good breeders are happy to answer any questions you might have about the parents’ health, temperament and working or show activities. And it will be clear that they have a really strong bond with their dog. They will also have plenty of questions for you, to make sure you are the right fit for one of the puppies. They want to know how often you are out of the house, where the dog will sleep and what you plan to do about training and exercising.
Find Out More About The Labrador Retriever
This entire website is dedicated to the wonderful Labrador. Here’s where to find the more of the information you need on other pages.
Types of Labrador
- American Labrador Retrievers
- English Labrador Retrievers
- Black Labs
- Yellow Labradors
- Chocolate Labrador Retrievers
- Charcoal Labs
- Champagne Labradors
- Silver Labrador Retrievers
- 6 Things To Consider Before Buying A Labrador
- Are You Ready For A Labrador?
- Labrador Puppies
- Feeding Your Labrador Puppy
- How To Potty Train Your Puppy
- 15 Puppy Potty Training Problems Solved
- How To Stop Your Puppy Biting
- Finding A Good Labrador Breeder
- How To Find A Healthy Labrador Puppy
- 41 Ways To Spot A Bad Labrador Breeder
Training Your Labrador Retriever
- Puppy Potty Training
- Stop Your Puppy Biting
- Come When Called
- Lie Down and Stay
- Walking To Heel
- What Is Clicker Training
- Charging The Clicker
- Is Shock Collar Training Worth It?
Popular Labrador Retriever breed mixes
Not sure that a Labrador is the perfect pup for you? Then you might be considering a Labrador mix. You can find in-depth guides to some of the most popular Labrador cross breeds here:
- American Bulldog Lab Mix
- Australian Shepherd Lab Mix
- Basset Hound Lab Mix
- Beagle Lab Mix
- Border Collie Lab Mix
Mixed breeds could turn out to be more or less like either of the parent breeds, so do make sure you get to know them both in detail before making your decision.
Labrador Retriever Helpful Products
We’ve got some great guides that can help you choose the best products and accessories for your Lab. Take a look at some of them below:
Comparing the Labrador Retriever with other breeds
Want to know how the lovely Lab stacks up against some of his popular canine cousins?
- Beagle vs Labrador Retriever
- German Shepherd vs Labrador Retriever
- Golden Retriever vs Labrador Retriever
- Rottweiler vs Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever Breed Rescues
Here are a few Labrador rescue centers that might be in your area. Take a look at them to adopt a Labrador Retriever!
References And Resources
- Gough A, Thomas A, O’Neill D. 2018 Breed Predispositions to Disease In Dogs and Cats. Wiley Blackwell
- O’Neill et al. 2013. Longevity and Mortality of Dogs Owned In England. The Veterinary Journal
- Adams et al. 2010. Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice
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