Small Labrador – What’s Possible, What’s Normal, And What’s Healthy?

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small labrador

A small Labrador is one at the lower end of the typical height or weight range for Labrador Retrievers.

What constitutes “small” depends upon whether the Lab is male or female, and English or American-type.

Some breeders might also offer crossbreeds, dwarf dogs, and runts as small Labradors. So it pays to understand the natural variation in Labrador size, and the risks of these practices.

Are There Small Labrador Retrievers?

Labrador Retrievers are enduringly popular dogs.

But as we lead increasingly busy urban lives, interest in small dog breeds is growing.

So inevitably people have started to ask “are there small Labrador Retrievers?”

Likewise, we often hear from Labrador owners on the forum who are concerned that their Lab is too small, and failing to thrive.

In this article we explore how small a Labrador can be, and what to expect if you look for one to buy.

Let’s begin!

Are There Different Sizes Of Labrador?

No… but also a little bit yes.

small labrador

Unlike Poodles and Schnauzers, which both come in three different and clearly defined size categories, there is only one official size of Labrador.

However, there are two distinct shapes of Labrador.

English Vs American Labs

English and American Labradors belong to exactly the same breed, but over time they’ve been bred to excel at difference purposes.

Labs bred for the show bench are known as English Labs. They are stocky, with short legs and a distinctly blocky appearance.

By contrast, American Labs – also known as working-type Labs – are longer, taller, slimmer, and more athletic in appearance.

Of the two, English Labs give the impression of being smaller, because they are shorter.

But it’s worth noting that the accepted weight range for both types is exactly the same.

Are Mini Labradors Real?

In recent years there’s been a lot of buzz around miniature versions of dogs.

Smaller versions of popular breeds appeal because they promise to take up less space, demand less exercise and eat less food. All whilst packing the same charm which made the breed popular in the first place.

And so small breeds are being reduced to teacup size, and large breeds are starting to appear in mini-versions.

Mini Labradors aren’t recognized by any of the national kennel clubs, but nonetheless they’re generating a lot of buzz and you might even see them advertised for sale.

Three Ways Breeders Make “Small Labradors”

Where there is demand, surely enough there are breeders who will try to meet it.

There are three ways breeders have tried to miniaturise large dog breeds like Labs.

You can read about them in detail in our miniature Labrador article, but I’ll sum them up here:

1. Out-Crossing With Smaller Breeds

Mixed breed dogs usually occupy a middle ground between the size of their parents.

For example Miniature Labradoodles are a cross between a Labrador and a Miniature Poodle.

They are almost always smaller than a purebred Labrador, but still retain some typically-Labrador traits.

The advantage of this method is that puppies can be bred from the healthiest parents possible, and there are no undue health risks.

However, the puppies won’t be purebred Labradors, and the temperament of mixed breed dogs is somewhat unpredictable.

Popular Small Labrador Crossbreeds

Other small Labrador crossbreeds include:

2. Introducing The Gene For Dwarfism

Dogs with dwarfism have disproportionately short bones in their legs.

Many types of dwarfism are caused by a single gene mutation, which can occur spontaneously, or be introduced by out-crossing with another breed.

However dwarfism is linked to an increased risk of skeletal disorders including arthritis and spinal disease.

So it’s not a wise way to breed small Labs.

3. Selectively Breeding From Runts

Finally, all Labrador litters have some variation in size between siblings.

Puppies much smaller than the rest of their litter are known as runts, and they might remain smaller in adulthood too.

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Breeding runts from different litters together over several generations can produce a breeding line of unusually small dogs.

They will be purebred Labs, but unfortunately runts who don’t catch up in size with their litter are often malnourished and lack immunity they would have gained from their mom’s milk.

Recreating these problems over several generations can produce small dogs who are prone to illness and fail to thrive.

Natural Variation – How Small Can A Labrador Retriever Be?

Does all this mean that there’s no such thing as a small and healthy pedigree Labrador?

Not at all.

Just like people, Labradors come in a range of healthy sizes.

The AKC breed standard allows for male Labs to be 22 to 25 inches tall at the withers, and 65 to 80 pounds.

Females can be 21 to 24 inches tall, and 55 to 70 pounds.

That’s a pretty wide range between a small girl and big boy. In fact an 80-pound male is just over 45% bigger than a 55-pound female!

And of course, these parameters only apply to show dogs. Even greater variation occurs healthily and naturally in the pet population.

So if you want a naturally small Labrador, how can you go about finding one?

Predicting Labrador Size

The reality is, it’s tricky, and there are no guarantees.

Lots of factors influence a Labrador’s adult size.

But one of the most reliable predictors is the size of their parents.

When two healthy dogs at the low end of the normal weight range for Labs mate, their puppies are likely to be small for Labs as well.

You can ask breeders about their size of their sire and dam when you call to ask about a litter, or research which waiting list to join.

But be prepared to discover that your puppy may exceed all expectations anyway!

Should I Be Worried About My Small Labrador?

Labradors can come in a surprising range of healthy weights.

But that doesn’t stop us worrying, if our Lab seems so unlike all the others we meet.

Your Labrador’s overall health, disposition, and body condition are a better indicator of their welfare than their weight or height.

If you’re worried that the size of your small Lab falls below the normal healthy range, and it’s affecting them negatively, ask your vet to check them over.

  

Small Labradors

So, we’ve seen that weighing as little as 55 pounds is perfectly possible for a healthy Labrador.

And coming from English (also known as show-bred) lines can give the impression of being small too.

So being small isn’t necessarily any cause for concern.

The Labrador Handbook by Pippa Mattinson

But breeders sometimes use selective breeding to create Labradors even smaller than the normal range.

And when you see these puppies advertised, it’s important to understand how different breeding practices can affect puppy welfare, so you can make an informed purchase.

Do You Have A Small Labrador?

Is you Lab more petite than most? Was it a surprise?

Tell us their story in the comments box down below!

References and Resources

Labrador Retriever Breed Standard, American Kennel Club

Retriever (Labrador) Breed Standard, The Kennel Club

The Extended Breed Standard of the Labrador Retriever, Australian National Kennel Club

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

22 COMMENTS

  1. Hello, I just bought a little back lab puppy she does have her registration papers so I believe she is full need but she is only 4.6 lbs and she’s supposedly 9 weeks old. She is the runt but her sister is only 6.5 lbs. any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  2. My two year old female black pure bred Labrador is 45 pounds. She has more of a Whippet’s body. She’s very long and skinny. She is the best little girl.

  3. I have a female that was nothing but skin and bones when we adopted her. She will be 1 year in a few days and only 30 pounds. I think I have the smallest Lab ever!

  4. Hi. I have a Black pure English Labrador—(I have always had Labby kids and Golden’s)—-so my black Lab-Amos is 5 months and 2 weeks and only weights 26lbs ???—-he eats 3 and half cups of food a day—active and playing like normal—-why is he so small?? Thank you

    • I have an American Lab. She was about the same weight as your dog at that age. She was six months old on March 9th. I had her on the scale this morning and she weighed in at 32.2. My vet says she’s healthy and that is most important. Will that stop my worries? Probably not. Lol

  5. I have a female who is not spayed and is 12 months old. She is 45 lbs. She is a mix, but with Weimaraner, I have even done a DNA test on her, she is truly Lab and Weimaraner. She is sold muscle and healthy but I worry because she is so small.

  6. I have a female ex police sniffer black lab. @8 months old very slim, but eats a huge amount, I think it’s because she is hyper active, always on the go and runs as fast as a whippet. She weighs 24kg when I got her at 12 months old she only weighed 16kg and looked thin. I worm her regularly, and have her vet checked. But I think ,as I have said she is super active, and yet her sibling ( who made the police sniffer grade ) is very Stockley built and sluggish … two types in one litter…

  7. I have a purebred AKA reg. 6 month old Silver who is 38lbs at 6 months. I love her mini size. I am thinking about breeding her to another small health tested Purebred lab or a small poodle when she is older. She is super smart and calm.

  8. We have a 7 month American Labrador who weighs in at a whopping 32lbs. She was the runt of a completely runt litter weighing in at just over 3.5lbs at 7 weeks. She is completely healthy but we are thinking she will be on the much smaller end of the spectrum for female labs.

    • Hey Karla, just curious how your girl is growing? I came across your comment while scrolling google. We have an 8 week old girl that’s just now weighing 3 lbs.

  9. I am looking for a small lab w Large hunt drive. Can someone point me to a respected breeder? We live in the Minneapolis MN area

    Scott Morgan

  10. We just got a female yellow lab—mother was black American & father yellow English. We didn’t see litter mates because we wanted a yellow lab. She is proportioned perfectly, is happy, active & eating well. Sh, at 9 weeks, only weighs 6.7 lbs. The vet was not concerned—thought she might be the runt—should we be??

  11. Our Obie, an American type Field Lab is a lot taller than the average show type labrador and at the vets yesterday he weighed 100 lbs and he is just 12 months old and super fit. He is a Black lab, 28″ at the withers and has a 22″ neck and was pronounced by our vet as absolutely magnificent. We took him to the vets because we thought he had something caught in his teeth after he had a kipper for his breakfast but his teeth were fine. Our vet asked about how we got his coat so shiny and we said he has a lot of vegetables with his food, ie., chicken, turkey, lamb. liver or whatever and she said and doesn’t it show. He has never had dried food since we have had him with us and he is loved all through our village.

  12. Ok. I likely have the smallest lab ever. She is pure bread British lab. Comes from good hunting And field trial lineage. She weighs 36 lbs. at 23 months. She is a great retriever. I actually hunted her last fall on waterfowl. She was able to retrieve ducks, speckle bellies, and lesser Canada’s. (hunted 8 days in the field) she tried to drag a greater Canada goose, it was not so pretty. I have breeding rights pending she passes her senior hunter trials this summer. But concerned about breeding sub quality labs. She is not what we wanted or expected. But she is confident and has already demonstrated great hunting abilities! I guess we will stick to smaller waterfowl for the next few years!
    Just thought I would share.

  13. I have always had big males, right now I have a 2 year old black male that is 23” at the withers and weighs a lean 95 pounds. I also have a yellow male from a different breeder his mother weighed 80 pounds and the dad weighed 110 pounds. The dad was English and the mother was a American, I saw a pup from the previous litter that was very tall. My pup is 70 pounds doesn’t look it and is Pettit. He stopped growing at 5 month, I am disappointed, I still love him. But this goes to show you that you can’t always go by the parents size.

  14. Interesting and helpful article, thanks! I’ve got a seven month old fox red lab puppy and he’s still pretty tiny! He measures 20 inches at the withers and weighs 21kg. He still looks much younger than he is. The vet has said he will probably get to around 25kg when he’s fully grown. All my other labs have been huge by that age! He’s very extremely clever, happy, active and confident so I’m not too worried. ☺️

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