When do Labradors mature? Most Labrador Retrievers are considered fully grown somewhere from 11 to 18 months. There is quite a lot of room for variation in this timeframe, so don’t expect all Labs to mature at the same time. Labs reach sexual maturity somewhere between 6 and 9 months old. But mental maturity can take the longest of all, with boisterous puppy behavior lasting as long as two years.
When Do Labradors Mature – FAQs
Our article will cover the three main areas of maturity in Labradors – physical, sexual, and mental maturity. But, within these categories, there are a lot of questions we get asked.
- How big is a mature Labrador?
- When should my Labrador be neutered/spayed?
- When should I transition to adult dog food?
- At what age can Labrador Retrievers breed?
- When will my Labrador stop chewing and biting?
- When do Labradors calm down?
- At what age do Labs start behaving?
You can click the links above to jump straight to the answers to these questions. Or, keep reading to learn everything about Labrador maturity stages.
When Do Labradors Mature – Physical Maturity
Large breeds like the Labrador Retriever will reach physical maturity somewhere between the ages of 11 and 18 months. This can vary based on genetics, sex, and more. So, it’s hard to give an exact answer to when any specific Lab will reach physical maturity. Physical maturity can affect a lot of things, including, the type of food your dog eats. Let’s take a closer look.
When are Labradors Fully Grown?
This question will depend a little on the size of your Lab when fully grown. Even within one breed, adult sizes can vary a lot. Fully grown Labs can range from 55 to 80 pounds in weight, and from 21.5 to 24.5 inches tall. Females are usually smaller than males.
Your Lab will usually reach their full grown height and weight at some point between 11 and 18 months old. But, the exact time will depend on their adult size. It can also depend on whether or not they’ve been neutered.
When Should I Neuter my Lab?
If you neuter your dog before he stops growing, he may carry on growing for longer than he would’ve originally. This is because, after being neutered, your dog lacks the hormones that would switch off his growth.
This can have a negative affect on your dog’s health. Studies have shown that early neutering or spaying Labradors (before 6 months old) can increase their risk of developing joint problems like hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, and cranial cruciate ligament tear. Speak to your vet to get the latest information on this topic. Neutering or spaying your dog can have a number of health benefits, including the obvious birth control. But it’s important to do it at the right time.
This 2014 study suggests that neutering a Lab before 6 months old can significantly increase their risk of joint problems. So, you may choose to wait until your Lab is physically mature before you neuter or spay them.
When Should I Transition to Adult Food?
Puppy food and adult dog food have very different balances of nutrients. This is because puppy food is designed to support your puppy’s intense period of growth. Puppy food will contain higher levels of protein than adult dog food. When your pup’s growth has finished, they no longer need this higher level of protein.
Generally, it’s safe to switch your Lab to adult food at around 1 year old. But, this can vary from dog to dog. Some dogs will still be growing at this age, so should wait a little longer. The best person to advise you about this is your vet. They will be able to offer advice tailored to your specific Lab.
When Do Labradors Mature – Sexual Maturity
Sexual maturity is another stage that is of interest to most dog owners. It’s important to learn when your Lab will be sexually mature so you know when they will be at risk of getting pregnant, or impregnating another dog.
Generally, Labradors will usually reach sexual maturity somewhere between 6 and 9 months old. Although, this stage could be later. You’ll notice that this is well before they’ve reached physical maturity. This means it is very possible for your Lab to get pregnant whilst she is still a puppy.
When Can my Labrador Breed?
As Labradors can reach sexual maturity from as early as 6 months, some Labradors can technically mate from this young age. But, this doesn’t mean your Labrador should mate this young.
When your female Lab has her first heat, it is possible for her to get pregnant. Male Labs will usually start showing interest to females at around this age, so you should assume they can impregnate another dog from this age. Whether you have a male or female Lab, you should avoid breeding them at this age.
Female dogs need to be both physically and sexually mature before they are bred. But, they also should not be too old. Ideally, somewhere between 2 and 4 years old is the right age for breeding your Labrador.
If you are not looking to breed your Lab, you may wish to talk to your vet about spaying or neutering them after they reach sexual maturity. Just remember the affect this can have on their physical growth, and the risk of joint problems.
When do Labradors Mature – Mental Maturity
The third type of maturity that will be of interest to Labrador owners is mental maturity. Labs have a reputation for being friendly, affectionate, and eager to please. But, when they’re puppies, you might think people have been lying to you!
Lab puppies, like any puppies, can be boisterous, destructive, and bitey. This can lead to stress, exhaustion, and hopelessness in puppy owners. But, don’t worry! Even if it doesn’t seem like it, Labs will pass this stage when they reach mental maturity. The bad news is that this stage of maturity takes the longest to reach. In fact, some Labs can take up to two years to reach full mental maturity.
When Do Labradors Stop Biting and Chewing?
Labrador puppies are known for their biting phase. During this stage, it can seem like they’re never going to turn into the friendly, loving dog you were promised! But, this stage does pass as your Labrador puppy matures. Some of this biting is down to teething. Lab puppies will usually start teething from around 3 or 4 months old.
This stage can last until around 7 months old, when your Lab will have their full set of adult teeth. But, not all biting is due to teething. Puppies will also bite during play. So, practice calm behavior and ignore any biting that does happen. Don’t reward bitey play times with attention, just remove yourself and your attention from the puppy. These steps can help to shorten the bitey period. But, it’s impossible to avoid it altogether!
When do Labradors Calm Down?
Along with biting, Labrador puppies can seem very boisterous and over-excited, particularly when they are playing with you. So when do Labradors mature and settle down? It can take up to 2 years for Labs to completely mature mentally. This means, boisterous and excitable play can last up to two years. But, there are things you can do whilst your puppy is growing to reduce this boisterous behavior.
Make sure to reward your puppy when he or she is calm. This could be when they are entertaining themselves with a toy, or just when they are chilling around your house. This way, your puppy will learn that calm behavior earns them great things! And, they will be more likely to act this way in the future.
When Will my Labrador Start Behaving?
A final question that many people ask is: when do Labradors mature and start behaving? Is your Lab ignoring all of your training commands? Is it generally naughty, and never doing what it should be doing, like only peeing indoors, or never sitting when instructed?
Dogs, even those that aren’t fully mature, don’t purposefully act naughty or stubborn to infuriate their owners. If your Lab seems to be acting out, or is refusing to follow commands, you may need to reflect on their training. Training can take a long time. Even very intelligent breeds like the Labrador don’t automatically understand commands like ‘sit’, ‘come here’, or ‘stop digging in my yard!’ This can lead many people to assume their puppy is being naughty on purpose. But, actually, Labs don’t automatically know that they should or shouldn’t be doing something!
Dedicating Time to Training
If you’re struggling with a Lab that is behaving in ways you don’t want it to, you may need to go back to basics with training. Whether this involves going to a puppy class near you, getting a trainer to visit your dog at home, or even learning how to train your dog yourself!
Our online dog training courses use positive reinforcement methods that show great results in puppies and older dogs. They are designed to teach your dog important obedience skills like potty training. But, they also teach owners exactly how to teach their dogs new skills and get their attention.
Starting training fresh from the basics can really help owners who are struggling to get their Labs to behave. It isn’t necessarily just a case of waiting for your Lab to mature. A well trained Lab puppy who is still not mentally mature can be a lot better behaved than an untrained adult Lab!
When do Labradors Mature – Summary
So, when does a Labrador puppy become a dog? There are three stages of maturity that dogs go through – physical, sexual and mental. Labs usually reach sexual maturity between 6 and 9 months, physical maturity between 11 and 18 months, and mental maturity often around 2 years old. But, individual Labradors will mature at different rates, so take these timeframes with a pinch of salt.
Is your Lab currently coming up to one of these milestones? Chat with other Labrador parents at the same stage over on our forum!
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References and Resources
- Lewis, G. ‘Musculoskeletal Development of the Puppy: Birth to Twelve Months’, Animal Therapy Magazine (2019)
- Hart, B. (et al), ‘Long-Term Health Effects of Neutering on Dogs: Comparison of Labrador Retrievers with Golden Retrievers’, PLOS One (2014)
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