Labrador Retriever breed guide
Up to 24 inches (to shoulder)
Males up to 80lbs
Females up to 70lbs
10 to 12 years
Labrador Retrievers originated in Newfoundland, off the coast of Canada. As the name suggests, Labrador Retrievers were originally bred as a working dog, usually for fishermen, to help haul in nets and fetch things on boats.
They are the most popular breed in a number of countries including the US and UK, chosen by all sorts of families for their temperament and character. They are often chosen as assistance dogs for blind and disabled owners, too. Most recently they’ve been found to be wonderful “Therapy Dogs”, visiting hospitals and hospices to cheer up residents, and they can be found working for police forces and armies as drugs and bomb-detection dogs. In fact, five Labradors have won Dickin Medals for their bravery or acts of devotion.
Labradors are typically black, yellow (shades vary from a darker, almost-tan colour to a bright white or fawn) or chocolate brown. They are generally muscular and athletic when they are younger but are prone to weight gain as they age, or after females are spayed, so daily exercise is important. Their coats are short and require minimal grooming. They are medium-large dogs, with the males tending to be bigger and more muscular where females are generally more slender and compact. They can vary though; different families can come from different backgrounds. So, where a puppy from a family of working dogs will tend to be stockier and more muscular a puppy bred from show dogs will be more streamlined.
There is a reason Labradors are so highly favoured. They are incredibly loyal, friendly and trainable dogs. They are outgoing and eager to please, not to mention easily bribed with a gravy bone or two! They are wonderful family dogs and can assimilate into most home dynamics.
They are very energetic and will need around 30-60 minutes of exercise a day to make sure they are happy and to prevent them from putting on weight as they’re always happy to have a snack or two and will eagerly polish off any food that is left unattended.
Things to watch out for
Like with all dogs you must look into their backgrounds if you are buying from a breeder to avoid congenital health defects. Labradors can be prone to hip, elbow and eye problems so request the parents’ score from the breeder. They should be more than happy to oblige and, if they aren’t, treat them with caution.
Because they have been bred to be working dogs, Labradors have a lot of energy. On walks they have a tendency to throw themselves through brambles and barbed wire fences with little regard for their own wellbeing and are also more than happy to go swimming in cold water, so look out for Limber Tail (where their tails go limp from exposure to cold). Always keep an eye out for limps or tenderness and give them a check-over after walks to make sure they haven’t picked up any thorns in their fur or between the pads of their paws.
If they don’t get enough exercise, they will tend to be a little bit boisterous and will expend their energy in possibly destructive ways by chewing furniture, barking, digging and jumping up. The way around this is to make sure that you take your dog for daily walks to take a bit of the bounce out of their step, and to make sure that you keep on top of their training. If you discourage naughtiness this amenable dog will likely behave itself well into adulthood. Though, you can generally expect a head under the table at dinner time, ready to hoover up anything that’s dropped!
Another potential concern with Labradors is that, while their coats are short, they do shed, year-round. If you are a very tidy person you may find it stressful to have your house constantly coated in fur! Certainly invest in a good vacuum cleaner and a lint roller. A good brush outside once a day will also help to minimise the amount of fluff you’ll find around the house.
Lastly, while labs are very loyal and dependable, they are generally absolutely useless guard dogs. A side effect of their friendly nature is that they are non-territorial and welcoming to visitors. So, while they are unlikely to pose a threat to the postman, they probably won’t deter burglars either!
Is a labrador for me?
If you’re looking for a large, cooperative, friendly canine pal you needn’t look further. Labradors are a great all-rounder and, if you have the time and ability to meet their needs and put in the groundwork with their training, you can expect a relatively easy life with your Labrador. As with any breed, though, we always recommend doing your research and choosing a breed with care so that you and your new best friend can have a wonderful life together.
Fun labrador fact
It’s possible to have yellow black and chocolate puppies in a single litter.