The Labrador Retriever, more commonly known as a Lab, is a loving, friendly, and energetic dog. For some of these reasons, it is the most popular and well-loved dog in America. Check out our in-depth guide to see if this dog breed is right for you!
This article offers a well-rounded guide to the Labrador Retriever. Labs are known for being friendly, social companions who require a lot of exercise. They come in yellow, black, and chocolate, have friendly, gentle eyes, and an always-wagging tail.
Although Labrador Retrievers are amazing dogs and make fantastic pets, they might not be right for you. You’ll want to gather all of the information and do your research before you make a decision.
Our comprehensive review will cover the history of the breed from their beginnings as waterdogs in Newfoundland to their well-known place in the homes of many families today. We will also discuss their temperament, their physical characteristics, the pros and cons of the Lab, and who would be best suited for owning one.
At the end of this article you can find resources and information on how to find a reputable breeder or rescue operation near you.
The History of the Labrador Retriever
Although you might think that the Labrador Retriever was derived in Labrador, it was not! Labs actually originated in Newfoundland. A small water dog was bred with a Newfoundland to create what was called a St. John’s Water Dog or a Lesser Newfoundland. These dogs, later called Labrador Retrievers, were employed as duck retrievers and fisherman’s mates. They would dive into the icy water to retrieve fish that had fallen off hooks or even bring back fish-filled nets. The Labs were perfect for this job because their coats naturally repelled water.
In the early 1800s, English nobles who were visiting Canada spotted the friendly breed and thus they began their ascent to the popularity they enjoy today. The earls and lords returned to England with what they had dubbed, “Labrador dogs” (although no one is quite sure how they became associated with Labrador), and throughout the 19th century breeders began to refine and standardize the breed.
The Lab was first recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1903 and the AKC registered the first dog of its breed in 1917.
The Temperament of the Labrador Retriever
Labrador retrievers are known as friendly, active, and intelligent.
Labs are friendly dogs who get along great with children, families, and other pets, both in and out of the house. Labrador Retrievers are a great family dog because they are gentle and enjoy the attention that children will give them. They are able to join a family that already has a pet, and will not be a problem around neighborhood dogs, either. They are not known for being aggressive. Labrador Retrievers are naturally very energetic, so you want to keep this in mind when they are around people. As long as they are getting their much-needed exercise, their natural exuberance can be reined in. They are natural family/people dogs and do not often do well as kennel dogs.
Labrador Retrievers are very active and athletic. Known as water dogs and retrievers, they love to play fetch, swim, run, and exercise. Not only do they enjoy it, but they need it. If Labs are not getting the right amount of exercise, they can be prone to weight gain or even behavior problems such as destructive chewing or digging. If you love to run, hike, swim, or otherwise be active, you will really enjoy have a Lab to keep up with. Labradors might need some extra help at feeding time to be sure that they don’t overeat. Their natural instinct is to take in as much nutrients as they can in order to work it off outside/during exercise time. This can lead to overeating or stealing food from other pets.
Labrador Retrievers are very intelligent and protective. You might have noticed that oftentimes Labs are used as service dogs. Labs are great dogs for leading the blind or rescuing people in danger. They love to protect their families and their homes, but they don’t make great watchdogs because they are so friendly, they will be more likely to want to play with an intruder than attack them. They are easy to train and will be very obedient when given the proper training and exercise. You can easily train your Lab to play fetch, play games, do tricks, and be your companion on hikes, walks, and runs.
Labrador Retrievers are strong, sturdy, medium-sized dogs. Male Labs grow to be about 22.5-24.5 inches tall, while female Labs grow to be about 21.5-23.5 inches tall. They generally weigh between 55 and 80 pounds.
Their chest breadth and overall body shape allows them to be powerful retrievers and athletes. They can be prone to obesity, as we mentioned before, so be sure to monitor their weight, diet, and exercise regimen.
Coat and Appearance
Labrador Retrievers come in three distinct colors: black, chocolate, and yellow. Labs have a dense, short coat with a soft, weather-resistant undercoat,. They are able to spend long periods of time in cold, icy water or other less than ideal weather. They shed their winter coat in the late spring, preparing them for the warmer days of summer (and leaving behind a dog hair mess!)
Labs have kind and alert eyes that are usually brown in black and yellow Labrador Retrievers, and hazel or brown in chocolate Labrador Retrievers.
Labs have a chiseled look to their faces and their snouts are neither long and narrow nor short and stout. Their ears are well-proportioned and hang down. Labs have a solid, well-built body and an “otter tail” that is usually wagging, adding to their friendly, energetic appearance.
This breed has a chest-breadth and shape that is built for stamina, as well as muscular hind and forequarters. Their shoulders are long and sloping and their feet are webbed making them quick and efficient swimmers.
Health and Life Expectancy
Labrador Retrievers live between 10 and 12 years and are healthy dogs, overall. If they are bred by a responsible breeder, they should be screened for health issues that are common in the breed, as well.
Labs are prone to a few health issues such as obesity, joint dysplasia, skin infections, ear and eye infections, and bloat.
Labrador Retrievers require a lot of exercise as we have said many times throughout the article. Without the ample amount of exercise, they can not only become destructive, but they may also become obese. You also want to make sure that you are feeding your Lab a diet of healthy food.
Joint dysplasia is a health issue that plagues many different breeds and can lead to early onset arthritis. Joint dysplasia can cause the joints to be loose and out of place, which can be very painful for dogs. If the condition persists, it can lead to arthritis and immobility–something you don’t want for your energetic Lab!
Skin allergies and infections are common in Labrador Retrievers, and are related to fleas, food, and the environment. Allergies and infections may cause hair loss, itchy, red skin, and excessive scratching.
Labs can also be prone to ear and eye infections. The fact that Labs spend a lot of time in water can make them more prone to ear infections, therefore you should learn how to properly clean your dog’s ears and make sure to do so, especially after swimming or being in water. Labrador Retrievers may also have eye issues such as cataracts. Make sure to pay attention to any changes in your Lab’s eyes or overall health and always bring them to the veterinarian for scheduled wellness visits.
The Pros and Cons of the Labrador Retriever
- Very friendly
- Patient temperament
- Family oriented
- Great companions
- Can be service dogs
- Weather-resistant coat
- Maintain puppy-like behaviors longer than other dogs
- Can be destructive chewers and diggers
- Require a lot of activity and attention
- Shedding their winter coat can be messy
- Not a great watchdog
- Have tendencies toward some health issues
Is a Labrador Retriever Right for You?
Deciding if a Labrador Retriever is the right dog breed for you is a personal choice, of course, and we hope that the information you have read so far has helped you make that decision.
If you already have other pets in your home or if you have children or plan to have a family, a Lab could be a great fit. They are friendly and loving and will fit right in with the people and animals in your home.
If you love to be outside and are an active person or part of an active family, a Labrador Retriever would fit into your life seamlessly.
Labrador Retrievers make fantastic, energetic, and intelligent companions for people and families who are active and who want to spend the time training their dog and helping it to live a full and happy life.
Where Can I Find a Labrador Retriever Near Me?
It is very important to find a reputable breeder or rescue operation before you purchase a Labrador Retriever. You want to make sure that breeder has screened the dog’s parents for common health issues and that the puppies have been taken care of properly prior to joining your family.
When rescuing any dog, you want to be aware of the behavioral or health problems the dog is experiencing, so that you can make sure you are a good fit for the dog and the dog is a good fit for your family and life.
There are many breeders and rescue organizations all over the country that are known for taking great care of their dogs and being sure to put them in the hands of new, loving owners who will ensure that they have a healthy and happy life.
The Labrador Retrievers Club is a great place to start if you are looking for a reputable breeder as well as more information about Labs. They also have a list of rescue organizations where you may be able to find a Lab, as well.
We hope that you have learned a lot about Labrador Retrievers as a breed and that you can make an informed decision about whether or not this breed is right for you!