Happy looking Labrador outside on grass
Labrador isolated on white

Labrador Retriever

Once you’ve met a well-raised Labrador Retriever, it isn’t hard to understand why these friendly dogs continue to be one of the most popular dog breeds. The Labrador Retriever’s gentle temperament, high intelligence, and desire to please make him a faithful family companion as well as a superb retrieving gun dog.

Labrador Retrievers aren’t from the canadian province of Labrador, as the name implies. The modern Lab is descended from dogs who were originally bred in Newfoundland to help fishermen haul in their nets. Labs are distant cousins of those huge, hairy Newfoundlanddogs.

Their kind, cheerful demeanour and love for people make Labs a natural as therapy dogs and as assistance dogs for those with disabilities. They are often used in police and military work, and search and rescue operations.

Physical Characteristics

There are actually two varieties of Labrador Retriever: The English Lab is shorter and stockier than the American Lab, and tends to have a more laid-back personality. The English Lab is usually considered the show dog variety, while the leaner American Lab is considered a field dog. Medium-sized dogs with athletic, muscular builds, an average adult male stands 22" to 24" high and weighs 60 to 80 pounds, with females slightly smaller. The average life span is 10 to 13 years.

Labs have clean, medium-size heads with a definite stop at the eyes, wide muzzles and powerful jaws. Ears are set wide and just above eye level, and hang moderately. The eyes have a soulful look. The double coat is short, smooth and dense, with a waterproof undercoat. Standard colours are yellow, chocolate, or black, although there are variations. A rare “silver” Lab is considered by AKC standards to be a shade of chocolate. The tail is medium-length and otter-like; thick at the base and tapering to a narrow tip. The feet are webbed, and Labs are strong swimmers.

Temperament and Behaviour

Characteristically non-aggressive and good-natured, Labs love to be with their people. Their eager desire to please and keen intelligence make them easily trainable (with consistent and appropriate training). Labs have high energy levels typical of sporting breed dogs, and require consistent exercise. Left to their own devices, they can be quite boisterous and destructive.

Labs have strong mouthing instincts due to their inbred trait for gently carrying game birds back to the hunter. Early behaviour training (from puppy hood) is needed to discourage this breed’s strong tendency to chew everything in sight! He needs extremely durable chew toys; small, thin toys will be shredded in very little time! Obedience training may begin as early as six months, in short sessions two or three times daily.

Is a Labrador Retriever Right for my Family?

A family with children, who love outdoor activities, and who want a dog companion to join the fun, could not do better than to choose a Labrador Retriever. Labs are especially fond of children, gentle with them, and adaptable to many activities. They generally love to swim, and are eager playmates at the beach. A well-raised Lab makes a great companion for almost any outdoor family activity.

The owner must be able to form a pack-leader bond with his dog to keep this high-energy dog under control. Labs do best with owners who have some experience with dogs, and can handle them with a firm, but loving, attitude.

Labs thrive on the love and attention of their family, and won’t do well left alone outdoors for long periods. These dogs need to live indoors with the family, with a large yard to run and play in, but will do well in a smaller home if they are walked often (at least three times a day). Labs will get along well with other pets in the family but often have a jealous streak.

This breed does not have strong territorial instincts and tend to be friendly with strangers, so they are not a good choice for guard dogs. If you just want your dog to let you know when someone is approaching, they are adequate watch dogs.

Health Conditions

Labrador Retrievers have tendencies toward several inheritable physical conditions, particularly hip and elbow dysplasia, gastric torsion, various skin conditions, and epilepsy. Be aware of these potential problems before bringing your puppy home. It is important that the owner doesn’t let his Lab become sedentary and overweight. A healthy diet and plenty of exercise will delay or prevent serious health issues. Regular veterinary check-ups can catch potential problems early, while treatment is still simple and relatively inexpensive.

Choosing a Labrador Retriever

When you decided that the Lab is right for your family, be sure to buy your puppy or dog from a reputable, professional dog breeder who takes care to produce quality Labrador Retrievers of sound health and even temperament. “Backyard” breeding of Labs is often done by well-intentioned amateurs who don’t always have enough knowledge to avoid passing on undesirable genetic traits. Pet store Lab puppies should be avoided, since they are often from “puppy mills” and bred indiscriminately.


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