The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular dog breeds in the United States and for good reason. Labradors have ranked #1 on the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) most popular dog breeds list for over 20 years! This versatile breed has done everything from working alongside fishermen to being a popular pick among service dogs. Considering adding a Labrador Retriever to your family? Read on to find out if the Labrador is right for you.
The Labrador Retriever comes from Newfoundland, a province of Canada, where the breed was a waterfowl retriever, fish retriever, and companion to fishermen. Labradors would also help fishermen by pulling nets and ropes. Originally Labs were called St John’s Dogs after Newfoundland’s capital, St. John’s.
Knowledge of Labrador Retrievers spread outside Newfoundland when English noblemen visited Canada and fell in love with the dogs. The English soon brought Labradors to England and began breeding them. The Lab’s popularity spread across the world and to the United States where they were officially recognized by the AKC in 1917.
Today, the Labrador Retriever remains a popular dog breed in America and acts as a service dog, search and rescue dog, bomb detector, drug detector, and adoring family pet.
Labrador Retriever Characteristics
Appearance & Coat
The Labrador Retriever is a large breed with a height of 21 to 25 inches and a weight between 55 to 80 pounds. These dogs have a broad, square-like body with floppy ears, wide snouts, big eyes, and a thick, otter-like tail that rests downward or straight out.
Labs have a double coat that is relatively easy to groom and maintain. Their top coat is short, straight, and dense while their undercoat is weatherproof and soft. The AKC officially recognizes that Labs have 3 colors: black, chocolate, and yellow.
The Labrador Retrievers' waterproof coats were ideal for the Canadian climate as the thickness and shortness of their coats gave Labs the ability to retrieve waterfowl and fish without their fur becoming frozen. Additionally, the Labradors' thick tails help them swim and turn in water the same way rudders work with boats.
Labradors are friendly companions that are kind, calm, and love people. Labs are perfect family dogs as they are incredibly sweet, companionable, and great with other pets and children. These dogs adore kids and are extremely patient and enduring with the way children play. However, no matter how loving a breed is toward kids it’s important to always take precautions and teach both your dog and children how to treat each other.
When bought from reputable breeders, Labrador Retrievers are generally very healthy and live around 10-12 years. Legitimate breeders will have their dam and stud dogs checked for health issues like heart conditions, hereditary conditions, eye problems, elbow dysplasia, and hip dysplasia before they are used in breeding.
Additionally, Labrador Retrievers can have a hereditary condition called exercise-induced collapse (EIC) that shows up in early adulthood and affects their ability to exercise and play. Because this is a hereditary condition, it is not common among responsible breeders as they test their dams and studs. Like other large dogs, Labradors are susceptible to bloat, hip dysplasia, and elbow dysplasia. Additionally, Lab owners need to be aware that these dogs are big foodies and are susceptible to obesity if overfed. Similarly, Labradors will try to eat anything they decide is food, whether it’s actually edible or not.
Caring for a Labrador Retriever
Labrador Retriever’s Ideal Home
Labs are social dogs that love being around people and don’t enjoy being left alone. This breed loves to be part of the family and be included in family activities. It's ideal that if an owner travels frequently, their Labrador travels with them. Because Labs are so friendly, being a watchdog is impossible for them. Outgoing and desiring to please others, the Labrador Retriever would rather become friends with intruders instead of sounding the alarm.
Labradors need owners who are active and playful just like them. Owners who are unable to meet their Lab’s energy requirements can look into doggy daycare, dog parks, a fenced-in backyard, and/or hiring a dog walker.
Training Best Practices
Labs need early socialization and training to combat the high energy and strength they gain when they are older. Because they grow up to be very strong and can overpower their owners, early training is essential for Labrador Retrievers.
Training a Labrador isn’t a difficult task as this breed loves to please and is intelligent. These are adaptable, hardworking dogs that love people and are devoted to their owners. This breed can adjust to almost any task given to them which is evident from their success in dock diving, agility, obedience, and tracking competitions.
Owners should expect to give their Labrador around 30 to 60 minutes of exercise every day. That being said, Labradors aren’t very good at knowing their limits. This breed may keep playing and working until they exhaust themselves. Owners should know the signs of exhaustion and overexertion in dogs to help their pups remain comfortable and in good health. During walks and play, it’s important to give your Labrador breaks to rest and drink water.
Labs are working dogs who need to be kept busy or else they'll become overexcitable and destructive. Your Labrador will need more physical and mental exercise than just a daily walk. Swimming, fetching, and mental enrichment puzzles will all help your dog let out energy. Evident in their name, Labrador Retrievers love activities that include retrieving and swimming. Because Labradors love retrieving, giving them toys to chew on and carry around in their mouths will keep them happy.
Grooming & Hygiene
Despite having a short coat, this breed sheds a lot. Brushing your dog regularly can help keep their loose hair at bay. During shedding season, Labradors should be brushed daily. Outside of shedding season, brushing can be done on a weekly basis. Additionally, Labs should be bathed around every 2 months and their ears should be checked and cleaned on a weekly basis to check for signs of an ear infection.
With so many great qualities and a wonderful temperament, Labrador Retrievers make fantastic pets for people in various stages of life. These highly esteemed, well-loved, and adorable dogs are the perfect additions to any home. Want to add this affectionate breed to your home? Find Labrador Retriever puppies for sale near you!