Breed GroupGundog
Life Span10-12 years
Height45-65cm
Weight20-35kg (45-75lb)
OriginCanada/UK
Best ForActive Households

Labrador Breed Guide

Labrador Overview

Dog Breed:
Labrador
Breed Group:
Gundog
Characteristics:
Enthusiastic, affectionate, trainable. Loves a good swim!
Height:
45-65cm
Weight:
20-35kg (45-75lb)
Life Span:
10-12 years
Coat Colors:
Kennel Club recognised: • Yellow • Black • Chocolate • Liver Others: • Silver • Fox Red
Area of Origin:
Canada/UK
Best For:
Active Households

Labrador Characteristics

Friendliness
Intelligence
Good for First-Time Owners
Good with Children
Easy to Train
Exercise Requirements
Ease of Grooming
Amount of Shedding
Amount of Drooling
Tendency to Bark

About The Labrador

  • Friendly family pets

  • Easy to train

  • Prone to obesity and other inherited diseases

Labradors are loving, enthusiastic, playful dogs with heaps of energy, who need a good amount of exercise to keep them happy and healthy. They who can do well as working dogs or family pets, but may be better with older children, as their enthusiasm means they may knock over toddlers or younger children.

Labradors are highly intelligent and eager to please, meaning that they are often easy to train. This makes them a popular breed for assistance dogs, working gun dogs or sniffer dogs. They also enjoy being trained at home and will do well at sports such as Competitive Obedience.

Labradors are generally healthy dogs but are prone to some inherited diseases such as joint conditions and eye problems. The risk of these can be reduced if prospective parents are health tested. They are also very prone to becoming overweight, so care must be taken to avoid over-feeding.

Labrador Breed History

  • Bred in the UK, but named after a province in Canada

  • Originally used as a game dog for waterfowl

  • Now used for various jobs, famously as Guide Dogs for the blind

Labrador Retrievers are named after the Canadian province of “Newfoundland and Labrador”. This is where St Johns Water Dogs, the parent breed of the Labrador Retriever, were bred.

St John’s Water Dogs were bred to help the locals with fishing, and would dive into the icy waters to help pull in nets and catch any fish that tried to escape. Their short, dense coats were idea for keeping them warm without weighing them down as they swam in and out of the sea. Though it might not look that way, these St Johns dogs were also the basis for the modern Newfoundland breed. These large, shaggy dogs do not look like they have much in common with their smaller, sleeker Labrador cousins, but the two are related genetically.

The modern Labrador Retriever was created in the 1800s in the UK, bred from St John’s dogs that were brought back to the UK by various members of the nobility in order to create a breed that would be good at retrieving water fowl such as ducks and geese. The Kennel Club officially recognised the breed in 1903, and the American Kennel Club registered their first Labrador in 1917. Crufts, the world’s largest international dog show which is organised by the Kennel Club, has been won three times by a Labrador, in 1932, 1933 and 1937.

Today, Labradors can be found all over the world, living as family pets or working dogs, and remain the most popular breed registered with both the British and American Kennel clubs. As well as being loving pets, their intelligence and eagerness to please makes them excellent service dogs, and they are widely used as guide (or “seeing eye”) dogs for blind or partially sighted people, hearing dogs for deaf people, medical detection dogs, and even therapy dogs.

In keeping with their roots, Labradors remain a popular breed for training as gundogs in the UK, and are found all over the country picking up a variety of game birds.  They have also been employed in the military to sniff out weapons and explosives, and in search and rescue missions to find people trapped under rubble after disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. However, they make poor guard dogs, as they are far too friendly and generally slow to bite!

Labrador Size & Weight

  • There are two types of Labrador – “show” and “working”

  • Weigh in at 45lb-80lb depending on ‘type’

  • Come in several colours

Labradors come in two ‘types’. Show Labradors are larger and taller, and may weigh 35kg (75lb) or more. They have been selected over the years for their looks in the show ring. Working Labradors are smaller and sleeker, and may weigh as little as 20kg (45lb). These dogs are often more intelligent than the show Labradors, having been selected to be easy-to-train, with high stamina.

Both types are solid and sturdy, but will quickly become overweight if they are over-fed. Labradors come in several colours – mainly yellow, black, chocolate, and liver, but fox red and silver are recent additions that have not been recognised by the UK Kennel Club.

Labrador Personality & Temperament

  • Friendly and outgoing, they make excellent companions

  • Loyal and reliable

  • Enthusiastic and playful

Labradors are friendly, outgoing dogs who are generally comfortable with visitors as well as with family. They will often want to greet people they meet when out on a walk, so good training is essential to make sure they do not run up to strangers uninvited.

They also need careful supervision around young children, as their curiosity and friendliness may mean they unintentionally knock them off their feet. However, their robust frame and love of playing means they can be a great companion dog for active older children and teenagers.

Labradors can be very enthusiastic, and often do not think twice before charging headlong into any situation. This makes them great playmates for other similar dogs (or humans!), but this kind of enthusiasm can be difficult if they are charging over to a stranger’s picnic or trying to steal another dog’s ball.

Luckily, Labradors are also quick to learn and will generally be obedient dogs if trained properly. This can take time and patience to achieve, but thankfully Labradors are generally very food orientated, which makes rewarding their good behaviour quite easy!

The Labrador’s ancestors were bred to swim into arctic seas to catch fish and help pull in nets, and many modern Labradors retain this love of water.  As a result, they are often drawn to streams, rivers or lakes when out on a walk, and will love the chance to splash in some waves during a walk on the beach. Bottom line – if you are exercising a Labrador off-lead, and there’s water nearby, be prepared to take a damp dog home!

Labrador Health & Grooming

  • Frequent brushing needed to help with dense coat

  • Labradors are often obese and gain weight easily

  • Predisposed to developing hip and elbow dysplasia and arthritis

Labrador fur is short but very dense, designed to keep them warm and mobile in cold arctic waters. Their coats do not need to be clipped but will benefit from being brushed once a week or so to remove any loose hair and dirt. Labradors do not need a bath more than once a month, unless they are particularly dirty or need bathing for medical reasons.

Labradors are generally healthy dogs but do have some know inherited health conditions. These include hip and elbow dysplasia (where these joints do not form properly), as well as some inherited eye conditions and a few other more unusual ones. Prospective Labrador parents should be tested for these conditions before mating – if you are picking out a new puppy, be sure to check with the breeders.

Labradors are very prone to putting on weight. Their big, brown, sorrowful eyes mean that they are masters in convincing you that they have not been fed, but do not be taken in! Scientists have actually identified certain mutations that make Labradors much hungrier than other dogs, but they don’t actually need any more calories, so we must not give in to this kind of begging behaviour.

Being overweight makes Labradors more prone to a whole range of health conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, and heart disease. This means that their food (and exercise) needs to be carefully monitored to make sure they stay as close to their ideal weight as possible.

Labrador Training

  • Easy to train as food-motivated and eager to please

  • Intelligent and capable of many ‘jobs’

  • May get distracted easily

Labradors are intelligent and generally eager to please, which makes them easier to train than some other breeds. They are also very keen on food, which means that rewarding them for good behaviour is often straightforward! They generally enjoy taking part in obedience classes, and with the right guidance they can become well-behaved pets.

Labradors also thrive as working dogs in a variety of different settings, from medical assistance and therapy to explosive and drugs detection. The only profession they are poor at is that of a guard dog, as they are far too friendly to see off any intruders!

Some Labradors may have difficulty concentrating on their owners’ commands, as their extreme friendliness and enthusiasm means their attention-span may be rather short! However, this can be overcome with good training, time and patience.

Taking young Labradors to regular training classes will help them to learn good habits that they will take through life with them. Even adults can learn good behaviour with a little effort!

Labrador Exercise Requirements

  • Easy to train as food-motivated and eager to please

  • Intelligent and capable of many ‘jobs’

  • May get distracted easily

Labradors have lots of energy and need a good amount of exercise each day to keep them happy. If you are thinking about getting a Labrador, plan to have at least 2 hours free per day to walk them.

Labradors enjoy companionship and will enjoy playing games or joining in with dog sports such as agility or parkour.

Labrador puppies should not be exercised as much as adult dogs, as this may cause their bones not to develop properly. A common rule of thumb is to give them 5 minutes of exercise per month. For example, a 3-month-old Labrador puppy should have no more than 15 minutes of structured exercise.

Labrador Diet & Feeding

  • Excellent appetite

  • Prone to obesity

  • Prone to allergies

Labradors are generally very keen eaters and will happily eat a wide variety of foods. They should not be free-fed, as this has been shown to increase the risk of hip dysplasia. Labrador puppies have very different nutritional needs to adults, so choose a food designed for their life stage.

Labradors are prone to becoming overweight, so be careful not to over-feed them, no matter how much begging they do. Some dogs may benefit from special low-calorie diets to avoid this. Food puzzles can also be employed to help Labradors feel fuller for longer.

Labradors can occasionally suffer with food allergies, which may cause symptoms like itchy skin or diarrhoea. If you are concerned, your veterinarian may be able to recommend a good diet to try.

Labrador Rescue Groups

Labradors are a popular breed, so many general rescue organisations such as the RSPCA (https://www.rspca.org.uk/findapet), Dogs Trust (https://www.dogstrust.org.uk/) or Wood Green (https://woodgreen.org.uk/find-a-pet/find-a-dog) often have Labradors or Labrador Crosses looking for a good home.

There are also some breed-specific groups, such as:

https://labrador-rescue.org/

https://www.lukag.co.uk/

https://www.labradorsinneed.co.uk/

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