5 Things to Know About Labrador Retrievers

If you’re looking for a loyal companion, exercise partner or family dog, a Lab could be the perfect dog for you.

Labrador Retriever breed profile

1. Key Characteristics

  • AKC Group: Sporting
  • Height: 21–24 inches
  • Weight: 55–75 pounds
  • Life Expectancy: 10–12 years

One of America’s best-loved pets for decades, Labrador Retrievers earned their position in the hearts of dog lovers everywhere with their loyal, sweet dispositions and playful, active personalities.

Their short, straight and dense coats can be black, yellow and chocolate.

Bred to withstand the icy Newfoundland seas, Labs are strong, tireless swimmers who can tolerate cold water for a long time, which made them uniquely suited to retrieving nets and downed waterfowl while hunting.

Today, Labs have a much more extensive role, especially in search and rescue, drug detection, water rescue, hunting and tracking.

Because of their tame, affable personalities, they also make wonderful service dogs and animal assisted therapy dogs.

2. Where They Came From

Despite their name, Labrador Retrievers originated in Newfoundland, an area that is now part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada.

In the 16th century, after Europeans arrived to settle Newfoundland, they developed the primary forbear of the Lab, the St. John’s Water Dog, also known as the St. John’s Dog or Lesser Newfoundland.

These dogs’ jobs were jumping into the ocean and retrieving fishermen’s nets. As more people arrived to settle the area, they brought Mastiffs from Portugal, which crossed with the St. John’s Water Dog to become the first Labrador Retrievers.

Although St. John’s Water Dogs died out in Newfoundland, their Labrador Retriever cousins were brought to England in the early 19th century by the Duke of Malmesbury, from a geographical area then referred to as “the Labrador.”

After preserving and refining the dog to its current breed standard, Malmesbury produced the canine we now know as the Labrador Retriever.

By: pleeker
Chocolate Lab, yellow Lab, black Lab — they’re all delightful. By: pleeker (top photo: Roland Ijdema)

3. How Friendly Are They?

Intelligent, hardworking, kind, loving, playful and gentle, Labs have one of the best temperaments of all the dog breeds: More than 92% of Labs who have been given the American Temperament Test have passed with flying colors.

They are so soft-mouthed that they can carry a raw egg in their mouths without breaking it.

Given these positive traits, Labs are ideal family dogs, providing loyal companionship to adults and children.

4. Is This the Right Dog for You?

Exercise Needs

High

HIGH: Active dogs who are unfortunately prone to obesity, Labs need a lot of exercise to keep them in top physical condition and to prevent them from acting out.

Twenty minutes of vigorous exercise should do the trick, either running, fetching, swimming or play. At the very least, spend 10 or 15 minutes throwing a ball for your lab.

Although relatively quiet, Labs will sound an alarm bark, which can turn into unwanted, excessive barking if they aren’t given enough exercise and mental stimulation.

Grooming Needs

Medium

MEDIUM: Labs will blow their coat seasonally but still shed constantly, so they need to be brushed at least once a week, preferably more often.

The only other grooming they require is a nail trim and an occasional ear cleaning.

Health Problems

High

HIGH: Because of the breed’s popularity, the Labrador Retriever has been overbred, which has enhanced the genetic health problems to which they are predisposed.

The most common problems are obesity, osteoarthritis, luxating patellas and elbow and hip dysplasia. They can also suffer from eye issues, such as cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and retinal dysplasia.

Another frequent health problem is exercise-induced collapse, a condition that results in hyperthermia, weakness, collapse and disorientation.

This video from The Pet Collective explains more about Labs:

5. Where to Adopt One

There are many Labs in shelters or rescues across the country who need good homes. Check with your local shelter or rescue to see if yours is waiting for you there.

If you’re contacting a breeder, please do lots of research and make sure you’re not doing business with puppy mills.

Tamar Love Grande

View posts by Tamar Love Grande
Tamar Love Grande, former associate editor, is a Crazy Dog Person who has fostered and found homes for more than 200 dachshunds in the past few years. Tamar lives in Los Angeles with her husband, her cat and far too many wiener dogs.

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