A picture of three Labrador Retrievers: a chocolate Lab, yellow Lab, and a black Lab.

Labrador Retriever

21 - 24"
55 - 80 lbs
Life Expectancy
10 - 13 years
Area of Origin
The Labrador Retriever is among the world's most beloved breeds, renowned for their friendliness and exceptional retrieving skills (as suggested by their name). The breed originated in Newfoundland, the most eastern province of Canada, where they were known for helping fishermen haul in their nets. They are fantastic swimmers that also excel at retrieving shot game. Their gentle mouths allow them to present the game to their owners without the damage of a strong, clamping jaw. They also have an "otter" tail that helps steer their bodies while swimming. Labs are very eager to please and demand to be involved in all family activities. As natural retrievers, they love fetching toys and slippers for their owners. They have also been used as service dogs, therapy dogs, and police dogs due to their gentle temperament and excellent scenting abilities. Although the Labrador is a relatively mellow dog breed, they do require a lot of exercise, and enjoy running, swimming, and long games of fetch.
Energy Level
Friendliness to dogs
Friendliness to strangers
exercise requirements
affection level
friendliness to other pets
Grooming Requirements

Where Is the Labrador Retriever From?

Dating back to the early 1800s, the Labrador Retriever was first linked to the Canadian province of Newfoundland, despite obvious ties to the neighboring island of Labrador. The breed helped fisherman by swimming out to retrieve nets. Their “otter” tail, weather-resistant coat, and webbed toes made them expert swimmers and able to brave cold temperatures.

The breed found their way to Europe when Canadian fishermen began selling them to locals at English ports. Their patience and excellent scenting abilities allowed them to become desirable gun dogs. As more and more Labradors were imported by the English, they began to develop their own breeding programs. The Earl of Malmesbury, a well-known sportsman, dubbed the breed “Labrador Retriever” in the 19th century.

A decline in popularity occurred at the tail end of the century, caused by a halt in transportation from Canada due to quarantine laws and taxes. This inspired the cross breeding of the Labrador with the Curly-coated Retriever, Flat-coated Retriever, and Tweed Water Spaniel. The appearance of the Labrador remained relatively unchanged following cross breeding, but hunting abilities were enhanced.

In the early 1900s, the Labrador Retriever was acknowledged by the English Kennel Club. By 1917, the Labrador Retriever had arrived in the United States and was officially recognized by the American Kennel Club.

Caring for a Labrador Retriever

What Kind of Diet Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

What Kind of Diet Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

Labrador Retrievers need a diet fit for their level of activity and age group. Limiting treats and monitoring caloric intake is required, since they have a tendency to become overweight.

How Much Grooming Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

How Much Grooming Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

Labrador Retrievers require very little maintenance. The breed sheds regularly and only requires weekly brushing. Occasional baths and regular nail trimmings are all that’s needed to keep them looking their best.

They can be prone to ear infections, so it is recommended that ears are monitored closely and cleaned as needed.

Are Labrador Retrievers Healthy Dogs?

Are Labrador Retrievers Healthy Dogs?

Labrador Retrievers have been associated with several health concerns. As a hunting breed, they are prone to orthopedic issues. The first is hip dysplasia, which is a hereditary malformation of the hip joints that can result in pain, lameness, and arthritis. Symptoms of hip dysplasia can be minimized by weight management and avoiding overexertion. Another orthopedic issue is elbow dysplasia, which stems from abnormal development of the elbow joint, and can lead to arthritis and lameness.

Skin issues have been associated with Labrador Retrievers as well. Atopy, which is related to an environmental allergy, causes skin to become itchy and can lead to lesions if left untreated. Hot spots are also a common skin infection for Labs, which are caused by bacteria and lead to itchiness and pain.

The breed typically lives for 10 to 13 years.

Labrador Retrievers are predisposed to: gastric torsion, hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, hemangiosarcoma, epilepsy, interdigital dermatitis, atopy, food allergy, mast cell tumors, perianal fistulas, lymphosarcoma, cataracts, glaucoma, lipomas, osteochondrosis, seborrhea, hot spots, diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, melanoma, ruptured cranial cruciate ligament, hypoadrenocorticism, nasal depigmentation, cutaneous histiocytoma, retinal detachment, ectropion, congenital idiopathic megaesophagus, lick granuloma, and myasthenia gravis.

How Much Training Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

How Much Training Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

Despite being smart and eager to please, Labrador Retrievers require early obedience training to rein in their exuberant nature. Consistent training as early as 6 to 8 months will help a Lab puppy grow into an obedient and loyal adult. Incorporating retrieving into training can help keep them motivated and engaged.

How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

How Much Exercise Does a Labrador Retriever Need?

Labs require regular exercise. They truly enjoy swimming and retrieving, and these activities should be incorporated in their daily fitness regimen. If they are not exercised on a regular basis, they may begin eating from the trash or exhibiting destructive behavior. The entire family should take part in their favorite activities, such as playing fetch and catching the Frisbee.

What Are the Physical Characteristics of a Labrador Retriever?

How Big Are Labrador Retrievers?
The Labrador Retriever is a strong, medium to large breed that has a weather-resistant hair coat. They have a friendly expression and a characteristic “otter” tail. Their gait should be effortless. They stand 21 1/2 to 24 1/4 inches tall. Their weight ranges from 55 – 80 pounds.
What Color Eyes Do Labrador Retrievers Have?

Eye color varies based on coat color. Yellow and black Labrador Retrievers have brown eyes, while Chocolate Labs sport brown or hazel.

Chocolate Labs are also known for their brown noses, as opposed to the black noses possessed by yellow and black Labs.

Are Labrador Retrievers Strong?
Labrador Retrievers have short, muscular bodies with well-developed chests. Their backs are sturdy and loins are moderately muscular, allowing for quick movements while on the hunt.
What Should a Lab's Tail Look Like?
A Labrador Retriever’s tail should be thick at the base and thin at the tip, bearing a slight resemblance to an otter’s tail. It is carried straight when on the hunt and may be held upright, but never curled.
Labrador Retriever Front Legs
Forelimbs are straight and toes are arched and webbed. Shoulders are sloped, well-muscled, and form a 90 degree angle with the forearms.
What Colors Are Common for Labrador Retrievers?
Labs come in three distinct colors: black, chocolate, and yellow.
Labrador Retriever Back Legs
Hindlimbs are straight, parallel, and athletic. Toes are well arched, with webbing in between. Paw pads are thick and durable.

Labrador Retriever Facts

Labradors are one of the top choices for guide and rescue work, due to their dependability, gentle temperament, and excellent scenting skills.
Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dog breed in the United States, per American Kennel Club registration statistics.
Labs love swimming, and their weather-resistant coat can keep them comfortable in harsh, subarctic waters.

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