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Is a Labrador Retriever Right for You? Survey Results from Lab Owners

The number one most registered dog breed in the United States according to the American Kennel Club (AKC) is the Labrador retriever. We have a breed profile on the lab but the breed profile can only tell you so much. So…we really wanted to give possible lab owners a better understanding of the lab such as: are they good for families with kids? Are they aggressive? Do they shed a lot? Do they bark a lot? What are their good and bad traits.

We wrote a survey asking lab owners just these questions. Read the real answers from over 450 Lab owners. We don’t want to discourage anyone from getting a dog. But we want the right match.

Read the responses of hundreds of lab owners and find out if a lab is right for you!

Questions we asked in our survey included:

1. What type of pet or pets do you own? In our survey, 62% have dogs, 1.6% had cats, 30.5% had both dogs and cats and approximately 6% had a dog but recently lost him or her. As you can see 30.5 % of lab owners have cats!

2. Do you have a Labrador retriever at home? Over 98% answered yes and the remaining answered that they had a lab until recently.

3. How old is your lab? In our survey, 23% were less than 1 year old, 35% were 1 to 3 years old, 18% were 4 to 6 years old, 9% were 7 to 9 years old and approximately 6% were over 9 years old.

4. How much does your lab weigh (Approximately)? The majority of labs weighed 51 to 70 pounds followed by 71 to 90 pounds. More than 72% were between 51 and 90 pounds. Approximately 13% were over 90 pounds and 14% were less than 50 pounds. We believe those less than 50 pounds were growing puppies.

5. What is the gender of your lab? In the labs owners surveyed, 39% were neutered males, 37% were spayed females, 13% were intact males and approximately 11% were intact females.

6. Do you think your lab is weight proportional? More than 85% of responders believe that their lab is just right, 13% believe their lab is overweight and 1.6% thought their lab was underweight (too thin). In our experience, labs can have a tendency toward obesity.

7. Do you think a lab is a good “first pet”? (I mean the first dog for someone that has never had a dog before). Approximately 84% say, yes, the lab would make a great first pet. Approximately 16% said no, the lab would not make a good first pet. Out of the lab owners that expressed concern about a lab being a first pet, their concern stemmed around the fact that labs can be demanding requiring both substantial time and energy. Any first time dog owner needs to realize and plan for the time and exercise that a lab requires to have a good dog-owner match.

8. Do you think Labrador retrievers are good pets for senior citizens? Approximately 41% say, yes, the lab would make a good pet for senior citizens and 49 % said no, that the lab would not make a good pet for seniors. Many lab owners thought labs would be good companions and would benefit seniors by encouraging them to walk and exercise their dog. However, many lab owners had concern that a high-energy lab may be too much for some seniors and that they dog may not get the exercise they need. In general, the opinion of lab owners is that if a senior is active and willing to give them the attention and exercise they need, they would be GREAT dogs for seniors.

9. In general, do you think a Labrador retriever is a good dog for families with children? Approximately 99% answered an enthusiastic YES! Only 1% said no. Relative to other breeds we surveyed, the lab is the winner for being good with for families.

10. Do you think a Labrador retriever is good with other dogs or prefers to be alone? Approximately 93% believe that labs are good with other dogs and 7% thought they preferred to be alone.

11. Would you recommend a lab as a breed good for someone with “allergies”? More than half (53% answered that they were not sure if a lab was good for someone with allergies or not. 26% said no, and 20% said yes. Those surveyed did not seem to have a problem with allergies but did not seem to know how to answer the question because they have found that labs do shed quite a bit.

12. Is your lab good around cats? (no signs of aggression, doesn’t chase or bother) Approximately 49% said their lab was good around cats, 26% indicated that they were not sure as their dog had not been around many cats and 26% said their lab was NOT good around cats.

13. How would you describe your lab’s intelligence or trainability? Over 72% of lab owners said their lab was very smart and very trainable. An additional 24% indicated their lab was “smart” and reasonable trainable, 2.7 % said their lab was “not real smart” and < 1% said their lab was “actually pretty dumb”.

14. How would you describe the energy level of your lab? Most users, over 66% said that their lab was high energy sometimes and laid back sometimes, 27% said their lab was high energy almost all the time and approximately 7% said their dog was very laid back/low energy.

15. How would you describe your labs exercise tolerance? This question was asking, for example, his or her ability to run a long distance? Lab owners indicated that 54% had a high exercise tolerance and great ability to run long distances. Approximately 38% said they thought their lab had a moderate exercise tolerance and 8% though their dog had a low exercise tolerance.

16. Would you describe your lab as a good “watch dog”? Most lab owners think of their dogs as good watch dogs. Approximately 72% said yes, their dog was a good watch dog with 28% saying “no”, their dog was not a good watch dog.

17. How destructive is your lab? In this question, we asked specifically, does your lab destroy your furniture, shoes, garden and other items? Only 4% thought their dog was very destructive, 31% thought their labs were sometimes destructive, 36% thought their lab was rarely destructive and 30% said their lab was never destructive.

18. How does your lab handle being alone (when you go out or to work)? We asked this question to determine if this breed had “separation anxiety” issues. Approximately 9% indicated their dog was very anxious when they left and almost 12% indicated their dog would become destructive. The remaining 79% said their dog did not mind when they left and had no issues with separation.

19. If a stranger came on to your property or came up to your dog, what would your lab do? With this question, we were trying to determine the temperament and also reevaluate its overall value as a “watch dog”. Approximately 36% said their dog would wag their tail and want to play or be petted, 66% said their dog would bark and alert them to their presence, and approximately 5.6% said their dog would potentially act aggressive.

20. Has your lab ever growled or shown its teeth to you or anyone in your family? We asked if their dog had shown signs of aggression to anyone in the family. 92% indicated no – the dog had never acted aggressive and 8% said the dog had shown some signs of aggression.

21. Has your lab every bitten anyone? Over 87% of lab owner said their dog had never bitten anyone. Almost 10% said their dog had “snapped” but never bitten and 2.7% said their dog had bitten someone.

22. How would you describe your lab’s personality? In this question, we asked how they would characterize their labs personality. The most common traits were affectionate (73%), playful (69%) and very sweet (66%). Less common traits were independent and demanding. The least common traits were that their dog was anxious (8.7%), nervous (4.3%) or aggressive (2.5%). Hundreds of users filled in the blank to tell us additional terms such as smart, energetic, lovable, loyal, VERY willing to please, persistent, active, energetic, gently and a real water lover. A few indicated that their lab had fear of loud noises (such as storms or fireworks), could be stubborn, occasionally “needy”, nervous, and a few described their labs as shy or timid.

23. Have you done any obedience training with your lab? Nearly 63% of lab owner indicated that had done obedience training with their lab and 37% said they had not.

24. How would you describe the “shedding” your lab does? Lab owners answered as follows: sheds a lot (50.3%), sheds sometimes (36.6%), and doesn’t shed much (13.1%). In our experience, labs do quite a bit of shedding”.

25. Does your lab like to be brushed or combed? Most labs love to be brushed or combed (58%), and additional 39% tolerate it and only 3% hates it.

26. How does your lab handle nail trims? Approximately 20.5% of lab owners said their dog doesn’t mind their nail trims, 46% tolerate it, 18% said they hate it. The remaining 16% say they don’t know, they have never trimmed their dog’s nails.

27. Does your lab like to be dressed up (wear t-shirts or sweaters)? Most labs prefer to wear their own skin (no clothes). Only 2% indicated their dog liked to be dressed up (all the time) with an additional 23% saying their dog liked it sometimes. Approximately 75% indicated that their dog didn’t like to be dressed up.

28. How often do you think your lab needs “regular grooming”? We asked lab owners how frequently they thought their lab needed regular grooming which we defined as combing, brushing, and/or bathing. Most lab owners thought their dogs needed some attention on a weekly basis (26%), less than monthly or every couple weeks (25%), followed by monthly (21%), then few times a week (20%), and daily (8%).

29. Is your lab “fussy” about what he eats? Only 3.6% indicated their lab was very fussy, 18.4% said their dog was moderately fussy, and 78% said their lab is not fussy at all – eats anything they put down.

30. Do you give your lab treats? Most lab owners love to give their dog treats! Approximately 54.5% of lab owners said they give their dog treats all the time, 43% said occasionally, and <3% said they did not give their dog treats.

31. What do you feed your lab? Most labs are fed dry food. Nearly 60% of lab owners indicated that their lab ate premium dry dog food only; an additional 17% said they fed dry food of a consistent brand but not a premium food; and approximately 2% feed dry but changes brands often. No lab owner surveyed said they fed canned food or table scraps only. Approximately 13% of lab owner said they did a combination of canned and dry, 4% said they did an all-natural diet and the remaining 4% said they cooked for their dog.

32. How much time per day do you think a person needs to take good care of a lab? We further indicated that by care, this meant to include feeding, watering, playing, exercising, and walking their dogs. Most lab owners believe it takes 1 to 4 hours (68%) per day to properly care for a lab. The most common answer was about 1 to 2 hours (38%), followed by 2 to 4 hours/day (29%), 31 to 60 minutes (18%), more than 4 hours (11%), 16 to 30 minutes (4%) and < 15 minutes (<1%).

33. How much “barking” does your lab do? Most labs are not big “barkers”. Over 77% said their dogs didn’t bark or did only some barking. To further break it down, 52 % say their lab barks some but not a lot, 25% said their dog rarely barked, 20% said their dog did a moderate amount of barking and < 3% said their lab barked a lot.

34. How does your lab tolerate heat (high temperatures)? The lab owners responded that their labs handled the heat fine (61%) and the remaining 39% said their dog did not handle the heat well.

35. How does your lab handle cold temperatures? Labs seem to prefer the cold temperatures. Over 95% said their dogs handled the cold well with < 5% indicating that their dog has problems when it is cold.

36. Which of the following traits does your lab have? This question stemmed from users indicating to us that they DIDN”T wanted a dog with certain characteristics so we asked about some of those traits. Answer options included snoring (39%), drools a lot (12%), has substantial “gas” (19%), begs (32%), eats his own feces (6%) or has no problems (37%).

37. What is your lab’s favorite toy? Labs like to fetch! Approximately 43% of lab owners said their dogs favorite toy was a fetch toy, followed by chew toy (36%), followed closely with stuffed toy (35%) and finally a pull toy (17%). The remaining 24% indicated that their dogs favorite toys were balls (all kinds with the #1 ball being a tennis ball), squeaky toys, Frisbee, and Kong® toys with treats in it.

38. Does your lab enjoy going for car rides/traveling with you? Most labs like to go! Over 92% said their dogs like to travel with them and only 8% said they did not.

39. How much does non-medical care cost for a lab? We asked lab owners to guess at approximately how much they thought they spent on food, toys, beds, treats, grooming supplies and other non medical care per year for their lab. Only 10% thought their lab cost them less than $200.00/year. Approximately 30% estimated $200.00 to $400.00 per year, 12% estimated $400.00 to $500.00, 23% thought their lab cost them closer to $500.00 to $700.00 per year, 9.2% thought their lab cost them $700.00 to $900.00, 13.3% estimated $900.00 to $1500.00 and 3% estimated that their labs costg them over $1500.00 per year for non-medical care. To summarize, most lab owners estimated that their lab cost them in the $500.00 to $700.00 range and approximately 25% thought their labs cost them over $700.00 per year.

40. How much does medical care cost? We asked lab owners “If you had to guess, how much do you think you spend on medical care per year for your lab? (This cost includes vaccines, heartworm prevention, flea control, health problems, and emergencies). Most lab owners (40%) estimated that medical care cost them $100.00 to $300.00 per year, 26% estimated that medical care cost them $300.00 to $500.00 per year, 13% estimated that medical care cost them $500.00 to $700.00 per year, 7% estimated that medical care cost them $700.00 to $1000.00 per year, 5% estimated that medical care cost them $1000.00 to $1500.00 per year, and 3% estimated that medical care cost them more than $1500.00 per year. Only 7% estimated that medical care cost them < $100.00 per year.

41. Which of the following do you routinely give your dog? The breakdown was as follows: Heartworm prevention (84%), Flea control medications (74%), Arthritis or joint supplements (23%), Medications to treat a specific problem (18%), Vitamins (17%) and other Nutritional supplement (18%).

42. Does your lab have any medical problems? Approximately 70% said no and 30% said yes.

43. What type of medical problem does your lab have? User further expanding in question #42 and filled in their labs particular problem. The most common problems were hypothyroidism, skin allergies, arthritis, ear infections, urinary tract (bladder) infections, and cancer.

44. What do you love most about your lab? We received hundreds of responses that were wonderful. To summarize, lab owners love their dogs’ loyalty, love of life, the unconditional love they give, affection, companionship, gentleness, beauty, and…friendship.

45. What question should we have asked about labs (to help people determine if it is the right dog for them)? Several users emailed suggestions of questions we should have asked. These included – we should have asked how much space they need (they are not great for a small apartment unless they get tons of exercise). We got many responses that suggested that dog lovers looking to choose a lab really need to understand how much exercise and time they need to be happy. Another thing that lab owners didn’t feel the survey reflected is the fact that that labs are known to be late maturers and can act like a puppy and have lots of energy for a long time.

Did this survey help you? Email us. We are trying to decide if we should create these for other breeds and would appreciate your feedback.