The Labrador Retriever is one of the most widespread breeds in the world, mainly due to his remarkable friendliness, enthusiasm towards all challenges, and his very playful and cheerful personality. Docile, gentle and intelligent, he seamlessly embodies a companion dog, hunting dog and service dog all at once. He can adapt to all kinds of situations and excels in various canine disciplines, such is the extent to which he cares about pleasing his master.
Key facts about the Labrador
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Origins and history
The Labrador’s origins have much in common with those of the Newfoundland- in fact, it is tricky to clearly distinguish between both in their original, ancient forms. Many of the texts dating back to the 19th century do not differentiate between the use of ‘Newfoundland’ and ‘Labrador’ to describe dogs native to the Canadian coasts. His ancestor does seem to be the ‘St. John Dog’, which is a smaller version of the Newfoundland developed more or less simultaneously to the latter in Canada. The Cão de Castro Laboreiro has probably also contributed to the formation of the Labrador. The breed then spread like wildfire in the UK, the country which has eventually become the breed’s ‘adoptive’ parent.
FCI breed nomenclature
Group 8 - Retrievers - Flushing Dogs - Water Dogs
Section 1 : Retrievers
Physical characteristics of the Labrador
Female : Between 21 and 22 in
Male : Between 22 and 22 in
Female : Between 66 and 77 lb
Male : Between 77 and 88 lb
The coat is always a solid colour. There are chocolate-coloured Labradors (highly sought-after), also known as brown Labradors; the yellow Labrador and the black Labrador (both more common); and the rarer “white” Labrador which, in reality, is not really white but rather a pale shade of cream.
Type of coat
The coat is short.
The coat is thick, slightly coarse to the touch, without any waviness or fringes. His dense undercoat makes him resistant to challenging weather.
The eyes are brown or hazel.
The Labrador Retriever is a strong, robust, and very heavy dog. The head must be proportional to the rest of the body, well-sculpted, lean, while the cheeks not too full. The skull is wide, with a pronounced stop. The eyes are medium-sized, exuding an intelligent and good-natured expression. The ears should be neither large nor imposing: they are folded over close to the head, and set slightly to the back. The chest is ample and deep, while the ribs are well sprung (barrel-shaped). The ridge line should be straight from the shoulders right down through to the croup. The tail is one of the breed’s signatures: very thick at its base, it tapers down towards the tip. It has no fringe, but is covered in an abundant, thick and short coat, which gives it an “otter-like” appearance. The limbs are big-boned and very straight.
Good to know
All of this dog’s undeniable qualities do not mean that he is compatible with everyone. Before investing in a puppy, you must obtain as much information as possible on the breed to ensure that it corresponds to the kind of lifestyle you are able to provide.
In this vein, one thing of note is that, according to several breeders and/or owners and dog trainers, the chocolate Labrador is more prone to hyperactivity than the black or yellow one.
By the way, many believe in the existence of ‘miniature’ Labradors, but they by no means constitute an officially category- smaller individuals are quite simply accidentally smaller than the average, or the result of a Labrador crossed with another, small breed.
It goes without saying that this dog is remarkably gentle and affectionate towards members of his social group, but not only. In fact, being the extremely sociable creature that he is, he makes friends easily. As long as much care and affection is bestowed upon him, he gives (almost) everyone the benefit of the doubt!
This is one of the most friendly, playful and jovial dogs in the world. Notwithstanding his excellent working aptitudes, his mind is usually only set on having fun… and being happy. He is a potent, natural anti-depressant.
This dog adapts to and is dependant on his owners’ mood. His personality will in fact be determined by the way he has been reared.
For example, if his owner is rather calm, trusting and fair in the training he implements, and if he meets the dog’s needs with respect, the Retriever will have no problem being calm when necessary.
As is the case of all Retrievers, he is a tireless worker- very gentle and easy to train. Even if he has been incredibly popular as a companion dog for many years now, he is also a perfect assistant to hunters, and the go-to choice for a service dog.
Particularly skilled in retrieving wild game, this dog can just as well keep his owner’s company during hunting expeditions as he can take part in Retriever competitions or challenges that address his natural instinct. At any rate, you may engage him in retrieving and fetching activities.
Fearful / wary of strangers
Never aggressive, this dog is extremely friendly, even towards strangers. He welcomes them with open arms, which could even be problematic at times (in the case of intruders, for instance).
The Lab, as one might prefer to call him, is born to please his master. This is his number one priority, and this sense, he is very dependent on his owner.
Behaviour of the Labrador
Very attached to members of his social group, being alone is not this dog’s ideal predicament. He can, however, tolerate solitude if he has been exposed to his owners’ short absences from a young age, and if he is provided with activities that can keep him occupied during said absences.
Easy to train / obedience
Though it is true that the Labrador pup’s energy is particularly difficult to channel at times, once an adult, he is a very pleasant dog to work with.
Some basic dog-training and discipline must of course be implemented early on, but this remains relatively easy. Do not forget that he is ‘made to serve’, after all, and it is not in vain that he is considered the go-to choice for a guide dog to the blind.
In order for the training methods to really be productive and to ensure best results, they must rely on playfulness and games.
This dog barks, but within moderation… Save for when he is left in the garden for too long with no way of getting back inside.
Tendency to run away
He can be a ‘runaway dog’ if his needs for exercise have not been fully satisfied or if an interesting trail beckons to him. You must indeed never forget that he is, by nature, an unmatched prey retriever.
He can quickly turn the household topsy turvy if left alone for too long or if he does not receive the amount of attention and care he merits.
Greedy / Gluttony
This dog is a real ‘gorger’! He could spend his days eating without an end in sight. It is therefore key to supervise his consumption in order to prevent obesity.
Very friendly, even with strangers, he is not his species’ best watchdog. Given how attached he is to his family, however, he could transform into a deterrent if he feels they are in danger- but never to the point of staging an attack or becoming aggressive.
This breed is often chosen for a first adoption. It is a particularly popular choice for families wishing to have a dog that is playful with children, kind towards guests, and active enough to go for a run with.
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Labrador in a flat
He can, in theory, live in a flat, but when still young… well- let’s see if the flat can handle the puppy stage! Once an adult, he does become slightly calmer, but his natural and tireless ‘joie de vivre’ rather tips the balance towards a house with a garden.
Having said this, whether he resides inside or outside most of the time, he still requires daily walks that will allow him to fully deplete his stores of energy and keep him content.
Need for exercise / Sporty
You should never forget that the Retriever is first and foremost a work dog. He truly is an excellent asset to any hunter. And even if he is more commonly used as a companion dog these days, you must never see him as a simple lapdog.
He needs to be stimulated physically, mentally, and socially, and his sense must be put to use from time to time, if he is to remain fully content.
What’s more, this breed can take up the practice of many, more or less demanding canine sports such as: cani-cross, dog hiking, agility, musical freestyle, trick learning, hunting, trailing, etc.
Travelling / easy to transport
Since he is very sociable, it is only the Lab’s size that could potentially inconvenience travel. Otherwise, the Labrador is indeed known for his seamless adaptability to many situations, as long as he has been properly trained and socialised from a young age.
Labrador and cats
Even though the breed’s predatory instinct is quite pronounced in certain individuals, it remains quite ‘easy’ to rein in. Cohabitating with a cat is therefore generally unproblematic, and especially so if the Labrador pup has been habituated to the cat’s presence from a young age.
Labrador and dogs
Nothing is more priceless than a proper, precocious socialisation, which will serve to bring out this dog’s inborn affection, as he adores playing with fellow dogs. He would actually be more than happy to share his home with another dog, if their introduction takes place in due time and in positive circumstances.
Labrador and children
This dog is absolutely harmless to relatively grown children, but can inadvertently be a little rough with the littlest ones on account of his significant strength, which he is not always fully aware of. You will have to ensure that the children be versed in dealing with dogs to ensure that both sides to live together in perfect harmony.
Labrador and the elderly
Even though he can adapt to many situations, a sedentary lifestyle is not at all compatible with this active and playful dog that requires a lot of attention and exercises to feel good in his skin.
The price of a Labrador varies depending on its origins, age, and sex. You have to count an average of £780 for dogs subscribed to the Kennel Club.
With regards to the monthly budget required to meet the needs of a dog of this size, you have to estimate an average of £45 per month.
The maintenance of this dog is nothing if not easy. His short and dense coat does not require particular maintenance, other than regular brushes that will preserve its cleanliness and beauty.
Since this dog loves the water, you will have to dry him thoroughly after every swim. His slightly pendant ears will also need to be closely monitored and cleaned regularly.
The Retriever does experience significant hair loss, it is therefore recommended that he’s brushed once a week to keep this issue under control. What’s more, brushes will have to be daily during moulting seasons.
Nutrition of the Labrador
This walking ‘vacuum cleaner’ could eat anything and everything- it is actually his biggest vice, since it often leads to weight-related complications. One must therefore be very vigilant when it comes to his nutrition.
Whether it be dry (kibbles), raw (B.A.R.F) or cooked (homemade) food, it is important to carefully select high-quality products and completely bar self-service. Meals must be provided at fixed times, with one lighter meal in the morning, and a more substantial one in the evening.
Warning: this active dog must remain at rest before and after his meal (for at least one hour) in order to avoid the risk of gastric torsion, which could be fatal.
Health of the Labrador
Life expectancy is 12 years on average.
Strong / robust
This breed is all in all quite robust, but is particularly vulnerable to obesity, which could entail some serious health issues.
During the summer, you must avoid over-stimulating this dog physically, since he could suffer from the heat. A spot in the shade and copious amounts of water will be necessary to ensure his comfort.
His abundant undercoat endows him not only with an impressive resistance to challenging weather, but is also waterproof (and thankfully so, since the Lab loves the water!).
Tendency to put on weight
Warning: this dog is incredibly gluttonous, and prone to obesity! You must above all else make sure that he has a balanced diet and gets plenty of exercise.
Frequently asked questions
Can Labradors be left alone for 8 hours?
The Labrador is very attached to its owner and it wouldn't be ideal to leave your dog alone for a long period of time. If your Labrador has been trained from a young age to be left along for a few hours, it should be fine, but ideally, your dog shouldn't be left alone for more than 6 hours. If your Labrador Retriever lives alone most of the time, he might develop bad habits such as barking or chewing.
Find out more about how long you can leave a dog alone.
Do Labs like to cuddle?
Yes, Labradors love to cuddle! This dog breed is very affectionate and loves to spend time with its owner. Cuddling, playing and training your dog is a great way to bond with him.
Looking for another breed who loves to cuddle? Check out this list.
How long do Labs sleep for?
Labrador dogs sleep between 12 to 14 hours a day. Make sure your dog has a comfy bed to sleep in and a cosy spot where his bed his.
Is a Labrador a good family dog?
Labradors make fantastic family pets. They love children and can be very affectionate. They are boisterous when they’re young though, so always supervise interactions between your pet and your kids.
Here are some tips on ensuring safe interactions between dogs and children.
How dangerous are Labradors?
Labradors have become so popular that unscrupulous breeders have recklessly started breeding dogs that are more aggressive than they should be. Labradors are quite mouthy to begin with, regardless of whether they come from a reputable breeder or not, so they have been linked to quite a few bite cases in recent years. To ensure this does not concern your dog, make sure you purchase your puppy from a reputable breeder and put lots of effort into properly socialising and training your puppy from an early age.