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Labrador Retriever

Nicole Cosgrove

June 21, 2021

Labrador Retrievers_Shutterstock_Tina Rencelj

The Labrador Retriever is not just America’s most popular dog. It is also very popular in countries such as England, New Zealand, Australia and Canada. But as well as being the most favored family dog it is also one of the best working dogs and can be found in many different fields.

The Labrador Retriever is a companion and a working dog still. It will need to be kept active and given mental stimulation as well as physical for it to be happy. It can take on various roles and loves the water. It is a loyal and devoted companion that is not naturally aggressive, but does still need early socialization and training. It has a wonderful personality and is great with children. It is easy to see why it has been the Number One dog for so many years.

Here is the Labrador Retriever at a Glance
Name Labrador Retriever
Other Names Black Labrador Retriever, Yellow Labrador Retriever, Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Silver Labrador Retriever
Nicknames Lab
Origin Canada
Average size Large
Average weight 55 to 75 pounds
Average height 21 to 24 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Coat type Double, short, smooth
Hypoallergenic No
Color Chocolate, black, yellow, gray
Popularity Very high – number 1 according to the AKC!
Intelligence Very high – it is known to be one of the smartest dogs
Tolerance to heat Good – can handle some heat but nothing extreme
Tolerance to cold Good – can handle some cold but nothing extreme
Shedding High – Labs are known to shed a lot so hair will be around the home and on clothing
Drooling Average – While there is some drooling it is not excessive
Obesity Prone to obesity – food and exercise need to be monitored
Grooming/brushing Moderate to high – daily brushing and care is needed
Barking Occasional to frequent – will bark fairly often so keep that in mind if you have neighbors that like the quiet
Exercise needs High – Labs need owners who are active themselves
Trainability Easy to train – eager to please and smart
Friendliness Very friendly – gets on extremely well with everyone
Good first dog Average – while it is easy to train it has a lot of needs in terms of grooming and exercise
Good family pet Excellent – A great family dog which is why it is so popular
Good with children Excellent – Affectionate and playful with them
Good with other dogs Very good to excellent – Socialization helps
Good with other pets Very good to excellent – Socialization helps
Good with strangers Excellent – Strangers are new best friends!
Good apartment dog No – Needs space, too energetic and big for a small living area
Handles alone time well Low – Prefers to be around people
Health issues Some – Labs have several health issues they can be prone to
Medical expenses $260 annual average
Food expenses $235 annual average
Miscellaneous expenses $475 (includes health insurance, training, toys and treats)
Average annual expense $970
Cost to purchase $1200
Biting Statistics Attacks: 56 Maimings: 45 Child victims: 37 Deaths: 3

The Labrador Retriever’s Beginnings

The origins of the Labrador Retriever start in Newfoundland, Canada back in the 1700s. It was known as St. John’s, named for the capital city and it was a popular dog with local fishermen. They were bred to offer companionship as well as being very successful working dogs. They helped to tow in lines and retrieve escaped fish.

It is not known which dogs were used in its breeding. Some believe in the mix are the Newfoundland dog along with other smaller local dogs. The first written account that refers to the St.Johns was by an explorer, W.E. Cormack who noted how well trained they were and how good at retrieving. In the early 1800s it was taken back to England to retrieve animals in hunting. One of the first nobles to use them was the second Earl of Malmesbury around 1830. It was the third Earl who was first to call them Labradors.

By the 1880s in Newfoundland they were extinct due to restrictions by the government and taxing. At the time families were now only allowed to keep one dog and if you had a female that was a higher amount of tax to pay. This led to females being culled from litters and the extinction of the breed in its home land.

New Lease on Life

In England it not only survived, it thrived. In 1903 the Labrador Retriever was accepted as a breed by the Kennel Club. In 1917 the American Kennel Club did the same. The breed became established in America in the 1920s and 1930s. It became more popular after WWII and by 1991 was America’s most popular dog.

Today Labs can be found around the world making excellent companions, as well as great working dogs. They can be found in search and rescue, assisting those with special needs, retrievers for hunters, Drug detection, explosive detection and more. They also perform well in dog shows from obedience and agility to show and field.

The Dog You See Today

Nowadays there are two types of Labs, the American and the English, and each have a different appearance. English Labs are thicker and heavier than American Labs who are lanky and tall. The body is just a little longer than tall with a double coat that is short, smooth, straight, water resistant and easy to groom. The Labs’ colors are chocolate, solid black or yellow. The AKC refer to a rare color of silver or gray as a shade of chocolate, and this color comes with some controversy as some believe it be a true mutation and others from a Wiemaraner cross.

It has a broad head with a thick nose that is black on black and yellow Labs and brown on chocolate labs. The muzzle is quite wide and the teeth meet in a level bite with a wide and strong neck. Eyes are set apart and medium sized with colors of brown with black eye rims in yellow and black labs and hazel or brown with brown eye rims in chocolate labs. A less common eye color is green or yellowy green. The rare silver dogs usually have gray eyes.

Ears are also medium in size, shaped like a pendant and hang down. They have an otter tail that at its base is thicker and then tapers to the tip. There is no feathering on the tail. Lab’s feet are compact with webbing to help them swim, and they are very strong.

The Inner Labrador Retriever


Labs make excellent pets because they are exceptionally loyal, trustworthy and affectionate. They are also one of the breeds who are able to live in a house with other animals and children with no problems. But as well as being a great family dog Labrador Retrievers are also great as working dogs thanks to their intelligence and superior sense of smell. They are very trainable and work well as service dogs, narcotic detectors, police work, therapy, field trials and so on. Labs are also great swimmers which is part of the reason why they are used as rescue dogs. And they still have their retrieving skills working with anglers and hunters.

It is important to train and socialize them from an early age and to make sure they get physical and mental exercise each day as when left alone for long periods they can become destructive.

Living with a Labrador Retriever

Training needs

People sometimes think training is not needed with Labs but this is not the case. Labs have a good reputation because of dogs that have been trained from a young age. Without that training adult Labs can be rowdy and large and difficult to manage. Thankfully training is something they love, they are intelligent and quick and they excel at it.

When your Labrador Retriever is a puppy put it in training to learn good manners and how to interact with other people and dogs. Positive training methods are best rather than ones that use punishments. Do not let the puppy train or run on hard surfaces as its joints are not ready. After the age of two it is fine but before that stick to grass.

Retrievers like to retrieve so let it carry something in its mouth! They also like to chew so make sure it has toys to rotate through so it does not move on to your furniture or belongings. When you leave the house Labs usually do better in a crate, kennel or small area so it does not get tempted to chew something it will get into trouble for.

How active is this dog?

Labs need plenty of exercise, and as long as they get it they can live well in larger houses or apartments. Having access to an average sized yard is ideal though. They love to play and work hard. Make sure you train them to heel otherwise they will see themselves as the leader. Labs gain weight easily so regular daily exercise is an important part of managing that. If you do not give him enough exercise he will likely act out. 30 minute walks each day, jogging with you or alongside as you ride a bike, fetch, a dog park are all good. Do not over work your puppy, they should have just a few minutes at a time. Labs are workaholics who will exhaust themselves to play and train.

Caring for the Labrador Retriever

Grooming needs

There are two layers to a Lab’s coat, the soft undercoat that is weather resistant and the thick, short, straight topcoat. This helps to protect it from wet and cold weather which it would need as a retriever for hunting. Grooming is an easy process just brush it every day but be prepared for shedding. Labs do shed a lot. You may need a vacuum cleaner specifically geared towards it.

Every couple of months you will need to give your dog a bath, unless it takes a roll in a muddy puddle in which case do it sooner! Keep the teeth clean with brushing to prevent the tartar from building up which causes bad doggy breath and gum disease. At least twice a week is good.

The nails need to be trimmed at least once a month, sometimes twice if they are not wearing down naturally. Clicking on the floor is a sign they are too long. This will save your furniture and yourself from being scratched. Make sure you check the ears each week for signs of infection. To keep them clean give them a wipe with a gentle ear cleaner using a cotton ball. Do not push anything down the ear canal. Ear infections are a common problem with this breed so take care of them after your dog gets wet, whether from rain, swimming or a bath.

Feeding time

Labs should get two meals a day about 1.25 to 1.5 cups of dry food per meal (depending on weight, size and activity levels). Make it high quality to better nourish it. Make sure you do not overfeed, as mentioned they gain weight easily. For that reason do not leave food out all day, just two meals.

Lab puppies between four and seven months are more prone to bone disorders because of rapid growth so make sure it is on a low calorie diet that is high quality.

How are Labs with other pets and children?

The Lab makes a great dog to have in a home with children, it enjoys the energy they bring and loves to play. It will need socialization from a young age and will need training to know how to act, as the children will need to know how to act around it. Make sure they know how to approach and touch it and that things like biting or tail pulling is not acceptable. Supervise younger children. With the right amount of exposure a Lab can also be accepting of other pets too like cats, and can even be friendly to them.

What Might Go Wrong?

Health Concerns

As with any breed there are some health problems they can be more prone to, though as a whole they are a healthy dog. Health issues common to labs include eye problems, Cold Tail, Joint Dysplasia, OCD, Ear infections, Skin problems, Epilepsy, Bloat and TVD.

Biting Statistics

When looking at reports of dog attacks on people over the last 34 years the Labrador Retriever can be found to have been involved in 56 attacks. Of those 45 were maimings, meaning the victim ended up with permanent scarring, loss of limb and disfigurement. 37 victims are known to have been children and there have been 3 deaths. This means despite being the number one dog this dog averages at about 2 attacks per year.

Any dog can become aggressive and bite given certain conditions and situations. Training, early socialization, being raised well in the right environment are all key to seeing the dog be the best it can be.

Your Pup’s Price Tag

Prices can very depending on where you are and the kind of breeder you buy from. You may be able to find one for $700. You also may end up paying closer $1800. Should you opt to go for a rescue that will lower the price of course. In that case it could be more like $200 which will also cover some initial medical costs. In most cases rescue dogs are more likely to be older dogs too.

When you have your Lab you will need to have some initial medical work done. It will need neutering or spaying which will cost around $220. You will have to ensure it receives its shots and has a general check up that includes blood tests by the vet. This will cost about $70. You should also decide whether you are going to handle medical emergencies by creating a savings account for it, or taking pet insurance on it. Depending on the coverage you opt for this would be about $225 a year.

You will also need some basics like toys, a collar and leash, a crate and get a license for it. These come to another $210. Remember that license will be an annual cost.

No matter the reputation or size of the dog you get, always factor in time and costs for obedience training and early socialization. If you do not have the experience or skills for it you will need to hire a school or trainer to help you. Initial costs can be $120 but that can go up.

Finally there is the food. Labs are large dogs and eat a fair bit. A year of good quality dry dog food will cost about $235. Factor in treats for training rewards and well the occasional treat! These come to another $30 a year or more.

Overall adding up all of those costs you can expect to pay initial costs of $450. Annual costs will start from $970.


Looking for a Labrador Retriever Puppy Name? Let select one from our list!

Popular Labrador Retriever Mixes

Golden Labrador Retriever
Golden Labrador Retriever
Golden Retriever and Labrador Retriever Mix
General Information
Size Large
Weight 60 to 80 pounds
Height 22 to 24 inches
Life span 10 to 15 years
Touchiness Low
Barking Low
Activity Fairly high
Breed Traits

Good Family Pet



German Shorthaired Lab
German Shorthaired Lab
German Shorthaired Pointer Lab Mix
General Information
Size Large
Weight 55 to 80 pounds
Height about 28 inches
Life span 10 to 14 years
Touchiness Low to moderate
Barking Average
Activity Very active
Breed Traits




Boxer Lab Mix
General Information
Size Large
Weight 50 – 110 pounds
Height 23 – 25 inches
Life span 12 – 15 years
Touchiness Moderate
Barking Low
Activity High
Breed Traits

Eager to please
Good Family Pet



Border Collie Lab Mix
General Information
Size Medium to large
Weight 34 to 88 pounds
Height Up to 17 inches
Life span 12 to 15 years
Touchiness Moderate
Barking Low
Activity High
Breed Traits

Good Family Pet
Curious nature
Eager to please



American Bullador
American Bullador
American Bulldog Lab Mix
General Information
Size Medium to large
Weight 55 to 100 pounds
Height Upto 25 inches
Life span 10 to 12 years
Touchiness Not sensitive
Barking Rare barker
Activity Moderate
Breed Traits

Attention seeking
Eager to please



Featured Image Credit: Tina Rencelj, Shutterstock

Nicole Cosgrove

Nicole is the proud mom of Baby, a Burmese cat and Rosa, a New Zealand Huntaway. A Canadian expat, Nicole now lives on a lush forest property with her Kiwi husband in New Zealand. She has a strong love for all animals of all shapes and sizes (and particularly loves a good interspecies friendship) and wants to share her animal knowledge and other experts' knowledge with pet lovers across the globe.

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