Labrador Retrievers are the most popular dogs in the United States.
If you’re curious about the breed and interested in learning more about them, we’re going to tell you some great reasons to love Labs!
Are you considering getting a Labrador Retriever? A little unsure if this is the best breed of dog for you?
We’re going to help you make that decision with this quick overview of the Labrador Retriever.
Labradors have many wonderful qualities that make them such a popular choice for dog lovers.
But even though they’re an extremely popular choice, they’re not always the easiest dogs to have.
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There are several important things to know if you’re researching Labrador Retrievers as a possible candidate for the best dog for your lifestyle.
As with any breed of dog, it’s a good idea to do some basic research so you have realistic expectations of what you’re committing to.
We’re going to give you a quick introduction to the basics of Labrador Retrievers, including history, common traits, health information, and other details to help you get to know these fantastic dogs.
If you’re new to the world of Labradors or looking to make a decision about whether these might be the dogs for you, start here by exploring the basics about this amazing breed of dogs!
History of Labrador Retrievers
Labs are believed to have originated in the northern Canadian region of Newfoundland around the 1600-1700s.
Their ancestors are believed to have come from a type of dog called the St. John’s Dog, which became popular for traits such as skilled water abilities, retrieving, superb intelligence, and strong bond to humans.
Labrador Retrievers are smaller and with a shorter coat than the well-known other breed from that area, the Newfoundland Dog.
The very early Labrador Retrievers were then brought back to England, where they became more widely bred, refined, and popular there in the 1800 and early 1900s.
As their popularity increased, Labrador Retrievers were then also brought to the United States, where their numbers continued to rise due to their excellent skills in the field and strong bond with people.
The Labrador Retriever received breed admission into the American Kennel Club in 1917 for the first time, having already been recognized in England a few years earlier.
For the last several decades, they’ve held their status as the most popular dog in the United States.
Labrador Retrievers have been at the top of that list since 1991!
So if you’re looking for the reasons why these dogs are so popular, read on for more about the breed!
Personality & Temperament Traits of Labrador Retrievers
Labs are typically friendly, easy to train, and very bonded to people.
They are known for intelligence, energy, friendliness, and being even-tempered.
While once bred as a gun dog, these days you’ll find many of them spending their days hunting for a good spot on the sofa.
Labrador Retrievers tend to be very food-oriented, which some Labrador owners might more accurately describe as “food-obsessed.”
Love of food can make training easier initially, if you’re following some of the methods taught in more recent dog obedience school and online methods, such as Zak George’s Dog Training Revolution.
This immense attachment to food can also become a problem for Labrador Retrievers, as they may be prone to issues such as weight gain, trash can invasion, or the dreaded counter-surfing (stealing your dinner).
Labradors are intelligent, playful, and generally good family dogs when given proper socialization, training, and boundaries.
They have a soft mouth and a goofy personality. They can be clumsy and mouthy, especially when puppies.
They are excellent retrievers and skilled around water due to their amazing otter-like tail, which acts as a rudder in the water.
If you’ve been lucky enough to see a Labrador at work in the water, it’s an amazing sight to see them navigate with such precision.
Labrador Retrievers also have usually large webbed feet, which gives them an additional advantage in the water.
They have a double coat that’s excellent for repelling water and definitely will shed, so be prepared for a significant amount of fur in your home.
Not all Labs like water, though, and it’s important to properly introduce any dog to water with correct training.
Labradors excel in the field and can be superb bird and game hunting dogs, particularly with pheasant and duck.
Their coats allow them to shed water quickly and navigate through thick brush to retrieve game. Their excitability and hardy dispositions will keep them going through a long day in the field.
Three Common Colors
There are technically only three recognized official colors of the modern Labrador: black, yellow, and chocolate.
Chocolate is the least common color.
All Labradors Retrievers are usually solid colors completely. Occasionally a small patch of white, usually located on the chest, can be found but this is not as common.
Within those three major color categories, you can see a tremendous amount of variation from darker to lighter.
For example, you can have a dog that is a very dark “baker’s chocolate” color, and you might have a lighter, “milk chocolate” dog. Both are considered chocolate Labradors.
However, several other colors have become popular recently, even though they are not officially recognized as separate color categories.
You might see them mentioned in your search for Labrador puppies or rescues.
There are two additional colors you might see that are actually subsets of the yellow category.
Those colors are:
You might see breeders note those specific colors when researching them, so just be aware they fall under the “yellow” Labrador category.
Another color you might see mentioned or discussed is that of the “silver” Labrador Retriever.
There is a lot of genetic controversy involving the silver Labrador, whether or not it is purebred, and how its breeding evolved.
We love all Labradors here at Labrador Wise, and we’re not here to judge Labradors by their color.
We’re just making you aware that if you’re considering a Labrador and want to have it as a show dog in the future, the silver color is not admissible at this time.
The American Kennel Club does not recognize silver, which is why that color is not given its own specific color category. It’s also why it’s not permitted for show dogs.
If this information changes, we’ll keep you updated!
Still deciding what color Labrador is right for you? Check out this article for more information to make your decision: What Color Lab Is Best?
Weight, Size, and the Breed Standards
According to the American Kennel Club, the breed standard for height for Labs is between 21.5-24.5 inches at the shoulder, depending on whether it is male or female.
The breed standard in the UK for Labrador Retrievers is slightly shorter, at 21.5-22.5 inches.
Typical Labrador weight is between 55-80 lbs.
We’ve had Labradors closer to 100 lbs in size, without them being considered overweight.
It really is dependent upon the particular breeder and the parent Labradors, as fully-grown size is closely related to the size of the parents.
Many Labs will not fall into these exact measurements or meet all the criteria for the official breed standard.
Those criteria are set by the American Kennel Club (and its subsequent Parent Clubs for each recognized breed) for qualification as guidelines to be used in dog shows.
You can read more details about how they use the breed standard in the United States at the American Kennel Club.
If you’re not looking at showing your Labrador, as in participating in dog shows, you don’t need to obsess about whether or not your Lab is meeting all the criteria for the breed standard.
If you’re getting a Labrador primarily as a companion, or a family pet, or other reasons not related to showing dogs, there’s no reason why you are limited to only dogs that meet the breed standard.
Still, in your search for Labradors, you might see many variations in dogs and litters.
Characteristics such as head size and shape, length of the Labrador’s legs, and coloring can all vary tremendously when you’re looking at Labradors who are all considered “purebred.”
Breeders will vary in the characteristics they are breeding for.
For example, some breeders prefer to breed for certain traits, like head shape or color variation, and improvements they are aiming to achieve in the breed.
So we just want you to be aware that you might see a variety of choices when researching Labrador puppies.
It’s critical you find a reputable and ethical breeder when searching for a Labrador puppy.
If you’re looking for more information on the topic of breeders, and need to know what to look for, we have a guide to help you find the best ones.
American vs. English Labradors
Labradors have been bred over time to have slightly different traits between the United States and England.
While immensely popular in both places, you might see people refer to some types of Labs as “American Labs” and some other types as “English Labs.”
What are the differences?
American Labs are usually known for:
- Longer, thinner legs
- Taller, more athletic body shape
- Longer, thinner tail that may curve more upright
- Slimmer build overall (lanky)
English Labs are usually known for:
- Shorter legs
- Stockier chest and neck area
- “Blockier” head shape
- Thicker, wider tail
You can also find English Lab breeders in the United States, so they are not limited to Europe.
You’ll find a lot of speculation about different temperaments and personalities between American and English Labs. Some say that English Labs are more mellow, or easier to train.
Some American Labs are bred as “pointing Labs,” with specific skills for hunting related to pointing, rather than flushing, wild game.
This can be observed in their taller, lankier body shape and size, as compared to their shorter English counterparts.
You’ll also find a lot of speculation about color dictating temperament, trainability, and energy levels.
In our experience, it’s the breeding that determines temperament (as in, the temperament of the parents inherited from) and less about the color of the particular dog.
Chocolate Labs might have a reputation for being a little bit crazier than the other colors… but as chocolate is the rarest color, you are more likely to have breeders who cut corners and possibly breed dogs with issues in chocolates.
Don’t let that deter you from getting a chocolate Labrador though, as we happen to think they’re spectacular!
Just make sure, no matter what color Lab you decide on, you thoroughly do your research on the breeder you select. It will strongly influence your success in finding the right dog.
Energy Level & Activity Demands
Labradors are very active, energetic dogs. You should definitely set your expectations for a dog with high energy.
Labradors need high amounts of exercise daily. They tend to love games of fetch where they can practice their retrieving skills.
You can observe very young Labrador puppies obsessed with a game of fetch, sometimes without needing to even train for it.
A Labrador will need daily exercise and room to run. You could make this work if you have your own yard, access to a park, or another similar fenced-in area.
What happens to Labs who don’t get their energy out? It can result in the appearance of a crazy event known as the “Dog Zoomies.”
While hilarious and a little chaotic, Dog Zoomies can also cause damage or injury to your house and Labrador.
See our guide to the Dog Zoomies for more information about what causes them, and what to do about it if they occur.
Since Labrador Retrievers were originally bred to be water retrievers for hunting, they tend to absolutely love being in the water and are typically great swimmers! You might find it’s hard to keep your Lab out of the water rather than convincing them that it’s fun to get it!
Labradors can be very attached to their humans, and like other dogs, can have separation anxiety when left alone.
They can also be “power chewers,” and be destructive.
They are frequent culprits for “foreign-body” surgeries at veterinarian’s offices. Shoes, socks, toys, and money are frequent Labrador targets!
This type of surgery is very expensive and can be traumatic for your dog.
If you get a Labrador, you need to stay vigilant about puppy-proofing your home (even after the puppy stage is over).
Expected Costs of a Labrador Retriever
If you’re getting a Labrador puppy from a breeder, you can expect to pay approximately $500-$1500 (or more) initially.
These costs can be higher if you are going through a specific breeder who is breeding to a championship standard or breeding a dog coming from show-lines.
If you’re adopting a rescue Labrador Retriever, you can expect to pay adoption fees of approximately $300-$500.
These costs can vary tremendously based on where you live, so please do your research and keep in mind that these numbers are a general estimate to guide you.
Read more here about the Cost of Owning a Labrador: 9 Expenses to Consider for New Owners.
In the first year of owning a Labrador Retriever, here’s an estimate of your approximate expenses:
- Food: $600
- Veterinarian costs such as wellness visits, vaccinations & preventive medications: $1000
- Products (such as toys, crates, bowls, leashes, etc): $500
Additional optional costs might be accrued beyond those listed, such as dog obedience school, private training lessons, and doggie daycare.
Pet insurance is another area to consider the costs of. You might be surprised how expensive Labrador Retrievers are to insure, even from puppyhood.
Expect that it might run you over $100/month for pet insurance.
Vets we spoke with said that (as mentioned above) Labradors are frequent surgical candidates for ingested random items, so this may be why their costs seem so high, even as healthy puppies.
Health Conditions to Be Aware Of
Labrador Retrievers can be prone to several conditions, including those also common to other large-breed dogs.
Some conditions that Labrador Retrievers are at risk for:
- Hip/Elbow/Shoulder Dysplasia
- Progressive Retinal Atrophy
- Exercise-Induced Collapse
- Allergies (especially in chocolate Labradors)
- Foreign-body ingestion (surgery sometimes required)
It’s important to do your research on breeders if you’re getting a Labrador puppy, as some of these medical issues can be tested for before breeding certain dogs.
Breeders can obtain a “clearance” for them through a veterinarian’s testing, and provide you with some reassurance that their dogs are not at risk.
If you’re new to the world of Labrador Retrievers, we hope this overview helps you explore more about the breed and what to expect in getting one.
These amazing dogs have wonderful traits that have made them so popular for decades.
Are you ready to move forward in your search for a Labrador Retriever? Take the next step and read our article on the 5 Key Steps in Choosing a Labrador Puppy.