Dog Breed Guide – Labrador Retrievers

Two black Labrador Retrievers swimming.
Labrador Retrievers (Labs) are natural-born swimmers.

Everything You Need to Know About Labrador Retrievers

Are you thinking about getting a Labrador Retriever as a pet at home? It may be important to get to know a little bit about this breed before welcoming him/her to your home, friends and family.

Below we delve deeply into this breed detailing its characteristics and exploring what makes it a popular pet in many homes.

We shall look at their physical characteristics, temperaments, predisposition to diseases and which living situations they are likely to thrive… or not!


Labrador retrievers were originally from Canada. They were used as working dogs, especially by fishermen. They would help retrieve nets as well as catch fish.

Today they are the most popular dogs in Canada, the United States as well as in the United Kingdom. They are loved due to their lovely temperaments. They also mingle well with family, friends and other dogs and pets.

They are also very athletic and require regular exercise to keep them fit. They are still termed as working dogs and often used to assist the handicapped in therapy,  as search and rescue dogs in the military, as a dog show competitor and last but not least a loyal companion.

Physical Attributes

Labrador retrievers are medium to large breed dogs. Their stature usually depends on their gender, diet, genetics and physical exercise. 

The adult male weighs approximately 63.9 –  79.4 lbs (29 to 36 kgs) while the female weighs between 55.1 – 70.5 lbs (25 to 32 kgs). They stand at a height of 21.5 to 24.5 inches (54.6 – 62.2 cm) shoulder length.

They have a medium sized head with beautiful large gleaming eyes and drop ears. They have a well sized muzzle, strong jaws coupled with 42 teeth.

They have a dense lustrous double coat that comes in the colors yellow, black and chocolate. and Their coat is straight though soft curls are usually seen along the back. The top coat of their fur is water resistant which helps to keep them warm during the cold season. It is also relatively easy to groom. They  however shed a lot and regular brushing is required. Their tail is thick, straight and tapering, always wagging indicative of their joyous personality.

They have webbed feet denoted by the extra skin found in between the paws which come in handy while swimming.

Labrador Retrievers mature fast and reach adult height between 6 to 12 months. They grow fully in width at approximately 2 years.

There body is well proportioned with the length of the leg in balance with the length of the spine. They are also quite sturdy and muscular which attributes to their athletic abilities. They can scale heights up to one meter high.

Personality and Temperament

Labradors are easy going dogs and make good family dogs. They get along with children and other pets alike. 

They are also intelligent, agile, kind, eager to please and non-aggressive.


Labradors thrive in activity – they love to work. They are quite athletic and need to be exercised as much as possible to avoid them becoming obese. They are termed as working dogs and enjoy retrieving may it be a tennis ball or a bone in the backyard!

When left alone they can be quite destructive. You may find them chewing at shoes, furniture, doors etc.  Chew toys and regular exercise usually comes in handy in such instances.


Adult Labradors should be fed at least once or twice a day.

They should however be exercised regularly as they have a tendency of becoming overweight.

One may opt to either put them on a raw diet or on dry food. This solely depends on the owners’ preference.

Kibble has been shown to be quite convenient especially in busy households. It comes in various flavors and a variety of recipes depending on your dog’s needs.

However, on the flip side, some brands contain a lot of fillers that can cause excessive flatulence and bloating in dogs. They also end up producing more poop, which is smellier compared to dogs on a raw diet. For dogs with sensitive skin or stomachs, a limited ingredient recipe is highly recommended.

A raw diet allows the owner to choose what goes into their dog’s bowl, providing a well-balanced diet. Proper hygiene, however, should be observed to prevent food contamination, which may cause serious health repercussions.

Common Health Issues

Though Labradors require very little maintenance, they are prone to some health problems. These include:

  • Joint problems: Labradors are relatively large breed dogs. As they age they may encounter joint problems such as hip and elbow dysplasia. This is usually a very painful and degenerative condition. It predisposes them to early onset of arthritis in the affected joints. Regular exercise, a well balanced nutrient rich diet and use of supplements can go a long way in preventing joint problems.
  • Bloat and obesity: Labradors require regular exercise to manage their weight. Owners should avoid overfeeding and portion their food. They are also deep-chested dogs, making them prone to bloat, which in severe cases can cause the stomach to twist on itself, a condition known as volvulus.
  • Gastric dilation and volvulus: This is the distension and twisting of the stomach on itself. It is considered a medical emergency and should be treated promptly to preserve the life of the dog. It is very common in deep chested large breed dogs especially following exercise after a heavy meal.
  • Ear infections: Their floppy large ears may have an endearing appearance but can also act as a breeding ground for bacteria, fungi and parasites. Keeping the ears clean, dry and removing excess hair can help in preventing these infections. If present, a visit to the veterinarian is advised to prevent the infection from worsening.
  • Heart diseases: Labradors are also prone to heart disease especially in old age. Owners should ensure they take their labs for regular veterinary visits for assessment. This will ensure early diagnosis and treatment.
  • Cataracts: This occurs as a result of the degeneration of the eye lens, giving it a cloudy appearance. It can occur due to old age, injury, and, in some cases, it is inherited. Cataracts can be surgically removed, and the lenses replaced.

Life Span

Labradors live up to approximately 10 to 12 years. However, chocolate Labradors have been known to have shorter lives (10 years) compared to black and yellow Labradors.

A nutrient rich balanced diet, regular exercise, use of supplements, good veterinary care and regular vaccination help to prolong their life span. Genetic disorders such hip dysplasia, injury and behavioral problems may however predispose them to premature death. 

Aggressive and anxious dogs are prone to injury and accidents. Obedience training and neutering can help in minimizing roaming and prevent some types of cancers respectively. 

It is also a known fact that large breed dogs tend to live shorter lives compared to small breed dogs. The rationale behind this has however not been determined.

Best Living Environment

Labradors are generally active, athletic and well known working dogs. They need regular exercise and stimulation owning to their high energy. With this in mind a compound to run around is most suitable for them compared to apartments. If living in an apartment, regular dog walks and house training are necessary.

They also love being around people so leaving them outside alone is a recipe for disaster due to their separation anxiety.


Labradors are among the best family dogs to keep. They are kind, playful, caring and non-aggressive. They get along quite well with people, children and other pets. 

They are very athletic and require constant stimulation and exercise. An otherwise bored Labrador can turn destructive and naughty.

They also enjoy helping out and are well known working dogs especially in search and rescue missions, therapy in handicapped persons etc.

They are however prone to certain health problems especially in their old age such as cataracts, cancer etc. that potential owners should to be aware of. Their enthusiastic zealous personalities can see them get into accidents and may need some obedience training.

Overall, these are good dogs to have at home. With a rich, nutrient-balanced diet, regular exercise, and good veterinary care, Labradors can outlive their lifespan of between 10 to 12 years.

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