Labrador Retriever

Breed At A Glance


Affectionate, loyal, intelligent and patient

Life Expectancy
10-12 years

Average Height
Males 22-24 inches; Females 21-23 inches

Average Weight
Males 60-75 lbs; Females 55-70 lbs

Coat Color
Solid yellow, black, chocolate or liver

Coat Length/Texture
Short and hard, water-resistent double coat

Shedding Propensity
Consistent year round, with heavy seasonal shedding twice per year

Also known as Lab, Black Lab, Yellow Lab, Chocolate Lab, Silver Lab

General Temperament

Labrador Retrievers have gained an immense following throughout the world due to their trainability, gentle nature and happy disposition. They are extraordinarily patient and even-tempered with children and make excellent family dogs. Labs get along well with dogs and other family pets. They are fun-loving and boisterous, and enjoy active households where they get lots of time to play or work. They love to swim and will especially enjoy a home with a pool or access to a lake, stream, or beach. And of course, as retrievers, they love to simply fetch a stick. Labs can do well in an apartment as long as they get plenty of long walks or other exercise. They are big eaters, so sufficient exercise is essential to prevent obesity.

Labs are loyal and crave the attention of their family. They can sometimes become destructive if left alone for long periods, especially as puppies. If not given sufficient attention from their families, they can become wanders or diggers. Labrador Retrievers make good watchdogs, as they love to announce the arrival of visitors, but they are generally too sweet for guarding.

Labradors are well-rounded and versatile, excelling in activities ranging from field trials to search-and-rescue to service/guide work. They are intelligent and easy to train, although training should begin very early to avoid any dominance issues, and the training should be consistent from each family member. They should also be trained to not pull on a leash as they have very strong necks as adults. Labs have a soft feel to their mouths, resulting from their ancestry as a fowl-retrieving breed (so as to not destroy the game when carrying it back to hunters). In fact, they often enjoy simply carrying objects around in their mouths. They are prone to chew on household objects, although they can be trained out of this behavior; be sure to provide lots of rawhides and other chew toys.

Breed History

The Labrador Retriever found it’s origins in Newfoundland, as a cross between the St. Johns Water Dog and the Newfoundland Dog. Labs were trained as assistants to British fishermen, jumping overboard and grabbing onto the floating corks at the ends of the fishing nets, pulling them to shore. The breed made it’s way to the Poole area of England, then the hub of the Newfoundland fishing trade. There they became prized as sporting and waterfowl hunting dogs, and several breeding kennels popped up throughout the England, although they eventually died out in their native country due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine laws.

The first Labrador Retrievers were registered by the American Kennel Club in 1917, and the breed greatly increased in popularity in the U.S. from that time forward. To date, they are are the most popular breed in the U.S. by a landslide, and continue to be the most popular breed worldwide.

Body Structure and Composition

The Labrador Retriever is a solid, muscular dog, slightly longer than it is tall, with a short, hard, water-resistant double coat. They have a wide head and broad muzzle, and their medium-sized ears are pendulant and lay flat against the head. The exceptionally strong tail is often called “otter-like” and the feet are webbed, owing to the breed’s history in water-retrieval. (English-bred Labrador Retrievers are generally heavier, thicker and blockier than their American cousins.)

Medical Information

As with many of the more popular breeds, irresponsible breeding of Labrador Retrievers have lead to the perpetuation of some inherited medical conditions within this breed. Hip or Elbow Dysplasia (when the head of the bone no longer fits firmly in the “cup” provided by the socket, causing lameness and arthritis-like symptoms) are common among this breed, although not as much as in other large breeds. Labs can also experience Patellar Luxation (or “Slipped Stiffle”), a situation in which the kneelike joint above the hock in the hind leg slips and may require surgery.

Various eye abnormalities also afflict this breed, the most prominent of which are cataracts and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA). PRA is characterized by degeneration of cells of the retina later in the dog’s life, leading eventually to loss of sight. Dogs which are intended to be bred should be examined by a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye score.

Some Labs have unusually large appetites, which can lead to two potential problems: bloat (in the short term) and obesity (in the long term). Bloat occurs when the stomach becomes excessively stretched by trapped excess gas; the stomach can sometimes then become twisted, resulting in a condition called “torsion.” Bloat/torsion is an emergency situation and the dog should immediately be taken to a veterinarian. Long-term obesity can cause, or at least encourage, a host of health issues, including heart disease and diabetes. It is recommended that portion sizes be very regulated by the owner, and that the dog be fed small meals two to three times per day, possibly from a raised platform. It’s generally a good idea to not give this breed table food, to help prevent both obesity and “begging.”

Anecdotal Information

Former U.S. President Bill Clinton had Labradors named Buddy and Seamus.

A black Lab named Jake became a national canine hero after burrowing through hot, smoking debris in search of survivors in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks. Jake also helped search for Hurricane Katrina victims in 2005.

A female yellow Labrador Retriever named Madison plays the role of Vincent (a male Lab) on the television series Lost.

Considerable news coverage has been devoted to a yellow Lab named Endal, whose primary responsibility is as a service dog to Allen Parton, who suffered significant head injuries during the Gulf War, leaving him paralyzed and with little short-term memory, as well as speech, word and speed/distance difficulties. Endal’s extensive success as a service dog as well as his loyalty to his owner has won him extensive media exclaim and made him an animal ambassador for service dog related training and charities.

The first dog to appear on a United States postage stamp was a Labrador Retriever named King Buck. King Buck successfully completed 63 consecutive series in the National Championship Stake and was the National Retriever Field Trial Club champion for two successive years (in 1952 and 1953), an accomplishment that was not duplicated for nearly 40 years.

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