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BREED SPOTLIGHT: Labrador Retriever

The most popular AKC breed in America, the lab is known for being a friendly and active dog good for both families and sporting.

History of the Labrador Retriever

The Labrador Retriever, commonly known as the lab, originated from Newfoundland, Canada in the early 1800's from the St. John's water dog. The lab was initially an all-purpose water dog that helped fishermen who worked in the Labrador Sea, from which the dog's name derives. The dogs were used for retrieving nets, pulling small boats, and catching fish in the icy sea.

The original breed eventually died out in Newfoundland due to a dog tax, but traders and explorers had fortunately brought Labradors to England in the 1820's and its from there that the modern-day breed became established. In England, Labradors were favored with the gentry and became beloved hunting companions, particularly excelling in retrieving waterfowl.

Traits of the Labrador Retriever


Labradors are a playful dog with lots of energy. They require daily exercise to stay out of trouble. They particularly enjoy swimming and retrieving activities.


Labradors are usually friendly all the way around. They do well with other dogs and children. While they're good watchdogs, they are friendly to strangers and so make a better greeter than protector.


Labradors are very obedient to their owners, making them one of the most popular service dogs. They serve as guide dogs, therapy dogs, search and rescue dogs, and narcotics dogs. They require firm obedience training when they are young in order to avoid problem behaviors.

Visual Characteristics of a Lab

Labs are considered a large build dog. Males reach an average of 23 inches high and weigh between 65 and 80 pounds. Females are on average 22 inches high and weigh between 55 and 70 pounds.

Traditionally, black labs were favored as the breed standard, but chocolate and yellow labs have grown in favor with owners.

The Labrador has a strong, blocky or slightly elongated build. English Labradors have a blockier head and muzzle, with a stockier build, while American labs have a more elongated muzzle and longer legs.

Labs have webbed feet that assist their capability as a swimmer. They also have a waterproof coat that sheds water.

Labrador Retriever

Medical Issues of a Labrador

Labradors suffer the health problems of an athlete. They're prone to hip and elbow dysplasia, particularly as they age. They're also susceptible to an eye disease that can leave them blind as puppies. Many breeders have their breeding stock checked for these diseases and provide certification of their puppies.

Labs are also prone to obesity, and you and your vet should watch their diets and weight closely.

The Breed for You?

Their friendly, even-tempered disposition makes the lab an ideal dog for many situations including families with small children, those who already have other dogs, and those who want to use their dog for service work, such as therapy.

They make great hunting companions, as that's what they're bred to do.

These dogs are excellent choices for those who live in colder climates. They do well in temperate climates as well, and are somewhat tolerant of heat.

They're generally low-maintenance dogs when it comes to grooming - their coat needs to be brushed weekly and they shed seasonally. You may end up giving your dog a considerable number of baths though since they'll jump in any pond they come across.

Bred for athletic activity, the Labrador does require daily exercise. They aren't the kind of dog that can stay inside all day without getting into trouble.

Considering the Labrador’s energetic nature and need to get out and run, you may want to think about an electronic dog fence to keep them on your property and out of harm’s way.

Learn more about different breeds, training tips and more by visiting our Smarty Pets blog and knowledge center, or feel free to contact us with help in finding the right accessories for your best friend.