Labrador Retrievers are medium-sized dogs known for their family-friendly personality and short, dense coat that comes in yellow, chocolate, and black. The weather-resistant coat is straight, although there is sometimes a slight wave down the back. The undercoat is soft and provides protection against cold and water. This breed has a distinctive "otter tail," medium eyes, and powerful jaws. Labrador Retrievers range in size from 21.5 to 24.5 inches tall at the withers and weigh 55 to 80 pounds.
They should not be left alone for long periods, as these dogs love nothing more than affection and attention from their human families.
This breed is an ideal family companion with its kind disposition, natural friendliness, and tractable nature. Labrador Retrievers are non-aggressive, outgoing, eager to please, and intelligent, and they get along with both people and other animals. They do require daily exercise, though, and can be a bit rambunctious as puppies. Additionally, they tend to eat everything they see, including socks, rocks, and other non-food items.
Hailing from Canada, the family-friendly Labrador Retriever has long been the most popular breed of dog in America, according to AKC® registration statistics. These dogs are beloved for their easy-going personality and trainability and are owned by millions in the United States.
Labrador Retrievers truly deserve their popularity. They are amiable, devoted, obedient, and affectionate, and they are great with children and other pets. These dogs are calm when inside the house, playful when outdoors, and intense in the field. They love learning new things, spending time with their families, and swimming, and they are sociable dogs that can make friends anywhere.
Labradors need plenty of daily physical and mental exercise to control their natural energy and keep them healthy and happy. Retrieving and swimming are always huge hits with this breed, but they also enjoy long walks, playtime in the yard, and games of fetch. They should not be left alone for long periods, as these dogs love nothing more than affection and attention from their human families. Additionally, they may act out when left alone or become listless or depressed. The breed is not territorial, aggressive, whiny, or generally destructive.
Despite their strong build and loud bark, this breed does not make the best guard dog, and these dogs tend to be friendly with everyone they meet. They should not be relied on to protect home or property. They are instinctively alert, however, and the breed has a great sense of smell. They may bark to alert their family to approaching company.
Labrador Retrievers are known to suffer from several health conditions that can negatively affect length or quality of life, including congenital hip dysplasia, muscular dystrophy, elbow dysplasia, and diabetes. Gastric torsion is another serious concern that can be fatal without emergency treatment, and the breed is prone to retinal dysplasia/skeletal dwarfism, OCD, pyotraumatic dermatitis, and exercise-induced collapse, an abnormality of the muscles that affects the breed's movement and strength. Heart disease, panosteitis, epilepsy, allergies, and osteochondrosis are other problems known to affect Labrador Retrievers.
Ear infections and eye disorders are also somewhat common in Labradors, with the breed being at increased risk for developing entropion, cataracts, distichiasis, and progressive retinal atrophy. Additionally, the breed has a tendency to overeat and may become obese. Because obesity is associated with increased risk of many serious health problems, including arthritis, heart disease, and certain cancers, care must be taken to monitor the Labrador's intake of food and to ensure they get plenty of exercise.
With routine veterinary care, attention to weight management, and timely vaccinations, Labrador Retrievers can live happy, active lives for up to 13 years.
Naturally obedient and patient, Labradors are easy to train. The breed is very eager to please and is intelligent enough to learn commands easily and quickly. Socialization is important throughout life, but this breed is naturally sociable and outgoing and is not normally timid or aggressive.
During their first few years of life, Labrador Retrievers tend to be very active and unintentionally destructive, despite the breed's reputation for calmness. During this extended adolescence, Labradors may chew or swallow everything in sight, including rocks, dolls, pieces of shoes, small balls, and other items. This can be very dangerous, and it is not uncommon for these dogs to require surgery at some point to remove an inedible item. Additionally, food must be kept out of the Labrador's reach at all times or it will instantly be gobbled up. This breed is known for swiping food from tables and counters, and sometimes even out of its owner's hand. This behavior must be dealt with in training to prevent injury and obesity.
The high-energy needs of the Labrador Retriever can cause these dogs to go stir-crazy without daily exercise. Their energy combined with a healthy dose of curiosity may result in the breed jumping fences and running away from home. It is wise to keep tags updated and consider microchipping these dogs for their own safety.
Labrador Retrievers do not require a significant amount of grooming, and their coats are fairly easy to care for, but they do tend to shed a lot. These dogs should be brushed every couple of days with a rubber curry brush or wire slicker brush to prevent loose hair from accumulating along baseboards and floating down hallways. Fortunately, these dogs generally like being brushed and are appreciative of the grooming process.
Bathing is rarely necessary, especially if the Labrador has the opportunity to go swimming on occasion, but it is important to rinse these dogs after they spend time in pools, saltwater, or lakes. Leaving salt, chlorine, or algae on the coat and skin can cause dryness, irritation, and other problems. After swimming, it is essential to dry the ears thoroughly to prevent infection.
The nails should be trimmed every few weeks or as needed, and the Labrador's teeth need daily brushing with a canine toothbrush and toothpaste to prevent periodontal disease and tooth loss. Also, the ears should be checked about once weekly for excess ear wax or signs of infection, and then cleaned with a veterinarian-approved otic cleanser.
The Labrador Retriever was named in 1887 by an English breeder and hunter, the Earl of Malmesbury. The breed's name leads many to mistakenly believe it hails from Labrador, the mainland portion of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada. However, the breed actually originated on the island of Newfoundland, which is separated from Labrador by the Strait of Belle Isle.
Labrador Retrievers originally worked alongside fishermen, helping with nets and catching fish that escaped from the fishing lines. It was not until the breed was crossed with spaniels, setters, and other retriever breeds that the Labrador became truly skilled as a retriever. After this crossing, the breed was used primarily as a retriever of game, but it very quickly became known for its stable temperament and trainability.
The breed excels in the role of guide dog and is very popular with narcotics detection and search-and-rescue organizations. In the United States, Labrador Retrievers are extremely popular family pets. In fact, they are the most popular of all dog breeds.
The American Kennel Club officially recognized the Labrador Retriever in 1917.