Should I buy a male or female Labrador?

When I was buying my first Lab, I had a hard time deciding whether to get a male or a female one. I ended up buying both after some months, but along the way, I discovered they had significant differences. In this post, I share some of what I learned. 

Read on to learn their real differences before you buy:

The difference in official breed standards

The American Kennel Club (AKC) publishes the general specifications in height and weight for both breeds. These characteristics offer the initial face-value differences you will spot. The given details are for show dogs. They are the known standard when it comes to breeding and enrolling your pooch on pet shows.


A full-grown adult male Labrador is expected to weigh between 65 lbs and 80 lbs. On the other hand, a fully grown adult female Labrador is expected to weigh between 55 lbs and 70 lbs. This proves that male labs are heavier than female ones. This is except for when the male one is overweight, or the female is pregnant. In these two scenarios, the weight range varies.

When choosing a lab for kids and the seniors, a female lab is more preferable. The female will be less likely to overpower the owners with its weight in comparison to the male Lab.


American Kennel Club (AKC) records male Labradors to grow to a height of between 22.5 inches and 24.5 inches at the withers. Female Labradors tend to be shorter. They grow to a height of between 21.5 inches and 23.5 inches.

Life expectancy differences

Labrador retrievers have a long lifespan in comparison to other dog breeds. They averagely live to 12 years. In other but rare cases, labs can live longer, clocking over twenty years. This buddy for keeps needs special attention in the senior years. Whether male or female, old age comes with its sets of challenges for both. Diseases like cancer, arthritis, and hip dysplasia affect all the sexes. Both are also prone to their back legs giving out.

Based on this characteristic, the female Lab is considered vulnerable. It is predisposed to disease, especially if not sprayed. Giving birth to puppies can go wrong, and you may lose your beloved pooch in the process.

Differences in personality

Showing Affection

You know that labs are eager to please their owners. One of the most probable top reasons you decided to settle for this dog breed. Males tend to be more affectionate than females. Many dog owners record their females as the type that wants you to work for their affection. Your male, on the other hand, will willingly pour out an overflow of love. You will notice them want to lie on your feet often as their female counterparts would rather be on their mat. 

Showing Aggression

Labradors are not considered as aggressive dogs apart from in certain circumstances. When female labs show aggression, it will be towards other female dogs. They are territorial when protecting their litters and moody sometimes. Male labs show aggression when things like their toys, beds, or mats are at stake. It is well-advised for you if adding another lab into your home to add a male if you already have one. Two males can live more harmoniously than two females.

How they attach to their owners

Giving love is normal for the male Lab, while females tend to want it given to them. A female lab will need some time before they decide to give you unlimited attention. When you first bring the dog home, a male lab is more likely to get accustomed to the family fast. Females may take up to a month before revealing their true personalities.

Showing independence

Female Labradors are considered to exhibit more independence in comparison to the male. Since the males show more affection, you will spot it wants to follow you around a lot. The female is a bit more reserved, but generally, Labs are social dogs. However, do not be discouraged by this. Labs can still be left alone, for example, when you leave for work. You can learn some tips on how to leave your Lab alone here

Physiological differences 

The physiological differences come in, especially for dogs that are not neutered. As a responsible doggy parent, you should decide whether and when to neuter or not. Vets recommend that you do it after the 2-year mark. In many cases, however, it is done in the sixth month. 

Female Labs and hormones

Female labs mature faster than male labs. They get to be on heat twice a year. Between 7 months and their first year birthday, your female Lab can get on heat. This period comes with the following changes;

  • A definite shift in mood. You will notice your Lab being constantly moody.
  • Oozing discharge at the reproductive organs
  • Swollen mammary glands
  • Frequent urination
  • Thirst

Male dogs start coming to your compound. This is because they can sense and follow the smell of the discharge.

These changes come at a disadvantage to you. Your Lab will forget all the rules of potty training you ever instilled. Your carpet and floors will also have the discharge. If not bred, your dog can also have false pregnancies, which last up to three months after the Lab is on heat. This is a long period to have your dog exhibit all sorts of bizarre behavior.

If you are not ready for doggy tantrums, choosing to spray your female is a great idea. Spraying is more expensive than castration since it involves removing the uterus. Also, your female Lab may not bounce back fast after the procedure as the male. If you do not want a litter on top of the high vet costs of pregnancy and healing, then a female lab is not the choice for you.

Male Labs and hormones 

Male Labrador retrievers mature slower than females. They are at their peak from their first year’s birthday. They actually get to be sexually active throughout the year.

If you are wondering whether you should castrate your Labrador, there are many pros for it. Labs that are not fixed tend to be domineering and mark territories. You will spot the male lifting their leg, peeing in different places of the house to mark their territory. A male lab that is not fixed will also hump on seats or other furniture, and roam around. They roam to look for a female on heat as the discharge smell attracts them. When roaming, your Lab is at a huge risk of accidents or mistreatment from strangers.

Such behaviors can be calmed down through neutering. If you choose a male lab, be ready for castration. Castration is the only sure way of removing the hormonal impact that hits them. If you choose pills or vasectomy, the testosterone responsible for the changes still exists.

Disease susceptibility

A female lab is more susceptible to getting urinary tract infections. It is so common to them as a result of the crouching during pee time. Other infections that come from birth complications also affect a female Labrador only. The male Lab, on the other hand, is prone to testicular cancers. This is when it is not fixed. Perianal tumors are also a thing of the past when the male Lab is castrated.


From the puppy stage, many dog owners consider training their labs to hunt. Labradors are known for their natural build and stamina, making perfect hunting buddies. You can train either a male or a female. It is, however, evident that a female lab will tend to be easier to train than the males. The reason behind this is that the female Labradors mature faster than the males. The puppy stage is easier when you have a female. In the behavior classes, the girls will top the score. You will find the girl dog able to respond to commands faster and get used to the gunshots with ease. 

Using your dog as a show dog

If you want your dog to be on the shows, a female one can prove to be a disappointment. As a rule, show dogs are not supposed to be neutered. This means that your female will need breeding breaks between the year. This is not good for your training schedule. Their moodiness can also play as a downside as well, especially when you want it to do this and that. For ease, opting for a male lab as a show dog is the best choice. You can manage their behavior to mark territories with consistent training. 

 Choosing a lab to be your companion will be based on your needs and what you are able to tolerate. Remember, whether you choose a female or male one, this breed is great with kids, a loving family addition. Get more about Labrador retrievers in our blog.

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