The Labrador Breed Guide

The Labrador retriever is a favorite medium-large breed of the retriever gun dog breeds. The dog is very popular across the world, much loved for his obedience, loyalty, and playful traits. So loyal is the pet that he has become a favorite disability assistance breed in several countries. They are also highly trainable, and apart from being therapy dogs, they are also a popular breed with law enforcement agencies. According to the National Police Dog Foundation, Labradors are revered for exemplary tracking, trailing, and screening skills. Consequently, they are widely used to operate high-security areas like airports and entry ports.

When looking for a versatile dog for several sporting activities, the Labrador is your best bet. The dog is an excellent sporting and hunting companion. They are also exceptional flushing dogs that diligently retrieve a game once it is down. Satisfy your curiosity with everything you need to know about Labradors from their origin, characteristics, feeding tips, and exercise requirement.

Labrador retriever origin

 Most people believe that Labrador retrievers originated from Labrador, Canada. Well, this is not true; the breed originated in Newfoundland in the 1500s. During this period, dog enthusiasts would breed small water dogs with Newfoundland’s breeds to achieve a breed called Lesser Newfoundland or St. John’s water dog. The dogs, which were popular with fishers, would jump into ice and water to retrieve fish that falls off the hook. They were also used to pull out fishing nets full of fish. The breed was ideal for this job owing to their water-repelling coats and webbed paws that made them such excellent swimmers.

The dogs were exclusive to Newfoundland until the 1800s when they found their way to Poole England. The Earl of Malmesbury imported the breed from Newfoundland after witnessing their fishing action and excellent temperaments. The Duke of Malmesbury and the Earl used the dogs in shooting sports. They also christened the breed “Labrador dogs,” a name that has stuck to date. The Earl also began breeding the dogs to create a superior breed with better appearance, personality, and temperament. By 1903, the Labradors were so popular and loved that the English kennel Club recognized the breed.

The popularity of the breed continued to surge in the early 1900s, soon finding its way to American society. American farmers and hunters quickly caught on after learning about the breed’s work ethic. In 1917, the American Kennel Club recognized the breed, and thus the dog found a spot in American’s hearts as a loving, loyal and affectionate friend.

Today, the Labrador retriever is still ready to serve and please their pet parents as affectionate, friendly, outgoing, and intelligent pets. They are particularly very friendly to other pets and children. Although they don’t need demanding attention and care, Labradors love a considerable amount of daily exercise. Currently, Labradors are among the most popular pets topping the kennel clubs of most countries across the world.

Labrador retriever characteristics

Labrador retriever stands out because of his hazel eyes and docile, playful nature that makes him a highly trustworthy companion. The following are some of the essential characteristics of this beautiful furry friend:

Physical characteristics

The Labrador retriever comes with a large and muscular body, with males standing at 22.5 to 24.5 inches. They also weigh between 65 to 80 pounds. Their female counterparts stand at 21.5 to 23.5 inches and weigh anything between 55 to 70 pounds. The Labrador’s head is broad, and pointed, with strong jaws and a snout that ends with a big nose. His black and well-developed nostrils make him an exceptional sniffer dog.

Additionally, the Lab has gentle and deep eyes that are brown or hazel. The ears, too, are distinctive-they are slightly rectangular and assume a drooping position. The dog’s coat can come in several colors, including black, chocolate brown, or honey-colored. The fur is glossy and short and needs little grooming. Because the dog was bred to spend a lot of time outdoors in wet conditions, he has developed a thick waterproof coat. He also comes with a distinctive tail resembling that of an otter. The tail makes him an excellent swimmer.


The Labrador is a very versatile dog, and you can trust him with several duties. For one, they are great with children and perfect baby sitters. He is also a great guide dog for the blind and disabled. The dog is also regarded as the best search and rescue dog. So what makes this fantastic dog such a versatile pet. Well, the Labrador has a sweet, intelligent, and highly trainable personality. They have a friendly demeanor, keen intelligence, and a lot of energy. They are also of cheerful and jovial character that shows their love by continuous little licks on your exposed skin. In case you are looking for a furry friend for companionship and will enjoy long walks with, then the Labrador is the ideal pet.


Labradors are arguably one of the most tolerant breeds in the world. They are friendly and adaptable and blend well with other pets and family members. Although aggression and attack are not in their genes, if left untrained or are not socialized well, the Labradors can be aggressive when provoked. They may also display food and territorial aggression. You should train your dog to refrain from becoming aggressive.


Aside from their winning personality, the dog also possesses an easy to train character. Although some people believe there is no need to train a Labrador because of his high intelligence, training is necessary owing to the breed’s high energy level and exuberance. The dogs are very active and need a lot of activity to keep them engaged and happy. There is also some variation in the activity of Labradors. While most dogs possess a laid back personality, some are rowdy and thrives on too much activity. You may need to consider training your dog if he is too unruly.


Typically, the Labradors are healthy dogs with no significant health issues, especially when they receive the best care. But just like any other dog breeds, there are certain conditions that Labradors could be prone to. However, not all Labs will get any or all of these health conditions. But it is essential to familiarize yourself with some of these diseases if you are considering adopting a Labrador. These health issues include:

  • Hip dysplasia– this is a heritable disease that results in a lot of pain and lameness on one or both legs of the dog. The condition comes about when a thighbone doesn’t fit well into the hip joint. Pets with this condition should not be bred.
  • Elbow dysplasia– Elbow dysplasia is a heritable condition common with large breed dogs. It is caused by different growth rates of bones making up the dog’s elbow. It is characterized by painful lameness. Usually, surgery will correct this problem.
  • Osteochondrosis disease (OCD)- OCD is an orthopedic condition caused by abnormal growth of cartilage in joints. The condition causes a painful stiffening of the dog’s joints. Overfeeding your dog with growth formula increases the risk of this condition.
  • Cataracts- cataracts is another common condition affecting Labrador dogs. The condition can develop at any age and is characterized by cloudy spots on one of the pet’s eyes lens. However, the disease rarely impairs vision. A qualified vet can surgically remove cataracts. You should also source your dog from reputable breeders who screen puppies for hereditary diseases.
  • Gastric dilatation– this condition is commonly referred to as bloat. It is a life-threatening condition affecting large, deep-chested dogs. The disease is common to dogs fed on one large meal a day and those that eat rapidly. The dogs who exercise vigorously soon after eating can also experience bloat. Additionally, the disease may also be observed in dogs that drink large amounts of water immediately after eating. Bloat impedes the smooth flow of blood to the heart, which results in a quick and sudden drop in blood pressure. The Lab may go into shock and die if urgent medical action is not administered. If your dog becomes lethargic, restless, and weak with a rapid heart rate soon after eating, take him to the vet immediately.
  • Ear infection– the labs thrive in water, and their drooping ears could easily pick up infections. You should clean and check your puppy’s ears regularly to prevent disease.

The Labrador’s coat

According to American kennel club, the Labrador has a sleek and easy to care coat. The Lab’s coat comes in two layers. The topcoat is straight, thick, and short. The undercoat is soft and weather resistant. The two layers of coats ideally protect the dog from cold and wet conditions when they are retrieving the game for the hunters. As mentioned earlier, the coat comes in three typical colors; chocolate, black and yellow. Early breeders loved black, but the color has since paved the way for yellow and chocolate tones. These are the favorite colors with modern-day breeders. In recent times breeders are also selling rare colored Labradors with fox red or white polar coats.

Grooming needs

Although the dog sheds a lot, grooming the dog is always easy and effortless. It is recommended that you invest in a high-quality vacuum cleaner which you will use to brush the dog each day. You should also bath your dog at least twice every month to keep them clean and smelling sweet. However, you should bath your dog more often if he typically rolls on mud. Other grooming practices include brushing of teeth and trimming of nails.

Labrador with children and other pets

The Labrador loves the company of kids and often enjoys the vibrancy and commotion associated with young children. It is not unusual for a Labrador to attend kid’s birthday parties while clad in a party hat. However, like any other dog breed, the pet should be trained on how to act around children. The children, too, should be taught to be respectful of the dog.

In the days following the dog’s adoption, you need to keenly supervise any interactions between the young children and the pet. The children should be cautioned against approaching the dog while they are eating or sleeping. And it doesn’t matter how friendly your furry friend is, don’t ever leave him alone unsupervised with a child.

Labrador retriever Feeding Tips

The quantity of food that you feed the Labrador will depend on their size, age metabolism, build, and activity level. Nevertheless, you should feed your dog only high-quality food in the right amounts. High-quality dog food goes along the way to nourish your pet and make him healthy, happy, and active. The following are the feeding tips of the Labrador.

Choose the right puppy food.

Choosing suitable food and the right amount for your puppy is a top priority. You can feed the puppy with high quality commercially produced dry food Called kibble. Kibble is of high quality and balanced diet specially formulated to meet the nutritional needs of a growing puppy. You can also mix the kibble with commercial tinned dog meat from a quality brand. Alternatively, you can feed the puppy with home-cooked food and ideal raw diets that meet the Biologically, Appropriate Raw Food (BARF) standards. You can also feed the dog high-quality tinned meat and biscuit mixers.

Ideal quantities for a puppy

You must strike the right balance between feeding your puppy enough nutrients for optimal growth and development and avoiding overfeeding that may lead to obesity. The amount of food that you decide to feed a puppy will be influenced by their growth rate and activity level. Start by feeding the puppy according to the guidelines found on the label on puppy food you buy. You will increase or reduce the quantities depending on how the dog develops. At 12 weeks, puppies should have a definite waist, and if he is looking overweight, reduce the amount of food you feed him. However, if at this time he looks slim, increase the portions substantially. The following is a suggested feeding schedule for a Labrador puppy:

  • O to 30 days– the puppy should rely exclusively on the mom’s milk. If the puppy is underweight, supplement the natural milk with puppy milk formula.
  • 4 to 6 weeks– slowly introduce ideal soften puppy food. Don’t wean the puppies just yet
  • 8 to 12 weeks– wean the puppies entirely and feed them on high-quality puppy food of at least 3 to 4 cups a day
  • 12 weeks to 6 months– puppies should eat puppy food at least twice a day

Feeding rate

If you feed your puppy too much food, it may cause tummy upset and diarrhea. To avoid this problem, split the dog’s daily intake into small portions that are spread throughout the day. This feeding strategy makes each meal easy to digest. Besides, it ensures there is a stable continuous flow of energy throughout the day. The large breed puppies can adopt the following feeding strategy:

  • Under three months- feed them four times a day which are spaced 3 hours apart
  • 3 to 6 months- feed them three times a day which are spaced 4 hours apart
  • Six months and older – feed them twice a day which is spaced 6 to 7 hours apart
  • You should not feed the puppy 3 hours to bedtime to avoid the need for a potty at night

Switching to adult food

You should avoid feeding an adult dog puppy food. The dog’s growth rate will inform when to change to adult food. However, it is recommended that you switch to adult food once the pet has grown to adult height. Don’t wait for the dog to fully mature. Typically, the small Labrador breeds can achieve a mature height as early as 8 to 10 months while their medium counterparts reach the height at 10 to 16 months. The giant breeds take up to 2 years to reach the adult height.

 When changing from puppy to adult food, it is advisable to do so slowly for one to two weeks. Switching abruptly will result in extreme digestive upsets and stress. Ideally, start by mixing small amounts of the new food with the old. Then gradually increase the ratio of the new food while you decrease that of the old food. In case you are in doubt about what to feed an adult Labrador and the amount of food for each day, consult your vet.

Ideal food for adult Labrador

Adult Labradors love food. Ensure you give him a healthy diet that contains 50 percent animal protein, 30 percent complex carbohydrates, and 20 percent fruit and vegetable. Proteins like meat, fish, and poultry are ideal for the dog. You can also include dairy products with low fast such as natural yogurt, eggs, and cottage cheese. Excellent carbohydrate sources include sweet potatoes and brown rice. Vegetables and fruits like green beans, carrots, pumpkin, pears, and apples will significantly nourish your dog. Labradors require about 1000 mg of calcium daily. Consequently, you should add vitamins and minerals to their diet.

Foods to avoid

Older Labradors that are suffering from arthritis or hip dysplasia should never be fed on grains. Additionally, raisins, grapes, and macadamia can harm the dog if they ingest them regularly. Other foods to avoid include alcohol, garlic, salt, milk products, avocados, caffeine, chocolate, yeast dough, onions, garlic, and chives. You should not also feed your dog on raw meat and eggs as they may contain bacteria such as E.coli and salmonella.

Provide adequate water

No Labrador diet is complete without clean, fresh water. A bowl of cold water should be made available for the dog at all times. The amount of water to give will depend on the heat, diet, and level of activity. If you feed the dog on dry kibble, he will need more water intake than when he is fed on wet food. Ensure you take away the water 2 hours before bedtime

Exercise tips for Labrador retriever owners

Like any other active dog breed, Labradors have to exercise to stay fit, healthy, and happy. It doesn’t matter their age or body size; your dog needs regular walks and runs. Exercise keeps the dog’s heart and muscles strong. Adequate exercise also keeps the dog’s mind stimulated. Besides, a dog who exercises regularly cannot gain too much weight to become obese.

It is worth remembering that Labradors are a high energy working breed that was initially bred for physically demanding wok of retrieving game for the hunters. Although they are now kept as family pets, they still possess the original genetics with a body that craves physical activity. You must, therefore, provide an ideal way for them to release all the pent up energy. The following are some of the Labrador exercise tips:

  1. Provide at least one hour of exercise each day. The more relaxed dogs can do with 45 minutes of exercise while the energetic fellows can have one and a half hours of vigorous activity
  2. Ideal exercises should involve running, swimming, jogging, and playing fetch. You should play alongside the pet.
  3. Labrador puppy, which is less than three months of age, needs structured and deliberate exercises. Don’t over-exercise a young puppy. The exercise should not go beyond 15 minutes for puppies under three months. For each month they gain, add an extra 5 minutes. E.g., a four-month puppy needs 20 minutes of exercise time.
  4. Reduce the exercise period for the older aging Labradors. You may need to slow down the dog’s activity once they are above seven years old. Older labs may be prone to health issues like dysplasia and arthritis and may not need as much exercise as young and healthy dogs.
  5. Invest in ideal toys that will keep your dog as engaged and physically active as possible.
  6. Learn to read the signs your dog is not getting isn’t getting enough exercise. These signs include a dog that tears around your home while chewing things. The dog can also be restless and may resort to incessant barking and digging. If the dog is not responding well to basic commands, it could be a sign that they are not getting adequate exercise. Additionally, a dog that puts on too much weight is not getting enough exercise.

What to Consider Before Buying A Labrador Retriever

A Labrador is an excellent dog in a home with a family. In the field, he is a dependable hunting companion. The dogs are full of enthusiasm, intelligence, and are easy to train. However, serious considerations should be taken before you add a Labrador into your family. 

Below are some of the essential things to consider before adopting a Lab puppy:


Labradors are outgoing and friendly pets that crave attention and companionship. They are energetic too and need a lot of exercises. Before you adopt one, make sure you will have enough time to spend with your furry friend doing all the fun activities.


Because Labradors need a lot of exercise, it goes without saying that you will need plenty of open space for the dog to stretch his legs and run.


Apart from the initial purchase price, you also need to consider the other maintenance expenses that come with owning the dog. Labs are large breeds and may require a higher intake of food than other standard breeds. You will also incur vet expenses as you must take your dog for constant checkups. Lab puppies are also known for destroying things. Consequently, there is a need to budget for the costs of replacements or repair. Other costs that you will incur include the cost of training devices, dog toys, and the cost of kennel or crate.


You also need to consider whether your new friend will adapt well to your family, especially if you have small children. Young puppies exuberantly show their affection and may unintentionally hurt little kids as they play.


Labradors can live up to 15 years and depend on you for their care, companionship, and training. You need to be highly committed to providing the dog with all they need for all those years.


Labradors shed a lot, and there is a need to adopt a good grooming strategy. Lab puppies are also notorious for chewing and destroying items within the environment. If you own expensive equipment, you should not allow a Lab to run freely within reach.


Before you pick a Lab puppy, ensure the breeder provides you with essential health records of the puppy’s parents. Take a keen look at the puppy for any signs of diseases. A listless, unhappy, and moody or skinny puppy should raise your suspicion.


Although Labradors are smart and take less time to train, you should still consider whether you afford that training time. Training needs a lot of patience, and if you have a busy schedule, the training may be uneventful. You may need to hire a trainer for your puppy.

Labrador Dog Toys

Labs love to play with dog toys. As mentioned earlier, before you adopt a lab, make sure you invest in ideal Labrador toys such as:

KONG Classic dog toy

The KONG classic dog toy is arguably one of the most popular toys for Labrador. The gadget allows you to stuff some treat or food inside for the dog to play around with as he tries to get the delicious food. The toy comes in a variety of sizes, and thus you will get the right sized toy for every life stage. Additionally, KONG classic dog toy can also be used as a fetch toy. The toy provides an opportunity for fun and a lot of activities.

Chuck it! Ultra ball

Chuck it! Ultra ball is a high bouncing ball perfect for breeds that fetch like the Labs. The ball is brightly colored, making it easy for the dog to spot. It also features different sizes for every life stage. Additionally, the balls are designed to float in water and thus are a great interactive toy that comes handy whenever you are out for a swim with your furry friend.

Nylabone textured Dura chew

Nylabone textured Dura chew is an excellent chew bone ideal for labs who love to chew things. It is a durable bone and comes with diverse flavors such as bacon, chicken, beef, and peanut butter. It also features bristles and rings on ends to help the pup clean their teeth as they chew. You can use the toy if your dog has a habit of chewing your things.

Outward Hound Hide-A-Squirrel Squeaky Puzzle Plush Dog Toy

This exceptional toy uses soft squeaky squirrels that hide inside a tree-like frame for the dog to find. You can remove the squirrels from the tree and throw them in an ideal fetch game. The toy is a perfect mental exercise tool that helps the dogs to stay stimulated and learn problem-solving skills while keeping them off destructive behaviors.

Goughnuts interactive tug toy

Goughnuts interactive tug toy is ideal for pups who love wrestling. The toy is safe for the dog’s mouth and is meant for large breeds like the labs. It comes in an 8 figure design that allows you to hold one side while your dog laches on the other. It is also ideal for two dogs as it enables them to play and wrestle amongst themselves. The toy is sturdy and durable and will withstand severe abuse.

Zippypaws- skinny Peltz

Zippypaws are toys that come in three different squeakers. You can choose between a fox, a raccoon, and a squirrel. Each animal is 18 inches in length. They are interactive toys ideal for predatory puppies who love to toss, rip and fetch. The toys are 100 percent stuff free and thus are not as messy as the other stuffed toys. Because of their sizes, the toys are great for medium-sized labs. If your Labrador puppy is between three to five months of age, consider getting him this fantastic toy.

Amazing Facts about Labrador Retrievers

Here are a few interesting facts that you probably never knew about the Labrador retrievers:

  1. Unlike what their name suggests, the Labrador retriever is not originally from Labrador Canada. The dog originates from an area in Canada called Newfoundland. The dog was initially called the St. John’s water dog.
  2. The Labrador is the most popular breed in America, followed by German shepherds and Golden retrievers.
  3. The Labrador breed nearly became extinct in late 1800 because of heavy taxation imposed on dog owners in Newfoundland. Fortunately, breeders outside the region came to the rescue of the dog when they began breeding them in the 1900s.
  4. Labs are a breed that is eager to please their owners. That is why the dogs can learn quickly and do many things.
  5. The first dog to detect diabetic episode was a Labrador called Armstrong in 2015. The dog was trained in 2003 to detect episodes of hypoglycemia.
  6. Labradors have a high pain threshold. For this reason, the dog is ideal for rescue work. However, if your dog is in pain, it may be challenging to spot it than in other dog breeds.
  7. The longest distance that the dog has covered is 3,218 km. A lost Labrador named Jimpa wandered across Australia before turning up in his old home in Pimpinio, Victoria.
  8. A Labrador once went to jail. The black Lab named Pep killed a cat belonging to Pennsylvania governor Gifford Pinchot’s wife. The dog was sentenced to life without parole and admitted to the eastern state prison on August 12, 1924. The dog did ten years of a hard time.
  9. In 1981, a black Labrador called Bosco won the election to become an honorary mayor of Sunol, California. Bosco, who ran as a “republican”, beat his two human competitors to win the coveted title.
  10. Labradors can be trained to use their powerful noses to sniff out and identify the early stages of cancer in humans.
  11. The major world kennel clubs and other professional Labrador breeders recognize only three official colors, black, yellow, and chocolate. However, the labs can be found in different colors, including gorgeous silver and a combination of the three official colors.
  12. The Labrador retriever is waterproof and can remain in the water for hours. All labs come with webbed toes, a tail designed to work as a rudder, and a thick double layer coat that conveniently blocks out water for the pup to keep warm.
  13. A well-bred lab has a gentle mouth that can pick up a raw egg without breaking it.
  14. Far from what many think, a Labrador can cruise at crazy speeds. An average Lab can hit a speed of up to 12 mph in only three seconds.
  15. A Labrador is slow to mature. Unlike other dog breeds that typically mature within two or fewer years, a Lab can take up to four years to fully mature. Don’t be fooled by their quick height; the breed can display puppy-like tendencies for an extended period.
  16. The oldest Lab on record was a black pet known as Bella. The dog lived for 29 years.

FAQs about Labrador Retrievers

Are Labrador retrievers barkers?

No. Labs are not a barky breed of dog. When the dog receives the right training and reinforcements, the Lab barking will not be a big issue. This trait makes the dog a great family pet, especially if you live in a populated apartment.

Are Labradors sensitive dogs?

Labradors tend to be sensitive and should be handled with loving and caring hands. Children should be taught to respect and love this faithful companion.

How do I know if my Labrador is a purebred?

There are three distinct methods you can use to gauge whether or not your Lab is a pure breed. First, you can use visual assessment, although it is the least accurate method. Visual assessment involves looking at the dog while you compare his appearance with the breed standard. You can also rely on DNA tests and pedigree papers. Using pedigree papers involves scrutinizing parents’ details as provided by the registration documents that the breeder gives you when you purchase the dog. Most breeders will hand you a copy of pedigree records with a list of the dog’s ancestors going back to at least five generations. DNA method is the most accurate. However, the DNA lab services don’t come cheap.

Do labs sleep a lot?

Dogs typically sleep for more extended periods than humans. An adult lab can spend 12 hours each day sleeping. Puppies under four months can sleep for 20 hours a day.

Can I leave my Labrador alone for 8 hours?

Labradors don’t thrive when left alone for long periods of time. They need to stay active and play in order to stay healthy. If you leave your Labrador alone for extended periods, they may develop bad habits like chewing, barking, and biting. However, if you train an adult dog well, it is possible to leave him alone for 8 hours or more. In the piece ‘Can Labrador be left alone?’ we discuss how to safely and creatively leave your Lab for short periods of time.

Do Labs like to cuddle?

Labs love to cuddle because they love human companionship. Labrador breed is one of the most prone cuddling dogs. The dogs are cuddlier than cats.

How can I keep my dog happy?

First, ensure you are feeding your dog the proper diet for their age and size. You should also ensure your Labrador gets a lot of exercises. Additionally, provide him with a lot of love, attention, security, and fun.

Will a Lab defend me?

Labradors are bred to be loyal dogs. They are extremely strong and would come to the rescue of their parents from any danger.

Labradors are arguably one of the most popular pet dogs in the world. The dog has an exceptional personality and temperament. As an owner or prospecting owner of a Labrador retriever, this definitive guide expounds in depth all there is to this exceptional dog breed. You can now confidently raise and keep your furry friend happy and healthy.

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