LABRADOR RETRIEVERS AT A GLANCE
Names: Labrador Retriever, Labrador, Lab
Weight: Male: 30 – 40kg (65 – 90 lbs). Female: 25 – 35kg (55 – 80 lbs)
Height: 55 – 60cm (21 – 23 inches)
Life span: 10 – 14 years
Coat: Double coat with a short, strong, straight top coat
Colour(s): Chocolate (brown), black or yellow.
Litter size: 5 – 10 puppies
Breed group: Gundogs
Loyal companion, tireless working dog, retriever, fisherman (yep, that’s right), sniffer dog, assistance dog, search and rescue, police dog, military dog and show competitor the Labrador Retriever is an obviously versatile breed. Loving, loyal and gentle it’s easy to see why the trusty Lab is among the most popular breeds, ranking #1 in several countries. They’re so ubiquitous even non dog-lovers (strange people…) know the breed.
Built to work, Labradors are energetic and have the had stamina to go and go. Contrary to what the its breed group Gundogs suggest the Labrador Retriever (know then as St. John’s dog) was originally used to help fishermen haul nets and line, and retrieve fish which had wriggled loose. Their willingness to work and intelligence did not go unnoticed and they were later imported to England by hunters needing a good retriever. They’re still a popular breed among hunters today.
Popular since its inception, the breeds popularity really took off in the early 1950s. In the early 90s the Labrador Retriever became the most popular registered dog in the United States (and still holds the position) as remains highly placed in England and Canada.
Bred to also be companions, Labradors have happily retired from life at the fishery and spend their time doting on their family. Sweet, smart and gentle (occasionally being a bit too rough if over-excited) Labs have proven to be great companions for all walks of life; playing with the kids, visiting aged care facilities, running around the farm or filling the role of an assistance dog.
The one thing a Labrador is not, is a guard dog. If anything they’re more likely to show the way to the doggy door or share a favourite chew-toy than run an intruder off.
Bred to work all day the Labrador is an energetic and sometimes intense breed, they’re not the dog to buy if your looking for a companion to complement a sedentary lifestyle. If there is one thing Labradors can do as well as they run it’s eat… and eat and eat and eat. Labradors will raid food storage if possible and take every treat and scrap they can stiff out, whether it’s a bowl accidentally placed on a low table or an unsecured trash can and can quickly become obese if overfed.
Labradors are suitable for novice owners but are often described in such a positive light that many mistakenly think they don’t require much socialisation or training, if any. While their good reputation is well deserved, Labradors are not perfect and guarding (typically of food) and instances of aggression are still possible. Despite their almost universal good nature training and socialisation is still required for Labrador puppies to learn limits and prevent behavioural problems later in life.
Labs need to be with their pack. They will not be happy to reside in the backyard while the family is separated inside the house and if left alone for long periods Labradors are likely to turn towards undesirable behaviours like digging, chewing and barking.
Labs have filled a variety of roles over time and as a result different breeders focus on different attributes in their lines. Some may be bred with a focus on work, others for competition, others solely for temperament. If purchasing from a breeder make sure their focus matches what you’re looking for.
CHARACTERISTICS AND SUMMARY
Suited to indoor living: 5/10 – Though very energetic and on the larger side, Labradors are generally happy hanging out around the house with the family as long as they are exercised daily to avoid becoming restless. It’s worth noting some individuals can be particularly rowdy, especially when young, and become excited over the smallest thing, even when at home.
Owner experience required: 2/10 – Friendly, eager to please, loyal and un-intimidating the Labrador Retriever is a good choice for novice owners.
Sensitivity: 4/10 – Labs are usually too busy being happy to be upset by much. If startled they may assume a submissive posture for a few moments until the surprise has passed but bounce back quickly.
Needs company: Labs are prized for their affection and companionship, which unfortunately doesn’t translate well into being left alone. Labradors are best suited to a family setting where someone will be home most of the time, for working folk who are gone 10 hours each day a lone lab wouldn’t be my first choice.
Suitable climates: A Labradors dense coat makes them ideally suited to temperate and cooler climates. Labradors shed their undercoat during spring making warm climates ok but they’re not well suited to constantly hot areas.
FAMILY, FRIENDS AND OTHER DOGS
Friendly with family: 9/10 – Friendly, outgoing and eager to please, Labradors love just about everyone and everything.
Child friendly: 9/10 – See above.
Dog friendly: 9/10 – See above.
Friendly toward strangers: 9/10 – See above.
One master dog: Labradors will love the whole family but can often idolise one member in particular. In such cases Labrador will usually seek the attention of this person first and foremost, and display greater levels of obedience to this person than to others.
Intelligence: Labrador Retrievers are widely accepted to be among the top 10 most intelligent breeds.
Ease of training: A Labradors intelligence and eagerness to please usually makes them easy to train, though there boisterous nature and excitability can make them easily distracted. They can also pick one member of the family as master who they’ll obey unquestionably while ignoring everyone else.
POSSIBLE UNDESIRABLE BEHAVIOURS
Mouthing: 5/10 – Labs are not particularly prone to play biting with people or other dogs but as retrievers they like to carry a stick or toy around and are avid chewers. A bored, lonely or un-exercised Labrador is almost guaranteed to chew anything and everything it can gets its mouth around.
Prey drive: 2/10 – Labrador prey drive is typically low or non-existent. Why hunt when you can be friends is the Labs theory.
Tendency to bark/howl: 3/10 – Labradors are typically quiet during play and when with company, but howling when left alone during the early stages is common.
Goes wandering: 5/10 – “Is that a new friend 500 yards away? Lets go check it out!”
Shedding: 5/10 – Labradors shed a modest amount of fur constantly, they also shed more noticeably for 3-4 weeks during Spring and Autumn as their summer and winter coats come in.
Drooling: General tendency to drool is low, though you may find a little puddle here and there after a marathon toy chewing session.
Grooming required: Daily brushing is required (and the house will need a vacuum regularly).
EXERCISE NEEDS & GENERAL HEALTH
Energy level / Intensity: 9/10 – Bred as working dogs Labradors are a high energy breed with stamina. Definitely not a good pick for owners looking for a
Playfulness: 9/10 – Especially in their youth, Labradors are boisterous and excitable. They love to leap, bound, rough-house and run… constantly. Though suitable for novice owners for the reasons already mentioned above, special attention should be paid to providing a calming influence and avoiding them becoming overly excited (which can happen easily). In regards to their excitement Labradors are often described in a mix of affection with a pinch of frustration as “a handful”.
Exercise frequency : While exercise once a day is fine for older dogs younger Labs will more likely need 2 sessions a day. 45 minutes a day exercise, including being run to exhaustion at least once or twice a week will work well for most Labs.
General health: Labrador Retriever health is generally good but like most breeds they have a few potential conditions to be aware of including elbow and hip dysplasia, and a joint stiffening cartilage disorder called Osteochondrosis Dissecans. Cataracts can develop as well as Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) which causes night-blindness and limited vision, eventually the condition will cause complete vision loss. Labradors are susceptible to bloat and while this can be avoided by feeding them two smaller meals a day instead of a single large meal Labradors are notoriously greed when it comes to food; the will take any and every treat, snack or meal available and easily become obese if over fed, and if able to break into their food storage area will eat until sick.
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