The Labrador Retriever

[note]  The Labrador is the most popular breed by registered ownership in Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States (since 1991)  [/note]

History (condensed)

The Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada and is believed to have descended from the now extinct “St. John’s Water Dog”. Labrador Retriever’s where trained to help retrieve fishing nets from the icy cold waters of the North Atlantic. Their dense, water-repellant coats, swimming skills and hard working nature made them the perfect dog for this task. In the early 19th century, the Duke of Malmesbury began breeding Labrador Retrievers in England. He was also responsible for the name “Labradors”. Labs where first recognized by The British Kennel Club in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917. It is also one of the most popular assistance dog breeds in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States and many other countries, as well as being widely used by police and other official bodies for their detection and working abilities.

Labrador Retriever Makeup

Labrador Retrievers are medium to large sized dogs with a smooth short coat and a powerful, otter like tail. These intelligent dogs make great family pets but they do need a lot of exercise, mental stimulation and training. They enjoy long walks and truly love water. A well exercised Lab is a happy Lab!

The Labrador Retriever makes an excellent sporting dog and excels as a retrieving gun dog. They are also used as guide dogs for the blind as well as therapy dogs.


American Kennel Club Breed Standard

Male: 22.5 inches – 24.5 inches to the shoulder Female: 21.5 inches – 23.5 inches to the shoulder

British Kennel Club Breed Standard

Male: 22 inches – 22.5 inches to the shoulder Female: 21.5 inches – 22 inches to the shoulder

Wait! What’s the Difference?

While appearances may vary regardless of American or British, there are some general differences that you can expect to see with some consistency.

Size – American Labs generally run larger (weight wise) than their British counterparts and are, on average, 10-20 pounds heavier than British Labs. The British Labs will generally run 50-70 pounds depending on whether you have a male or female, while American Labs are typically 60-90 pounds.
Color – While both come in Black and Yellow, Chocolate is a common third color for American Labs. British lines will include dogs with a dark (fox) red coat as their third color.
Temperament – The major difference here is one of apparent energy. Both American and British lines produce very social dogs that are playful and intelligent and make excellent companions. My experience has been that the British Labrador generally tends to be somewhat more calm and relaxed. They typically require a softer training hand with less pressure required or desired. American Labs tend to be able to handle a bit more pressure in a training environment. They are naturally more boisterous and tend to exhibit a higher energy level and, consequently, may require more firm correction.


Male: 65 – 80lbs

Female: 55 – 70lbs


Short, thick, dense and weather resistant coat in black, yellow, chocolate. There are sometimes other variations of colors that occur from certain types of breeding. However, these colors are not recognized by the AKC therefore not following the best breeding practices for Labrador Retrievers.


Webbed Feet

These act as “propellers’ and make the Labrador Retriever a very strong swimmer.

Otter-Like Tail

Acts like a rudder in the water.

Slighlty Oily Coat

Keeps them insulated as well as helps the Labrador dry quickly.

Soft Mouth

A well trained Labrador Retriever can carry an egg in it’s mouth with out breaking it.

Ability to Learn

The Labrador can learn up to 300 human phrases.


7th most intelligent dog breed

The Labrador Retriever is intelligent, adaptable, obedient, sociable , affectionate and loyal. They are also very energetic, especially when very young. ( I think that is why they are so darn cute. Easy to forgive)


One of the reasons the Labrador Retriever is so popular is their excellent temperament. They are friendly, loving and non-aggressive. These outgoing dogs are playful and always eager to please. As someone once said “A Lab never has a bad day”. Due to their easy-going, non-aggressive nature, Labs do not make good guard dogs. They may bark protectively but unlikely to take things further.

Health Problems

As with all breeds Labrador Retrievers are prone to certain health problems.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is a genetic disease that affects the hip joints of dogs. (It is also known as degenerative joint disease, arthrosis and osteoarthrosis) and can lead to pain and debilitation in your Labrador. When canine hip dysplasia (CHD) was first described in the 1930s, it was thought to be a rare condition. Dysplasia literally means abnormal, so hip dysplasia literally translates as abnormal formation of the hip socket.Despite years of research and the combined effort of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals and responsible dog breeders, it has been impossible to eliminate hip dysplasia from labradors.Hip dysplasia can be seen in dogs as young as five or six months of age. In others, symptoms do not develop until after the dog has matured.

Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is the term for an elbow joint that is malformed on X-rays. The mechanism of the malformation is unclear but it may be due to differences in the growth rates of the three bones that make up the elbow joint, particularly the humerus and ulna. In mildly affected dogs the only consequence may be arthritis. In more severely affected dogs, osteochondritis dissecans (OCD), fragmented medial coronoid processes and united anconeal processes can result from the stress in the joint. Some vets think that these problems may not be secondary but may actually be the primary problems and that the bone changes occur as a result of them. It is difficult to be sure but there does appear to be measurable differences in bone growth in dogs that have elbow dysplasia. There are a number of changes visible on X-rays and the OFA does evaluate X-rays for evidence of elbow dysplasia.

Canine Epilepsy

Canine Epilepsy is a chronic condition characterized by recurrent seizures. Seizures are the result of muscle responses to an abnormal nerve-signal burst from the brain. The cause can be anything that disrupts normal brain circuitry

Gastric Torsion (Bloat)

Commonly called Bloat, this condition is caused by a twisting of the stomach and thus trapping the stomach contents and gases resulting in a rapid swelling of the abdomen accompanied by pain and eventual death if untreated. It is a true emergency, requiring immediate veterinary action. This condition is most often found in large deep chested breeds. Anyone owning a deep chested breed, susceptible to Bloat should be prepared to handle the emergency procedures necessary, including having readily available the name and phone number of emergency clinics and/or who to call after hours.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

PRA is a family of diseases involving the gradual deterioration of the retina. In the early stages of the disease, an affected dog becomes nightblind and cannot see well in dim lighting. As the disease progresses, daytime vision also fails. Provided that the affected dog’s environment remains constant, an affected dog can adapt quite well to this handicap. As the affected dog’s vision fails, the pupils become increasingly dilated, causing a “shine” to his eyes. The lens of the eyes may also become cloudy, or opaque, resulting in a cataract. It should be noted that while some breeds are affected early in life, others can develop PRA much later. The Labrador Retriever is one of the breeds that is affected as an adult and, therefore, the dog’s eyes will appear normal as a puppy.

Because PRA in Labrador Retrievers often does not appear until the dog is an adult (sometimes as late as eight years or more), the disease has been difficult to eradicate. If your dog does appear to be losing his sight, you should see your Veterinarian for an eye exam and if he is diagnosed with PRA, inform his breeder.

Ear infections

Because of their floppy ears and their love of swimming, Labradors can be prone to ear infections. Not all Labs get them, but many that do can be chronic about it.

It is important to check your Lab’s ears regularly. The ear should be light pink or flesh-toned and clean, and there should be no odor coming from the ear or the ear canal.

Upkeep And Maintenance

Labrador Retrievers must be well excercised on a daily basis. Whenever possible, this should take the form of running and swimming. Retrieving is at the top of the list of games that Labradors really enjoy, especially through water such as the beach or even a large outdoor swimming pool.