Popular Dog Breeds: Labrador Retrievers

The Labrador Retriever is one of the most popular breeds of dog in the world today. They have been ranked as the number one dog in the United States for over 20 years. They are also extremely popular in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia. Affectionate, extremely intelligent, easy-going, and fun-loving, Labs make excellent family dogs. They are the ideal dog for many people.



The original Labrador Retriever originated in Newfoundland, Canada from crosses between Newfoundland dogs and small water dogs found in the area. When bred together these dogs produced dogs called the St. John’s Water Dog which became the ancestor for many retrieving breeds today. These dogs were used for hunting and retrieving as well as helping fishermen with their nets. In the early 19th century the British Earl of Malmesbury saw some of these dogs at work in the field and imported some to England. The St. John’s Water Dog later died out in Canada due to a heavy dog tax and quarantine law but Malmesbury’s dogs thrived in England and it is there that the breed continued to develop. He introduced some other breeds into the basic St. John’s Water Dog stock but they stayed essentially the same dog. They got the name “Labrador Retriever” because Malmesbury said that’s what he always called them. Pedigrees of Labs today go back accurately to 1878 and the breed was recognized by the Kennel Club in England in 1903. They were recognized by the AKC in 1917. They first became popular in the U.S. in the 1920s and ’30s.



The Labrador Retriever is known as a gentle, friendly dog. They are very affectionate with their family and loved ones. They are not quite as outgoing and welcoming to strangers as the Golden Retriever but they don’t usually make very good guard dogs. Labs can be rather friendly with people they don’t know and they will happily welcome someone into the house once you invite a person inside.


Labs are excellent with children of all ages and can be protective of small kids. They are recommended for families looking for a breed that’s good for kids. Labs are also known as one of the most intelligent of all breeds and are often used as service dogs, assistance dogs, and therapy dogs. They work as guide dogs for the blind and are trained to work with people with other disabilities. They are good at these jobs because of their brains and because they are gentle and patient. They love to please their owners. They also make a good dog for older people.


Labs are a sporting breed and they do require regular exercise. This is especially true when they are young. A young Labrador Retriever can be quite exuberant. Young dogs can also be mouthy and will probably want to chew on things so be sure to provide a Lab with plenty of toys and safe things to chew on.


Since this is such a loving, affectionate breed, they need to be around people quite a bit. A Labrador Retriever will never be happy if he is left out in the yard, living in a dog house. He wants to be part of the family. If he is left alone too much, he can develop behavior problems.



The Labrador Retriever is a medium-large dog. They weigh between 55 and 80 pounds, with males being a little heavier than females. In height they stand from about 21 ½ inches to 24 ½ inches tall at the shoulders, with males being a little taller than females. Overall, the dogs are strongly built, athletic, and well-balanced.


Labs have a short, dense double coat that is weather-resistant. Their coat sheds seasonally but it can shed a lot when it sheds. Regular brushing will help cut down on the amount of dead hair that is shed in the house. Labs come in black, chocolate, and yellow coat colors.


The breed also has an “otter” tail that acts as a rudder when the dog is in the water. The Lab’s head is clean-cut with a broad back skull. Their eyes are kind and friendly. They should express character, intelligence, and good temperament.


There are also field-bred Labrador Retrievers in the U.S. which are typically a little taller and have a lighter frame but they are still able to fit the AKC breed standard. Breed standards in other countries can vary slightly but Labs are still easily recognizable all over the world.



Labradors are considered to be a generally healthy breed and most dogs have few issues during their lifetime. Life expectancy for the breed is 12-13 years. However, like all dogs, there are health issues found in the breed, in general. Things that sometimes occur in the breed include:


Hip and elbow dysplasia, luxating patellas (slipped kneecap), eye problems such as progressive retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy, and retinal dysplasia.


Very rare conditions include hereditary myeopathy, autoimmune disease, and congenital deafness. Exercised induced collapse is also possible.


Labs can also suffer from health problems associated with being overweight or obese. Labs are highly food-motivated and they can easily become too interested in food, especially if the owner is not careful about watching the dog’s food intake and exercise. These dogs love to eat. If you have a Lab, watch his weight. Obesity can lead to problems with diabetes, the heart, respiratory disease, arthritis, and other serious health issues.



Because of their intelligence and eagerness to please, Labs are usually very easy to train. In fact, they love to do things with their owners so they usually love any kind of training. They respond very well to positive reinforcement – using praise and rewards for training. Labs can excel at obedience, agility, rally, hunting, any kind of water sports, tracking and scent work, search and rescue, or just about anything else you would like to do with your dog. They are one of the most versatile of all breeds.


Even if you just want to have a Lab as a wonderful pet, training is recommended. Your dog will benefit from it, especially as a puppy or young dog when he’s frisky and very active. Training is also a great way for you to bond with your dog.