With their friendly, loving demeanor, keen intelligence, and energetic temperament, the Labrador Retriever is North America’s #1 most popular dog breed! Originally bred to be a friendly companion and effective working dog, today’s labs are well-natured and hardworking. Labs are easy to train and make for wonderful family dogs, they love people and other dogs and get more and more friendly with age. Labrador Retrievers are also very popular among modern working dogs, they work as retrievers for hunters, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, and competitors in both agility and show. But most of all, Labs are the most loyal, loving companions who want nothing more than to please their owners.
The Labrador breed originated on the island of Newfoundland and was originally called the St. John’s dog, named after the province’s capital. The breed was used to assist local fishermen with their daily duties, fetching ropes, hauling nets, and retrieving fish that had escaped their nets. Once trade was introduced between Canada and Britain, the St. John’s dogs were bred with British hunting dogs to create what we know today as Labrador Retrievers. A British Colonel described the first Labradors as being not larger than an English Pointer, black, with an athletic build and short smooth coat. The first picture of the breed was taken in 1856 and the name Labrador Retriever became common in England by 1870. The breed was exclusively black until the late 1890’s, when yellow and chocolate variants emerged.
Built for sport, Labradors are a medium-large breed that is muscular and athletic. Males typically weigh 65–80lbs and females 55–70lbs, however, these dogs absolutely love to eat and become obese very quickly when overfed. There are two lineages of breed, a shorter stockier variant for show, and a taller, lighter-framed variant for work. Labrador Retrievers come in three common colors, black, yellow, and chocolate, and puppies of all three colors often occur in the same litter. There is a fourth less common color, the Silver Labrador, which is suspected to be a cross between a Lab and Weimaraner. While silver Labs are not often recognized by Labrador kennel clubs, they are a unique and stunning breed with all the great traits of a typical Labrador Retriever.
Occasionally, Labradors have small amounts of white fur on their chest, paws, or tail, and because they are so often crossbred, numerous variants have emerged with brindle strips or tan points. Labs are also fortunate to have webbing between their toes, which makes them excellent swimmers and can also serve as snowshoes, which help Labs thrive in cold winter climates!
Labradors are generally classified as kind, outgoing, and eager to please. The breed does not have aggressive tendencies toward people or other dogs, however as a result of their lineage as a retriever, Labs may have a proclivity to chase other animals (bunnies, squirrels, birds) if not trained otherwise. Before two years old, Labradors are often extremely high energy, even destructive, despite their reputation as a relaxed breed. Early, consistent training with patience is an absolute must, Labs are highly food motivated which makes positive reinforcement the recommended method. Labs are smart and considered easy to train, just be prepared to encounter barking, digging, countersurfing and likely many other undesirable behaviors along the way!
Labrador Retrievers were bred for physically demanding jobs, as a result these dogs are high energy, especially when young, and require at least 60 minutes of rigorous activity per day. Joint and health permitting, a Lab should receive at least 2x 30-minute walks or runs per day. Make sure your lab has ample off-leash opportunity, whether it’s running, swimming, or playing fetch, access to an off-leash park is a must! If you provide your lab with an outlet for their energy, they will be a wonderful loving companion.
With Spot, walks are all private and on-leash to ensure your Labrador Retriever is always receiving the one-on-one attention they deserve. Dog walks are also conveniently available on your schedule, on-demand walkers are available with as little as 90-minutes notice, while a Spot recurring walker will provide consistency and can be booked on a weekly ongoing basis. So whether you need a dog walker every month or every day, Spot is always just a few clicks away.
Because Labs have such a pleasant demeanor, many people think that they can get away without much training, don’t be fooled, puppies are extremely high energy and can develop some terrible habits if not reinforced otherwise at an early age. Start as early as possible, as soon as you bring your dog home from the breeder and look for a class that uses rewards-based positive reinforcement training methods. It’s important to supplement training with adequate exercise, Labs need at least 60-minutes of daily exercise, and usually it’s best if this is rigorous activity (fetch, running, swimming, etc.…). A bored and lonely lab is susceptible to digging, chewing, or other destructive behaviors. Like all retrievers, Labs are happy when they have something in their mouth, so be sure to have a number of strong toys on hand to prevent your pup from destroying something they aren’t supposed to be chewing.
Labs are generally very healthy dogs that live on average 10-12 years. The oldest lab ever was the 7th oldest dog ever recorded, who died at 27 years and 3 months! As they age, the breed suffers from major conditions such as CHD, elbow dysplasia, OCD, obesity, patellar luxation. Labs are also more susceptible to minor conditions such as cataract, CPRA, hot spots, retinal dysplasia, hypothyroidism.
Fortunately, Labs are easy to care for dogs who don’t need a great deal of attention when it comes to grooming. The breed tends to shed considerably twice per year, as well as regular shedding throughout the year in warmer climates. During heavy shedding times, you will notice large clumps of fur forming, mostly around their hind quarters. When you see fur clumping, it’s time to get out the brush. While Lab owners can usually get away with brushing as infrequently as every week or two, daily brushing is necessary when shedding. And because Labs love to swim, be prepared to bathe your dog whenever necessary. You will notice when their coat becomes oily and smelly, it’s time to give them a bath. The rest is basic dog maintenance, trim nails every few weeks or as necessary, and brush teeth as often as possible.