The friendly Labrador Retriever is loved for its sociable nature, easygoing temperament, and ability to learn quickly. Often described as smart, kindly, and loyal, Labs have a reputation as the ultimate family pet. Not only a companion in the home, this breed is prized in the field, the show ring, and as a service dog. The hardy Labrador was bred to work, and his energy never seems to cease. Webbed feet and a water-repelling coat provide an advantage in the water—one of his favorite places.
Labrador Retrievers are also known as Labrador, Lab, Black Lab, Yellow Lab, and Chocolate Lab.
Lab mixes are one of the most popular mixed breeds available from shelters and rescues. Labrador Retriever mixes can share common traits with any number of other breeds, but resemble Labs in physical characteristics and personality traits. However, many shelters do not have genetic evidence of a Lab mix’s background, so breed heritage and personality traits cannot be stated with certainty.
While most shelters and rescues cannot determine a dog's exact breed, some facilities may utilize DNA tests to determine the genetics of a mixed breed dog, and AKC registered Labs may be surrendered to a shelter. Even with proof that a dog's heritage includes Labrador Retrievers—and though the dog may show the physical characteristics of the breed—the individual dogs' personality traits may differ from the breed standard.
Common Labrador Retriever mixes may include Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, Border Collie, Corgi, Poodle, and American Staffordshire Terrier, often called the Pit Bull.
While a Lab mix may appear to have Lab characteristics, shelters may categorize the individual first by the less common breed if it exhibits obvious physical characteristics or personality of that breed.
The Labrador Retriever's short, weather-resistant double coat is smooth, dense, and straight. The Labrador Retriever is black, chocolate, or yellow, but without white patches. The Lab may present a range of shades including fox red and fawn, but these variations are registered within one of the three color designations.
Average Height: 22-24 inches
Male: up to 79 pounds
Female: up to 71 pounds
Breed Standard & History
The Labrador Retriever should be well-balanced and sturdy with an athletic build. The skull should be wide and balanced, with ears that hang beside the face. Alert, intelligent eyes must be kind. The tail should be wide at the base and taper into the recognizable 'otter tail.' The straight, dense coat of black, yellow, or chocolate coloring should protect against the water and cold weather. The temperament of a Lab must suit the hunt, as well as the home: always friendly and stable. – AKC Breed Standards
The Labrador Retriever is the descendant of the St. John's Water Dog, a working dog from the island of Newfoundland. The 2nd Earl of Malmesbury is said to have seen St. John’s Dogs retrieving nets for fishing boats, and then had the dogs imported to England. These dogs from Newfoundland were subsequently bred to develop the Labrador Retriever we know today.
The Labrador Retriever was recognized as a breed by the AKC in 1917, but pedigrees for this breed can be traced to 1878. The breed is split into two main types: field-bred, or American Labrador, and show-bred, or English Labrador. While both types come from the original Labradors bred in England, there are differences between them. Show-bred Labradors tend to be stocky, with a calm demeanor, while field-bred Labs are leaner and more energetic.
AKC Breed Category
The Labrador Retriever is a friendly, gentle companion. Outgoing and playful, the dependable and hardworking Lab is well-loved for its eagerness to please: this affable breed is often called the ultimate family dog.
Are Labs Good with Kids? Labradors are very good with children and other animals. Their easy temperament and gentle nature make them a wonderful choice for a family. Their large size, energy level, and tendency to jump may be a concern for small children or people inexperienced with dogs.
Are Labs Good with Other Pets? Labrador Retrievers are usually thrilled to be part of a pack and often do well with other dogs. Their exuberance may not be a fit for shy or fearful cats, but they can learn to play gently with outgoing cats.
Labrador Retrievers are known for their companionship, strong bonds to family, and intense loyalty. They tend to lack strong guarding instincts.
The Labrador Retriever is an active, high-energy dog who requires lots of exercise.
The energetic Lab is a social dog who loves to spend time indoors with his family, but needs more than just the occasional walk. Though large, the Lab can be a suitable companion in an apartment given enough space and exercise. Regular exercise in any living arrangement will help prevent potential destructive behaviors.
Labrador Retrievers love to spend time outdoors. Their thick, water-repellent coat keeps them warm and dry through many weather conditions and they enjoy any opportunity to run off some energy. Swimming is a favorite activity of many Labs. However, time outdoors is best spent with people rather than alone: Labs thrive on interaction, but they are also known to roam due to their hunting instincts. A fenced yard may be necessary to prevent wandering.
Because of their high energy level, Labs require plenty of exercise—overeating and obesity can be a concern for this breed, and regular exercise will help maintain a proper weight. Running, swimming, fetch, and hiking are examples of activities the Lab enjoys. And of course, treks into the field are a wonderful form of exercise for this ideal gundog.
Keeping up is not difficult for the sturdy, energetic Lab. This working breed is built for hiking, running, swimming, and the field.
Activity distance rating
- Running Miles: Labs in good health may have the endurance for up to five miles of running.
- Hiking Miles: Labrador Retrievers have the stamina to log a good distance—perhaps as many as 10 miles—on the trail.
Labrador Retrievers are prone to overeating and are food motivated. The breed responds well to treats during training sessions. The recommended diet for most Labs is about two cups of high-quality dry food daily, based on the dog's average weight and activity level. This amount should be split between two meals, or can be offered in a food-dispensing puzzle toy.
Labradors do not tend to guard their food, but children should never be allowed to touch or remove food while any dog is eating.
While they may be left alone for up to eight hours during the day, the gregarious Lab needs plenty of human interaction. Labs require at least an hour of exercise per day—more than just a short walk. Loneliness, boredom, and too little activity may be the root of undesirable behaviors such as destructive chewing. Ensure your Lab has enough quality attention throughout the day to prevent this behavior.
Health and Grooming
Labradors have heavy-shedding double coats; weekly brushing will help cut down on dog hair around the house, but daily brushing may be necessary during seasonal shedding. Labs may be bathed as needed; choose mild shampoo to avoid skin irritation. And trimming nails regularly will help prevent painful splitting, cracking, or a broken nail.
Common Health Issues
Breed-specific concerns in the Labrador Retriever can include:
- Hip and elbow dysplasia
- Carpal ligament weakness and injury
- Ear infections
- Atopic dermatitis
You can minimize serious health concerns in a Labrador Retriever by purchasing him from a reputable breeder who engages in responsible breeding practices, and through screening for common diseases and conditions.
The compliant Labrador Retriever is considered an easy-to-train dog. The Lab's easygoing nature and ability to learn make this a desirable breed.
Labs have an abundance of energy and excel at agility and advanced tricks training. Dock diving is an exciting, low-impact sport that the water-loving Labrador enjoys.
Labradors are also one of the most popular breeds for service dog training, and their keen nose gives them an advantage as search and rescue dogs.
Sporting Dog Training
The Labrador Retriever is considered one of the best sporting dogs. Bred to work, and with a keen sense of smell and desire to please, this athletic breed is designed for the hunt. Hunting breeders can help you find a Lab with the hunting dog qualities you most desire.
Labrador Retrievers come in three colors—black, yellow, and chocolate. Differences in behavior and personalities between the colors have been noted by many Lab owners, though these differences are no more than hearsay. While anecdotal evidence suggests the genes may be responsible for differences in temperament as well as coloring, this phenomenon has not been studied extensively.
A litter of Lab puppies may come in any combination of colors, depending on the dominant and recessive color genes the parents carry. This means a black Lab can produce a litter of chocolate or yellow Lab puppies, if the right genes are passed. Likewise, offspring from a yellow or chocolate Lab can present alternate coloring.
The introduction of a 'dilute' gene at some unknown point in history has resulted in silver-toned chocolate Labs and dilute-colored black and yellow Labs. These colors are not officially recognized by the AKC, and controversy surrounds these unique colorings. Some believe Weimaraner genetics may exist in the bloodlines of a silver, grey, or otherwise dilute Lab, though this idea has not been substantiated.
No. While both were bred as working dogs and share many qualities, they are two separate breeds with distinct characteristics.