Welcome to the BarkPost guide to dog breeds where we belly flop straight into the depths of dog breed origin, evolution, and purpose. Follow along each week as we publish new guides that highlight the strangest, most interesting, and most surprising stuff about these creatures who have been our best buds the last 30,000 years.
Intro / Overview
Leading the pack as the American Kennel Club's top popular dog, the Labrador Retriever is an all-around winner. These pups are cute, energetic, athletic, and have very expressive faces. They're very friendly and bred to be the ultimate companion, which makes them a top choice for families with children!
Not only are Labs great with families, but they're also great dogs to put to work. Labrador Retrievers are known for being suitable as assistance dogs to the handicapped, as dog show competitors, and as search and rescue dogs. Whether you're looking to get a Lab to join your family or to assist you through your day, here's all you need to know about your new best friend!
Also Known As...
Labrador. Lab. Yellow Lab, Chocolate Lab, Black Lab. "The dog that comes with every white picket fence."
The Labrador Retriever was bred in the late 1800s to be a great counterpart to fishermen. The breed historically began its reputation as a duck retriever for hunters. They did awesome work since they were able to easily maneuver on land and in water.
The Lab's popularity grew due to their usefulness, temperament, and - most likely - because they're so cute. English royals found the breed in Canada and wanted their own. They brought Labs back to England with them and continued the evolution of the Labrador Retriever with concentrated breeding to get the pup we know and love today!
According to the American Kennel Club:
"The Kennel Club (England) recognized the Lab in 1903, and the AKC registered its first dog of the breed in 1917. Labs topped AKC registrations for the first time in 1991 and has reigned as America’s favorite breed ever since."
Labrador Retrievers are classified as large dogs. Males can grow to be 22–24 inches, and females can grow to be 21–24 inches.
These large pups can put on quite a bit of weight. As adults, males are often between 65-80 pounds and females are between 55-70 pounds.
Labs are very friendly, energetic, and high-spirited dogs. They love attention and giving affection. Known for being kind, gentle, agile, and intelligent, Labs are great as a family pet.
This breed socializes well with strangers and other dogs, and tends to get along with everyone. Although they're pretty easy-going, Labradors love to play and are very athletic. As an owner you'll be required to have the stamina to go running with your pal or play long games of fetch at the park. Anything to make sure they're burning off all of their stored up energy.
Labs are highly intelligent and easy to train. They are a sporting breed, bred to work, and are eager to please their handlers. This dog wants to make you happy and will work hard to accomplish the goals you set!
Here are a few tips for training your Labrador Retriever:
- Begin at a young age, between 8 to 12 weeks old.
- Carefully pick where to start your training. Make sure your pup will have little to no distractions. You want your pal to be able to focus solely on you and your time together.
- Start with simple commands (sit, stay, down). These are the building blocks of any further training.
- Like all dogs, Labs love to be rewarded and are food motivated, make sure to have enough treats on hand to reward your pal for completing each step of training.
- Whether it's a treat, a belly rub, or verbal encouragement, these pups love to please their humans and be rewarded in return.
These pups are good fits for family homes, even home with bigger families. For an active dog, make sure you have enough space in your fenced-in yard for your fur friend to play with the members of your family, or live close enough to a park for daily park action. Owners who love the great outdoors are also a great fit for this breed. They want to be outside running and exploring, just like you!
With enough proper physical stimulation, Labs are very adaptable and are able to be comfortable in city centered apartments, suburb homes, or large estates with huge yards.
Good For Families And Kids?
All dogs are individuals, which means any single dog from any breed can be any number of ways, both good and not so good. Please keep that in mind as we discuss breed generalities.
Labs often love people, are eager to please their loved ones, and adore children. They make fun playmates for rambunctious kids and are able to keep up with them when running around the house. Their gentle nature helps them to be compatible with babies and toddlers. However, as always, make sure that your child and Lab engage each other respectfully, for both their sakes.
Although Labs can grow to be larger than other dogs, they are lovable fur friends. The mild and easy-going personalities of older Labs make them great companions of the elderly and those seeking an emotional support/service dog.
This popular sporting breed is known to have the average life-span of 10 to 12 years of age.
Labradors are hard-working dogs. Being athletic and energetic, especially in the younger years, Labs are know to accumulate certain health issues. To make sure your pup is healthy, and stays healthy, become acquainted with the following health issues commonly tied to Labs. Knowing these conditions will make sure your vet is testing for the proper diseases and ailments associated with this breed.
- Elbow and Hip Dysplasia
- Heart Disorders
- Muscle Weakness
- Luxating Patella (Knee Issues)
- Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC)
- Eye Conditions (retinal atrophy, cataracts, corneal dystrophy)
Labradors are a sporting breed that has high energy and requires a lot of daily exercise. Similar to other dogs who are really playful and tireless, Labs need enough space to run and play, and enough time to burn off that energy. Plan on spending some time at the dog park or in the backyard every day. If your pup doesn't get enough exercise or play time, they may become bored and frustrated. This will lead to your dog exhibiting destructive behavior.
Friendly With...Dogs? (Strangers? Cats/Other Pets?)
Absolutely! Labradors love people, familiar or strangers, and do very well with other dogs and pets. The more, the merrier! Labs just want to be a part of the family and have as many friends as possible.
Coat & Grooming
The Lab were born and bred for swimming and being outside. It's easy for their hair to collect dirt and debris when playing outside. They have a short hair that's water-repellent, but can easily be cleaned with mild soap.
The double coat is thick and sheds. Weekly grooming sessions with a pin brush will keep your pal looking good. Be prepared for regular baths to keep the coat clean and shiny. Requiring fairly low-maintenance, Labs will still need their nails to be trimmed often and routine dental care.
Toys Labrador Retrievers Would Like Best
Big dogs equal big fun. These pups are extremely playful and enjoy games. It's necessary to have durable toys on hand for them to chew. You'll definitely need something strong enough to last during play time. BARK's Super Chewer toys will stimulate your pup mentally and get them moving! These fun and innovative toys will keep your pup happy and stimulated.
For a more extensive list of toys Labs would love, check out our "What Are The Best Dog Toys For Labs?" post.
Recommended Diet Or Supplements
Labs are well-known for their history of hip and elbow dysplasia, which can cause arthritis, heart issues, and a stomach condition simply called "bloat." Many of these issues are more common in overweight dogs - and Labs are known to pack on the pounds - so keep an eye on your Lab's diet to make sure they're eating right.
If your Lab is having joint issues, you may want to consider supplements for their diet. But as always, consult with your veterinarian first.
BARK's Full Spectrum Hemp Oil is made of organically grown whole plants, grown in Colorado, and is non-psychoactive. It comes in 100mg, 250mg, and 500mg varieties, and can help with pet anxiety and pain relief. ($17.99-22.99.)
This joint supplement is veterinarian-formulated, made with all natural ingredients (glucosamine, MSM, chondroitin, and hyaluronic acid), and comes in the form of 150 soft chews. Basically, it looks and tastes just like delicious treats, and it could really help your Golden Retriever with their hip and joint issues. ($32.99.)
The supplements will help your Lab get moving, but when they want to lie down and rest, they'll need the right bed to support their tired bodies.
This dog bed is great for supporting your pup's tired body. A high quality combination of ergonomic memory foam and gel foam helps ease body aches, joint pain, hip dysplasia and arthritis. This bed offers the best therapeutic support for your hardworking pal. ($27.99-64.99.)
Notable Rescues To Find The Lab Of Your Dreams!
- Fortunate Pooches & Labs
- Lab Rescue LRCP
- Lucky Lab Rescue and Adoption
- Midwest Labrador Retriever Rescue
- Adoptable Labs on Petfinder
Notable Instagram Labrador Retrievers
Get all the photos of Labs you can handle by following these beautiful and silly Labs!
***Looking for a gift to blow your Labrador Retriever's mind? Spoil them with a BarkBox! Every month BarkBox delivers 2 original toys, designed in-house, 2 full bags of all-natural treats, and a chew. Sign up here and receive a free extra toy every month. <-- This deal is worth up to $120 in value if you sign up for a 12-month subscription! :)
Featured image via @Jess_sycamore/Instagram