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Your Guide to the Labrador Retriever

Written by Anna Hollisey


Golden Labrador chilling outside

We LOVE labradors! They’re sunny, playful, kind, and obsessed with snacks. Here’s why your next BFF should be a Labrador Retriever… 

Origins of the Labrador Retriever

Oddly enough, the Labrador was bred in Newfoundland to retrieve ducks. With a water-resistant coat and pleasant nature, it was a perfect companion for the solitary hunter or fisherman. No surprise that visiting English aristocrats noticed the breed’s potential and took Labrador pups home to England in the late nineteenth century. The English Kennel Club registered the breed in 1903 and the American Kennel Club in 1917. 

The Labrador Character

The Labrador comes with impressive credentials. This breed topped the AKC’s bestseller charts for 30 years – losing first place to the French Bulldog in 2022! (We get it – Frenchies are awesome too.) What endeared lovely Labradors to the American public?

First, they’re playful, happy dogs. They love a walk – especially if they get to play ‘fetch’ and romp around smelling all the smells. Their personality is affectionate, gentle and kind, so they’ll soon make friends with all the neighbors (…and their dogs). Labradors are some of the best family dogs because they’re very adaptable and good with children.

Thought they were daft? Think again. Labradors are smart and trainable. You’re unlikely to see them winning Crufts (they’re just not very competitive) but you might see them working as therapy dogs at your local hospice or school. It’s well-known that Labradors are exceptionally tolerant and eager to please. They love to learn a new trick. 

Of course, they have one very famous personality trait… and that’s the way their eyes light up when they’re watching you eat. Labradors love their food and they’ll do anything for a high-value treat. 

The Practical Pros and Cons of Getting a Labrador Retriever 

Their personalities are truly sparkling. But if you’re thinking about getting a Labrador, there are some practical things to consider, too. 

  • CON… Shedding: Labs have thick double coats, which means they do a serious shed twice a year. You’re going to be vacuuming dog fur all year round, although it’s not long enough to get tangled in the brushes.

  • PRO (probably)… Activity level. Labradors are active dogs, and their zest for life will brighten up your daily exercise. But you’ll need to find regular time to walk them, as they require a minimum of 60 minutes every day. You might want to walk them twice so they’re more relaxed at home. PS: We listed this under PRO because those daily walks are excellent for your mental and physical health, too.

  • CON… Size. Some families love a big dog. But their larger size (55-80lb), combined with energy level, means that they need way more food than a Chihuahua! Budget to feed them 300-350g of quality dried food every day. Labs can be prone to weight gain as they grow older, which can cause heart problems or arthritis.

  • PRO… Low maintenance. Labrador coats are short, sleek, and water-resistant. The fur is layered to prevent water from soaking to their skin – and it dries quickly, enabling the Labrador to swim all year round. This also means that you’ll hardly ever need to groom them! But it’s wise to towel-dry their ears after a swim. 

How Big Does a Labrador Get?

According to the American Kennel Club, the breed ranges between 55-70lb for a female and 65-80lb for a male. Visit the dog park and you’ll see that, due to widespread breeding and popularity, Labradors come in all sizes and shades. The best way to get an estimate on your pup’s future weight is to see both parents: are they athletic… or verging on giant? If you prefer a smaller dog, pick a female.

Further Reading

Ready for more Labrador-love? They made it into our lists of top breeds for active families/learn/dog-lifestyle/7-best-dog-breeds-for-active-families, best breeds for country living/learn/dog-lifestyle/top-10-dog-breeds-for-country-living, and the most trainable breeds/learn/dog-training/the-easiest-dog-breeds-to-train. Easiest dogs to care for? They made it onto that chart, too!/learn/dog-lifestyle/12-of-the-easiest-dog-breeds-to-take-care-of